Typically, when one thinks about this week’s parasha, Vayera, Genesis 18:1 – 22:24, one remembers Abraham meeting the three visitors while recovering from his recent circumcision. Then Abraham, while paying little attention to his pain, became the paradigm of hospitality as he provided food and comfort for his three guests. Later, when he discovers who the guests were and their mission, he immediately began to intercede on behalf of the depraved cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sadly, his intercession on behalf of the two cities did not avert HaShem’s judgment, and in the end, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters were delivered. Then we come to this short verse concerning Lot’s wife,

But his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)1

Skeptics often disavow this verse as mere rhetoric. The point that one should not look back on the past but move forward, specifically when it comes to obeying HaShem, is valid, but a person turning into a pillar of salt is just a fanciful embellishment. But did the event actually happen? Consider these three affirmations of the occurrence. The first is from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is a Jewish work written in Greek and most likely composed in Alexandria, Egypt, usually dated to the mid-first century BCE.

Evidence of their (Sodom and Gomorrah) wickedness still remains a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul.2

Then, from the Besorah of Luke as he strove to record the life and teachings of Yeshua, specifically on the coming kingdom he wrote, 

Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:32-33)

Then finally, in Antiquities of the Jews 1:203, dated around 93 or 94 CE, Josephus wrote, 

But Lot’s wife continually turning back to view the city as she went from it and being too nicely inquisitive about what would become of it, although God had forbidden her so to do, was changed into a pillar of salt; for I have seen it, and it remains at this day.3

So why did this seemingly isolated and somewhat fanciful event happen, and more importantly, why was it remembered? Possibly Sha’ul gives us the clearest reason

Now, these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

While Yeshua referenced Lot’s wife in Luke 17, possibly he had her in mind when he affirmed 

But Yeshua said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Commenting on Luke 9:62 and becoming a follower of Yeshua, the Life Application Bible asks, “What does Yeshua want from us?” and then answers succinctly what it is that he wants.

Total dedication, not halfhearted commitment. We can’t pick and choose among Yeshua’s ideas and follow him selectively; we have to accept the cross along with the crown. We must count the cost and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security—without looking back. With our focus on Yeshua, we should allow nothing to distract us from following him.4

This week’s Gleanings, continue the thread begun last week in Lech Lecha. One of the takeaways last week was that there are times when as followers of Yeshua, our choices to follow him will lead us contrary to the wishes, plans, at times even lifestyles of our families and friends. It is at times like these that one has to make the hard choice of Yeshua over family and friends. So maybe it was not the grandeur of house and home that caused Lot’s wife to look back, rather it was the yearning for family and friends left behind. Or maybe, it was not so much the looking back that was Lot’s wife’s error, but the desire to hold onto what she was leaving behind. 

Passages like Luke 9:62 (above) and Luke 14:26 or Matthew 10:37-38 (from last week) are hard words to hear because of the commitment they entail and the life path they set forth. But Yeshua offered these words of comfort,

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

As we read last week, Abraham and Sarah left everything to follow HaShem, with only HaShem’s promise to sustain them along the way. According to scripture, Yeshua too left all to obediently follow the leading of his Father. Neither path was easy, neither was without certain pitfalls and even potential detours. But just as HaShem was with Abraham and Sarah, every step of the way, so he was with Yeshua throughout his life, and ministry and so he will be with each of us as we walk out the path he has set before us. 

In closing, may these words from Mishlei serve to guide our paths each and every day.

Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left (or look back); keep your feet away from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27)

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

1 Scripture passages are from Holman Christian Standard Bible® with Key Numbers (HCSBS) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.

2 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Wisdom 10:7.

3 Flavius Josephus and William Whiston (transl.), The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 41.

Life Application Study Bible Copyright ©1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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One often thinks that Yeshua’s teachings on the cost of following him are rather harsh. Consider these verses,

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37-38)

But as we see in this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1-17:27, the idea of counting the cost of following HaShem, did not start with Yeshua and the disciples, rather it started back with Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) when Hashem told Abraham,

“Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing, and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

In the JPS Torah Commentary, Nahum M. Sarna notes,

The enormity of God’s demand and the agonizing nature of the decision to be made are effectively conveyed through the cluster of terms arranged in ascending order according to the severity of the sacrifice involved: country, extended family, nuclear family. … The nature of the promise—that it could not be realized in the lifetime of the recipient because of Sarai’s childlessness and the couple’s advanced age—should all have combined to strain credulity to the breaking point.1

However, they say that hindsight is often 20/20 and with our ability to look back at history, we realize that Abraham would eventually become the father of not one, but of eight families, the progenies of Ishmael, Isaac, and according to Genesis 25:1-6, his six sons by Keturah – although at the time it was given, the command, lech lecha, “you go forth,” Abraham and Sarah had no children nor in the natural, hope of children – they truly had to step out in faith, trusting in the promises of HaShem.

So they, like all of us today, needed to follow Shaul’s admonitions to the Yeshua followers in Corinth, 

… while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. … for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 4:18 and 5:7)

It was only by stepping out in faith that the promise of a blessing, both particular to Abraham and his family, and universal, to all who would bless Abraham in the future would be realized.

The example of Abraham, exercising his faith, contrary to what his eyes saw, and his family status, should serve to fortify our own faith. Then our faith and trust can grow more and more as we see the workings of HaShem not only in the past but in our daily lives as well.

Two well-known passages from the Ketuvim, (the Writings) may well serve to fortify our faith when things look bleak. First from Mishlei (Proverbs)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Then from the psalmist,

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. (Psalm 119:89-90)

In the opening verses of Genesis 12, HaShem called Abraham and Sarah out to follow him, forsaking all that they knew. In the passages from Luke and Matthew that I shared at the beginning, Yeshua required and to this day requires the same of those who would follow him. Abraham and Sarah left their homes, their families, and all that they knew and held dear to follow HaShem. The terms in Luke and Matthew above, “hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life” or “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” are positional terms, not relational terms. By that I mean that relationally they will always be one’s parents of spouses, however positionally, Yeshua requires, in fact, demands first place in the life of the would-be disciple.

Think about Abraham and Sarah’s relationship with their family. Even though they left to follow the direction of HaShem, their family relationships remained. If it were not so, Abraham would not have been able to send Eliezer back to his family to get a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:1-4), nor would Isaac have sent Jacob back to find a wife (Genesis 28:1-4). It is important to note, however, neither Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca nor Jacob and Rachel or Leah returned to their ancestorial homeland to dwell – they stayed where HaShem led them. 

There are times, when as followers of Yeshua, our choices to follow him will lead us contrary to the wishes, plans, at times even lifestyles of our families and friends. It is at times like these that one has to make the hard choice of Yeshua over family and friends. It is at times like these when one has to trust in Yeshua’s leading, standing in the assurance that he desires the best for our family members and friends. And when the choice is made, and division comes then can pray in faith that the relationships will one day be restored to the glory of our God and Father. 

I am closing with a passage from Hebrews which is normally is used to encourage Yeshua followers to gather together but I want to suggest reading the verses in light of family members and friends being restored in the household of faith.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

1 Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 89.
* Scripture readings are from the New American Standard Bible — NASB 1995. Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

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This week’s Parasha is Noach (Noah), Genesis 6:9-11:32. Some of the key points in chapter 6 are (1) Noach was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noach walked with God (Gen. 6:9). (2) The earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence (Gen. 6:11). And (3) HaShem decided to rectify the situation by bringing judgment on the corruption and violence, destroying all the earth in a flood but saving a remnant – Noach, his family and a pre-determined number of animals (Gen. 6:13-22).

Based on the phrase “blameless in his time” it has been said that Noach, while he was righteous and walked with HaShem, he might not have been considered righteous if compared to Abraham. In a Sefaria worksheet on this week’s parasha, David Schlusselberg notes 

No doubt about it—Noah was a good person. In fact, the Torah tells us that he was the most righteous person in his generation. But, perhaps that’s like praising someone for being the best player on a losing team!1

Might there be other reasons to compare the righteousness of Noach to that of Abraham? 

One reason may be found in the phrase, “Noach walked with God.” Rashi, commenting on Genesis 6:9 points out the difference between walking with HaShem and walking before Hashem. Rashi suggested that Noach walked “with” HaShem because he (Noach) needed HaShem’s support to keep walking on the right path whereas Abraham fortified himself with his righteousness and was able to walk before HaShem, (see Gem 15:7 and Rom 4:3). Basing the difference on the use of difference prepositions may be nitpicking, but then again maybe not.

There is another comparison between Noach and Abraham, that I found most intriguing. Consider the time it took to build the ark. Depending on which commentator one looks at, it could be anywhere from fifty-five years to one hundred and twenty years. In any event, it was not a short time. In the so-called roll call of faith in Hebrews, it is written

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)2

In another place, Peter would write, concerning the judgment of HaShem on the unrighteous

(HaShem) did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:5)

Noach was forewarned of the soon-coming judgment and was considered a “preacher of righteousness,” so it should be assumed that he must have warned his friends and neighbors. But comparing the coming of the flood to the second coming of Yeshua, Matthew wrote,

“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:38-39)

How is it possible that after all the time it took to build the ark, no one seemed to know what was going on or what would soon happen? Now consider Abraham, when he discovered that judgment would soon fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham immediately began to intercede for the population of the two cities, though knowing that HaShem’s judgment was warranted. Also, note that Abraham was not just interceding for Lot and his family but for the cities.

I am not trying to disparage Noach, his righteousness, nor his obedience to HaShem. Noach seemed to do exactly what HaShem told him to do. However, it appears that Abraham went beyond what was required by interceding for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. As I write this closing, I think back to Yeshua’s comments to the scribes and Pharisees when he declared,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)

The key in his declaration is in the phrase “but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” in other words, we must go beyond what is required to the spirit behind the requirement. We cannot, must not, be concerned with only ourselves and those we know, rather there is a wide world outside our dwellings and places of work that is wandering around in darkness and despair, waiting for someone to show them the light.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

1 https://www.sefaria.org.il/sheets/82921?lang=he  

2 Scripture readings are from the New American Standard Bible — NASB 1995. Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

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This Shabbat is a special one as it is the Shabbat during Chol Hamoed Sukkot (the intermediary days of the moed). As such, there is a special Torah reading, Exodus 33:12 – 34:261, which is part of Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11 – 34:35). Just as a reminder, Ki Tisa deals with Moses spending time on the mountaintop with HaShem, receiving the original tablets with the Ten Words escribed. This special time is tragically interrupted as HaShem sent Moses back down the mountain to deal with the Bnei Israel and their sin with the molten calf. 

There is much more in Ki Tisa portion, and we will look at it later at its time. However, as I read through the special portion for this Shabbat, an aspect of HaShem’s interaction with Moses and well as all Bnei Israel seemed to jump out at me. In Exodus 34:1 it is written

ADONAI said to Moses, “Carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write upon them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.

Now read the verse about the the first tablets in Ex. 31:18.

When He (ADONAI), had finished speaking with him (Moses) on Mount Sinai, He gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses—tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

Do you see it? On both sets of tablets, the same Torah was written, both by the finger of HaShem. The difference is that HaShem prepared the first tablets, he required Moses to prepare the second.

Remember these two tablets and let’s now consider Sukkot. In Leviticus 23, we read the instructions for the various moadim established by HaShem. In verses 42 & 43 we read these words dealing with Sukkot.   

You are to celebrate it as a festival to ADONAI for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations—you are to celebrate it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkotwhen I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am ADONAI your God.”

Turning to the Talmud, we find a thought-provoking connection with the special Torah reading.

As it is taught in a baraita that the verse states: “I made the children of Israel to reside in sukkot”; these booths were clouds of glory, this is the statement of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Akiva says: They established for themselves actual sukkot. This works out well according to Rabbi Eliezer; however, according to Rabbi Akiva what can be said?

Sukka 11b2

Do you see the connection? Typically, we understand the phrase, “I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt,” to mean that throughout their wilderness wandering, Bnei Israel lived in tents, or temporary dwellings. Interestingly, Rabbi Eliezer notes that while Bnei Israel did dwell in tents as they traveled, the true sukkot was the cloud of glory that covered them. In Exodus 13, we see that Bnei Israel was guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night and these two never departed throughout their travels, (verses 20 & 21). In Exodus 40, upon completion of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the cloud covered the Mishkan as the glory of HaShem established his dwelling, in the midst of his people (verse 34). 

In the Talmudic reading, Rabbi Akiva did not disagree with Rabbi Eliezer’s affirmation that it was the cloud of HaShem’s glory that was the sukkot during the wandering. What Rabbi Akiva was stressing was that now, it was Israel’s responsibility to build and dwell in sukkot that they made, in remembrance of what HaShem had done.

During Sukkot, we are to remember the many ways that HaShem has blessed us, whether those blessings are through the works of our own hands, the assistance of others, or by HaShem’s grace alone. What is important to remember this Sukkot, is that we work with HaShem in our life’s journey. Sometimes he does the work, and sometimes he expects us to do the work, with the tools and abilities he has given us. There will be times, when we are doing the work, that we will get tired and weary. When those times occur, we can be encouraged by Yeshua’s words as he celebrated Sukkot, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Equally, we are not expected to act in our own strength alone, as Yeshua continued,

“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Now He said this about the Ruach, whom those who trusted in Him were going to receive; for the Ruach was not yet given, since Yeshua was not yet glorified.

John 7:38-39

Therefore, remember we, like Bnei Israel in the wilderness, can trust in the care and protection of HaShem. Likewise, he expects us to do what we can do as we travel through life – utilizing the talents and skills he has given each of us, while being empowered by the Ruach as was promised. 

Shabbat Shalom & Sukkot Sameach!

1All Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
2Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Editor-in-Chief. The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli, Volume 10: Tractate Sukka, with commentary by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. Jerusalem, Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd., 2013, p 56.
* The readings for this Shabbat are, Torah: Exodus 33:12-34:26 & Numbers 29:29-34; Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18-39:16; and from the Apostolic Writings John 7:37-39.

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While preparing to enter Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32), I am reminded of the article I just wrote for the UMJC Torah Commentary series on the Days of Awe; the days that conclude with Yom Kippur, Tuesday evening and Wednesday. In the article, I tied together passages from Mishnah Yoma 8:9 and Matthew 5:23–24 to point out the importance of our relationship with God and people.

For transgressions between a person and God, Yom Kippur atones; however, for transgressions between a person and another, Yom Kippur does not atone until he appeases the other person.

So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.

So, as we enter Yom Kippur, we need to remember that while we are fasting, while we are considering our relationship with HaShem, we need to also consider our relationship with others. Yeshua affirms this fact when his talmidim asked that he teach them how they should pray,

…and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Immediately afterward, Yeshua followed with these words,

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The above quote by Noami Wolf seems to agree with both the passage from Mishnah Yoma as well as the teachings of Yeshua. We are not only to be introspective, seeking what needs to be changed, we actually need to make the changes both in our relationship with HaShem as well as our relationships with others.

May you have a meaningful Yom Kippur and may your relationships and interactions with others in the coming year be full of grace and shalom.

* Scripture passages are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. 

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This week’s haftorah, Isaiah 54:1-10 is the fifth of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” The first of the seven was read on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and the seventh will be read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah. In the prophet’s sight, Jerusalem is no longer viewed as forsaken and childless. Now is the time of rejoicing, rebuilding, and repopulating.

“Sing, barren one, who has not given birth. Burst into singing and shout, you who have not travailed. For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married one,” says ADONAI. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out your tabernacle curtains. Do not hold back—lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (Isa. 54:1-2)

It is important to note that Jerusalem’s disobedience and sin had not been overlooked, rather HaShem’s forgiveness and grace were greater.

“For ADONAI has called you back like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of one’s youth that is rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment, I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger, I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you,” says ADONAI your Redeemer. (Isa. 54:6-8)

Isaiah’s mention of HaShem’s kindness and compassion brings to mind the affirmation spoken to Moses from Mt. Sinai,

ADONAI, ADONAI, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, showing mercy to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means leaving the guilty unpunished, but bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exo. 34:6-7)

In both Isaiah and Exodus compassion, kindness, and grace are highlighted, as well as the potential for HaShem’s anger as the disobedience of his children. However, there is an important qualifier to HaShem’s anger that is often overlooked, that of his slowness to act upon it, and the quickness of said anger running its course. Granted HaShem’s accounting of time is different from ours as the psalmist noted.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day just passing by, or like a watch in the night. (Psa. 90:4)

In his second letter, Peter reaffirms the psalmist’s observation,

But don’t forget this one thing, loved ones, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 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 3:8-9)

Once again, the word slow appears this time not in relation to the onset of HaShem’s anger, but in relation to his keeping his promises to his people, whether they be Bnei Israel or those who have become followers of Messiah, Yeshua; especially noteworthy is the qualifier that he is NOT slow in keeping his promises. Just as sure as disobedience will be dealt with, so will be the appearance of his compassion and forgiveness for all to come to repentance

The haftarah then ends with these words of assurance and comfort,

“Though the mountains depart, and the hills be shaken, My love will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be shaken, says ADONAI who has compassion on you.” (Isa. 54:10)

The prophet Jeremiah resonated with these words of Isaiah, was he wrote before Jerusalem’s judgment and exile,

Thus says ADONAI, who gives the sun as light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars as a light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, ADONAI-Tzva’ot is His Name: “Only if this fixed order departs from before Me”—it is a declaration of ADONAI—“then also might Israel’s offspring cease from being a nation before Me—for all time.” Thus says ADONAI: “Only if heaven above can be measured, the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then also I will cast off the offspring of Israel—for all they have done.” It is a declaration of ADONAI. (Jer. 31:34-36)

Not only is the assurance of HaShem’s relationship with his people confirmed in these two passages (as well as numerous others), but Jeremiah also predicated the assurance of the relationship with these words,

“For I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:33b)

So, what is the takeaway from this week’s gleanings from the fifth Haftarah of Consolation? The first would be that HaShem is a loving, compassionate, forgiving God, who is slow to anger and who desires our repentance, our return to the right path, and choices. The second is that when discipline and judgment do come, there is an endpoint, HaShem’s love, and covenantal fidelity will not cease—the people of Israel will remain. And as assuredly as the people of Israel will remain, so will those who have entered the family of God through Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua affirmed this fact when he proclaimed,

My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life! They will never 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. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

We all can rest in the assurance that our relationship with our heavenly father is assured. Even though there may be times of discipline brought on by our own disobedience, his love and compassion remain and our position in the family is secure because of his great love for us.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

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

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Driving home from shul one morning, I was looking forward to a small morning repast on the balcony with my wife when the car in front of me decided to interrupt my musings by not going through the incredibly short traffic light. I started to lean on the horn to express my displeasure, but my hand was stayed. I noticed a beggar moving away from the driver’s window, with a large grin on his face as he attempted to stuff a closed hand into his pocket. I have seen this beggar numerous times before, occasionally dropping a couple of coins in his hand, but I’ve never seen such joy upon his face as that day.

What was he given? I can only imagine. Maybe it was enough money to feed himself for the day, or maybe more – I’ll never know. What was it that caused his countenance to shine so bright? That too I’ll probably never know, as I have not seen the beggar since, though I think of him occasionally as I pass “his” corner.

As I read this week’s Torah portion Eikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:251, the beggar’s face was in my mind’s eye once again. “Therefore, love the outsider (or stranger), for you were outsiders in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). I realized the number of times I had lost the possibility of obeying this command. Then with horror, I realized what more I could have lost. In the closing words of this week’s Besorah (Matthew 25:34-45), the righteous judge proclaimed, “I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” When I missed expressing love to the stranger, I missed an opportunity to express love to Messiah, Yeshua.

A verse earlier, Moses describes an aspect of what it means to love the outsider or stranger, 

He (HaShem) enacts justice for the orphan and widow, and loves the outsider, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)

John further emphasizes the relationship between one’s love for HaShem and their love for others.  

But if someone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Children, let us not love with word or talk, but in deed and truth! (1 John 3:17-18)

Interestingly, Barry Holtz, in his book Finding Our Way: Jewish Texts and the Lives We Lead Today (The Jewish Publication Society, 2005) makes the following observation

The Christian notion of “charity,” for example, is very different from the Jewish concept of tzedakah. Charity evolves from the Latin caritas, meaning an act of love (as in the English “caring”); tzedakah (usually translated as “charity,” thereby missing the point) evolves from the Hebrew word for ”justice.” When we feed the hungry, we do not do it (only) because we want to, (or only) because we feel like it, according to classical Judaism, but because God demands justice. God demands that we do right, even if we don’t feel like it. (p. 147)

Just as HaShem enacts justice for the orphan and widow, and loves the outsider, so should we. In Mishnah Pe’ah 1:1 there are two ideas juxtaposed with each other. The first idea includes things that have no definite quality or fixed measure – the corners of a field (left unharvested for the poor to glean), the first-fruit offerings brought to the Temple on Shalosh Regalim (the three pilgrimage festivals), the performance of acts of kindness, righteous deeds or charity. The second includes things that while producing fruit in this world, find their full reward in the Olam Haba, the World to Come. These are honoring one’s parents, the performance of acts of kindness, righteous deeds or charity, and making peace between people. The common thread in both is the performance of acts of kindness, righteous deeds or charity

Throughout the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and in the Apostolic Writings, there are both direct commands to care for the needy and the afflicted, and for widows, orphans and strangers (or outsiders). Yaacov, the brother of Yeshua wrote,

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? (James 2:15-16)

In other words, if we truly love HaShem and desire to follow our Messiah, then we are responsible for meeting the needs that we are able to meet. Even if it means having to wait at a stoplight a little longer or to dig a little deeper into our pockets or wallets. 

In the closing verses of this week’s haftarah, Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3 we read Isaiah’s prophetic utterance to each of us, 

Listen to Me, you who pursue justice, you who seek Adonai. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you. For when I called him, he was but one, then I blessed him and multiplied him. (Isaiah 51:1-2)

The proper application of justice, among other things, shows care and compassion for others, for those close to us as well as the strangers or outsiders who come across our paths. In Pirkei Avot it is written

He (Rabbi Tarfon) would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.

Pirkei Avot 2:16

Rabbi Tarfon affirmed that we do not have to meet each and every need of each and every individual. However, we are responsible to meet the needs that we can, whether it be by providing for the needs or being a facilitator to assist in seeing that the need is met. Sometimes being a facilitator requires tangible actions on our part, at other times it requires prayer and intercession. 

Abba, allow each of us the opportunity to show tangible love for the outsider, the stranger, and in doing so, let us show our love and devotion to You.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

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

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