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Shabbat Bereshit

October 29, 2016

Tishrei 27, 5777

"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.'"
Genesis 1:14

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      Shalom and Welcome to a Messianic Jewish Information Blog - A Jewish Thought of the week!

— Parashah Bereishit - "In the Beginning"
Torah: Genesis 1:1 — 6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 — 43:10
Beginning Anew

This Shabbat we start a new cycle of reading from the Torah. Many Jewish people think of Torah as a collection of 613 laws that must be obeyed, even though some of them are just impossible to follow since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, instead of a collection of God's teachings that can be applied, in their core meaning, even today for their own benefit. Many Christians and many Messianic believers also look upon the Torah as a collection of dos and don'ts. But we need to understand that for Israel the Torah is not only that which leads individual people to salvation in Messiah, but that it is the only way through which God will allow Israel as a nation to come to salvation and to know His Son, Yeshua. This is what the prophets tell us, that it is going to be through the Torah that God brings His people Israel to know who Yeshua HaMashiah is. Therefore, without believing in the Torah there could be no salvation for Israel and consequently, no kingdom on this earth. But Torah stands as a beacon of truth and God will bring through it His people to salvation. We can be sure of that just as the people of Israel exist today against all odds.

Judaism is not a biblical religion today. It is based upon biblical foundations, but it does not have a biblical result, therefore, the Jewish people as a whole have not come to the right conclusions. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Jewish people who did not believe in the sacrifice of Yeshua (Yeshua's sacrifice replaced the Temple's required sacrifices, thus, God allowed for its destruction) needed to redefine Judaism. And through the rabbinate at the Yavneh Academy (Second Century CE) they rebuilt Judaism without the corner or the foundation stone, which is the belief in Messiah and the need for His atoning sacrifice.

The builders of Judaism built up a religion that rejected the chief cornerstone. Yet, it shall become what it used to be, the chief of the corner, the Rosh Pinah. The prophecy given in Psalm 118 was that “the stone which the builders rejected will become the chief stone of the corner.” Torah-true Judaism is at odds with Rabbinical Judaism. Today Talmud — a collection of Rabbinical commentaries and commentaries on commentaries, known as the Mishnah and Gemara — is regarded as the only definer of Judaism. Torah alone is not allowed to speak for itself. So the only acceptable way for the entire nation of Israel to be saved would be through the acceptance of Torah-true Judaism in their hearts. There will be no acceptance of the Messiah until Torah is accepted.

Much of Christianity has taught that the Jewish believers should abandon Torah observance. But, when the Jewish people will receive Yeshua as the chief cornerstone of their Jewish faith, they will not be converting to another religion, or to the Christianity as we know it today, but they will simply return to their God given faith - Torah-true Judaism. They will become Torah (Bible) observant just as the first believers in Yeshua's sacrifice in the first century were: "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Yehudim of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah" Acts 21:20. There is going to be a very Biblical Messianic Judaism in Eretz Yisrael when Messiah comes back.

And so we have to understand that if we are ministering to the Jewish people we have to be able to share with them that they must first believe in the Torah as the word of God. And if they do not believe in the Torah, they will not be coming to a saving faith in Yeshua, because you cannot separate Torah from Messiah; without Torah there is no reason to believe in Messiah. The Torah has within it the very desire of God's heart expressed toward Israel, and what Israel is expected to express toward God.

Yeshua said: “If you believed Moses (Torah), you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

So, this Shabbat, we begin anew the study of Torah with the conviction that the Torah is not only a historical book, but also the revelation of God, His character, and His requirement for man’s conduct in this world. The Torah’s narrative of Creation is to establish that God is Sovereign in the universe, that nothing came into being without His will.

But this first portion of Torah also reveals some fundamental principles: man was created with free will and bound by the passing of time; God is outside of the time constrains and can see man's doings from beginning to end; man will eventually disobey God's commandments and will need a Redeemer; only a perfect blood sacrifice will atone for the sin committed.

Adam and Eve failed and were driven into exile; God punished the transgressors, but did not destroy them. This is the message of Genesis: man has sinned, but he can repent and come back into a relationship with God. God gives him the opportunity to do so by promising a Redeemer through various symbols of animal sacrifice, who would take upon Himself the punishment of every sin committed. These animal sacrifices, through their graphic imagery, would teach man the gravity of his sins and that his sins would have consequences. God's holiness cannot be tainted by sin, and no matter how good are men's mitzvoth they can only be called good intentions, thus, cannot satisfy the perfect justice required for the sin committed. Only an ultimate sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, will be able to atone for and cover the ugliness of sin. God is not only just, but He is merciful and in His mercy He saw our inability to approach Him, therefore, He provided the perfect sacrifice.

Since man broke the relationship with God through sin, God chose a people to be His messengers to the humanity that would ensue, thus Genesis is a prelude to the story of Israel. God was patient for ten generations between Adam and Noah and ten generations between Noah and Avraham, but each of these generations failed to display remorse and understand the holiness of God. The essence of Creation is not primarily the story of mountains, valleys, of oceans and deserts, but the spiritual things. Man has a soul created in the image of God and man needs physical and spiritual nourishment. Thus creation is also the history of the birth of Israel, the nation that inherited the task of Adam and Eve to communicate God's requirement for a holy life. In this first Book of Torah we trace Israel’s story from the life of Avraham and Sarah until their offspring develop into a family and then a nation.

The story of Creation is to establish that God is the sole Creator and to refute the theories of those who claim that the universe came into being through some massive coincidence or accident. This is implicit in the narrative of the first six days, for Scripture gives no specific details regarding the process of Creation. The story of Creation tells of when the major categories of the universe came into existence only in very general terms, because its primary purpose is to state that nothing came into being except at God’s command. Interesting to note that more and more scientists make a case for creation (please see Patrick Glynn: "God The Evidence" and Brandon Carter: "The Anthropic Principle").

Creation was not a phenomenon that took place in primeval times and then was left to proceed of its own merits. The first verse of the Haftarah speaks of Creation in the present tense, because God must renew it constantly; otherwise the universe would cease to exist. God did not rest on the seventh day - the Hebrew word translated as rest is "Shabbat." On the sixth day God finished creating the physical world and on the seventh day He created the spiritual world, the Shabbat, and sanctified it. Shabbat is a day in which we ought to put aside the concerns of the material world and concentrate on the spiritual. But God is still working. He is not only working to keep the universe but also to heal our souls and restore our relationship with Him. Yeshua gave us this insight as recorded by John: “And for this reason they were persecuting Yeshua because He was doing these things on the Shabbat. But He answered them, 'My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.'” His purpose is for Israel to guide mankind to His service; to bring the people to the covenant, to be a light to the nations; to help remove the impediments that prevent their eyes and ears from seeing and hearing the truth. But Israel failed, just as Adam and Eve, again revealing the need for a savior, who ultimately will turn darkness into light, and will open the eyes to the blind and reveal the truth to mankind. Yeshua, the promised Saviour, came to His people and did just that. He opened our eyes to the truth of the Torah.

An interesting passage to note is from Matthew 12:22-23: "Then a demon-possessed man, blind and mute, was brought to Yeshua, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Is this not the Son of David?" The rabbinic teaching at that time was that only Messiah will be able to heal a person who is blind and mute because that person had no way of revealing the name of the demon, only Messiah will know the name of the demon inside that person, thus, people were asking the rabbis, isn't He the Messiah, the Son of David, because He has done this? This was the turning point in Yeshua's rejection by the rabbinic leaders because when confronted with their own teaching they chose deliberately to reject the truth.

The Haftarah is the lesson from the Prophets recited immediately after the reading of the Torah. Long before the destruction of the Second Temple the custom had grown up of concluding the reading of the Torah on Shabbats, Fasts and Festivals with a selection from the Prophets. However, we possess no historical data concerning the institution of these lessons. A medieval author on the Liturgy states that a little more than two thousand years ago (168 B.C.E.), Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, forbade the reading of the Torah under penalty of death. The Scribes, then, substituted a chapter of the Prophets cognate to the portion of the Torah that ought to have been read. Whatever be the origin of the Haftarah, there is always some similarity with the Parashah. Even when the Haftarah does not contain an explicit reference to the events of the Sidrah, it reinforces the teaching of the weekly reading upon the mind of the worshiper by a prophetic message of consolation and hope.

The connection between this Sidrah and the prophetical lesson from Isaiah is found in the opening words which speak of God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The first chapters of Genesis, after describing the Creation, recount the growth of sin and violence among the children of men. The prophet, likewise, proclaims the omnipotence and sovereignty of the Creator of the Universe, and proceeds to declare unto Israel his mission to rescue the world from moral degeneracy. This part of the Book of Isaiah is sometimes called 'The Prophecy of Restoration.' It is addressed to the Jews in Babylon, who had been deported from Judea after the first destruction of Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C.E., and who were longing for the day when they would be free to return to the Holy Land and Holy City. During the years of weary waiting, the prophet consoles his suffering brethren by setting before them the sublime mission of Israel: God had called Israel to be His witness before all peoples, to be 'a light unto the nations,' and to point the way of righteousness and salvation to all the children of men. God promises Israel divine aid in the achievement of His sacred task.

"Thus said God, Yehovah, He who creates the heavens, and stretches them out; He who spreads forth the earth, and that which grows out of it; He who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it; I, Yehovah, have called you in righteousness, and taken hold of your hand, and kept you, and gave you for a covenant of the people, for a light to the nations; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and those who sit in darkness, out of the prison house. I am Yehovah; that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing to Yehovah a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth. Yehovah is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the Torah, and make it glorious." Isaiah 42:5-21

Indeed God revealed new things to mankind in the Person of Yeshua who came to interpret the Torah correctly (Matthew 5:17). Let us persevere in reading His word and make the Torah the center of our lives.

Shabbat joy, peace, and blessings! Shabbat Shalom!

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The Rabbinic tradition states that we have lost the knowledge of pronouncing the tetragrammaton name of God, YHVH, and that when Moshiah will come He will tell us how to pronounce it. In the meantime, most of the time, it is read as HaShem, the Name. Well, in my commentaries I want to stress the fact that the Moshiah already came, therefore, based on the opinion of some Hebrew scholars, I am transliterating YHVH as Yehovah.

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PLEASE NOTE: In the Jewish tradition the first three days of the week, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, are part of the conclusion of the Shabbat, and are called “the succeeding days of the Shabbat,” the last three days of the week, beginning with Wednesday, are called “the preceding days of the Shabbat,” therefore, in keeping with this tradition, I will not change the commentary on the Parashah until Wednesday.