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Jewish Holiday Calendar 

Note: For site February updates, please scroll past this entry....

The winter holidays (חגי החורף) remember special times when God acted on behalf of His people so that they would triumph over their enemies, and therefore they prophetically picture the final victory in the world to come.

Winter Holiday Calendar

The Winter Holidays:

Chagall Menorah - stained glass detail

Note that in accordance with tradition, the following holiday dates begin at sundown:

  1. Month of Kislev (Sat., Nov. 2nd, 2013)
    • Four Sabbaths: Vayetzei, Vayishlach, Vayeshev, Miketz
    • Dates for Chanukah (Nov. 27th to Dec. 5th):
      • 1st candle: Wednesday, Nov. 27 [Kislev 25]
      • 2nd candle: Thursday, Nov. 28th [Thanksgiving Day - US]
      • 3rd candle: Friday, Nov. 29th [Shabbat Miketz]
      • 4th candle: Saturday, Nov. 30th
      • 5th candle: Sunday, Dec. 1st
      • 6th candle: Monday, Dec. 2nd
      • 7th candle: Tuesday, Dec. 3rd
      • 8th candle: Wednesday, Dec. 4th [Zot Chanukah]
  2. Month of Tevet (Mon., Dec. 2nd, 2013)
    • Five Sabbaths: Miketz, Vayigash, Vayechi, Shemot, Vaera
    • Zot Chanukah - Last day of Chanukah (Wed. Dec. 4th -Tevet 2)
    • Asarah B'Tevet - Fast over seige of Jerusalem (Fri. Dec. 13th)
    • Christmas: Wed. Dec. 25th (22nd of Tevet)
  3. Month of Shevat (Wed., Jan. 1st, 2014)
  4. Month of Adar I (Thur., Jan. 30th, 2014)
  5. Month of Adar II (Sat., March 1st, 2014)
    • Four Sabbaths: Vayikra, Tzav (Zachor), Shemini (Parah), Tazria (Ha'chodesh)
    • Ta'anit Esther - the fast of Esther (Thur. March 13th)
    • Purim - The Festival of Lots (Sat. March 15th) [14th of Adar II]
    • Shushan Purim - Purim in Israel (Sun. March 16th) [15th of Adar II]


February 2014 Updates

Made Alive to God...


02.28.14 (Adar 28, 5774)  Your "baptism" into Messiah means that you are identified with both his death-for-you and his life-for-you. Jesus died for your death and forever lives for your life... At the cross he clothed himself with your sin and willingly bore the hell of your shame; he took upon himself all that is sinful and broken within you – all that separates you from God's love – and went into that painful darkness, carrying it away, burying it forever for you. Your old nature has been crucified "with him" and you are made alive to God with him through his resurrection (Rom. 6:6). This is foundational truth in Messiah: you are a radically new creation; you are no longer enslaved by what you used to be (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore "reckon yourself dead to sin but alive to God" (Rom. 6:11), that is, count it as true that Yeshua has broken the power of sin and death over your life. You are "in Christ," that is, you in mystical union with him, and because of that, you are set free from all that destroys you or that enslaves you to fear. "For as many of you as were baptized into Messiah have put on the Messiah" (Gal. 3:27). May God help us be who we are in Yeshua our Lord!

Shabbat Shalom, dear friends... May God quicken the truth of His salvation, his Yeshua, within your hearts so that you can be free to walk in blessing and peace. Amen.

Advent of the Lamb...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Pekudei...  ]

02.28.14 (Adar 28, 5774)  In our Torah portion this week (Pekudei) we learn that Moses consecrated the Mishkan (Tabernacle) on Rosh Chodashim, "the first day of the first month of the second year [since the Exodus]" (Exod. 40:17). Note that this date (i.e., Nisan 1) marks the start of the Biblical year and the month of the Passover redemption (see Exod. 12:1-12). The Torah's calendar therefore begins with the advent of the lamb of God, just as the central sacrifice of the Tabernacle was the daily sacrifice (i.e., korban tamid: קָרְבַּן תָּמִיד) of a lamb offered with unleavened bread and wine. The LORD calls this "My offering, My bread..." (see Num. 28:1-8). In other words, the service and ministry of the Tabernacle constantly foreshadowed the coming Lamb of God who would be offered upon the altar "made without hands" to secure our eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).

As mentioned before, the climax of the Torah given at Sinai was the revelation of the Tabernacle. The tablets of the law, summarizing the Ten Commandments, were stored inside the Ark of the Covenant (אֲרוֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָה), the innermost place of the Tabernacle, a sacred "three-in-one" box.  As such, the ark served as a symbol of kisei ha-kavod (כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד), the Throne of Glory. It stood entirely apart as the only furnishing placed in the Holy of Holies (קדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים). Upon the cover of the Ark (i.e., the kapporet) were fashioned two cherubim (i.e., angel-like figures) that faced one another (Exod. 25:17-18). According to the Talmud (Succah 5b), each cherub had the face of a child - one boy and one girl - and their wings spread heavenward as their eyes gazed upon the cover (Exod. 25:20). God's voice would be heard only in the midst of innocence, humility, purity, and hope... Each year during Yom Kippur, sacrificial blood was sprinkled seven times over the cover of the Ark to symbolize the covering of the law's demand and the atonement of sin secured through Messiah.

What do you Seek?


02.27.14 (Adar 27, 5774)  Some people want to know "theology" or to glean insights from the Scriptures not for the sake of serving God, but as a way to feel good about themselves, to flatter their egos, etc. We have to examine our motives. Do you really want to know the truth, and if so, why? Are you able to get beyond your own self-interest to hear what the Spirit of God might be saying? What do you hope to do with revelation that may be disclosed to you? Do you seek to know for the sake of making something of yourself, or perhaps to make you feel superior to others? Do you think of truth as a weapon to prove that you are right rather than as the means of living a life of righteousness? Again, take account of your motives. "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Gal. 6:3). To seek the truth for the sake of feeding the ego misses the point and can lead to self-deception.... Knowledge and truth are essential, of course, but if they are not employed in the service of love – to build up others, to bring healing, hope, and kindness – then they can be dangerous to the spiritual life. "If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). There is an "oughtness" in the way we are to know, and that is our duty to humbly walk in love...

אַל־תְּהִי חָכָם בְּעֵינֶיךָ
יְרָא אֶת־יְהוָה וְסוּר מֵרָע

al · te·hi · cha·kham · be·ei·ne·kha
ye·ra · et · Adonai · ve·sur · me·ra

"Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Eternal, and turn away from evil."
(Prov. 3:7)


"Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight" (Isa. 5:21). "The fear of the Lord" – yirat HaShem - is true wisdom (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7) that serves as a corrective of natural human arrogance, pride, and presumption.

Good Shepherd's Care...


02.27.14 (Adar 27, 5774)  Where it is written, "the LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1), we note that "I shall not want" (לא אֶחְסָר) does not mean "I shall not desire," but rather "I shall not lack." When the Lord is your Shepherd, you can trust that you have all that you need. Note that David uses the future tense here (אֶחְסָר) because God is ahead of your next moment, so to speak: "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matt. 6:8). God's Name means Presence, Life, Love, and "I-AM-with-you-always." Yeshua is our Good Shepherd (הָרעֶה הַטּוֹב) who makes us lie down in green pastures, a place of abundant life, and then leads us to still waters, literally "waters of rest" (מֵי מְנֻחוֹת), that will restore your soul (the verb translated "restore" is an intensive passive of the verb shuv, "to turn" (שׁוּב), indicating that the Shepherd causes your soul to return to the Divine Presence). Yeshua said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). Yeshua is the one who makes for us the paths of righteousness; He leads us on the way to the Father (John 14:6).

יְהוָה רעִי לא אֶחְסָר
בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵנִי עַל־מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי
נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶדֶק לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ

Adonai · ro·i · lo · ech·sar
bi·not · de·she · yar·bi·tzei·ni · al · mei · me·nu·chot · ye·na·cha·lei·ni
naf·shi  · ye·sho·vev · yan·chei·ni · ve·ma·a·ge·lei · tze·dek · le·ma·an · she·mo

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
(Psalm 23:1-3)

Hebrew Study Card

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Therefore "be strong and of good courage" - chazak ve'ematz (חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ). The LORD God promises "never to leave you nor forsake you," and to be with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:5,9; Heb. 13:15, Psalm 139; Matt. 28:20). In the Greek New Testament the wording of Hebrews 13:5 (i.e., "I will never leave you, nor forsake you") is highly emphatic: "Not ever will I give up on you (οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ); no, not ever will I leave you behind (οὐδ᾽ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω)." May you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling you, and may He forever keep you under His watchful care. Amen.

Endurance to Hope...


02.26.14 (Adar 26, 5774)  Though we are optimistic about the purpose and end of reality, and though we believe that God "works all things together for good" (Rom. 8:28), we are not therefore monistic idealists, that is, those who say that evil is not real or who claim that it is "part of God." We are given "exceedingly great and precious promises," yet in this world we suffer and experience pain, heartache, and troubles. Yeshua said "in this world you will have tribulation," though that is not the end of the story, of course, for there is the cheer of God's' victory, even if we must repeatedly ask God for grace to endure our troubles without murmuring (John 16:33; Heb. 4:16). I realize that is often difficult, and some of you might be within the fiery furnace even now. You might be asking, "Where are you, Lord, in all of this? Why don't you bring me out of these troubles?" In such testing you need endurance (ὑπομονή) to hold on to hope, remembering that God uses affliction to refine you for good. As Paul said, "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces refined character, and refined character produces hope" (Rom. 5:3-4). Each of us is still upon the "Potter's wheel," and God's hand continues to shape us into vessels that one day will reveal his glory and honor. "May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace" (Psalm 29:11).

יְהוָה עז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן
יְהוָה יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם

Adonai · oz · le·am·mo · yit·ten
Adonai · ye·va·rekh · et · am·mo · va·sha·lom

"The LORD will give strength to his people;
The LORD will bless his people with peace."
(Psalm 29:11)

Hebrew Study Card

Keep holding on, dear friends! The Lord our God is faithful and true. He gives us acharit v'tikvah (אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָה), "a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).

Seeing Everyday Miracles...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Pekudei...  ]

02.26.14 (Adar 26, 5774)  A verse from our Torah portion (Pekudei) suggests that we should recite at least 100 blessings a day: "... a hundred sockets for a hundred talents of silver, one talent per socket" (Exod. 38:27). The Gerer Rebbe comments, "Just as a hundred sockets served as the foundation for the sanctuary, so the daily blessings represent the soul's foundation in holiness." In Jewish thinking, we "bless" God by offering our thanks, and thereby our awareness of life is elevated and sanctified. The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat tovah (הַכָּרַת טוֹבָה), a phrase that means "recognizing the good." The heart looks through the eye, and therefore how we choose to see is a spiritual decision: "If your eye is "single" (i.e., ἁπλοῦς, sincere, focused)," Yeshua said, "your whole body will be filled with light" (Matt. 6:22). When we see rightly, we behold the radiance of God shining within us, even in the midst of our everyday affairs. A grateful heart is awake to God's Presence in the little things of life, those small miracles and glories that constantly surround us. The good eye of faith sees hundreds of reasons to bless God for the precious gift of life.

בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־יְהוָה
וְכָל־קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ

ba·ra·khi · naf·shi · et · Adonai
ve·khol · ke·ra·vai · et · shem · kod·sho

"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name"
(Psalm 103:1)

Hebrew Study Card


Come just as you are...


02.25.14 (Adar 25, 5774)  Since God knows the number of hairs on our heads, he also knows those character defects that we do not see in ourselves... Nevertheless we must come to God "just as we are," since what we are is ultimately unknowable by us. This implies that we can't wait to turn to God until we have already confessed our sins, since we often do not know what they are. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Mark 2:17), which means that we come in a state of unknowing blindness to find healing. We don't see so we can turn; we turn so we can see. Confession turns to see God's remedy for our sin, and true teshuvah must begin with hope, with the vision that the LORD is our Helper and the Healer of our souls.

אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבא עֶזְרִי
עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְהוָה עשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ

 es·sa · ei·nai · el · he·ha·rim · me·a·yin · ya·vo · ez·ri
e·zri · me·im · Adonai · o·seh · sha·ma·yim · va·a·retz

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth."
(Psalm 121:1-2)

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"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). Therefore David prayed, שְׁגִיאוֹת מִי־יָבִין מִנִּסְתָּרוֹת נַקֵּנִי, "who can understand his errors; cleanse me from nistarot chata'ot, secret sins" (Psalm 19:12). Likewise we trust that God's remedy for our sin heal even that which remains hidden from our own awareness.

God has to help us come to terms with ourselves in ways that will not cause us to destroy ourselves or to lose hope... He touches us in our sinful condition and slowly begins the process of both revealing to us who we really are and how we are really being healed.

The Beginning and End...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Pekudei...  ]

02.25.14 (Adar 25, 5774)  The final portion of the Book of Exodus (i.e., Pekudei) provides details about the construction of the Tabernacle (מִשְׁכָּן) and its furnishings as well as the special clothing of the priests. At the end of the portion we read, וַיְכַל משֶׁה אֶת־הַמְּלָאכָה / "Moses finished all the work" (Exod. 40:33), a phrase that has the same gematria (numeric value) as bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית, "in the beginning"), the very first word of the Torah (Gen. 1:1). This suggests that the very creation of the universe was for the sake of the building of the Tabernacle, and by extension, for the sake of the sacrificial love of God to be demonstrated to all of creation. The Talmud states, "All the world was created for the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98b) and indeed, Yeshua is called "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" in the New Testament (Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9). "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). Creation therefore begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Messiah, the great Lamb of God... He is the Center of Creation - the Aleph and Tav - the Beginning and the End (Isa. 44:6; Rev. 1:17).

Some of the sages have said that "the seal of God is truth," since the final letters of the three words that conclude the account of creation -- bara Elohim la'asot ("God created to do" [Gen. 2:3]) -- spell the Hebrew word for truth (i.e., emet: אֱמֶת):

The idea that God created the world "to do" implies that He had finished all His work of creation (and redemption) after the sixth day (Heb. 4:3), which is another way of saying that Yeshua is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. "All the world was created for the Messiah." Salvation is not an afterthought or "plan B" of God's purpose for creation. "Before Abraham was, I AM." Our LORD Yeshua always is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life for us (John 14:6). As it is written of Messiah: "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Rev. 4:11). Blessed is the Name of the LORD forever and ever....

Meta-Themes of Exodus...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Pekudei...  ]

02.24.14 (Adar 24, 5774)  The theme of the Book of Exodus essentially turns on two great events, namely, the deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt (yetzi'at Mitzraim) and the subsequent revelation given at Sinai (mattan Torah). Both of these events, however, are grounded in the deeper theme of God's faithful love combined with the need for blood atonement. With regard to the former, the blood of the Passover lamb was required to cause death to "pass over" the houses of the Israelites; with regard to the latter, the sacrificial system (i.e., the Mishkan) was required to draw near to God.

Jewish tradition tends to regard the giving of the law at Sinai to be the goal of the entire redemptive process, a sort of "return from Exile" to the full stature of God's chosen people. Some of the sages have taken this a step further by saying that God created the very universe so that Israel would accept the Torah. Such traditions, it should be understood, derive more from Jewish rabbinical thinking codified after the destruction of the Second Temple than from the narrative presented in the written Torah itself, since is clear that the climax of the revelation at Sinai was to impart the pattern of the Mishkan to Moses. In other words, the goal of revelation was not primarily to impart a set of moral or social laws, but rather to accommodate the Divine Presence in the midst of the people. This is not to suggest that the various laws and decrees given to Israel were unimportant, of course, since they reflected the holy character and moral will of God. Nonetheless, it is without question that the Torah was revealed concurrently with the revelation of the Sanctuary itself, and the two cannot be separated apart from "special pleading" and the suppression of the revelation given in the Torah itself... The meticulous account of the Mishkan is given twice in the Torah to emphasize its importance to God. This further explains why Leviticus is the central book of the Torah of Moses. (For more on this, see "The Eight Aliyot of Moses.")

As we consider these things, however, it is important to realize that underlying the events surrounding deliverance and revelation is something even more fundamental, namely, the great theme of faith (אֱמוּנָה). This theme is our response to God's redemptive love. God's love is the question, and our response - our teshuvah - is the answer.  The great command is always to "Choose life!" We must chose to turn away from the darkness to behold the Light... Jewish tradition states there were many Jews who perished in Egypt during the Plague of Darkness because they refused to believe in God's love. Likewise, the revelation at Sinai failed to transform the hearts of many Jews because they despaired of finding hope...

As glorious as the redemption and revelation was, then, there was something even more foundational that gave "inward life" to God's gracious intervention. You must first believe that God loves you and regards you as worthy of His love; you must "accept that you are accepted." It is your faith that brings you near...  This is the "Cinderella Story" of Exodus.

The themes of Exodus will mean little to you unless you identify with the journey of the people, and that implies that you reckon yourself as worth saving... You must see yourself as the recipient of divine affection and love. After all, without this as a first step, how will you make the rest of the journey? This is similar to the very First Commandment revealed at Sinai: "I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." Notice that the statement, "I AM the LORD your God" (אָנכִי יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ) was uttered in the second person singular, rather than in the plural.  In other words, you (personally) must be willing to accept the love of the LORD into your heart, since the rest of the Torah is merely commentary to this step of faith. Therefore the Book of Exodus is called Shemot (שְׁמוֹת), "names," because it sees every person as worthy of God's redeeming love and revelation. "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16).

Those who directly experienced God's deliverance in Egypt first of all believed they were redeemable people. Before anything else they made a decision to receive hope within their hearts. The blood of the original Passover was a sign of faith. We must begin here. This is the start of the journey. We step out by faith, leaving behind the familiar - including the familiarity of our sin and shame - and venture out into the unknown. We venture out in hope, because we trust in the love and promises of God. 

The journey of faith is marked with testing, of course. Being called out of the world leads you into the desert places.  Faith is not something static, like a church creed or theology handbook. There are stony places, dangers, and difficulties that attend the way. We move out from "walled cities" into tents, traveling as "strangers and sojourners" on our way to a promised heavenly city. Therefore the Scriptures state that "by faith Abraham went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Heb. 11:9-10). The way back home is the same for all who "cross over" from this world to the next. It is the way of hope, trust, and surrender.

The story of Exodus is not the story of "other people." You must choose to belong. Your faith draws you near. That is why the sages teach: b'chol dor vador - in each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had left Egypt. It's not enough to recall, in some abstract sense, the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Egypt, but each Jew is responsible to personally view Passover as a time to commemorate their own personal deliverance from the bondage of Pharaoh. The same must be said regarding Shavuot. Each person should consider himself as having personally received revelation at Sinai. The altar of the Mishkan was set up for you to draw near to God - you, not some people who lived long ago... This is why non-Jews who turn to the God of Israel by putting their trust in the Messiah are regarded equal members in the covenants and promises given to ethnic Israel. It is a brit milah (בְּרִית מִילָה) - literally, a "covenant of the word" - that makes us partakers of the covenantal blessings given to Abraham (Eph. 2:12-19; Gal. 3:7; Col. 2:11, etc.)...

The narratives of the Book of Exodus, like other narratives of the Torah, often function as parables for us. "The deeds of the fathers are signs for the children." Signs of what? Of the coming Messiah, as Yeshua Himself attested and the apostles likewise affirmed (John 5:46; Luke 24:27;44; Matt. 13:52; 2 Tim. 3:14-17). The Mishkan itself was a metaphor of God's redemption given in Yeshua. The Mercy Seat (kapporet) represented the Throne of God (Heb. 4:16; 2 Ki. 19:15) where propitiation for our sins was made (Rom. 3:25). Indeed, the word Mishkan (מִשְׁכָּן) is related to the word mishken (מִשְׁכֵּן), "collateral on a loan." The Tabernacle functioned as a "loan" to Israel until the Messiah came to establish the true Temple by means of His atoning sacrifice (Gal. 3:19). The law is called a "schoolmaster" meant to lead to the Messiah and His Kingdom rule (Gal. 3:23-26). The glory of the Torah of Moses was destined to fade away (2 Cor. 3:3-11), just as its ritual center (i.e., the Tabernacle/Temple) was a shadow (σκιά) to be replaced by the greater priesthood of Malki-Tzedek (Heb. 10:1; 13:10). "Now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code (Rom. 7:6). Yeshua is the "Goel" (i.e., גּאֵל, Redeemer) from the curse of the law... "For the law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, and that is how we draw near to God" (Heb. 7:19). When the veil is taken away, Yeshua appears on every page of Scripture... (For more on this, see "Why then the Law?").

Outside of the Mishkan, beyond the outer court, are the raw, "natural" experiences of life. This is the realm of the carnal flesh and the "dust to dust, ashes to ashes" despair of olam hazeh. Spiritual life is found when you come in through the gate. You must understand that the gate is there for you to pass through.... The cross of Yeshua is the altar where He died for you, personally, for your atonement with the Father. His blood was presented between the outstretched wings of the cherubim so that you could come before God "panim el panim," that is, personally, "as a man speaks to his friend" (Heb. 4:16). Your faith bridges the gap between the "Holy of Holies" of the Cross and the sanctuary of your heart...

Shabbat Shekalim...


[ This coming Sabbath is called "Shabbat Shekalim," anticipating the advent of spring... ]

02.24.14 (Adar 24, 5774)  Four "special Sabbaths" occur just before the start of spring: two before the holiday of Purim and two before the holiday of Passover. Collectively, these Sabbaths are called "The Four Shabbatot" and four additional Torah readings (called Arba Parashiyot, or the "four portions") are read on each of these Sabbaths in preparation for the holidays, particularly for the central holiday of Passover. The names of these Sabbaths are Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zakhor, Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat HaChodesh, respectively.


The first of the four Sabbaths is called Shabbat Shekalim (שבת שקלים), "the Sabbath of the Shekels," which occurs just before the month of Adar begins. An additional reading (Exod. 30:11-16) is appended to the regular Torah reading that describes the contribution of a half-shekel for the construction and upkeep of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). According to a midrash in the Talmud (Bavli, Shekalim 1), the half-shekel represents a "fiery coin" that the LORD brought from underneath the Throne of His Glory to symbolically "atone" for the sin of the Golden Calf. Since every Jew was required to give this "widow's mite," repentance is accepted for all who come in true humility before the LORD. For us, it might be a time to remember those who offer personal sacrifices so that we also might draw closer to God.

כִּי־טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ מֵחַיִּים שְׂפָתַי יְשַׁבְּחוּנְךָ
כֵּן אֲבָרֶכְךָ בְחַיָּי בְּשִׁמְךָ אֶשָּׂא כַפָּי

 ki · tov · chas·de·kha · me·cha·yim · se·fa·tai · ye·sha·be·chun·kha
ken · a·va·re·khe·kha · ve·cha·yai · be·shim·kha · es·sa · kha·pai

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
Thus I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands."
(Psalm 63:3-4)


Glory Fills the Miskhan...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Pekudei...  ]

02.23.14 (Adar 23, 5774)  Parashat Pekudei (פרשת פקודי) is the final portion of Sefer Shemot, or the Book of Exodus. It begins with Moses' accounting of all the materials that were donated for the construction of the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle). Moses first recorded the inventory of the different building materials and furnishings, and then carefully checked the special priestly garments. After all the work was confirmed to be in complete accordance with the LORD's instructions, Moses blessed the people.

The LORD then commanded Moses to assemble the Mishkan on "the first month in the second year [from the date of the Exodus], on the first day of the month" (i.e., on Nisan 1, or Rosh Chodashim, Exod. 40:17). Since Moses gave the commandment to begin building the Tabernacle on the day after Yom Kippur (i.e., Tishri 11), this implies that it took less than six months for Betzalel and his team to create the Tabernacle and all its furnishings.

After the Tabernacle was and all its furnishings were inspected, Moses erected it and anointed all its parts with the holy anointing oil, called shemen ha'mishchah (שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה). This sacred oil pictured the Holy Spirit and God's redemption given in Yeshua, the Messiah, the Anointed One (הַמָּשִׁיחַ). Moses then formally initiated Aaron and his four sons into the priesthood, marking their hands and feet with sacrificial blood and "waving them" before the Lord to picture resurrection. The Divine Presence - manifest as the Shekhinah Cloud of Glory – then filled the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting.

The Book of Exodus ends: "And Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the Glory of the LORD (כְּבוֹד יְהוָה) filled the Mishkan (הַמִּשְׁכָּן). Throughout all their journeys, whenever the Cloud was taken up from over the Mishkan, the people of Israel would set out. But if the Cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the Cloud of the LORD (עֲנַן יְהוָה) was on the Mishkan by day, and Fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys" (Exod. 30:35-38).

The Presence of the Glory of God that descended from Sinai upon the newly dedicated Mishkan represented a climactic moment for the fledgling nation, since the Sin of the Golden Calf had jeopardized whether the God would indeed dwell within the midst of the camp of Israel...  Recall that it was only after Moses had returned from Sinai bearing the second set of Tablets (on Yom Kippur) that the glow of the LORD's redeeming love radiated from his face, and new hope was given to Israel (prefiguring the New Covenant). The King of Glory would accompany the people from Sinai to the Promised Land! (The narrative continues in the Book of Numbers, beginning exactly one month after the Mishkan was assembled.)

Please see the quick summary for Pekudei for more information. You can also download the Shabbat Table Talk for this portion here:


My Lord and My God...


02.21.14 (Adar 21, 5774)  God's power is present in all things, in every world, and in every soul (Acts 17:28). Yeshua is the Source of all life in the universe: כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים נִהְיוּ עַל־יָדוֹ / "All things were made by Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). God is Light, and Yeshua reveals the Light of God (John 8:12). The "Word made flesh" is the "image of the invisible God" and the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, 'character') of his nature" (Col. 1:15). All of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3): "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Mashiach... He is the Center of Creation - and it's beginning and end. As it says: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'A' and the 'Z,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Indeed, our Savior Yeshua is the "King of kings of kings" (מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים), the LORD of all possible worlds -- from the highest celestial glory to the shame of bearing our sin and guilt upon a cross...

יְהוָה אֲדנֵינוּ מָה־אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ
אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל־הַשָּׁמָיִם

Adonai · a·do·nei·nu · mah · ad·dir · shim·kha · be·khol · ha·a·retz
a·sher · te·nah · ho·de·kha · al · ha·sha·ma·yim

"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your Name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens."
(Psalm 8:1)

Hebrew Study Card

God's abiding provision for our need is revealed in the "face of Messiah" (בִּפְנֵי הַמָּשִׁיחַ), not in the fading glory of the former covenant (2 Cor 3:4-18). Unlike Moses - who veiled his face to hide the fact that the glory of the former covenant of Sinai was indeed fading away - "we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:12-4:1). Each of us, like Moses, must ascend the mountain of Zion to behold the Glory of God: "And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only" (Matt. 17:8). "The face of Yeshua the Messiah" is therefore the radiance and glory of God Himself.

Made Captive to Hope...


02.21.14 (Adar 21, 5774)  An old Jewish prayer, uttered somewhat wistfully, begins, "O Lord, I know that Thou wilt help us; but wilt Thou help us before Thou wilt help us?" It's not always easy to wait for God, especially when we are in pain or anxiety, but we must never, ever, give up; we must never forget the promise and reality of our ultimate healing in Jesus. Faith expresses hope in the Reality, Substance, and Being (ὑπόστασις) of the Invisible and is made captive to undying hope (Heb. 11:1). Therefore the Spirit cries out: "Hope to the LORD; be strong and strengthen your heart; and (again) hope to the LORD."

קַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ
וְקַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה

ka·veh · el · Adonai · cha·zak · ve'ya·metz · lib·be·kha,
ve-ka·veh · el · Adonai

"Hope to the LORD; be strong and let your heart be strengthened;
and (again) hope to the LORD"
(Psalm 27:14)

Download Study Card

In this verse, the imperative verb translated "wait" is the Hebrew word kaveh (קַוֵּה), which might better be rendered as "look for with anticipation!" or "hope!" (the same root appears in the Hebrew word for hope, i.e., tikvah: תִּקְוָה). Therefore hope in the Lord and "chazak!" - be strong! (the Septuagint translates chazak as "andridzou" (ἀνδρίζου - act like a man!). Note that the verb ve'ametz is a causal active stem (i.e., Hiphal) in the "jussive mood," which means it is imperative – "command your heart to be strengthened," or "let your heart be made strong!"  Make the decision to be strong in the LORD, and the LORD will give you strength to bear your present suffering: "Look to the LORD (קַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה) and find hope."

Each of us is still upon the "Potter's wheel," though we keep faith that God is molding us and shaping us to reach our end... "Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe, who walks with the wounded" (שֶׁהוֹלֵךְ עִם הַפְצוּעִים). Amen. "Blessed art You, LORD our God, King of the universe, who makes us captives of hope." Shabbat shalom chaverim!

Torah of the New...


02.21.14 (Adar 21, 5774)  The moral law serves as a "mirror" that reveals our great need, but the Light of the mirror - the radiance that illuminates redemptive reality itself - is the great remedy we have in the Messiah. We are not saved by keeping the law but by trusting that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). And just as we are saved by trusting in the power and righteousness of God (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ), so are we sanctified. We don't come to the cross and then go back to the former covenant of law (which is likened to adultery, see Rom. 7:1-4). No, we are "married to another," given access to an entirely new order of reality, made into a new creation with a profoundly new, supernatural identity. Teshuvah, or "repentance," is returning to God by means of God's grace. Those who so turn, those who truly believe the message of the gospel, have been crucified with Messiah, are raised to newness of life, and have a "place at the table" in the kingdom. True life is found in relationship with the Eternal, and just as Messiah's death was given for our behalf, so also was his life (John 14:6; Rom. 5:10). All the imperatives of the New Testament are directed to the new nature within you, not to the old nature that seeks to justify itself through moral reform or the practice of religion. "We do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Messiah died for no purpose" (Gal. 2:21). If the Spirit truly quickens, the soul already has become a recipient of the miracle.

The Power of God - גְּבוּרַת אֱלהִים


02.20.14 (Adar 20, 5774)  People confuse morality with religion, saying things like, "if I do good, the rest will take care of itself," but Yeshua did not come to simply teach (or reinforce) moral truth, but to die for our sins and to transform our nature. The message of the cross is not that we should reform ourselves with renewed hope, but rather that our old nature must die and be replaced with something far greater... When King David cried out to the Lord, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," he did not use the Hebrew word yatzar (יָצַר), which means to "fashion" or "form" something from pre-existing material (Gen. 2:7), but he instead used the word bara (בָּרָא), a verb exclusively used in the Torah to refer to God's direct creation of the cosmos (Gen. 1:1). In other words, King David understood that no amount of reformation of his character would be enough, and therefore he appealed to that very power of God that alone could create yesh me'ayin, or "out of nothing." Such was the nature of the remedy required that was fulfilled in the cross of Messiah....

לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא־לִי אֱלהִים
וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי

lev · ta·hor · be·ra·li · E·lo·him,
ve·ru·ach · na·khon · cha·desh · be·kir·bi

"Create for me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me"
(Psalm 51:10)

Hebrew Study Card

Yeshua taught, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). The Greek word translated "pure" is katharos (καθαρός), sometimes used describe the cleansing of a wound (catharsis), or to describe the unalloyed quality of a substance revealed through refining fire. Metaphorically, then, purity of heart refers to separation from the profane - singleness of vision, wholeheartedness, passion, and focused desire for the sacred. Faith is a great trembling of love: "With this ring I do worship thee..." As we center our affections on Yeshua, we become pure in heart -- i.e., unified, made whole, and healed of our inner fragmentation. We see the Lord both in this world, through his effects, and then panim el panim (פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים), "face to face," in the world to come. Our hope purifies us for that coming great day of full disclosure (1 John 3:2-3; Heb. 12:14).

Being saved by God is first of all ontological - it is about your being, identity, reality, and so on. You are briah chadasha - a new creation. The realm of conscience, law, morality, etc., while valid, is not the ultimate goal of redemption. Sinai was always meant to lead to Zion, which means that salvation ultimately is about who you are as a beloved child of God more than what you do as a moral or religious person...

Safe in God's Arms...


02.20.14 (Adar 20, 5774)  "Therefore, since we have been justified (δικαιωθέντες) by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Yeshua the Messiah, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Rom. 5:1-2). We must be careful never to think that God's salvation is not really secure, or that we may lose our place in God's heart because of our unfaithfulness...  Thinking that our salvation depends on our faithfulness puts us back under the "curse of the law," since we are attempting to establish our own righteousness rather than trusting in the love and power of the One who "justifies the ungodly." No, from beginning to end (and including the middle) we are kept by "the strength of His might" and the "surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe" (Eph. 1:19). We must always remember that "if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). If the death of Yeshua brings us God's grace, his undying life sustains and secures us in that grace. It is the power of God that both saves and sanctifies you, and not the merit of religious observance: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). We do not trust in ourselves, nor in the virtue of our faith, but rather in the great faithfulness of our Savior and God, blessed be He (Psalm 40:11; 121:7; Jude 1:24; Phil 1:6).

חַסְדֵי יְהוָה כִּי לא־תָמְנוּ כִּי לא־כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו
חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ

chas·dei · Adonai · ki · lo-ta·me·nu, · ki · lo-kha·lu · ra·cha·mav,
cha·da·shim · la·be·ka·rim · rab·bah · e·mu·na·te·kha

"The faithful love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness"
(Lam. 3:22-23)

Hebrew Study Card

"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, the Messiah died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:8-10). If God demonstrated the power and will to redeem us in the first place, how much more does He demonstrate the power and will to preserve our redemption? Yea, "if God is for us, who can be against us? Who is the one who condemns?" Who can overrule God's verdict of life and blessing to those who trust in Him? (Rom. 8:31-ff). If the death of Yeshua brings us God's grace, surely his invincible life will forever sustain us in that grace. "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it (i.e., salvation) is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). If you are truly born from above, God will never abandon you, as is repeatedly promised in the Scriptures: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never, ever perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:27-29). He is Faithful and True who promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Betzalel and the Messiah...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Vayakhel...  ]

02.19.14 (Adar 19, 5774)  When Moses received the Torah at Sinai, he was given the vision of the Tabernacle (i.e., Mishkan: מִשְׁכָּן), a tent-like structure where God's Presence (i.e., Shekhinah: שְׁכִינָה) would dwell in the midst of the camp of Israel. Though Moses received the "pattern" (i.e., tavnit: תַּבְנִית) of the heavenly dwelling, however, he was unable to create the artifacts themselves, and therefore God designated a man named "Betzalel" (בְּצַלְאֵל) to be the chief architect of the structure.  Moses was said to be so astonished at Betzalel's artistic abilities that it was as if Betzalel was with him "in the shadow" while he was in the cloud at Sinai. Moses said, betzel el hayita - "you were indeed in the shadow, for you have the ability to create what the Holy One, blessed Be He, had commanded me." Indeed, the very name Betzalel (בְּצַלְאֵל) means "in the shadow of God" (from בְּ [in] + tzel [צֵל], "shadow" + El [אֵל], "God"). Betzalel prefigured Yeshua in several ways: 1) he was from the kingly tribe of Judah, 2) he was a young carpenter, 3) he was unusually "filled with the Spirit of God," 4) his father's name (Uri) means "my light" (James 1:17), 4) his assistant (Oholiav) was from the tribe of Dan (i.e., דָּן, "judge," symbolizing the legal aspects of the Torah), and 5) it was he (rather than Moses) who actually built the Mishkan, which was the pattern for the spiritual Temple - see 1 Pet 2:5; Heb. 3:4).


The Torah states that God endowed Betzalel with the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים), and with wisdom (חָכְמָה), understanding (תְּבוּנָה), and knowledge (דַּעַת) - the same attributes used to describe God as the Creator of the Universe (Exod. 35:31; Prov. 3:19-20). According to the Talmud, Betzalel was just 13 years old when he began building the Tabernacle.  As a young man chosen by God Himself, Betzalel "came and healed the wound" that was caused by the sin of the Golden Calf (Shemot Rabbah).  In addition to being the first great artist of God mentioned in the Torah, the Talmud states that Betzalel "knew how to join together the letters with which heaven and earth were created" (Berachot 53a).  Indeed, as the one who knew how to fashion the "Ark of the covenant" where the blood would be presented for our atonement, he clearly foreshadowed Yeshua our Messiah....

Inner Ache of Loneliness...


02.18.14 (Adar 18, 5774)  A.W. Tozer once wrote: "The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorptions in the love of Christ; and because with his circle of friends there are few who share his inner experiences, he's forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord himself suffered in the same way.

"The man (or woman) who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided, and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for the friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none, he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart. It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else."

And there is even a loneliness that arises when you must wrestle through disappointment in your walk with God... This is an empty place where you realize that you're request has been denied, and yet you must continue to walk on in trust. That is a hard place, too.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). Yes, blessed are those who suffer such desperate need, who know inner emptiness, who are not made numb to the ache, and who cry from the heart for deliverance. Blessed are those who are in dread over themselves, who fall as one dead before the Divine Presence, who know they are undone, ruined, and dying for life... The great danger, spiritually speaking, is to become complacent, untouched by poverty of heart, to be lulled asleep, lost within a dream, made comatose, living-yet-dead. The gift of faith first reveals our own lostness and then imparts courage to live with ourselves despite ourselves as we seek God's healing and life...

Walking Through the Shadows...


02.18.14 (Adar 18, 5774)  The Spirit cries out, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isa. 40:8). This verse sets up a great contrast between olam ha-zeh and olam haba – between this present world and the heavenly realm. King David states, "Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you (וְחֶלְדִּי כְאַיִן נֶגְדֶּךָ). Surely all mankind stands as a mere vanity" (Psalm 39:5). Yet we hunger and ache for love that fulfills the infinite depth of our hearts: "My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you (Isa. 26:9). I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you" (Psalm 16:2). Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God, the Eternal, the abiding, and true...

For me, heaven doesn't mean walking streets of gold, living in heavenly mansions, or wearing crowns of glory. These things are pictures to help us envision something deeper still. After all, what would "heaven" be if you were on the outside looking in? If it is anything at all, heaven is a sense of home, of acceptance, a place where you are "inside out" and yet completely loved. In short, heaven is nothing less being loved and accepted by the Lord, and hearing him say, "I love you; you belong to me; I call you my friend..."

מִי־לִי בַשָּׁמָיִם וְעִמְּךָ לא־חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ
כָּלָה שְׁאֵרִי וּלְבָבִי צוּר־לְבָבִי וְחֶלְקִי אֱלהִים לְעוֹלָם

mi-li · va·sha·ma·yim · ve·im·me·kha · lo-cha·fatz·ti · va·a·retz
kal·lah · she·ei·ri · u·le·va·vi · tzur-le·va·vi · ve·chel·ki · E·lo·him · le·o·lam

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Hebrew Study Card

With God's love we have everything we need - even should we experience temporal lack; but without it we are truly destitute - even should we gain everything the world affords. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).

Today if you hear...


02.18.14 (Adar 18, 5774)  Think of today, this immediate hour... Now is the time we have to turn to God for life. Do not delay until the next day; do not say, "Tomorrow I will turn with all my heart." We only have this day, this hour to make our stand: tomorrow is a different world. As it is said, "For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand, today -- if we hear his voice and do not harden our hearts" (Psalm 95:7-9). We are warned not to "harden our hearts," that is, not to lose sight of real hope by refusing to trust in the promises of God's love...

"Teach us to number our days..." (Psalm 90:12). The sages say on the day of death, one considers one's life as if it had been a single day... Life goes by so quickly, and we never know when our personal "Rosh Hashanah" will come. "No one knows the day or hour..." That's why it is so vital to be healed and to turn to God while there is still time. So turn to him today and bacharta ba'chayim (בָּחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים) - "choose life!" "For this commandment (of turning to God in teshuvah) is not hidden from you, and it is not far away. It is not in heaven... nor across the sea.... Rather, the matter is very near you - in your mouth and your heart - to do it" (Deut. 30:11-14; Rom. 10:8-13).

לִמְנוֹת יָמֵינוּ כֵּן הוֹדַע
 וְנָבִא לְבַב חָכְמָה

lim·not · ya·me·nu · ken · ho·da
ve·na·vi · le·vav · chokh·mah

"Teach us to number our days
 that we may get a heart of wisdom."
(Psalm 90:12)

The cross, not the scales

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Despite the frailty and tenuous brevity of our days, may it please the LORD God to shine the power of His radiance upon us, and to establish our works for His praise. May He help us to "number our days" so that we may obtain levav chokhmah (לְבַב חָכְמָה) - a heart of wisdom to live according to His will (James 1:5). Above all else, may the "God of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of Glory (אֲבִי הַכָּבוֹד), impart to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him (רוּחַ הַחָכְמָה וְהֶחָזוֹן לָדַעַת אתוֹ), having the "eyes of your hearts" (ὀφθαλμοὺς τῆς καρδίας) enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you" (Eph. 1:17-18). May you be strong, resolute, and fully focused on our LORD, and may God make this real for us: Amen.

Wisdom of the Heart...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Vayakhel...  ]

02.17.14 (Adar 17, 5774)  From our Torah portion this week we read: "Let every wise-hearted (חֲכַם־לֵב) among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded" (Exod. 35:10). The sages comment that none of the people actually had the skills to fashion the glorious things of the sanctuary, but they had something even better – a passionate desire to do God's will, and this enabled them to access God's help to do what was needed. The purpose of the commandment was to involve the heart, to refine the character: "And everyone whose heart moved him brought what was needed…" (Exod. 35:22). God could have created the sanctuary "yesh me'ayin," out of nothing, but he wanted the heart of his people to express their desire for his presence in their midst.

דִּרְשׁוּ יְהוָה וְעֻזּוֹ
בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָיו תָּמִיד

dir·shu · Adonai · ve·uz·zo
ba·ke·shu · fa·nav · ta·mid

"Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually"
(Psalm 105:4)

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"Seek ... seek." Two different Hebrew words are used to express the idea of "seeking" the LORD in this verse. The first word is darash (דָּרַשׁ), which means to inquire or search carefully for something, and the second is bakash (בָּקַשׁ), which means to request something desired. Both kinds are seeking are needed, and in this order. First we need to know the LORD and the power of His might, and then we need to petition Him daily for help in our lives.

"Seek ... seek." We seek God because He first seeks us. This is always the right order. We "seek the LORD and His strength," which is another way of saying that "salvation is from the LORD" (Psalm 3:8). We do not seek God in the power of our own strength, but by trusting in the power of His might. "Not by works of righteousness," but by the heart's cry and trust... And we "seek His presence" always. Fellowship with God comes when we abide in a trusting relationship with Him. The Hebrew word "tamid" (תָּמִיד) recalls the perpetual sacrifice made on our behalf. Because of Yeshua's constant intercession, we can boldly draw near to the Throne of Grace to receive help in time of need (Heb. 4:16; 7:25).

Over and over the Scriptures command us to seek God's presence. "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near" (Isa. 55:6); "Seek the LORD and live" (Amos 5:6); ‎"You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). Yeshua taught us: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7). We are invited to seek God because God wants to be sought; likewise, God seeks us because we desperately need His love... It is a "reciprocal seeking," a holy reconciliation, that the Spirit bears within us. As we draw near to God, we will find that He draws near to us (James 4:8). Let us draw near to Him now...

Parashat Vayakhel (ויקהל)


02.17.14 (Adar 17, 5774)  This week's Torah portion (Vayakhel) begins the account of the building of the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle). This is the second time that the description of the Mishkan and its furnishings is given in the Torah (the first time occurred in the previous Torah readings of Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Tisa), and therefore much of this material might seem somewhat redundant... So why is all this repeated?

For one thing, the LORD was showing that His purposes would not be thwarted, even if Israel's sin (i.e., the idolatry of the Golden Calf) caused a delay in His will. A second reason had to do with the fundamental importance of the Mishkan and the blood atonement rituals that allowed for communion with God. The Lord was emphasizing that the way to come before Him was through the blood of a sacrificial victim, and this would ultimately be fulfilled in the sacrifice of Messiah Himself (Gal. 3:24). Finally, the two descriptions allude to the two advents of the Messiah. In the first advent the Jewish people missed their opportunity for national atonement, but in the second advent they will be cleansed as a nation on the great Yom Kippur, when "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). On that day, Yeshua will finally be known as both Israel's Deliverer and the Savior of the world!  מָרַן אֲתָא

Before the account of the Mishkan is given, Moses assembled (וַיַּקְהֵל) the people together to repeat the commandment that the Sabbath was to be a day of "complete rest to the LORD" - shabbat shabbaton la-Adonai (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן לַיהוָה), and "whoever does any work (מְלָאכָה) on it shall be put to death." In particular, Moses emphasized the prohibition against kindling fire (Exod. 35:3). In Jewish tradition, this latter restriction was used to justify why the last bit of "work" performed before Shabbat begins is the kindling of the Shabbat candles: the woman of the house first lights the candles (18 minutes before sundown when Shabbat begins) and then says the blessing over the flames, officially commencing the holiness of the day of rest.

Because the Torah juxtaposes refraining from work on the Shabbat with the construction of the Mishkan, the sages regarded the two as complementary and mutually exclusive. In other words, if we could identify the types of actions required to build the Mishkan (as well as its various furnishings, sacrifices, etc.), then we would know what actions not to perform on Shabbat, especially since the construction of the Mishkan was halted for Sabbath observance.  The sages who undertook this study eventually identified 39 categories of "work" (i.e., melakhah: מְלָאכָה) that were required to build the Mishkan, and called them Avot Melakhah, the "fathers" or primary categories, since they were the foundation, or the original source, for all toldot ("descendants"), or secondary types of work, that derived from them (Mishnah: Shabbat). In addition, since melakhah is primarily associated with God's work of creation as well as the activity used to create the Tabernacle, in general it may be said that it refers to "creative activity" (or to actions that promote such).

    "Why does the Torah place the commandment to cease work on Shabbat next to the work of the Mishkan? To teach us that a person is guilty of violating the Shabbat only if the work he does has a counterpart in the work of making the Sanctuary: they sowed (the herbs from which to make dyes for the tapestries); you, too, shall not sow [on Shabbat]. They harvested [the herbs]; you, too, shall not harvest. They loaded the boards from the ground onto the wagons; you, too, shall not bring an object from a public domain into a private domain." (Rashi on Shabbat 49b)

In this connection it should be noted that in Jewish tradition "work" does not necessarily mean physical labor per se.  For example, according to most interpretations of Jewish law, it's "kosher" to move a heavy sofa across the room on Shabbat but not to flip on a light switch or to carry a needle and thread out into the street!  If you look into this, you will quickly discover that the legal discussions about what exactly is and is not "work" gets very involved and convoluted. For example, the restriction not to kindle a fire on Shabbat has led Rabbinic authorities to "build a fence" (gezerah) around the commandment by forbidding turning on electronic devices or starting automobiles on the Sabbath (since both involve the generation of a "spark").  As Yeshua warned, however, confusing the means with the end is actually a perversion of the true intent of the Torah (Matt. 12:12; Mark 2:27; John 7:24).

Please see the quick summary for Vayakhel for more information. You can also download the Shabbat Table Talk for this portion here:


Justified by Faith...


02.16.14 (Adar 16, 5774)  When Abraham was declared righteous by God he was neither circumcised nor under the covenant of the law given at Sinai. As he counted the stars, he believed God's promise that he would be the "father of a multitude," and for that reason God declared him righteous (Gen. 15:6). Abraham believed "hope against hope" so that when he was later tested by offering up his only son Isaac – the very heir of the promise - he nevertheless affirmed that "God would provide the lamb" (Gen. 22:8). The New Testament comments: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back" (Heb. 11:17-19). The lamb was indeed provided by God and Abraham foresaw the Messiah, the promised Seed to come, the Savior from the curse (Gen. 3:15). Therefore Yeshua told the religious leaders of his day, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). The law revealed at Sinai reveals our need for God's righteousness that would come "apart from the law" (Rom. 3:20-22) and was given to serve as a "tutor to lead us to Messiah, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24).

Salvation has always been the way of the promise... As taught in the Torah (parashat Vayera), Abraham had two sons: Ishmael, the son of the slave Hagar, and Isaac, the son of Sarah. Ishmael's conception was "natural," i.e., was "of the flesh" and the result of human intervention and calculation; Isaac's conception, on the other hand, was supernatural and the result of God's miraculous intervention and design.

The Apostle Paul interprets these historical events in allegorical terms. "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman, but the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise" (Gal. 4:21-23). The two mothers "represent" two distinct covenants: Hagar (who, according to midrash was the daughter of Pharaoh) represents the covenant made at Sinai that results in "children born of slavery," whereas Sarah represents the covenant made earlier based on God's promise that results in freeborn children (Gal. 4:24-27). Mount Sinai is in the barren wilderness -- the starting point of a nation that was once enslaved in Egypt; but Mount Zion (representing the promise) is in the "land flowing with milk and honey" -- the ending point of a nation that is divinely elected. Mount Sinai is ultimately barren, but Zion is "the perfection of beauty" (Psalm 50:2) who bears innumerable children (Isa. 54:1).

Faith is a gift, a miracle of revelation given from heaven: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is "of the LORD," which means that it is the result of God's glorious power and reality. Yeshua died not only for us - to put away our sins, but also for God - so that God would known as "just and yet the justifier" of the one that trusts in his love (Rom. 3:25). It is "the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly whose faith is counted as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

Personal Update:  I am sick with a fever and head cold over here, so I ask for your prayers, friends. Thank you so much...

Why We Study Hebrew...


[ "Until heaven and earth pass away, not an Yod, nor even a stroke of a Yod, will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished..." - Jesus (Matt. 5:18) ]

02.14.14 (Adar 14, 5774)  We love and study the Hebrew Scriptures because Hebrew is lashon ha'kodesh (לשׁוֹן הַקּדֵשׁ), the holy language God spoke to Moses and the prophets. And of course Jesus spoke and read Hebrew fluently. After all, he was given a good Jewish education as a boy, even though he was born into a modest household. His family was devoutly Jewish, as indicated by their adherence to the Torah (Luke 2:21-24). He learned to read the Hebrew texts of the Bible and was adept at reasoning with the Torah sages of his day. At age twelve, for example, we find him sitting in the Temple discussing the finer points of the Torah with the sages (Luke 2:39-52). During his public ministry, Jesus read the Hebrew Torah and Haftarah in synagogue "as was his custom" (Luke 4:16). And if the law required that a king of the Jews was to "make a copy of sefer Torah" (Deut. 17:18-19), then we can be assured that Yeshua, the great King of the Jews, the very Mashiach, understood kotzo shel yod (קוֹצוֹ שֶׁל יוֹד) - "every jot and tittle" of its meaning (see Matt. 5:17-19). During his last Passover Seder with his disciples, Jesus recited the traditional Hebrew blessings, prayers, and hymns (Matt. 26:26-30), and the title written over Jesus' cross was written "in Hebrew" (῾Εβραϊστί) and not Aramaic as is sometimes erroneously translated (John 19:20). After his resurrection Jesus spoke to the Apostle Paul in Hebrew (τῇ ῾Εβραΐδι διαλέκτω) on the Road to Damascus (Acts 26:14), and likewise Paul himself spoke fluent Hebrew as he appealed to crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2). In short, Hebrew is the "language of the kingdom," and during the reign of Messiah in Zion, all the nations will speak lashon ha'kodesh (Zeph. 3:9). Indeed, in the world to come, the names of the twelve will be written on the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem itself (Rev. 21:12).

When King David said, "I have set the Lord always before me; he is at my right hand" (Psalm 16:8), he was referring to the Torah which he kept tied to his arm (tefillin shel yad). David literally "set" the Word of the LORD upon his right hand to help him keep focused. Likewise the Spirit of God writes the Torah upon our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Studying and meditating on the Jewish Scriptures elevates our souls and attunes us to God's Presence. As David said: "In my heart I have stored up your word so that I won't miss seeing you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your decrees."

בְּלִבִּי צָפַנְתִּי אִמְרָתֶךָ
לְמַעַן לא אֶחֱטָא־לָךְ
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה לַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּיךָ

be·lib·bi · tza·fan·ti · im·ra·te·kha
le·ma·an · lo · e·che·ta · lakh
ba·rukh · at·tah · Adonai · lam·me·dei·ni · chuk·ke·kha

"In my heart I have stored up your word
so that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your decrees."
 (Psalm 119:11-12)


The Great War for Souls...


[ "For our struggle is against spiritual forces of evil..." Eph. 6:12 ]

02.14.14 (Adar 14, 5774)  Ultimately we are living in the midst of a great spiritual war -- the war for truth. This has been the battle from the beginning. The very first recorded words of Satan (הַנָּחָשׁ) questioned God's truth: "Did God really say...?" (Gen. 3:1). In the end there will be found two types of people: those who love the truth and those who love the lie. These are the children of light (בְּנֵי הָאוֹר) and the children of darkness (בְּנֵי הַחשֶׁךְ), respectively. Followers of Yeshua the Messiah are told to "walk as children of light" / ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε (Eph. 5:8). The children of light are called to be am kadosh - a holy people - separate from the evil engendered by the fallen world and its forces, just as the very first creative expression of God was the separation of light from darkness (Gen. 1:3-4). The children of light "hate evil and love the good," and conversely, the children of darkness "hate the good and love evil" (Psalm 34:21, Prov. 8:13, Amos 5:15, John 3:20-21). Regarding the heavenly Zion to come, it is written: "nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood (lit. "makes a lie"), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).

We must take a stand for the truth, because the truth is what sets us free (John 8:32). As Yeshua said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). We must turn away from the lie to embrace the truth. One day all that is hidden will become manifest. "As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; His throne was ablaze with fire and its wheels were all aflame. A river of fire was streaming forth and proceeding from his presence; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened." (Dan. 7:9-10).

Da lifnei mi attah omed: "Know before whom you stand!" As Elisha said to his servant Gehazi, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16). We are surrounded by an innumerable multitude of angels, with the LORD of Hosts who rules over all.  Ask the LORD God Almighty to give you the "strategic advantage" over the enemy -- for you to see his wiles, but not for him to see you.... Ask God for the armor of light that blinds eyes accustomed to darkness (Rom. 13:12). How else can we fight this archenemy of our souls? We cannot fight "fire with fire," but we can appeal to the One who fills heaven and earth "with horses and chariots of fire all around" (2 Kings 6:17). "Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, Adonai Tzeva'ot" (Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of the armies of heaven); "melo khol ha-aretz kevodo" (the whole earth is filled with His glory" (Isa. 6:3).

קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יהוה צְבָאוֹת
מְלא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ

ka·dosh  ka·dosh  ka·dosh,  Adonai  Tze·va·ot,
me·lo  khol  ha·a·retz  ke·vo·do

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!"
(Isa. 6:3)

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God told the prophet Jeremiah, "Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD" (Jer. 1:8). Likewise Yeshua says to us, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you" (Luke 10:19). We need the courage and boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit to overcome the "giants in the land." We need the confidence of young David who beheaded Goliath in the Name of the Living God.  Ask God to empower you to serve Him now... Just as salvation is "of the LORD," so is the battle of faith: "Not by might, nor by power - but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).

Shabbat Shalom and may you be strong in the Lord and the power of His might...

Seeking the Good...


02.14.14 (Adar 14, 5774)  It is written, "Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it" (Prov. 11:27). The one who seeks good is called shocher tov (שׁחֵר טוֹב), "a seeker of good." The shocher tov uses the "good eye" (ayin ha'tovah) to see worth and potential in others. The one who searches out evil, on the other hand, is called doresh ra'ah, "a searcher of evil." The doresh ra'ah has an evil eye (ayin ha'ra) that is stingy, critical and faultfinding. The proverb may therefore be stated this way: When you seek the good of others, you will find God's favor (ratzon), but when you search for evil in others, it becomes your own. As the Baal Shem Tov once said, "When we see faults in others, we must understand that they only reflect the evil within ourselves." Likewise King David said, וּתְפִלָּתִי עַל־חֵיקִי תָשׁוּב, "my prayer shall turn back upon my breast" (Psalm 35:13). Some prayers are conscious words spoken to God, whereas others are expressions of heart attitudes. Our proverb teaches that when we harbor indifference, ill will, or resentment toward others, we hurt ourselves; when we favor others and desire their blessing, on the other hand, we will find God's favor and blessing. Tov ayin hu yevorakh: "The one with the good eye will be blessed" (Prov. 22:9; Matt. 6:22).

שׁחֵר טוֹב יְבַקֵּשׁ רָצוֹן
וְדרֵשׁ רָעָה תְבוֹאֶנּוּ

sho·cher · tov · ye·va·kesh · ra·tzon
ve·do·resh · ra·ah · te·vo·ei·nu

"Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it."
(Prov. 11:27)

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Reciprocity of Heart...


02.13.14 (Adar 13, 5774)  Yeshua taught us to pray, "forgive us as we forgive others," which implies that our forgiveness (of others) is the measure of our own forgiveness. This is another example of the principle of "reciprocity," namely the principle that as we sow, so we reap; as we seek, so we will find; as we judge, so we are judged; and so on (Matt. 7:2). When we let go of hurt, anger, and fear, we are no longer driven by our pain, and we can begin to break the cycle and heal. But to forgive others you must first forgive yourself, and that means accepting God's love for you despite your many sins and transgressions. Accepting yourself as forgiven means that you acknowledge that you act just like other people, that you are human, and that you are in need of reconciliation and healing, too. Indeed, forgiveness  is central to our very spiritual life, and Yeshua concluded the "Lord's Prayer" by insisting we practice empathy: "For if you forgive others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).

Our Savior taught us: "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25). In the Gates of Repentance it is written: "I hereby forgive all who have hurt me, all who have wronged me, whether deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed. May no one be punished on my account. And as I forgive and pardon those who have wronged me, may those whom I have harmed forgive me, whether I acted deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed." Amen.

לְמַעַן־שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה
וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲוֹנִי כִּי רַב־הוּא

le·ma·an · shim·kha · Adonai
ve·sa·lach·ta · la·a·vo·ni · ki · rav · hu

"For the sake of your name, LORD
forgive my iniquity for it is great."
(Psalm 25:11)


I like this quote attributed to Charles Williams: "Many promising reconciliations have broken down because, while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither came prepared to be forgiven." We have a quick eye to see how others offend us, but not how we might offend them. May the Lord help us be yashar, upright and honest with ourselves; may He give us the willingness to admit we make mistakes, that we are in need of mercy, and may He set us free from the slavery of pride. So how do we forgive the people who have offended us? By refusing to condemn them, for then we will not need to forgive. Our great need is to turn, at every moment, and to keep our focus on the Eternal and real.

"In many things we offend all," and therefore we must confess our sins one to another to find healing (James 5:16). However if we do not condemn those who offend us, we will not need to forgive them for their offenses. Walking in God's love sets us free from the slavery of negative emotions such as resentment, bitterness, anger, unresolved grief, and so on.

All things made new...


02.13.14 (Adar 13, 5774)  Only Yeshua can help us die to ourselves - to let go of the "self life" and to be set free from the tyranny of what we naturally are... The old nature is never "reformed" by religion but is put to death by a supernatural act of God, as it says: "I have been crucified (συνεσταύρωμαι) with Messiah; it is no longer "I" who live, but Messiah who lives in me. And the life "I" now live in the flesh "I" live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). By faith we trust that we already have been crucified with him, just as by faith we trust that we already have newness of life, though all this is only "theoretical" unless and until the Spirit of God makes it real in our lives: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Only the LORD can put a new heart within us; only God can make the new "I" walk in the flesh; only the Spirit can breathe upon dry bones raised from the dust to make them live (Ezek. 37:5).

עֵינַי תָּמִיד אֶל־יְהוָה
כִּי הוּא־יוֹצִיא מֵרֶשֶׁת רַגְלָי

ei·nai · ta·mid · el · Adonai
ki · hu · yotz·i · me·re·shet · rag·lai

"My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net."
(Psalm 25:15)

We believe not only that Yeshua died as our substitute for sin - saving us from its penalty - but also that our old nature has died with him - delivering us from its power: "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6:6). "For as many of you as were baptized into Messiah have put on the Messiah" (Gal. 3:27) [by "baptism" think identification, not some ritual act].  May the LORD our God make the truth of what He has done for us alive and breathing freely within us -- by the power of his salvation in Yeshua!

Gift of Holy Desperation...


02.13.14 (Adar 13, 5774)  Do you have the "gift of holy desperation"? That's the very special blessing of needing God so viscerally that you otherwise will fall apart or even self-destruct apart from His ongoing intervention in your life... You pray because your very life depends on it; you believe because without God, you would be swallowed up in darkness... The fire on the altar was to be kept burning at all times (Lev. 6:12-13), which symbolizes esh tamid (אֵשׁ תָּמִיד), or the inner fire of the heart... How blessed it is to be full of the fire of this inner need, this relentless groaning, this constant hunger to be set free: As Job wistfully yearned: "All the days of my warfare I hope, until my change will come."

אִם־יָמוּת גֶּבֶר הֲיִחְיֶה
כָּל־יְמֵי צְבָאִי אֲיַחֵל עַד־בּוֹא חֲלִיפָתִי

im · ya·mut · ge·ver · ha·yich·yeh?
kol · ye·mei · tze·va·i · a·ya·chel · ad · bo · cha·li·fa·ti

"If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my warfare I hope, until my change should come."
(Job 14:14)


The Hebrew word for "change" (חֲלִיפָה) here refers to a change of garments, picturing the robes that Joshua the High Priest was given when he stood accused before the Angel of the LORD (Zech. 3:3-5). We want to be fully clothed with the garments of God's righteousness that are imputed to us through faith. Our groaning for complete deliverance from the affect of our sins is further evidence of the inner vision we have been given by the Holy Spirit.

Sign of the Sabbath...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Ki Tisa...  ]

02.13.14 (Adar 13, 5774)  From our Torah portion this week we read, "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign (אוֹת) between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you... Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a covenant forever (בְּרִית עוֹלָם). It is a sign forever (אוֹת לְעוֹלָם) between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed" (Exod. 31:13-17).

Now whatever else your particular theology of "Sabbath" might mean, one thing is clear: the Sabbath day (יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת) begins on Friday at sundown and lasts until after sundown on Saturday (i.e., Havdalah). The idea that Sunday "replaces" Sabbath in the divine calendar is therefore simply not true, and there is no evidence that Yeshua taught his followers to rest on a different day of the week. Indeed, it is unthinkable that the King of the Jews - the LORD of Glory who spoke from the midst of the fire at Sinai to Moses - would repeal this commandment or otherwise contradict Himself, especially since Sabbath foreshadowed His deeper work of salvation in our lives (Deut. 5:15; Heb. 4:9; Matt. 11:28; 12:8). On the contrary, Yeshua no more repealed the Fourth Commandment in light of the Cross than he repealed commandments against murder (Matt. 5:21-22), adultery (Matt. 5:27-28), or the "least of the commandments" (Matt. 5:19). Moreover, the Sabbath clearly will be observed in the world to come (see Isa. 56:1-8; 58:13; 66:23, Ezek. 46:1, etc.). So while it is true that we are at liberty to worship the LORD on any day of the week (Rom. 14:5), that does not imply that the Sabbath no longer bears witness to God as our Creator, our King, and our Redeemer (Gen. 2:2-3; Exod. 20:11; 31:17; Deut. 5:15). Sadly, the doctrine that Sunday is the Lord's day or the "Christian Sabbath" is yet another expression of "replacement theology" and its theological assumptions...

Note: The quarrel Yeshua had with the Pharisees of his day concerned the addition of "fences" (gezerot) that obscured the deeper purpose of rest as a means of promoting healing and life. "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), which means it is a gift of God to us, a time of rest and reflection, a joyful time set apart from the busy week when we can focus on what is really important in our lives. Yeshua's acts of healing on the Sabbath were intended to teach that there is no rightful law against meeting the needs of others before fulfilling religious obligations... For more on this subject, see the article: "The Sign of the Sabbath."

Postscript: The issue here concerns whether the institutionalized church was justified to transform "Sabbath" from Saturday to Sunday, and not whether public worship should be on any particular day of the week... In other words, we are asking about the meaning of the Sabbath, not matters of ecclesiology.

The Gospel at Sinai...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Ki Tisa...  ]

02.12.14 (Adar 12, 5774)  The tragic episode of the Golden Calf revealed that the Israelites were unable to keep the law, even though they had personally experienced the power of God's deliverance from Egypt and had heard God's Voice directly speaking the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. The presence of the idol demonstrated that something more was needed, and that the law by itself was insufficient to change the heart (Rom. 3:20). The poignant intercession of Moses on behalf of Israel - his willingness to die on behalf of the people - foreshadowed the need for a New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה), a deeper revelation of the righteousness of God in terms of mercy and grace (Exod. 34:6-7; John 1:17; Rom. 3:21). The (second) revelation of the Name YHVH (יהוה) therefore represented a "gospel" moment for Israel. Just as the first set of tablets, based as they were on the justice and holiness of God, were broken, so a second set was graciously restored based on God's forgiveness and love. Likewise, Yeshua was broken on behalf of the law but was raised again so that all who trust in Him can understand that God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and truth" (Exod. 34:6, Psalm 86:15, 103:8). Only at the cross of Yeshua are God's justice and love forever reconciled (Prov. 16:6; Psalm 85:10; Rom. 3:26).

Note: For more on this subject, see the Ki Tisa article, "God's Stubborn Love."

A Future and a Hope...

[ God is with you, even in moments of darkness, and He will help you reach the goal... ]

02.12.14 (Adar 12, 5774)  Never yield to utter despair, since that leads to further darkness and fear. Press on and keep fighting the "good fight" of faith (1 Tim. 6:12). Remember that you infinitely matter to heaven; your life has great value; you are significant and you are truly loved by our Heavenly Father... Yes, there is a "future and a hope" reserved for you (Jer. 29:11); there is "a white stone, and on that stone will be written a new name that no one can understand except the one who receives it" (Rev. 2:17). This promise is given to the "one who conquers" (Τῷ νικῶντι) by means of the love and grace of our God. Indeed, by faith we are made "more than conquerors" (lit. "hyper conquerors," ὑπερνικῶμεν) through the Messiah and his love for us (Rom. 8:37). So do not lose heart; help is on the way!

כִּי אָנכִי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת־הַמַּחֲשָׁבת
אֲשֶׁר אָנכִי חשֵׁב עֲלֵיכֶם נְאֻם־יְהוָה
מַחְשְׁבוֹת שָׁלוֹם וְלא לְרָעָה
 לָתֵת לָכֶם אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָה

ki · a·no·khi · ya·da·ti · et · ha·ma·cha·sha·vot
a·sher · a·no·khi · cho·shev · a·lei·khem · ne·um · Adonai
mach·she·vot · sha·lom · ve·lo · le·ra·ah
la·teit · la·khem · a·cha·rit · ve·tik·vah

"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for blessing and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
(Jer. 29:11)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)

Hebrew Study Card

"I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (ἐπιτελέω) at the Day of Yeshua the Messiah" (Phil 1:6). The LORD is able to guard you (φυλάξαι) from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (Jude 1:24). "The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down" (Psalm 145:14). "He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the Day of our Yeshua the Messiah" (1 Cor. 1:8). He who calls you is forever faithful; He will surely do it (1 Thess. 5:24). Yea, "the Lord is faithful (נֶאֱמָן הוּא): He will establish you and guard you against the evil one" (2 Thess. 3:3). The Spirit says, "Fear not, for I AM with you always."

The Revelation of God...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Ki Tisa...  ]

 (Adar 11, 5774)  When Moses asked the LORD, har'eini na et-kevodekha - "Please show me your glory" (Exod. 33:18), the sages said he wanted to reconcile God's supreme power and goodness despite the prevalence of evil in the world. God answered, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you my name the LORD... but," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live" (Exod. 33:19-20). The early sages interpret God's answer to mean that once we encounter God's goodness and love (defined by the essential name י־ה־ו־ה), we must trust that what is beyond our understanding nevertheless works for our ultimate good, even if its purpose may be unknown to us at the present time (Rom. 8:28). The LORD said both: "I will make my goodness manifest to you," and "you cannot see me and live," which means that we "see through a glass darkly" as we sojourn through this world (1 Cor. 13:12). God manifests yet still we can't fully see... In this life you may stand near God in the "cleft of the rock," on the very mountaintop of revelation, but you will still be in a cloud of unknowing (Exod. 33:22-23). Nevertheless God promises to "shelter you with his hand"; he will provide you a place of refuge and the strength to keep trusting despite incomprehensible times of testing.

There is an opinion in the Talmud that says Moses was the author of the Book of Job, the ancient story that investigates why the righteous suffer (Bava Batra 15a). At the end of the book, God answers Job from the midst of a whirlwind, reminding him that while people can't comprehend His ways, he is the nevertheless the Source of all goodness and truth in the universe. After Job hears God speak, he says, "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth... I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 40:4, 42:2-3,5-6). Both Job and Moses realized that trusting in the love of God is the key to accepting all other experiences that might befall him...

Note that God said that "no man can see My face and live" (Exod. 33:20), and yet Moses spoke with God "face to face" (Deut. 34:10). We reconcile this by understanding "face to face" (פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים) to be an idiom that means "intimately," or "personally," that is, without the use of mediators or outside agents.  Nevertheless the "face of God" was disclosed in the advent of Yeshua, as it is written: "No one has ever seen God; the only begotten God (μονογενὴς θεὸς), the One who is in the heart of the Father (ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς), has made him known" (John 1:18). Yeshua is the "image of the invisible God" (εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου) who reveals the meaning of the Father (John 14:9). As it is written, "God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Yeshua the Messiah" (2 Cor. 4:6). Our Savior is "the radiance of the glory of God and the representation of his essence (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ), the One who upholds the universe by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3). All this is very mysterious, of course: the Infinite enters the realm of the finite; God is revealed yet concealed; he is made known yet beyond our understanding. Indeed, the very One who entered the "leper colony of the world" and willingly died on the cross for our meanness and sin is none other than "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light (φῶς οἰκῶν ἀπρόσιτον), whom no one has ever seen or can see" (1 Tim. 6:15-16).

That Yeshua dwells in "unapproachable light" recalls the story of the Roman emperor who once asked Rabbi Joshua if the universe had a ruler. The sage answered, indeed, the LORD is the Creator of all things, as it is written, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The emperor then asked, "Why is God not like the emperor of Rome, who is seen twice a year so that people may know and worship him?" Rabbi Joshua said that unlike human kings, the LORD was too powerful for people to see; as it is written in the Torah: "No person shall see Me and live." The emperor was skeptical, however, and insisted that unless he could see God, he would be unable to believe. Joshua then pointed to the sun high in the sky: "Look into the sun and you will see God." The emperor tried to look into the sun, but was forced to cover his eyes to keep them from burning: "I cannot look into the sun," he said. Joshua then replied: "Listen to yourself: If you cannot look into the sun which is but one of God's creations, how can you expect to look at God?" (Sefer HaAggadah).

It is interesting to compare this story with another...  Lev Tolstoy tells the parable of an old cobbler who despaired of life and yearned to finally see God. In a dream one night a heavenly voice told that he would see God's face the very next day. The cobbler began the day on the alert, hoping to catch a glimpse of God, but he was distracted when he encountered a needy family. They were cold and desperate, so he took them in and cared for them. The day passed and as he finally laid down to sleep, the cobbler realized he had completely forgotten to look for God.  He apologized to God and once again asked to die... As he fell asleep he dreamed that he saw the family he had helped walking by when the heavenly voice then said, "Rest assured: you saw God today in the faces of those you helped." "Truly, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:40).

Torah of Brokenness...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Ki Tisa...  ]

02.11.14 (Adar 11, 5774)  It was only after Moses experienced brokenness and confession (prefigured by the shattering of the first set of tablets and the 40 days of teshuvah) that the inner meaning of God's Name was revealed as "mercy, grace, longsuffering, faithfulness, compassion," and so on (Exod. 34:6-7). The passion of Moses prefigures the inner breaking -  the abandonment of all hope within oneself - that is necessary before the Torah of the Spirit of Life can be "written upon the heart." As it is written of the New Covenant, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (Jer. 31:33).

הָרפֵא לִשְׁבוּרֵי לֵב
 וּמְחַבֵּשׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָם

ha-ro·fei · lish·vu·rei ·lev
u'me·cha·besh · le'atz·tze·vo·tam

"He is the healer of the brokenhearted
 and the One who binds up their sorrows."
(Psalm 147:3)

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Divine Discontent...


02.10.14 (Adar 10, 5774)  "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). The way of faith always represents collision with the world (κόσμος) and its philosophy of the "good life." Happy are those who "hunger and thirst" for righteousness, who refrain from this world and make themselves poor because of inner heartache. For them no amount of the world's pleasures can obscure the difference between what is and what ought to be... This world is at best a corridor to the world to come, a "valley of decision" about what we ultimately choose to believe and to love... The heart of faith looks forward to "the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10).

צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי לֵאלהִים לְאֵל חָי
 מָתַי אָבוֹא וְאֵרָאֶה פְּנֵי אֱלהִים

tza·me·ah · naf·shi · le·lo·him · le·el · chai
ma·tai · a·vo · ve·e·ra·eh · pe·nei · e·lo·him

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
 When shall I come and appear before God?"
(Psalm 42:2)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)


There is a great danger to become so assimilated into this world that there is no longer any collision, no longer any protest, but merely the whimper of the soul that begs to be left alone from the general toil and troubles of this age... Conscience is seared; natural affections have been abandoned; and the "life" of the soul becomes a mere cipher, a phantom, a ghost... This is the scheme of the worldly dialectic that traps the human soul into living and dying for the sake of sheer vanity. May God help us not to so waste our days... The core prayer of the godly soul is always, "Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love" (Psalm 109:26). Empty our hearts from vanity, O LORD, and afflict us with hunger and thirst for You, for you alone are what we really need....

Treasures in Heaven...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Ki Tisa...  ]

02.10.14 (Adar 10, 5774)  Our Torah portion this week begins with the statement, "each shall give (וְנָתְנוּ) a ransom (i.e., kopher: כּפֶר) for his life to the LORD" (Exod. 30:12). The sages note that the word ve'natnu ("shall give") can be written backward and forward, alluding to the idea that whoever gives tzedekah (i.e., "charity") never feels the loss of giving anything away. Even more: giving benevolence produces wealth; tzedakah is an investment in your spiritual future! Indeed, "tzedakah saves from death" - צְדָקָה תַּצִּיל מִמָּוֶת (Prov. 10:2). As Yeshua said, "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your heart. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). He also admonished us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).

The love of God is like that: when we give it away, it becomes our own possession. Love is inherently something shared. The converse is also true. If we withhold from others, then eventually God will make it so that we are unable to give what we would have given had we the opportunity (Matt. 13:12). "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). In this age of prevalent economic fear, giving tzedakah is truly counter-cultural and faith-affirming: but the truth abides: when we give, we receive....

Personal Update:  I covet your prayers, friends... I have had some ongoing health concerns, and I am now taking some medication that is making me feel very weary and exhausted. Please ask the Lord to strengthen me and to help me keep focused. Thank you so much.

Parashat Ki Tisa - כי תשא


02.09.14 (Adar 9, 5774)  In our last two Torah readings (Terumah / Tetzaveh), Moses was upon Mount Sinai receiving the vision of the Sanctuary (i.e., the Mishkan or "Tabernacle") and its various furnishings. In this week's portion, God commanded that all Israelite men over the age of twenty were required to pay a tax for the upkeep of the Sanctuary: "each shall give (וְנָתְנוּ) a ransom (i.e., kofer: כּפֶר) for his life to the LORD" (Exod. 30:12). After this tax was defined, the LORD described some additional elements that would be required for the priestly service at the Sanctuary, namely, a copper washstand, sacred anointing oil, and incense for the Golden Altar in the Holy Place. The Lord then named Betzalel, a man "filled with the Spirit of God" to be the chief architect of the Mishkan. Before the construction would begin, however, the Lord warned the people to be careful to observe the Sabbath day. Immediately following this admonition, God gave Moses the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, which were inscribed directly by the hand of God.
Before Moses returned to the camp, however, certain people had talked his brother Aaron into making a golden idol which they began to worship as their "god." The LORD then told Moses of their treachery and threatened to destroy all the Israelites, but Moses interceded on their behalf. As he rushed down the mountain, with the tablets in hand, he saw the people dancing about the idol and smashed the Tablets in anger. Moses then destroyed the idol and led the Levites in slaying 3,000 of the ringleaders.

The following day, Moses returned up the mountain and begged God to reaffirm the covenant. After a 40 day period of intercession, the Lord finally told Moses to carve a second set of Tablets and to meet him again at the summit of Sinai, where He would show Moses his glory and reveal to him the meaning of His Name (יהוה). When Moses encountered the LORD in a state of brokenness and forgiveness, his face began to shine with glory - a glory that foretold of the New Covenant of God's mercy and grace to come in Yeshua.

When the people saw Moses coming down the mountain with the second set of Tablets, they understood they were forgiven and that the Covenant had been renewed.  When they approached him, however, they drew back in fear, because his face was radiant with the glory of God. Moses reassured them, however, and then told them all that the Lord had commanded while he was on the mountain. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil (מַסְוֶה) over his face. From that time on, Moses wore a veil in the camp, though he removed it whenever he went before the Lord for further instructions.

Please see the Summary Page for parashat Ki Tisa for more information. You can also download the Shabbat Table Talk for this portion here:


Made Right With God...


[ "How can a man be made right with God?" - Job 9:2 ]

02.07.14 (Adar 7, 5774)  We are "justified" by trusting in the sufficiency of Messiah's work done for us, and not our own "good deeds" (Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 2:8-9). We need the power of God to save us from the hell of ourselves and from slavery to our sinful nature. True freedom comes by Messiah's achievement, not our own. The blessing of being rightly related to God is given to the person who abandons his own way and trusts in the One who "justifies the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5). This is called the "righteousness of God" manifested "outside the Law" (χωρὶς νόμου), though the Law and the Prophets bear witness to its reality (Rom. 3:21). There are two aspects to your deliverance by God's grace (Rom. 3:24). First, you trust that the death of Messiah entirely deals with your sin -- you identify with Yeshua as your sin bearer at the cross -- and you accept God's verdict that you are "not guilty." You are "justified" by faith (i.e., "just-if-I'd" never sinned; "just-if-I'd" always obeyed). Sin is taken out of the way, and you "die to the law" so that you may be in new covenant (relationship) with God (Gal. 2:19; Rom. 7:4), Second, you learn to live in the power of Yeshua's resurrection life; you learn to "be who you are" in Messiah: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). The Torah of the Spirit of life (תּוֹרַת רוּחַ הַחַיִּים) imparts power for you to bear fruit for God (Rom. 8:2). Salvation means not only freedom from the guilt of your sin, but freedom from sin's power over you: "For one who has died has been set free from sin" (Rom. 6:7). You are forgiven by trusting in Messiah's death in your place, and you are made holy by trusting in his victorious life, but the miracle is made real by the agency of God's power, not your own. Salvation is of the Lord!

Hungering of Heart...


02.07.14 (Adar 7, 5774)  Sometimes we say that we "hunger for God," but remember that it is God who first hungers for us... The Lord desires our love and fellowship. He comes seeking fruit among the trees - but does he find any? He walks in the cool of the day, calling out to us, but are we attending to his voice? Do we accept the invitation to be in his Presence? When God "knocks on the door of your heart" to commune with you, what "food" will you be serving? (Rev. 3:20). Every day we have an opportunity to "feed God" through expressing our faith, hope, and love for him. Ultimately it is our heart that serves him: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22).  May God help us turn to him this very hour...

Sacred Places of Love...


02.07.14 (Adar 7, 5774)  The two tablets of the law, summarizing the Ten Commandments, were stored inside the Ark of the Covenant (אֲרוֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָה), the innermost place of the holy Tabernacle, a sacred "three-in-one" box.  The Lord told Moses: "You shall overlay it (i.e., the acacia wood box) with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make upon it a molding of gold around it" (Exod 25:11). The Ark is described as "three-in-one" because it was a wooden box set inside a gold box, with another gold box set inside the wooden one -- three boxes made one. It stood entirely apart as the only furnishing placed in the Holy of Holies (קדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים), and therefore served as a symbol of kisei ha-kavod (כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד), the Throne of Glory. Upon the "crown" or cover of the Ark (i.e., the kapporet) sacrificial blood was offered to make atonement for sin, and it was here where God's Voice was heard (Exod. 25:22; Num. 7:89). In the deepest heart of the Sanctuary, then, we see the Word of God and the sacrficial blood, foreshadowing the glory of the eternal redemption secured by Yeshua (Heb. 9:11-12).


God of Second Chances...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.07.14 (Adar 7, 5774)  "Now this is what you shall do to them (i.e., Aaron and his sons) to consecrate them that they may serve me as priests" (Exod. 29:1). The question may be asked why the LORD chose Aaron and his sons for this great honor, especially since the patriarch Jacob had excluded Simon and Levi from leadership during his prophetic deathbed "blessing" delivered to his children: "Let my soul come not into their council... Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel" (Gen. 49:6-7). The very tribe consigned to anonymity, however, was chosen and restored to become the tribe of God's priesthood in Israel, which shows that our merciful God bestows second chances for us to serve him. Likewise the Gentiles, who were once "strangers and outsiders" to the covenants and blessings of ethnic Israel, have been brought near by the blood of Messiah, being made fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:12-13,19). Therefore, as the Apostle Peter attested: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people or his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Pet. 2:9-10).

Lights and Perfections...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.06.14 (Adar 6, 5774)  The High Priest's breastplate contained a pouch holding two mysterious gemstones called the "Urim and Thummim" (אוּרִים וְתֻמִּים), usually translated "lights and perfections." According to the Targum Jonathan, when a matter was brought to the High Priest for settlement, he would sometimes hold these before the Menorah and the Shekhinah would refract and irradiate various letters inscribed on the stones of the breastplate to reveal the will of God. Other sages, however, have said these stones were like lots (purim) used to get "yes/no" responses from the LORD (e.g., 1 Sam. 14:41, 28:6, Ezr. 2:63; Neh. 7:65). Note that the word "urim" begins with the letter Aleph (א), the first letter of the alphabet, and the word "thummim" begins with Tav (ת), the last letter, which suggests the words of Yeshua: "I AM the Aleph and the Tav (אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו), the Beginning and End (רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן), the First and the Last" (Rev. 22:13). Our holy Scriptures declare that in these last days God has spoken to us "by his Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the worlds" (Heb 1:2). Note that the Greek construction for the phrase translated, "by his son" is ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, which literally means "he spoke to us in Son" -- that is, in the language or voice of the Son of God Himself... God speaks in the language "of Son" from the midst of the fire revealed at Zion.

Of course we do not discern the will of God using these methods any longer, since the veil of the Holy of Holies has been removed (Matt. 27:51), and we have access to the Throne of Grace to speak with God as if panim el-panim (פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים), "face to face." Referring to Yeshua as our High Priest of the New Covenant it is said: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:14-15).

    "Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Yeshua, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (Heb. 10:19-23)


Names upon his heart...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.06.14 (Adar 6, 5774)  Both the two onxy stones attached to the shoulder pieces of the High Priest's vest (i.e., ephod: אֵפד) and the twelve precious stones arrayed his breastplate (i.e., choshen: חשֶׁן) were inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel. "And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance" (Exod. 28:12). "So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment (i.e., choshen ha'mishpat: חשֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּט) upon his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD (Exod. 28:29). The sages comment that just as a father carries his young child on his shoulders, or a shepherd his lamb, so the High Priest carries his people before the LORD in intercession. Similarly, at the cross Yeshua carried our names on his shoulders, bearing the burden of our sins as he cried out before the Father. As our great High Priest of the New Covenant, Yeshua "bore the judgment of the people upon his heart" as he made intercession for them (Isa. 53:12; Rom. 8:34).

"Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isa. 49:16); "set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm" (Song 8:6).

Intercession and Incense...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading (Tetzaveh). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

02.06.14 (Adar 6, 5774)  The last item described in the Mishkan (i.e., the "Tabernacle") was a golden "altar of incense" (מִזְבַּח הַקְּטרֶת) that was to be placed in the Holy Place just before the veil separating the Holy of Holies. Every morning and evening the High Priest would burn sacred incense on this altar (symbolizing his prayer and intercession), and the blood of atonement was also applied there during the Yom Kippur service (Exod. 30:6-10). The sages say that the word "incense" – i.e., ketoret (קְטרֶת) – can be thought of as an acronym of the words kedushah (קְדוּשָׁה), "holiness," tahorah (טָהֳרָה), "purity," rachamim (רַחֲמִים), "compassion," and tikvah (תִקוָה), "hope," characteristics that marked the passion of Yeshua who interceded for us as he offered his blood before the heavenly kapporet as our High Priest of the new covenant. Indeed, the word ketoret comes from a root word (קטר) that means to offer sacrifice, further alluding to the intercession of Messiah on our behalf (Heb. 7:25). Disciples of Yeshua are likewise called priests of God (Rev. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:5), and our prayers and service are regarded as a "sweet-smelling savor" offered to the Lord (Rev. 8:4). As it says in the Psalms: "Let my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."

תִּכּוֹן תְּפִלָּתִי קְטרֶת לְפָנֶיךָ
מַשְׂאַת כַּפַּי מִנְחַת־עָרֶב

ti·kon · te·fil·la·ti · ke·to·ret · le·fa·ne·kha
ma·sat · ka·pai · min·chat · a·rev

"Let my prayer be counted as incense before You;
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."
(Psalm 141:2)

Note: The Talmud states that the sacred incense recipe was made of eleven different spices, ten of which had pleasant fragrance, but one of which (i.e., galbanum) had an unpleasant odor. The sages explain that that the word for "community" in Hebrew (i.e., tzibbur: צִבּוּר) may be understood as an acronym for tzaddikim (צַדִּיקִים), "the righteous," be'nayim (בֵּינַיִם), "the intermediate," and resha'im (רְשָׁעִים), "the wicked," and that the presence of galbanum makes place for the transgressors... The presence of an unpleasant odor in the sacred mixture represents our laments, our cries, and confession for the foulness of our sins.

Reverential Perceptions...


02.05.14 (Adar 5, 5774)  The fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom, which is the right apprehension of truth. Indeed the Hebrew word ra'ah (רָאָה), "seeing," is related to the word yirah (יִרְאָה), "fear," suggesting that when we really see life as it is, we find wonder, awe, and a sense of holy mystery. Life itself becomes sacred, set apart, and illuminated. Every bush will be aflame with the Divine Presence and the ground we walk upon shall suddenly be perceived as holy (Exod. 3:2-5). Nothing will seem small, trivial, or insignificant. In this sense, "fear and trembling" (φόβοv καὶ τρόμοv) before the LORD is a description of the inner awareness of the sanctity of life itself (Phil. 2:12-13). The reverence of God sanctifies our perception and enables us to see clearly. As it is written, "The fear of the LORD leads to life" (יִרְאַת יְהוָה לְחַיִּים, literally, it "is for life," Prov. 19:23). It is not what we see with our eyes that is ultimately real, but what we see with our hearts. Therefore do the righteous "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).

יִרְאַת יְהוָה רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת
חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר אֱוִילִים בָּזוּ

yir·at  Adonai  rei·shit  da·at
chokh·mah  u·mu·sar  e·vi·lim  ba·zu

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction."
(Prov. 1:7)

Hebrew Study Card

Despite the asseverations of those who romantically regard human nature as fundamentally good, the Scriptures clearly state that something is desperately wrong with humanity, that a pervading sense of guilt and alienation broods over every soul, and that people willfully deny the truth of their sinful condition. "There is none that understands" (Psalm 14:2; Rom. 3:11), which means that people suppress the truth and prefer ignorance -- literally the "state of ignoring" moral and spiritual truth (Rom. 1:18-20). This is a matter of the will, since desire for the truth must precede its revelation. Indeed the Greek word aletheia (ἀλήθεια) implies choosing to see what is overlooked, suppressed, or forgotten. Truth presupposes a sense of value, a concern for what is real, and the assumption that it is better to know than not to know. Because people desire lies rather than truth, they have no fear of God before their eyes, and consequently they become "vain in their thinking and their foolish hearts are darkened" (Rom. 1:21). If your sins are more than you can bear, then rejoice and thank God for that revelation, since no one is open to God's way until he forsakes his own... The message of the gospel is for the broken of heart (Mark 2:17).

אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלהִים
הִשְׁחִיתוּ הִתְעִיבוּ עֲלִילָה
אֵין עשֵׂה־טוֹב

a·mar · na·val · be·li·bo · ein · E·lo·him
hish·chi·tu · hit·i·vu · a·li·lah
ein · o·seh-tov

"The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good."
(Psalm 14:1)


The Law of Trusting God...


02.04.14 (Adar 4, 5774)  The work of God is to live in faith, trusting in the promises we have in our Scriptures... We are obey the "law of faith" by genuinely believing that God's love is for us - and that we truly are a "new creation" in the Messiah (2 Cor. 5:17). Among other things, we must forgive ("give away") our sins (both our own and those against us), and that means trusting God enough to bear our wounds for us. Forgiveness allows us to move on with our lives by letting go of the pain of the past (2 Cor. 5:16). Of course it's "easy" to understand this, but it is difficult to live it. The Torah of Yeshua (תּוֹרַת יֵשׁוּעַ), however, includes these additional commandments: "Thou shalt believe thou are my beloved - entirely accepted and entirely forgiven"; "Thou shalt forget the shame of thy past"; "Thou shalt stop thinking of your sin but rather of My great remedy for you"; "Thou shalt let me carry your woundedness far away, yea, to the bottom of the sea"; and "Thou shalt live in My love and be filled with its spirit."

The difficulty, I repeat, is to genuinely believe that love's miracle is for you - and that therefore you really are a "new creation" in the Messiah.  The reason this is so difficult is because we are still living in an "already-not-yet" place of exile, the "two-souled" state of being that only is able to "see through a glass darkly." We are trusting in God, yet we must "work out" our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). But notice that we "work out" what God has already "worked in," since it is "God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Please do not miss this - God first works His love into our hearts, and then we are able to express that in works of love... From start to finish, only genuine faith in Yeshua performs the "work of God" (John 6:28-29), and never our own ludicrous efforts of affecting self-righteousness (Titus 3:5). If you are lacking in the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., the works of God), then the right approach is to turn around and confess your faithlessness: "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief..." (Mark 9:24). Our LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Some people might argue that you must "deny yourself" and "die to yourself" to exercise genuine faith, and while it is indeed true that "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone" (John 12:24), we must remember that the Seed is Yeshua and the power of His Spirit sown in the heart of faith. "Taking up the cross" therefore means so identifying with Yeshua that you are "in union" with his sacrificial life and death offered on your behalf. God imparts a new spiritual nature (i.e., heart and spirit) to the one that trusts in Him, an operation of the Spirit that is more manifest than the sun that shines in the clear noonday sky... Taking up the cross is therefore the confession that Yeshua's sacrifice is all-sufficient and therefore all that remains is to continue to trust in his finished work (John 6:29). We are sanctified in exactly the same way we are justified -- by trusting in the miracle of God. Remember, all the imperatives of the New Covenant are addressed to the "new man" brought to life by God's grace. We are able to obey when we yield to the Torah of the Spirit of Life (תוֹרַת רוּחַ הַחַיִּים) in the Messiah, which is to say, when we are trusting in Yeshua to do and to be all that we will ever need. We do not "die to ourselves" by means of our own efforts, but instead rest in the peace of Yeshua's sacrificial death (and resurrection) for us.

Our Need to Wake Up...


02.04.14 (Adar 4, 5774)  We are living in perilous times, and for all the more reason we must "pay more careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away" (Heb. 2:1). We must be anchored to the truth lest we become shipwrecked in our faith. Drifting is often imperceptible, and occurs slowly, though the end result is as deadly as openly turning away from God in outright apostasy. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, "The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." The grave danger today is to quietly and invisibly give up hope, to unconsciously "go with the flow," to become comfortably numb, to fall asleep, and therefore to die inside... It is far more dangerous to ignore God's mercy, or to make a pretense of knowing God's grace, than it is to blatantly break his law. Therefore the urgent need is to remember, to hear, and to awaken the soul to face the truth about reality. We must focus the heart, concentrate the will, and consciously "set" the Lord always before us (Psalm 16:8). Each day we must awaken from our emptiness to reaffirm the central truth: "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:4-5). "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light" (Eph. 5:14).

We must press on to secure our high calling in Messiah: "Let us know; let us press on to know (i.e., נִרְדְּפָה, "pursue after") the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth" (Hos. 6:3). May God help us pursue him be'khol levavkha - with all our heart - because He has promised, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). And may the love of the LORD indeed be upon us, even as we put our hope in Him (Psalm 32:22).

יְהִי־חַסְדְּךָ יְהוָה עָלֵינוּ
 כַּאֲשֶׁר יִחַלְנוּ לָךְ

ye·hi · chas·de·kha · Adonai · a·lei·nu
ka·a·sher · yi·chal·nu · lakh

"May your love, O LORD, be upon us,
 as we hope in You"
(Psalm 33:22)

Hebrew Study Card

Whatever the heart genuinely seeks, it will find. We are constantly "asking, seeking, and knocking" (Matt. 7:7), even if we are often unaware of our heart's search. It is impossible to be neutral regarding this, and we are either walking in faith or drifting away. "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Messiah, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (Heb. 3:12-14).

The Words of Light...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.03.14 (Adar 3, 5774)  Our Torah portion this week (Tetzaveh) begins with commandment to "keep the light burning" (Exod. 27:20). God's first words of creation were yehi ohr: "let there be light!" (Gen 1:3), just as the Menorah served as a picture of the radiant Tree of Life.  The heart looks through the eye, and how we choose to see is ultimately a spiritual decision: "If your eye is "single" (i.e., ἁπλοῦς, sincere, focused)," Yeshua said, "your whole body will be filled with light" (Matt. 6:22). In other words, when we see rightly, we will behold the radiance of God shining within us (Isa. 6:3). We are enabled to see by means of the revelation of the Word: "The entrance of your words give light (Psalm 119:130). But we must kindle the light within our hearts; we must open our eyes its brilliance, we must believe to see the Divine Presence with "eyes of the heart" that are being enlightened (Eph. 1:8). For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Yeshua the Messiah (2 Cor. 4:6). May God help us "let our light shine" (Matt. 5:14-16).

פֵּתַח דְּבָרֶיךָ יָאִיר מֵבִין פְּתָיִים

pe·tach · de·va·re·kha · ya·ir · mei·vin · pe·ta·im

"The entrance of your words give light,
giving insight to the simple."
(Psalm 119:130)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)

Miracles of an Ordinary Kind....

1 Chron. 29:14 text

02.03.14 (Adar 3, 5774)  We tend to look for God in the extraordinary, in the great and imposing, in "signs and wonders," but Yeshua regularly pointed to ordinary things to reveal truths about the kingdom of God. For example, he said the kingdom was like a mustard seed that grew into a tree that the birds would come to roost (Luke 13:18-19). Yeshua didn't point to the cedars of Lebanon or to a high mountain, but to a lowly plant - something altogether unremarkable and ordinary - to reveal the transcendent. This parable, like many others, is intended to help see with new eyes. Teshuvah ("repentance") means changing our vision, turning around, and experiencing the wonder that is right before our eyes. "The Kingdom of God is within (ἐντὸς) you" (Luke 17:21), which means that the Divine Presence is intuitively known to all people born into this world (Rom. 1:19).

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). A child's heart is unprotected, open, free of the designs and defenses of the world of men. Such a heart welcomes the gift of life and takes hold of it with eager simplicity. The parables of Yeshua constantly upend our usual way of seeing by challenging us to experience life in a new way. We are to be reborn; we are to rise up from a lifetime of sleep and walk in the power of resurrected life.

Moving Heaven and Earth...


02.03.14 (Adar 3, 5774)  Act as if your choices have eternal significance; they do; pray as if your life depends on it; it does. Praying in accordance with the will of God - to know Him, to walk in the light of his love and to be filled with wisdom, patience, kindness, and so on, will assuredly move heaven and earth (1 John 5:14). God is faithful and always hears those who call out to him with sincerity of heart: "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth" (Psalm 145:18). Rouse then your heart! Boldly draw near to the throne of Grace to find help in your present hour of need (Heb. 4:16). Cry out to God Most High (לֵאלהִים עֶלְיוֹן), to the very One who will fulfill his purpose for you:

אֶקְרָא לֵאלהִים עֶלְיוֹן לָאֵל גּמֵר עָלָי
יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי חֵרֵף שׁאֲפִי סֶלָה

ek·ra · le·lo·him · el·yon · la'el · go·mer · a·lai
yish·lach · mi·sha·ma·yim · ve·yo·shi·ei·ni · che·ref · sho·a·fi · se·lah

"I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me from the reproach of those who pursue me"
(Psalm 57:1-2)


Light of the World...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.02.14 (Adar 2, 5774)  Our Torah portion this week (Tetzaveh) explains that the Israelites were instructed to bring olive oil for the lamps of the Menorah, which the High Priest would kindle every evening and morning in the Holy Place. According to the Mishnah (Menachot 8:4), only the purest olive oil could be used for the lamps of the menorah (i.e., only the first drop from each olive, to avoid any sediment). Moreover (and as described later in Torah), the wicks of the menorah were to be bent toward the central wick, thereby signifying the glory of the Shamash, or Servant Branch of the LORD (Num. 8:1-2). Just as purest of oil was intended to emit the purest kind of light, so Yeshua is the Central Branch and the Divine Light of the world (John 8:12).


Ordination of the Priests...


[ The following is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Tetzaveh...  ]

02.02.14 (Adar 2, 5774)  Last week's Torah portion (Terumah) explained that God had asked for a "donation" (i.e., terumah) from the people for the sake of creating a portable, tent-like sanctuary called the Tabernacle. God then showed Moses the pattern according to which the Tabernacle and its furnishings were to be made. First the Ark of the Covenant (and its cover called the kapporet) would occupy an inner chamber called the Holy of Holies. Within an adjoining chamber (called the Holy place) a Table would hold twelve loaves of matzah and a seven-branched Menorah (מְנוֹרָה) would illuminate the tent. God gave precise dimensions of the tent with the added instruction to separate the Holy of Holies by a veil called the parochet. The entire tent was to have a wooden frame covered by colored fabric and the hide of rams and goats. Outside the tent an outer court was defined that would include a copper sacrificial altar and water basin. The outer court was to be enclosed by a fence made with fine linen on silver poles with hooks of silver and sockets of brass.

This week's Torah portion (Tetzaveh) continues the description of the Tabernacle, though the focus shifts to those who will serve within it, namely the kohanim (i.e., priests of Israel). First Moses was instructed to tell the Israelites to bring pure olive oil for the lamps of the Menorah, which the High Priest was to light every evening in the Holy Place. Next God commanded Moses to ordain Aaron and his sons as priests and described the priestly garments they would wear while serving in the Tabernacle.

כִּי־טוֹב יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ
וְעַד־דּר וָדר אֱמוּנָתוֹ

ki · tov · Adonai · le·o·lam · chas·do
ve·ad · dor · va·dor · e·mu·na·to

"For the LORD is good; His steadfast love is eternal;
His faithfulness is for all generations."
(Psalm 100:5)

Download Study Card

All priests were required to wear four garments – linen breeches, tunics, sashes, and turbans, but in addition to these the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) was to wear a blue robe that was decorated with pomegranates and golden bells. Over this robe, an ephod – an "apron" woven of gold, blue, purple, and crimson – was to be worn, upon which was attached a "breastplate" (choshen mishpat) inlaid with precious stones inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The ephod also contained a pouch holding two unique gemstones called the urim v'tummin (אוּרִים וְתוּמִּים), usually translated as "lights and perfections." According to the Targum Jonathan, when a matter was brought to the High Priest for settlement, he would sometimes hold the urim (from אוֹר, "light") and tummin (from תָּם, "integrity" or "completeness") before the menorah and the Shekhinah would irradiate various letters inscribed on the gemstones to reveal the will of God. Finally, the High Priest would wear a golden plate (called a "tzitz") engraved with the words, "Holy to the LORD" (קדֶשׁ לַיהוָה) upon the front of his turban.


The priests were to be ordained in a seven-day consecration ceremony that involved washing, dressing, and anointing them with oil and blood, followed by the offering of sacrifices. The priests were further instructed to present burnt offerings twice a day upon the copper altar. The portion ends with a description of the Golden Altar (i.e., Altar of Incense) upon which incense was offered twice a day by the priests when the Menorah lamps were serviced. In addition, the blood of atonement was to be placed on its corners once a year, during the Yom Kippur ritual.

Please see the Summary Page for parashat Tetzaveh for more information. You can also download the Shabbat Table Talk for this portion here:


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