weekly Torah studies

Genesis 12:1–17:27; Isaiah 40:27–41:16; Matthew 1:1–17

Welcome to Lech Lecha (Go Forth), this week’s Torah / Bible study Portion of God’s instructions.  Genesis 12:1–17:27; Isaiah 40:27–41:16; Matthew 1:1–17 “Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go forth [lech lecha] from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you ... and I will bless you.’”  (Genesis 12:1–2). See the inserted narrative from the book of Jasher. 

In last week’s reading, Noach (Noah), concluded with a genealogy of Shem, Noah’s son.  That genealogy ended with Terah, father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.  Terah took his son Abram and Abram’s wife Sarai, as well as Lot, son of Haran, who had died, out of Ur of the Chaldeans and headed toward the Land of Canaan.  Instead of reaching their destination, however, they settled at Haran where Terah lived out the rest of his days.  In this week’s portion, at God’s command, Abram carries on with his father’s unfinished mission, to reach the Land of Canaan, the name given to the Promised Land at that time.  Gen 12:10  And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.  To get Abram to go to Egypt, God caused a famine in the land in which he was.  Similarly to get Jacob / Israel to go to Egypt God did similar.  Gen 47:13  And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. 

This week we start with Abraham, the sole righteous man God chose to be the father of the righteous children.

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Vayera (And He Appeared) Genesis 18:1–22:24; 2 Kings 4:1–37; Luke 2:1–38

Welcome to Vayera (And He Appeared) Genesis 18:1–22:24; 2 Kings 4:1–37; Luke 2:1–38.  This week’s Torah / bible study reading. It is called that because Abraham receives in Hebron's plains of Mamre three mysterious guests.  “Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.”  (Genesis 18:1).   

In last week’s section “Lech Lecha”, God sealed His Covenant with Abram, which promised the Land to his descendants as an eternal heritage.  Abraham, in obedience to the call of God, left the land of his fathers and journeyed to the Promised Land.  This week’s section contains more angelic activity than any of the other.  Angels appear to 99 year old Abraham as men, bringing messages to him and Sarah of a future child next year despite her 89+ year age.  They also save Lot from a hostile mob, lead Hagar to water for her son, and comfort her with the promise of Ishmael becoming a great nation.  It was only three days after he and his male household were circumcised in obedience to God as a sign of the covenant when he saw three strangers (Genesis 17:11). Household included 318 servants in addition to him and Ishmael. 

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Genesis 23:1–25:18; 1 Kings 1:1–31; 1Pet 3:1-7

Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section which is called Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah). Genesis 23:1–25:18; 1 Kings 1:1–31; 1Pet 3:1-7.  “And the life of Sarah [Chayei Sarah] was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.”  (Genesis 23:1).  

Although the title of this week’s section, Chayei Sarah (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה), means Life of Sarah, it initially focuses on her death.  This corresponds with the Judaic thought that it is the awareness of death that gives more meaning to life.  In week 4, year 2, I mentioned when YHVH changed Abram’s and Sarai’s name, He added the English equivalent “H” of His name to their former name. 

Sarah is the only woman in the Bible to have a study section of the Torah named after her.  All the other Biblical characters of study sections are named after are men: 

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Genesis 25:19–28:9; Malachi 1:1–2:7; Romans 9:6-29

Shalom All,     Welcome to Toldot (Generations), this week’s Torah / bible reading Portion.  Genesis 25:19–28:9; Malachi 1:1–2:7; Romans 9:6-29. “And these are the generations [toldot] of Yitzchak [Isaac], Avraham’s [Abraham] son: Avraham begat Yitzchak.”  (Genesis 25:19). 

In our last Torah / Bible portion), the son of Sarah and Abraham, Yitzchak (Isaac), carried on the legacy of his parents’ faith and obedience to Yahweh.  After his mother died, Abraham sent his servant to bring home a wife for Yitzchak from among Abraham’s kinsmen.  At the well where the women of the town would soon appear, the servant prayed for God’s help in locating the perfect woman/wife for Yitzchak.  Just then, Rivkah (Rebekah) arrived at the well to provide water for him and his camels.  Yitzchak was 40 when he took/married her (Gen 24:67  And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved). 

In this section we see similarities between Isaac and his wife Rebekah and that of Abraham his father and his wife Sarah.  The famine, promise and calling their wife their sister.   

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“VAYISHLACH” (And He Sent) Genesis 32:4 (3)–36:43; Hosea 11:7–12 (11); Obadiah 1:1–21; Ephesians 4:1–32.

 

Welcome to this week's Torah / Bible study.  “And Jacob sent [vayishlach וַיִּשְׁלַח] messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”  (Genesis 32:4[3]).  In last week’s study, Jacob left his unjust father-in-law, Laban, while he was off shearing his sheep.  Fearing that Laban would keep his daughters, Leah and Rachel, Jacob stole away with all he had: his sons, his two wives, and all of his livestock, heading for the mountains of Gilead.  This group are the forerunners of those who entered Egytp and came out as the nation of Israel.  Note they consist of the household of Jacob, Gentile servants and wives included.  So from the outset God’s “my people” was and remains a composition of Jew and Gentile who live by His commandments.  No colour nor nation of birth differentiation; but a “mixed multitude” of obedient believers as would be in the promised new heaven and earth. 

After 22 years in Haran, it was likely difficult for Jacob to free himself from Laban’s wicked manipulation and control, but he did succeed.  We can imagine that he was anticipating with great joy his return to his ancestral homeland of Canaan; however, in order to do so, he had to first pass through Edom, the territory of Esau, his estranged brother [Gen 36:1  Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. Gen 36:2  Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;  Gen 36:43 … these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites].

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VAYESHEV (And He Lived) Genesis 37:1 – 40:23; Amos 2:6 – 3:8; Romans 8:18–39

Shabbat shalom,  Welcome to Vayeshev (And He Lived), this week’s Torah / bible reading portion.  “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.”  (Genesis 37:1).  

In last week’s Torah study, Jacob returned from Haran with his entire household to settle in the Land of Canaan.  After all the twists and turns of Jacob’s life, he longed to settle down in the land God had promised.  The original Hebrew uses the word yeshev, which means to settle.  In Israel, a settlement is called a yishuv, and those who settle in Israel, especially within the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, do so at great risk from Palestinian terrorists who often live nearby.  In this study section, we learn about the trials of Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph, whom God had given the gift of dreams and their interpretation. Many of those dreams revealed Joseph’s future exalted position.  By relating these dreams to his brothers, however, Joseph fuelled their jealousy, which had already been aroused by their father’s favouritism toward Joseph, son of his favoured wife, Rachel.  The foundation of the events is Jacob had Joseph in his old age from one of his wives.  At age 17 Joseph had a dream which he relayed to his father and brothers Gen 37:2-5.  This implied Joseph would rise to rule over them and led the bothers to sell him into slavery, telling Jacob, their father, that Joseph was eaten by a wild animal.

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Exodus 18:1–20:23; Isaiah 6:1–7:6; 9:5–6 (Ashk.); 1 John 5:1–11

Shalom All,  Welcome to Yitro (Jethro), this week’s Torah / Bible study section.  (A supplementary sermon on this part of scripture is “Law by which to be saved”). 

“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.”  (Exodus 18:1).  In last week’s study section, God brought Israel out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea to save them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  God provided for the needs of His people in the wilderness by raining down manna from heaven and bringing forth water from a rock.  This week, in section “Yitro”, Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), comes from Midian along with Moses’ wife and two sons to meet him at the Israelites’ camp after hearing of all the great miracles that God had performed to deliver His people. 

Note Jethro was a priest of God.  Through Moses God told His people, the Israelite’s, of His ways.  Obviously Jethro knew how to be a priest before Aaron and must have learnt of the ways somewhere or from someone.  This shows the ways existed before they were, as many today claim, given to the Jews at Mount Sinai.  Remember Moses’ wife knew of the importance of circumcision before it was again passed on to the Israelites via Moses (Ex 4:25).  Two places in Exodus where we can see the pre-existence of God’s ways before Mount Sinai (Exodus 20) is His judgements were known and taught by Moses before God gave them to the people as a whole after Exodus 20.  Exo 16:28  And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?   It was not Moses; but the people who did not keep them.  Exo 18:16  When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. See Also Gen 6:12. 

Moses Learns How to Delegate.

“So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people?  Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?’”  (Exodus 18:14).

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“Emor” meaning “speak” or “say”. Leviticus 21:1–24:23; Ezekiel 44:15–31; James 1:1–18

 

Welcome to this week’s torah / bible study.  “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak [emor] to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them:  A priest must not make himself ceremonially unclean.’”  (Leviticus 21:1).  

Last week’s study “Kedoshim”, gave the laws concerning living a holy life, emphasizing its connection to loving our neighbour as ourselves.  In this week’s Torah reading continues the study of holiness, providing the laws regarding purity of the priests and the sanctity of time through the moadim (God’s appointed holy feasts and festivals).  God gives Moses instructions regarding rules of purity for the priests (כֹּהֲנִים, Kohanim), who are held to a stricter standard than the general population. 

Because the kohanim are set apart to serve Yahweh God by performing the daily and holy day offerings, additional laws of purity apply to them that do not apply to the general tribe of Levi or the Israelites as a whole.  Contact with a dead body makes a person ritually unfit for seven days. This is not a problem for the average person. It is not a sin to become ritually unfit, but it is a good deed to attend to the dead and escort them to burial. For priests, though, this presents a problem. A priest is supposed to be in a state of ritual fitness to be able to serve in the Temple. Moreover, he must be in a ritually fit state before he can eat the priestly portions of food and the sacrifices. For that reason, priests are required to maintain ritual purity. One way to do that is to avoid coming into contact with a corpse.  

As regards the set apart status of priests, for instance, they are not allowed to marry a divorced woman.  Also the priests are not to make themselves ceremonially unclean through contact with a person who had died, unless that person was a very close relative such as a father or mother, or son, or daughter.  The laws of sexual purity for the kohanim are so rigorous that a daughter of a priest (kohen) who committed sexual immorality was to be burned by fire!  The priests also have to carefully adhere to stringent laws of holiness; for example, a priest cannot marry a prostitute or a divorced woman.  The Kohen Gadol (High Priest), who had been anointed with the holy anointing oil, is compelled to even higher standards: he must marry only an Israelite virgin  “And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire”  (Leviticus 21:9).

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Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Leviticus 16:1–34; 18:1–30; Numbers 29:7–11; Isaiah 57:14–58:14; Book of Jonah; Micah 7:18–20.

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week's study on what may well be the most important appointed time of God; Yom Kippur.

“Lev 23:27  Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Lev 23:28  And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. Lev 23:29  For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. Lev 23:30  And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Lev 23:31  Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Lev 23:32  It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.  

Ten days ago, we celebrated the festival of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), which is also called Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets).  This began the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), a 10-day period of repentance and seeking forgiveness.  It is traditionally believed that God’s judgment is pronounced yearly on Rosh Hashanah, and that this judgment is sealed on Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר (or Yom HaKippurim) The Day of Atonement.  During this period, we can influence that judgment through sincere repentance. Yom Kippur, the climax of these Ten Days of Repentance, is so important that it is traditionally considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.  Why is this day so holy?  Because only on this one day in the entire year the Jewish High Priest (the Kohen HaGadol) was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies (Kadosh HaKadoshim) to make atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel. 

Although there is no Temple today, this annual “clean up” day is still an important spiritual discipline. The apostles teach that believers constitute a collective Temple of the Holy Spirit. The concentrated day of fasting, confession, repentance and petition for forgiveness is like an annual spiritual clean-up. This does not mean that we do not regularly confess our sins and repent. Nor does it mean that our sins are not forgiven by the blood of Messiah. It simply means that, once a year, it is a good idea to take inventory, straighten things up and scrub down the soul. That's what the Day of Atonement is all about.

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Moadim L'Simcha (Appointed Times for Joy), Exodus 33:12–34:26; Ezekiel 38:18–39:16; Revelation 21:1–22:21

Shabbat Shalom at this Moadim L'Simcha (Appointed Times for Joy),  Yesterday, 5 Oct 2017, began the week long festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), so I thought to include somethings about it rather than the regular weekly Torah / Bible study.  Sukkot represents the sheltering presence of God.  

“Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Yahweh: for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you”  (Exodus 34:10).   

What is Sukkot?.

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a week-long feast during which predominantly the Jewish community builds temporary shelters (sukkot means “booths” in Hebrew) to remind each generation that our forefathers lived as nomads, wandering in the desert for forty years (Lev. 23:42-43). The Bible also refers to this holiday as the Feast of Ingathering, which celebrates the final reaping of the crops at the end of the harvest (Ex. 23:16). Throughout the holiday it is customary to wave the Lulav and Etrog, or the four species (date palm, myrtle, willow, citron), representing thankfulness and joy for the present harvest, along with hope for winter rains to ensure an abundant harvest the following spring (Lev 23:40). The waving of the Lulav and Etrog also represents God’s pervasive presence. 

Anticipation for the Messiah.

Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah reaches its height during Sukkot. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a time when God will fight and defend His people when the nations gather against Israel (Zech. 14:1-9). After God establishes peace, all the nations will then travel to Jerusalem to worship God during Sukkot (Zech. 14:16). God promises to withhold rain from those countries that do not honour Him in Jerusalem (14:17-19). Sukkot thus looks forward to the day when God will establish His Kingdom and all nations will join together to worship Him. 

Sukkot in the New Testament.

Sukkot also looks forward to the day when God will dwell in the midst of His people. When John introduced Yahshua as the Messiah, he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word “dwelt” can also be translated “took up temporary residence.”

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“VAYISHLACH” (And He Sent) Genesis 32:4 (3)–36:43; Hosea 11:7–12 (11); Obadiah 1:1–21; Ephesians 4:1–32.

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section.  “And Jacob sent [vayishlach וַיִּשְׁלַח] messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”  (Genesis 32:4[3]). 

In last week’s study, Jacob left his unjust father-in-law, Laban, while he was off shearing his sheep.  Fearing that Laban would keep his daughters, Leah and Rachel, Jacob stole away with all he had: his sons, his wives, and all of his livestock, heading for the mountains of Gilead.  This group are the forerunners of those who entered Egypt and came out as the nation of Israel.  Note they consist of the household of Jacob, Gentile servants and wives included.  So from the outset God’s “my people” was and remain a composition of Jew and Gentile who live by His commandments.  No colour nor nation of birth differentiation; but a “mixed multitude” of obedient believers as would be in the promised new heaven and earth. 

After 22 years in Haran (a place in Mesopotamia), it was likely difficult for Jacob to free himself from Laban’s wicked manipulation and control, but he did succeed.  We can imagine that he was anticipating with great joy his return to his ancestral homeland of Canaan; however, in order to do so, he had to first pass through Edom, the territory of Esau, his estranged brother [Gen 36:1  Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. Gen 36:2  Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;  Gen 36:43 … these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites]. 

Jacob’s Family Becomes a Nation. 

“Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”  So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed”  (Genesis 32:6–7). 

The time had come for Jacob to confront his past.  More than two decades had passed since Jacob had posed as his brother Esau and received the first-born blessing from their father.  The last time Jacob had seen Esau, he was filled with murderous rage, vowing to kill him; therefore, it is no wonder that Jacob felt anxiety at the prospect of seeing his brother again, especially upon learning that Esau was headed his way with 400 menHad Esau held a grudge against Jacob all these years?  Or had time eased the pain of betrayal and brought forgiveness?  Could the generous gifts of livestock sent ahead to Esau somehow appease his anger?  Jacob was about to find out.  Jacob was a man of strategy: he divided his family and the people with him, along with his flock, herds and camels, into two camps.  That way, if Esau attacked one camp, the other would survive (Genesis 32:8). 

The Bible does not simply call these camps family.  This is the first time that the Torah refers to those who are with Jacob as a nation (ha’am הָעָם).  “Jacob divided the people [ha’am, הָעָם] who were with him into two groups.”  (Genesis 32:7)  This is why (rightly or wrongly as some may argue) the Jewish people, even today, are called the house of Jacob.

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