This week’s parasha, Shelach lecha, Numbers 13:1 – 15:41, takes its name from the first words of the second verse, “send for yourself,” which concerns the meraglim (spies) that were to go into the land of Canaan to check out the place before Bnei Israel would enter in and take possession. Sending the spies into Canaan to ascertain the lay of the land, the people, the produce, and the defenses can be considered as counting the cost (see Luke 14:31-32) before taking action. Counting the cost is a valid principle, but it needs to be balanced with the expressed word of HaShem. In Exodus, even before HaShem delivered Bnei Israel, he made this promise,

“I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Exodus 3:17

There should not have been any doubt in the minds of Bnei Israel that he would fulfill his promises. To this point in the narrative, HaShem had fulfilled everything he had promised Israel. He had delivered them from slavery and oppression, provided for their needs, and even quite visibly entered into covenant with them at Sinai, making them his am segula(treasured people). But Israel still doubted his word and promises. Recounting this episode, Moses wrote in Deuteronomy,

All of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead of us to explore the land for us and bring back a report to us regarding the route by which we should go up and the cities we will come to.” The plan seemed good to me, and I selected twelve of you, one from each tribe.

Deuteronomy 1:22-23

It must be noted that the first part of the spies’ report upon returning from Canaan was great, 

“We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. … They brought back a report to us, and said, “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.”

Numbers 13:27 & Deuteronomy 1:25

However, then there was a “but,”

Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. … But you were unwilling to go up. You rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; you grumbled in your tents and said, “It is because the LORD hates us that he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to destroy us.”

Numbers 1:28 & Deuteronomy 1:26-27

Rav Pam (Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Pam ז״ל) in his commentary on Shelach lecha wisely stated, 

A person should always try to avoid putting himself into a situation of nisayon (temptation), where he will be confronted with the opportunity to sin.

(Rav Pam on Chumash, Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2004, p 169.)

Going into the Land and checking out the situation was not the problem. Israel’s doubting the word and the character of HaShem to fulfill his promise was. Unfortunately, this lack to trust in HaShem’s promises would cause a generation to fall in the Wilderness without entering into the Promised Land. This should remind us that we need to guard our own walk with HaShem to prevent doubt from growing as we follow his leading. James addresses this concern to followers of Yeshua who seemed to be operating in doubt when he wrote the following warning, “…ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7).

As many of you know, one of my favorite Scriptures is from Rav Shual’s letter to the Corinthians, 

No testing (trial or temptation) has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Sometimes his provision leads in a circuitous direction, just as he took newly delivered Bnei Israel the long way around to Canaan so they would not run into the Philistines (Exodus 13:17). Other times, he allows us to draw on our inner strength, as he did Joseph when Potiphar’s wife confronted him. HaShem did not need to intervene, because Joseph fled the situation. Unfortunately, not all the examples in Scripture turn out positive. The spies not only doubted HaShem but convinced the people to doubt as well, which led to a generation dying in the wilderness. King David also succumbed to temptation when, instead of fleeing from Bat Sheba, he submitted to lust of his eyes and committed both adultery with her and then murdered her husband, which resulted in the death of his new-born son.

We, like Bnei Israel, always have a choice. We can trust in the word and promises of God and the leading of the Ruach (Spirit), or we can trust in our own strength and follow the distractions of our heart and eyes. First Corinthians 10:12 warns each of us “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall,” and the letter ends with these words of encouragement,

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Let this short phrase become a daily mantra as we walk out our journey together; all the time trusting that when we are weak, he will intervene—if we allow him to do so. 

* All Scripture readings are from New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  

Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

This week’s Torah reading, Be’shalach, (Exodus 13:17 – 17:16) sees the departing children of Israel stuck between a rock and a hard place, or better yet between Pharaoh and the Sea of Reeds. Back before all this started, the descendants of Jacob did not want to follow Moses, “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery,” (Va’eira, Exodus 6:9). Now it would seem that their fears and concerns were well founded. Apparently, when confronted with tribulation, they forgot who was actually in charge of things. At HaShem’s command, Moses raised his staff, the waters parted, and Israel moved forward on dry land. When Pharaoh finally caught up, he, his army and his plans, did not fair so well; thus, causing Moses and Israel to break out into songs of praise to HaShem, 

“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:1-2

Sadly, as happy as they were on the other side of the Sea, their propensity for faithlessness soon appeared and in the rest of the passage they vacillated between complaining and rejoicing over Moses’ leadership and HaShem’s provision. While not intending to meddle, this sounds too often like our own actions, ready praises when the HaShem’s provision is realized, quick to complain when things are not going according to our wishes. 

Moving to the Haftarah, Judges 4:4 – 5:31, Israel is once again in trouble, of their own making. According to Judges 4:1, “they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” which brought disciplinary action from HaShem through “Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor,” (1:2). Just as a side note, if Israel had been completely obedient when they entered the land and destroyed all the Canaanites, Jabin may not have been an issue, (but that’s a study for another time). The Haftarah records the actions of the prophetess and judge, Deborah, who HaShem raised up on behalf of Israel. Deborah, at the prompting of HaShem, called Barak to muster his men and go up against Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army. Instead of Barak stepping up at the command of HaShem, he decided that he would not go on Deborah’s word alone, she had to come with him. Whether it was fear of Sisera or doubts of his ability to muster the needed troops, we don’t know. What we do know is that HaShem gave Israel the victory over Sisera and Jabin, but Barak did not get the recognition for being the leader and winning the battle. Instead, as Deborah prophesized, “the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman,” (Judges 4:9). While 1 Samuel 12:11 records that Barak was the instrument of deliverance, the reality was that it was Jael, in the tent, with a hammer and a tent peg that brought the mighty Sisera down. Reading the victory song in Judges 5, Barak has a passing mention in verse 15, where as Jael was singled out, “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed,” (5:24). How many times have we missed the full blessing of HaShem because we chose not to follow His directions but came up with our own plan instead?

The final line of the passage states “And the land had rest for forty years,” (5:31). Whether Deborah ruled for a literal forty is not clear. However, there is traditionally something significant about the number forty. In Noach’s day, it rained for forty days and nights, leading to a complete judgment on the earth. Moses was on the mount forty days and nights, twice, receiving the Ten Words. In the Apostolic Writings, Yeshua was in the desert forty days and nights being tested for His upcoming ministry. It is said that there is a spiritual completeness associated with the number forty. The Children of Israel journeyed in the Wilderness forty years and here under Deborah there was forty years of tranquility – thus giving the impression that at least during Deborah’s time, Israel set aside the idols of her neighbors and followed HaShem wholeheartedly. An additional note on forty years; according to the Book of the Judges, Israel experienced forty years of rest, three times – under Deborah, under Othniel, Caleb’s cousin, (3:11) and under Gideon, (8:28). Then, just as we often don’t learn from history, Israel had one more forty-year period, this time not of tranquility and rest; in 13:1 it’s recorded, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.” 

Sha’ul told the believers in Corinth, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come,” (1 Corinthians 10:11). For our instruction, to do what pleases HaShem and not to do what displeases Him. In Deuteronomy, Moses challenged Israel to choose life… (Deuteronomy 30:19) but they didn’t always do this. The writer of the Book of Hebrews includes this encouragement, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives,” (Hebrews 12:6). HaShem desires to give us life and good gifts, however, because of His love for us, He will discipline us as well. The choice is ours, as it is with any child, obedience, leading to life and blessing or disobedience, leading to discipline and pain – for a season. 

“Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 
loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, 
for he is your life and length of days…” 
Deuteronomy 30:19b -20a

Shabbat Shalom

* Scripture readings are from the English Standard Version (ESV) 2016 edition. Copyright © 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers

Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

In preparing this week’s Thoughts on Shemot, Exodus 1:1 – 6:11, I was intrigued by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s observations in his book, Growth Through Torah.2 He wrote, “You ultimately help yourself when you help others” (p 146), and he derived this from two passages in this week’s Torah portion. 

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came and drew water. They filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. But shepherds came and drove them away, so Moses stood up, helped them and watered their flock. (Exo. 2:16-17)
It happened along the way, at a lodging place, that ADONAI met him and sought to kill him! But Zipporah took a flint, cut off the foreskin of her son, and threw it at his feet, saying, “You are surely a bridegroom of blood to me.” She said, “A bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision. Then He let him alone. (Exo. 4:24-26)

Rabbi Pliskin explains, “Whenever you do a favor for someone else, you benefit yourself. Definitely, the highest level is to do kindness for others, for the sake of the mitzvah without thinking of personal gain. But whenever you find it difficult to do kindness for others, at least do it for pragmatic reasons. When you are kind to others, they will be kinder to you. If not right away, then in the course of time you will eventually be repaid” (p 146-147).

However, if doing acts of kindness with the thought in mind of eventually the acts of kindness returning is pragmatic, how should we understand these words of Yeshua in Matthew’s Besorah”

So in all things, do to others what you would want them to do to you—for this is the Torah and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:21)

In the Babylonian Talmud, we read what is considered the flip side of Yeshua’s words, in comparing the different attitudes of Rabbis Shammai and Hillel.

The same gentile came before Hillel. He converted him and said to him: That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study. (Shabbat 31a)3

Both of these seem to have a pragmatic aspect to them. In Luke’s Besorah, the idea of doing acts of kindness without expectation of a reward, but does he?

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are doing good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do this. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to take, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of Elyon, for He is kind to the ungrateful and evil ones. Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate to you. (Luke 6:32-36)

I would suggest that there is an expectation as the last line clearly states, “Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate to you.” Although not specifically acts of kindness, consider the passages of the Lord’s Prayer dealing with forgiveness,

And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matt 6:9 and Luke 11:4)

In both passages, there is a relationship between HaShem forgiving the penitent with the penitent forgiving others, an expectation that we would be forgiven if we in fact forgive others.

In conclusion, consider these words of Moses to Bnei Israel,

“I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving ADONAI your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell on the land that ADONAI swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob—to give them.

Would Bnei Israel have been acting pragmatically if they choose to obey HaShem? That could be one way of looking at it and for sure, some might have been motivated by the blessing the right choice would provide. However, notice the provisor Moses included, “…by loving ADONAI your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days….” Pragmatic or not, Moses expected the choice, at least on some level, to be built upon a relationship with HaShem, a relationship based upon love. So yes, ideally, we should perform the requirements found throughout the Scripture, simply because that is what HaShem desires of us (see Micah 6:8). But occasionally one needs to consider the possible benefit of performing what is required, to be motivated to do what is needed as well as hopefully to develop the habit of doing what is required. 

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!


1 Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

2 Zelig Pliskin. Growth Through Torah, Insights and stories for the Shabbos Table. Jewish Quarter, Old City Jerusalem, Yeshivat Aish Hatorah, 1988.

3 Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (EIC). The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli: Volume 2: Tractate Shabbat, Part I. Jerusalem, Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd. 2012, p 145.

Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

This week, instead of looking at the continuing narrative of Joseph and his sojourn in Egypt recorded in parashah Miketz, Genesis 41:1–44:17, let’s look at the Haftarah for the Shabbat of Hanukkah, Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7. But, before looking at Zechariah, I will briefly address an issue that I have heard mentioned in some Christian circles, specifically that Hanukkah is not a scripturally sanctioned holiday; rather it is simply a historic, national holiday. Though Hannukah is not included among the moedim (festivals) listed in Lev. 23, its importance should not be diminished. In John’s Besorah we read,

Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!” Then Yeshua answered them, “I told you, but you don’t believe! The works I do in My Father’s name testify concerning Me. (John 10:22-26)

Sanctioned or not, John chose to record Yeshua’s presence in the Temple during Hanukkah to affirm the fact that Yeshua was the Messiah. Just as Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him (Genesis 42:7), the Judean leaders in John’s account did not recognize Yeshua as Messiah, although in time they will. Sha’ul affirmed this fact in his letter to the Yeshua followers in Rome.

I say then, they (Israel) did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their false step salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke Israel to jealousy. Now if their transgression leads to riches for the world, and their loss riches for the Gentiles, then how much more their fullness! (Romans 11:11-12)

Each Hanukkah we have a hint of what this future fullness will look like as we read these words from the prophet Zechariah,

“‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming, and I will live among you’—it is a declaration of ADONAI. ‘In that day many nations will join themselves to ADONAI and they will be My people and I will dwell among you.’ Then you will know that ADONAI-Tzva’ot has sent me to you. ADONAI will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land and will once again choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 2:14-16)

The many nations are the multitudes of non-Jews who have come into the kingdom, grafted into the olive tree that is natural Israel (Romans 11:17), not becoming Israel but very much becoming accepted as HaShem’s people through their faith in Messiah Yeshua. With this in mind, let’s continue looking at the Zechariah passage, where HaShem is addressing Israel. After these many nations have joined Israel, HaShem reaffirms that he will dwell among Israel, and then that all of Israel will know that “ADONAI- Tzva’ot has sent me to you.” Who is the ‘me’ mentioned in Zechariah 2:15? I suggest that the “me” whom ADONAI- Tzva’ot sent to Israel and would one day be fully recognized, is Yeshua, the one who was hidden and one day would be fully revealed. That revelation will truly be a reason for singing and rejoicing! 

Hanukkah is the season of lights and rejoicing. Hanukkiot brighten Jewish, as well as with many Christian homes, both in Israel and throughout the world, in celebration of the victory of the Maccabees all those centuries ago. Tonight, as we light the candles for the sixth night, may we focus not only on the victory of the Maccabees but more so the victory of the one who proclaimed,

“I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Just as assuredly as Antiochus Epiphanes was defeated in the days of the Maccabees, so too has darkness been soundly defeated. The light has come into the world (John 1:4-5) and is now among us. Sing and rejoice in the knowledge and assurance that “I (HaShem) will dwell among you. Then you will know that ADONAI-Tzva’ot has sent me (Yeshua) to you.”

Shabbat Shalom and Hanukkah Sameach!

* All Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

As I began preparing this week’s Thoughts on Vayishlach (and he sent), Genesis 32:4-36:43,1 I was immediately stuck on how important proper perspectives are, whether talking about life situations or engaging in scripture study. As an example, consider these passages from last week’s parashah, Vayetzei (and he left), Genesis 28:10-32:3. In explaining to Rachel and Leah the reason for needing to leave Laban’s household and return to Isaac’s Jacob stated

He said to them, “I can see by your father’s face that his expression isn’t the same as it was just a day or two ago. But the God of my father has been with me. Now, you yourselves know that I’ve served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has fooled around with me and has changed my salary ten times—but God hasn’t allowed him to harm me. If he would say, ‘the spotted ones will be your salary,’ then the flocks would give birth to spotted ones. Or if he would say, ‘the striped ones will be your salary,’ then all the flocks would give birth to striped ones. So, God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. (Gen. 31:5-9)

Plainly, Jacob does not consider himself a thief having profited from the way he built his herds, with the assistance of HaShem. It is even more interesting that when Laban caught up with Jacob, he charged Jacob with stealthily fleeing his presence without even a by-your-leave but Laban did not accuse Jacob of theft of herds or flocks, only of his household gods (Gen. 31:30). 

Interestingly, one of the commentaries I read suggested a different perspective, that Jacob had tricked Laban and stolen his livestock, thus agreeing with the accusations of Laban’s sons in Genesis 31:1. Had the commentator stopped with his assertion that Jacob had committed theft from Laban, it may not have caught my attention. But with this perspective in mind, he sought to give a reason for Jacob’s theft. 

“Now we learn the goal of Jacob’s deception: to amass enough wealth to offer Esau a substantial payoff as compensation for the theft of his blessing and birthright years ago. (Hence, Jacob is trying to repair the damage caused by the first deception by committing another deception.)”2

In other words, Rabbi Garfinkel linked Jacob’s dealing with Esau in stealing his birthright and patriarchal blessing twenty-plus years earlier, with his acquisition of wealth and property from Laban. But remember, though Laban may have thought this, no accusation was made. The perspective of Jacob’s deceptive actions has followed Jacob, as well as the Jewish people as a whole, throughout history – often becoming the seedbed from which anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism have taken root and blossomed. There is no doubt that Jacob was tenacious, he saw the goal set before him and did all that he could to achieve that goal. Even though at times he did not make the best decisions on how to achieve said goals, HaShem seemed to have blessed him, watched over him, and cared for him, throughout his life journey.

Now for this week’s parashah, Jacob had yet another divine encounter (Gen. 32:25), this time resulting in a name change – from Jacob, the one who grasps the heel, the supplanter to Israel, the one who has “struggled with God and with men, and you have overcome” (Gen. 32:29). According to Rashi, Hashem was not validating Jacob’s past actions, rather he was affirming that in his struggles with both God and man, he (Jacob) had overcome.

It shall no longer be said that the blessings came to you through supplanting and subtlety but through noble conduct and in an open manner.3

It does not take long to realize that Jacob now Israel’s name change was unique. In Genesis 32:29, HaShem changes his name from Jacob to Israel. However, often in the continuing narrative, we see the names interchanged, possibly reflecting the two different perspectives of his personality or character. When he prepared to go to Egypt to see for himself that Joseph was alive, it is written

So, Israel set out, along with everything that belonged to him. When he came to Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. In visions of the night, God said to Israel, “Jacob, Jacob.” “Hineni (here I am),” he said. (Gen 46:1-2)

Later as he was preparing to die, he called his sons together to bless them and speak prophetically concerning their future.   

Be assembled and listen, sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father. (Gen 49:2)

After his name change, life was not “a bed of roses” for Jacob/Israel. There were seasons of both good times and bad, times when his nobility (as Rashi suggested) came through and times when his tenacity or deviousness came to the forefront. 

So, what should be the takeaway this week on this week’s Thoughts? When I was a young man, I often heard, “before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” The idea behind this was that before judging someone, we should try to understand or at least consider the other person’s perspectives and experiences. Maybe this idea of considering the other person’s perspective might have prompted Sha’ul to write 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in shalom with all people. (Rom. 12:18)

Often, we concentrate on the phrase, “live in shalom with all people,” but maybe it would behoove us to concentrate on “so far as it depends on you,” and part of so far as it depends on us includes considering the perspective of the other person, and how it is that they came to be in the condition/situation that they currently find themselves in. Wouldn’t we want the same consideration extended to each of us?

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

1 Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

2 Eli L. Garfinkel, The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary, University of Nebraska Press/JPS, © 2021 (Apple Books)


Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

This week’s parashah, Vayetzei (he went out) – Genesis 28:10-32:3* provides an overview of Jacob’s life from the time he went out from Beer-sheba to journey to Haran and his mother’s brother’s family in order to find a wife so as not to intermarry with the local Canaanite community. The first evening, it’s stated that “He happened upon a certain place and spent the night there” (Gen. 28:11). Traditionally, the place (Ha Makom) he spent the night was Mt. Moriah, the future site of the first and second Temples, a tradition based upon passages like “Abraham named that place, ADONAI Yireh,—as it is said today, “On the mountain, ADONAI will provide” (Gen 22:14) and “Come, let us go up to the mountain of ADONAI, to the House of the God of Jacob…” (Isaiah 2:3).

Although following the wishes of his father Isaac, it seems that the real prompting of his journey was solidified on the mountaintop as he dreamt. 

He dreamed: All of a sudden, there was a stairway set up on the earth and its top reaching to the heavens—and behold, angels of God going up and down on it! Surprisingly, ADONAI was standing on top of it, and He said, “I am ADONAI, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed. Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed. Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.” (Gen 28:12-15)

Actually, I believe that one could say that Jacob’s twenty-year sojourn in Haran with his uncle Laban, was bracketed by dreams – the first on Mt. Moriah, and the second at the end of his stay when HaShem called to him once again.

Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, “Jacob,” and I said, “Hineni.” He said, “Lift up your eyes and see that all the males going up to the flocks are striped, spotted and speckled. For I have seen everything Laban has done to you. I am the God of Beth-El where you anointed a memorial stone, where you made a vow to Me. Get up now and leave this land, and return to the land of your relatives.” (Gen. 31:11-13)

Remember, Jacob had left home, virtually penniless. Instead of arriving at Laban’s house with gifts and gold to obtain his wife, he had to work and, in the process, gained two wives, two concubines, eleven sons, and at least one daughter. At the time of the second dream, he had acquired much wealth, in possessions and in livestock. 

Between the two dreams, the narrative does not mention HaShem’s personal interaction with Jacob. There is no record of Jacob going to HaShem to seek direction on how he should live and thrive while in Laban’s household, or how he should deal with Laban and his trickery. It would appear that Jacob simply trusted HaShem’s promise, “Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you” (Gen 28:15). Jacob did what he knew to do, what he needed to do, and trusted that if there needed to be a course correction, HaShem would tell him about it. Until then he would continue following and working out the dream that was guiding his course. Later the compiler of Mishlei would write, “Commit whatever you do to ADONAI, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3) which possibly prompted Sha’ul to write, “I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 1:6).

I am not suggesting that Jacob did not seek out HaShem’s guidance from time to time, we just do not have any record of him doing so. I am also not suggesting that Jacob did not make a mistake or two along the way. What I am suggesting is that consciously or unconsciously, Jacob was depending on the promise of HaShem to take care of him as he journeyed through his life and then eventually return him to his father’s house. I am convinced that he fully understood the guarantee that HaShem would one day speak through the prophet Jeremiah,

“For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares ADONAI, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It took Jacob twenty-plus years to realize the fulfillment of the dream he experienced on Mt. Moriah. In context, the plans for shalom, a future filled with hope that HaShem assured Jeremiah was seventy years in the making. There may be some reading this week’s Thoughts that have been holding onto a dream or promise from HaShem for so long that you may have begun to doubt whether the promise will actually be fulfilled or that you even received the promise, to begin with. Consider these words of Peter as he closes the second letter to his community.

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Along with Peter’s words of assurance, remember these words from the prophet Habakkuk, when doubts begin to assail your heart and mind.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time. It hastens to the end and will not fail. If it should be slow in coming, wait for it, For it will surely come—it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

We have the assurance that what HaShem has promised will come to pass if we hold on to his promise and trust in his word.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

* Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

Rabbi Stuart Dauermann in Shulhan Shelanu, Vol 3, Issue 45, November 6, 2021, made a couple of observations as he considered this week’s parashah, Toldot, Genesis 25.19 – 28.91.

First, he noted that Isaac repeated a sin his father Abraham committed at least twice. In Genesis 12:10-13 and 20:1-2, Abraham presented Sarah as his sister, not his wife. Then in Genesis 26:6-7, Isaac presented Rebekah as his sister, not his wife. All three times, the motivation was fear of man, specifically the Gentile rulers who did not know the God of Abraham and Isaac.

Second, in all three of these accounts, these Gentile rulers did the right thing, while the servants of HaShem did the wrong thing. One then needs to ask, why was it that those who made no claim to following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did what was morally and ethically correct when Abraham and Isaac did not?” 

In light of the second observation, consider these words from Sha’ul to the Yeshua followers in Rome

But there will be glory, honor, and shalom to everyone who does good—to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned outside of Torah will also perish outside of Torah, and all who have sinned according to Torah will be judged by Torah. For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the Torah, do by nature the things of the Torah, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the Torah. They show that the work of the Torah is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts switching between accusing or defending them on the day when God judges the secrets of men according to my Good News through Messiah Yeshua. (Romans 2:10-16)

What really struck me when reading these words of Sha’ul was the statement, “For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified.” This took me immediately to Matthew 25:31-46 and the judgment between the sheep and the goats. In his song, The Sheep and The Goats, Keith Green summed up Yeshua’s teaching by stating, “the only difference between these two groups of people is what they did and did not do!”2

I am not inferring that these scriptures suggest a sort of salvation by works. What I am very sure of is that our relationship with HaShem, founded upon the finished work of Yeshua’s sacrifice, should produce good works, ones that please HaShem. Remember these words of James, 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in shalom, keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is that? So also, faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. (James 2:12-18)

Now let’s return to the earlier question, “why was it that those who made no claim to following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did what was morally and ethically correct when Abraham and Isaac did not?” Sha’ul answered that question as he stated, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the Torah, do by nature the things of the Torah, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the Torah. They show that the work of the Torah is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness…” All humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike, have one thing in common. In Genesis 2:7, while summarizing HaShem’s act of creation it is written,

Then ADONAI Elohim formed the man out of the dust from the ground and He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life—so the man became a living being.

All humankind has been created in the image of HaShem and in the process has received HaShem’s breath of life. And while those who do not recognize HaShem as their Lord and Creator, when they perform righteous works, they prove Sha’ul’s claims that “the work of the Torah is written in their hearts.” (Romans 2:15).

Years ago, when I was in the Marine Corps. I was assigned to attend Recruiting School, an opportunity I did not want to do. I tried to have the orders changed to no avail and eventually told my Sargent Major, if sent to the school, I will flunk out of it and hopefully be returned to my unit. For some reason, my Sargent Major conveyed these words to the commanding officer of the recruiting school in San Diego. During my interview, the CO asked me if I was a Christian (a follower of Yeshua). I said, “yes sir.” Then referencing Colossians 3:23 he asked, “Doesn’t your Bible say that you have to do everything as unto your Lord?” Again, I responded, “yes sir.” This led to his final question, “then tell me, why are you planning of flunking out of my school!!?” His words cut me to the heart, and I knew I could not do as I planned. Though not a Christian himself, he knew how one was supposed to act. In the end, I finished near the top of my class.

So remember these two truths, just because someone is not a follower of Yeshua, does not mean that they cannot act righteously. And just because one is a follower of Yeshua, does not necessarily mean that they are always going to act in a righteous manner. This is one of the reasons that Sha’u encouraged the Yeshua followers in Philippi, as well as each of us today to “work out your (our) salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), knowing it is not that one’s salvation is earned by his or her works, rather it is learning “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). 

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!


1 Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.


Posted on by Aleinu | Leave a comment

This week’s parsha is Chayei Sarah, Genesis 23:1 – 25:18.1 It is not the happiest of passages, as it records the deaths of Sarah, Abraham, and Ishmael. Nevertheless, it is worth noticing the different ways these three deaths are recorded. First, “Sarah died… Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her” (Genesis 23:2). It wasn’t until after Isaac and Rebekah bonded that Isaac was “comforted after the loss of his mother” (Genesis 24:67). Her family mourned her passing. Second, of Abraham it is written, “So Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, old and satisfied. Then he was gathered to his peoples” (Genesis 25:8). An excellent epitaph for one who had traveled so far and seen so much; “he was old and satisfied.” This is reminiscent of the words of the Psalmist,

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous one forsaken, nor his children begging for bread. All day long he is gracious and lends. So, his offspring will be a blessing. (Psalms 37:25-26)

Then there is Ishmael, of whom it was written, “He breathed his last, died and was gathered to his peoples. … Over against all his brothers he fell,” (Genesis 25:17-18). In another translation, it indicates that all of Ishmael’s relatives settled apart or away from each other. Compared to Sarah and Abraham, it appears that Ishmael died alone affirming the prophetic word that had been spoke over him, “He will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him, and away from all his brothers will he dwell,” (Genesis 16:12).

The one bright point in the parsha is Isaac’s obtaining a wife, Rebekah. According to the narrative, Abraham commanded his servant not to “take a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I am dwelling. On the contrary, to my land and to my relatives you must go and get a wife for my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:3b-4). This action had our sages in a quandary. Hashem had taken Abraham and his close family out of Mesopotamia and sent him to Israel (then Canaan). Granted, the Canaanites were idol worshippers, but then so were the people back “home.” Nehama Leibowitz suggests that the primary reason for not allowing Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman was to protect Isaac and his lineage from assimilation. She quotes Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, as he thinks aloud about Abraham’s view, “The influence of a Canaanite girl on my son will be infinitely more potent since I dwell amongst them. Not only the girl, but her family, her relatives and friends will all together exert a cumulatively deleterious influence on my son.”2 In other words, by bringing Isaac a wife from afar, separated from her family, friends and even social norms, she would probably be more likely bond to Isaac and the nascent faith of his father Abraham, thus continuing the journey and calling that HaShem had given Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).

The Haftarah, I Kings 1:1-31, speaks of the closing days of another biblical great, King David. But where Abraham was “old and satisfied”, David was old, advanced in years, and could not get warm (I Kings 1:1). This is a far cry from his confession in Psalms 37. Not only could David not stay warm, but he still didn’t have control of his own house. Before David was out of the picture, “Adonijah son of Haggith exalted himself, saying: ‘I’ll be king’” (1 Kings 1:5). Even worse, David wasn’t even aware of what was going on until advised by Nathan and Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:11-27). Eventually, David made good on his promise to Bathsheba and Solomon became the next king of Israel (1 Kings 1:29-30). 

So why are these to passages linked together in Chayei Sarah? Michael Fishbane suggests that “Abraham and David represent two distinct models of aging. …The “Abrahamic type” enters old age with all the religious and moral integrity of his life intact. …The “Davidic type” enters old age more catastrophically.”3 During their lives, both men experienced the heights of closeness to HaShem because of their obedience and faithfulness. Likewise, both men experienced the depths of depression due to disobedience or lack of faith. In the end, Abraham seems to have recovered while David continued to struggle. At the end, it was said of David, “Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David” (I Kings 2:10). Nothing about being “satisfied” as said about Abraham. In fact, the last recorded comments of David to Solomon dealt with David charging Solomon to exact justice or maybe revenge on those who had wronged him (David) at various times during his life. One has to wonder if David would have found peace and satisfaction in death had he heard Moses’ admonition, expanded by Sha’ul to the Yeshua followers in Rome,

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in shalom with all people. Never take your own revenge, loved ones, but give room for God’s wrath—for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,” says Adonai. (Romans 12:18-19; cf. Deuteronomy 32:35)

How much better is it, if we allow HaShem to be God, and to leave things in his control, allowing him to work things out on our behalf (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11). This does not mean that we sit back and do nothing – in fact we do what we know to do by the guidance of the Ruach and the gifting the HaShem has invested within us. What we do not want to do is step over into his territory and act in his stead. May it be said of each of us, that we have grown old and satisfied in the LORD – and even more so, that he is satisfied with us.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

1 Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

2 Nehama Leibowitz. New Studies in Bereshit (Genesis). The World Zionist Organization Department of Torah Education in the Diaspora, 2010. p 219

3 Michael Fishbane. The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot. The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 2002. p 23

Posted on by Aleinu | 1 Comment