In Flight for Life!

In Flight for Life!

This story is very personal. It is more than a story. It’s a place in time when a person’s direction in life is changed forever. It’s a journey that throws one directly into the wilderness and the landing isn’t soft. It’s a life that’s hard, dry, lonely, tragic, heart-wrenching, broken, and shattered. The journey is difficult when we feel alone. It’s a place where very few people are willing to walk along your side—yes; we have been forgotten by many. The amazing love Hashem has for us can be found in the treasured people He places in our path Hashem assigns to help on our journey. During our trials, we may witness amazing miracles with a new joy found. We are not asked to understand, we’re called to trust in Hashem and to have Emet (faith). Hashem will never abandon nor forsake us.

“Be strong and resolute, be not in fear or in dread of them; for the LORD your G-d Himself marches with you: He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy/ Devarim 31:6)[1]

Abraham was the first Jew who had a Jewish mindset. He accepted whatever trials were sent by G-d in faith and responded with obedience, without questioning. Western (Greek) thought is worldwide. Greek mindset in America demands to know the reasons why…why…why… and what’s in it for me? Greek philosophy crept in after Aristotle and Augustine developed a foundation in Greek philosophy into Western thought. Hellenistic philosophy developed after Aristotle attempted to merge Plato with mixed Biblical concepts. While Greek thought teaches the student to be concerned for himself, look out for number one, it redefines “knowledge” with teachings that draws man away from G-d. Jewish thought draws man to G-d, away from self-indulgence and Replacement Theology teachings. Having a Jewish mindset understands the Heavens declare the Glory of G-d and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. (Psalms 19:1)

It’s important to train up our children in Judaism, and to love learning with a desire to seek what is righteous in the eyes of G-d. Having a Jewish mindset is “G-d centered,” understanding Hashem has the final Authority in all things. We should strive to learn with a Jewish mindset; understanding the chiasms in the Tanakh and Jewish writings. It’s important to keep the Tanakh in context by understanding what first mention is (a word may be written in the later books that was mentioned prior). It’s foundational to look back in earlier writings to receive “understanding.” Have Americans lost the real value of trusting Hashem when challenges come? Who or what do we turn to when our world becomes turned upside-down? Will we praise G-d in all things that are in our favor or not? How do we respond when our life is instantly pulled from under us? Will we allow ourselves to see His Light in all things?

Let’s begin the Journey:

Twins! We were having twins. My father was a twin and my husband’s father was a twin. What other news could be more exciting? This is usually the time a mom begins to think of look-alike clothing, two cribs, two highchairs, two of everything. The parents gleefully start making preparations for more children on board.

In the twenty-fourth week gestation everything changed!  The doctor wasn’t alarmed when I placed a call reporting that I was losing amniotic fluid. He said a small amount can be normal, especially with twins that generally seals up. The next morning I was passing blood. My husband and I headed to the Emergency Room. I prayed during the way there. Baruch Hashem, G-d had a different doctor in mind that just happened to be on call at the hospital on our arrival. Dr. Bexar* [2]is one of the best OBGYN doctors in my state. His love and compassion, as well as expertise were incredible. After the ultrasound verified the twins were coming, they began treatments to stop the bleeding and contractions. The pressure was unbelievably painful. The injections didn’t work; the twins were on their way. There is an enormous risk being born naturally premature. They could die being too fragile and tiny to survive the pressure of the birth canal. The ultrasound revealed the feet of one of the twins had already entered the birth canal, and one of the twins had hydrocephalus.

Fifteen minutes were given to make a decision! If they were born naturally, both would die. By caesarean-section, they would have a life-given chance! We chose life to give them every opportunity to live. On the table in the surgery room, going under anesthesia, the doctor and I counted backwards together as he held up his fingers. Ten…nine…eight…sevvv… (I’m asleep). Our beautiful twins were born; hearts beating with faint cries. Into the hands of exceptional doctors hand-picked from the Hand of G-d, Dr. Goldstein *[3], a pediatrician, who was on the delivery twin- team would become a big part of our son’s life in years to come.

Dr. Bexar reported that a separate mass was found and believed to have been a triplet that at some point stopped growing. In the first trimester, I had some unusual cramping that stopped after a day or two. Perhaps the triplet died and my body picked up messages that a life was over, but with twins, the chemistry became strong enough to send a message there’s still Life with my pregnancy. If so, we will see her/him in our next life to embrace, along with loving on Travis.

“It was You who created my conscience; You fashioned me in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am awesomely, wondrously made; Your work is wonderful; I know it very well. My frame was not concealed from You when I was shaped in a hidden place, knit together in the recesses of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all recorded in Your book; in due time they were formed, to the very last one of them.” (Psalms/ Tehillim 139: 13-16)[4]

Hidden and concealed – protection, covering, hedged in:

  • Soul- Nefesh

Awakened to echoing voices in the background in the Recovery room, I discovered our hearing (Shema) senses return before vision.

  • The Father called us (my husband and I) on this journey. We answered Hashem’s call as “doers.”
  • Shema (hearing) – “Na’aseh v’nishma”—we will do and we will hear. (Exodus 19:8) The giving of the Torah. Our Wilderness begins!

The Storm

The storm came in two waves; physically and spiritually. Because the hospital wasn’t equipped for extreme premature babies weighing in the one-pound range, Life-Flight was called. Our babies were to be flown to a children’s hospital, out of state.

While waiting for Life-Flight, I was wheeled into the NICU on a gurney; giving the names of the twins with the correct spelling. They were too little to be held; thankfully, we were able to hold their tiny hands. Their tiny and delicate hands were the size of a man’s thumb—delicate, fragile, and precious!

The flight was almost canceled due to the horrific storms. With Hashem’s help, the pilots flew in-between storms, keeping perfect timing. There was one massive storm cloud in front, one behind. Life-flight flew in between the storms for its safe and precise arrival and departure.

Our beautiful twins were brought to my room; incubated in isoletts, ventilated, and on monitors. We were given treasured time before they left; not knowing if we’d see them alive again. My parents, sister, and her husband, headed to the children’s hospital during horrible road blizzard conditions with whiteouts. It was better for loved ones to be with our twins. Time was an essence. Life is precious!

The first night unable to hold my beautiful twins, undetermined how long they would live, or if I would see them alive was almost too much to bear. My sister-in-law drove through a mountainous storm to be by my side. After she left, a nurse sat by my side through the long hard nights when suddenly “the call” was transferred into my room during the second night. Travis was placed on complete life-support. His heart had stopped twice. They used the crash-cart to sustain him. My heart was breaking (I am in tears again, twenty-six years later). The medical team would do their best to keep them alive until my husband and I could arrive. Shawn, the smallest at one pound, four ounces, wasn’t out of the woods either. They both were fighting for their lives.

At last, I was allowed to leave—a day early. Considering my mother was the Head Director of the Women’s Center in the hospital, there wasn’t any reason to delay my discharge.

The Community Meeting

Upon arrival at the children’s hospital, we were allowed to see our babies before we were led into a private room for their “community meeting.” Community meetings gather the medical team with the parents to discuss the patient’s condition (weaknesses and strengths) to make a game plan; not limited to considerations with different probabilities and scenarios. It didn’t take long to figure out the complexity ideals held by some professionals assigned to the team. In other words, not all on board were believers in the miracles of G-d. Throughout the years ahead, we would meet doctors who didn’t believe; Hashem’s Light was going to shine through our twins—spiritually and physically!

Through prayers and all considerations given, we knew the direction Hashem was taking us before entering the room with the medical team. After listening, additional time given for prayers with family after being consulted, we knew the decision. Travis’ brain had completely bled to a grade four, meaning his life could not be sustainable without life support. Our hearts broke knowing Travis would die through painful suffering. He was in a cubical room full of equipment—full capacity. Shawn’s brain bleed was a grade two, and if shunted, he could have a chance to live—though we were given two years. Travis would come off life-support, return to the Father, and Shawn would remain in this world—in flight for life!

Travis was removed from all equipment, other than the heart monitor. In a swaddling blanket, Travis was gently handed to me. They said he would pass away in just a few minutes. After a few minutes he was still with us. We gently took turns holding Travis. He was bruised from being so little during the delivery process. His beautiful face resembled much fear and pain. My family who gathered around my husband, Travis, and me were my parents, sister, and her husband.

Hashem had given me the time needed to say “goodbye.” In earth time, we were given forty-five minutes. But eternally, it was outside of time. In other words, time outside of space and time doesn’t exist the same way our clocks do. The moment Travis was placed in my arms time stopped. It was as if our Creator moved us out of the earthly realm (of time) and into an area outside of time.

The forty-five minutes was eternal, no time, as if we were holding on to Travis forever. Cradling him in my arms, my tears were bittersweet. It was heavenly to hold him; yet, I knew he had to go on without me. I had to accept he couldn’t be with us at this time. It was heart-wrenching to let go knowing the separation would be long-suffering on this side of life. However, he would rejoice in his spirit (Ruach) returning to Hashem. The feeling of eternal time sent us back to real time. I knew it was time to let go and say “goodbye” for now. Holding him alive in my arms would soon end.

Through tearful eyes and a weakened voice, I told Travis it was OK for him to go by knowing G-d would take care of him. An amazing miracle happened—gifted just for me to see. There was a miraculous glowing LIGHT that radiated around Travis’ head, like an aura. His face was no longer in fear or in pain. His countenance lifted. His face began to radiate with Hashem’s healing light of glory, surrounding his head. Travis was received by Hashem as his beautiful spirit returned. Travis took his last breath on earth and “crossed over” into Paradise to be with G-d, our Creator.

It’s substantial to understand what Hashem can reveal intimately on a deeper level during our lifespan when we choose to follow Him. Every person conceived has the Spirit of G-d given with a story to tell. The Father, our Creator, is miraculous and every conceived human life will have his/her given Torah Parasha. Torah Portions are true stories of the Tanakh that our ancestors endured—to be remembered. Every week throughout the year “Parasha’s” are studied and read that have the Divine Presence (Hashem) with in-depth messages that are meaningful to man.

Let’s look at the connections:

“Travis”: English and French that means “To Cross” and “At the Crossroads;” given to toll collectors who stood by a bridge or crossing.”

“Shawn”: Hebrew name meaning: G-d is gracious.

Travis was born at the crossroads of life by way of the bridge to cross over the rivers into Paradise. Shawn reminds us that G-d is gracious and Hashem graciously placed Shawn in our care; illuminating the Light of Hashem for those who are willing to “see” and “hear” the miracles and see the loving-kindness (Chesed) of Hashem. Shawn, like his sisters, both have a “shen” (Sh) in their names that means “tooth” – crushing the enemy to bring Shalom. A tooth also sharpens, and it’s on the Mezuzah. Our daughter’s name means “Virtuous” and “Shining Israelite”, “Shiny Jew”, and “nes” means miracle. A miracle from Hashem brings forth His Light– Torah!  Hashem is our Redeemer who crushes the enemy for His victory! Powerful!

Crosswinds, separation of “Twins”

Our hearts were torn. One baby has passed, and our other baby was in for the fight of his life. With alarms sounding off, the parting of Travis, Shawn could sense a part of him was gone (strong Levite souls). To our amazement, all of the nurses in the room gathered together in a line (like angels); dividing the link between our twins—blocking communication waves. We were informed when a twin sense their twin died, they stop thriving with a higher possibility to leave as well. With Hashem’s help, Shawn gained the strength needed to continue his journey. Hashem’s Light was shining Hashem’s Glory for all to see.

Crossing over: 

Abraham crossed over Mesopotamia to Canaan. He was the first person to be called a “Jew.” Through faith and obedience, Abraham answered Hashem’s call; “crossing over ” from a life of idol worship of g-ds to a new life that would bring honor and glory to the Most High G-d.

When one crosses over a river, they leave their old life behind while passing through to a new life. This reflects a connection to conception and the seed making its way through the waters; leaving behind its old life to seek a new life [through the water]. Israel waits for the crossing over of the man’s old life, marking its target (Torah) on their new home. Moses and the Israelites crossed the Reed Sea. Joshua and the Israelites crossed the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Travis was in the waters of my womb. His feet came through the birth canal, like our ancestors’ feet that were set upon the Reed Sea. Travis was called back home to our Father and Creator; passing through the waters that cross over into Paradise. His souls were too perfect for this world.

G-d is Merciful/Gracious 

Shawn surprised the medical team on several occasions; surviving surgical procedures early on. He went through times of seizures, long term illnesses, and multiple shunt revisions that sent us back to the children’s hospital on Life-Flight numerous times. Through “trial and error” with shunt revisions for hydrocephalus [Shawn was the smallest infant to have attempted and succeeded at the time]; his procedures were written into medical journals. Today, through the pathway of Shawn, smaller infants have successful shunt surgeries, less time in NICU.

There were times of uncertainty during long and stressful recovery periods for shunt revisions, but with the grace and mercy of Hashem, Shawn miraculously came through. My husband and I spent countless hours traveling out of state to the children’s hospital. I stayed with Shawn while my husband went back home to work, meeting up with us on weekends. Once during Shawn’s later part of his first year, he was flown to NICU back home; anticipating his stay to be low key. While there, he joyfully received frequent visits from his Grandma, who just happened to be the Head Director of the Women’s Center. Shawn loved to hear Grandma’s voice. They were very blessed to have been given that precious time together. Over time, his shunts failed. It was discovered cabin pressure from commercial airlines caused shunt failure. He was Life flown back to the children’s hospital (out of state). Throughout his life, there have been many shunt failures and emergency Life- Flights. I was blessed to have had my Mom accompany me on one of those flights. I usually went alone while my husband and our daughter drove to meet us.

There was one particular time we (my husband, daughter and I) were planning to join my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and their daughter for vacation. My sister and her family live over one thousand miles away. Shawn’s shunts failed suddenly, rerouting our rendezvous, having side-by-side motel rooms near the children’s hospital. My Dad sat up his keyboard in the hotel room. We shared our time visiting Shawn, and found joy with my Dad’s music played and songs sung.

Throughout his amazing life, Shawn has given hope to many; glowing with the Light of Hashem that continues to shine within. His youngest sister loves and adores Shawn. She has always been by his side, helping and catering to his needs in his “quiet world.”  They truly are a gift to one another, a blessing.

More connections:

The twins were born in the month of June, rather, Sivan. Sivan, on the Jewish calendar, means the month of “Twins.” Ironically, my father was a twin, as well as my husband’s father. All three of these twin sets were blessed to be born in the Jewish month of Sivan—the month of Twins! How amazing and wondrous is Hashem?!

Torah Parasha: Shlach L’chah (Numbers/ Bamidbar 13-15)—The Twelves spies, two had a Good Report. Two is a separation of upper (Heavenly) and lower (earthly) waters—Creation Day Two.

Travis crossed over, left earth (passed over) through the waters with a clean record (Good Report). Shawn (G-d is Merciful/Gracious) continues to teach us HOPE, and to see the mercy of Hashem so that we can learn how to have a Good Report [in our lives] for the Father; walking in the Wilderness as Hashem’s Chosen Ones for His Glory. Will we hear (Shema) and obey our Father? Will we walk in the path Hashem gives for our good?

Let’s dig a little deeper:

The Jewish month Sivan was the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai through Moses. Moses was the third born son (Amram and Yocheved, his parents). Sivan is the third month. Day Three of creation is a gathering of land having trees and plants with fruit-bearing seeds (life). Trees (Etz in Hebrew) have growth rings which look very similar to the fingerprints of humans. Hashem’s “fingerprints” are a gift for us to see His Creation and believe in our Creator. Torah brings unity between man and Hashem.

Genesis 2:22 teaches, And the LORD G-d fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man.” Adam and Chavah (Eve) were made to be equal. Chavah was not designed from Adam’s heel to under her mate’s heel, but from his side (rib). When we look closer at this we realize G-d, Adam, and Chavah (Eve) were three; yet, man and woman are designed to be ‘One Flesh.” When we include G-d in our marriage, the three becomes ONE accord: Hashem—Man (father)—Female (mother).

There are three elements of man/woman:

  • Nefesh (soul/flesh that is shared with animals, creation day six).
  • Ruach (Spirit, the breath Hashem that places us above animals).
  • Neshamah (the soul part of G-d–His Sparks).

More Threes

The Talmud:

“Blessed is the Merciful One, who gave a three-part Torah, to a three-part nation, through a third, in the third month.” [5]

Rashi directs us to observe in the Torah having three parts:

  • Chumash
  • Prophets
  • Writings

Three Groups of the Israel Nation:

  • Kohanim
  • Levites
  • Israelites

The Three Pilgrimages:

  • Pesach (Light separated the darkness- brought out of the bondage of Egypt)
  • Shavuot (Torah given)
  • Sukkot (Completion with Sabbath Rest)

We serve the G-d of:

  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob (Israel) – Israel, third, eternal connection.

Bringing it together:

The upper and lower water was Day Two of Creation. The upper and lower waters were a separation. Two is a division, and three is unity. When G-d walked in the Garden with Adam and Chavah, the three were united. When Adam and Chavah sinned they were separated from G-d.  There was no longer unity; tragically, only two opposing sides. But with G-d involved the opposing sides found unity.

A triangle has three sides; yet, it remains ONE shape. The two opposing sides cannot continue to be separated with the third involved (Eternal connection). Zvi Ryzman teaches us that having the third side added to the opposing sides diametrically brings unity. Three can no longer have a representation of two (separation by opposing sides). “But if one takes two opposites—Black and white—and adds a third color, red, the third color will fall somewhere between the two opposites and connect them.”[6]

  • Red—symbolic to the soil (earth) Esau (Edom, red and hairy).
  • White—white light shun in a prism will light up all seven rainbow colors, Eternal, Pure.
  • Black—onyx stone is one of the twelves stones upon the Breastplate. It can be layered black, white and red. Faith and Truth.

Creation Day Two is a separation of the upper and lower waters; however, there is a connection of unity that is eternal with Hashem. Man alone will always oppose one another. Keeping Torah is a Lamp (Light) before our feet. When we walk in His Light (Torah), we guard the Torah and keep connected to Hashem in covenant.

The Levites banner of color is 1/3 Black, 1/3 White, 1/3 Red – A huge connection! They (Levite Priests) were called by Hashem to bring man into unity with G-d through the Torah. The Levites were given the Priesthood (Kohen Gadol) because it was the tribe of Levi who refused to partake in the worship of the Golden Calf. Jewish tradition teaches that none of the women participated in the worship of the Golden Calf either.

“Moses stood up in the gate of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come here!” And all the Levites rallied to him.” (Exodus/ Shemot 32:26)[7]

The Levites stepped forward. The Levites did not fall into spiritual adultery or idolatry. They took hold of Hashem. G-d called upon the Jews to bring the Torah to the Nations. They guarded (upheld) the Torah—the Light (Ohr) and Truth (Emet) that gathers man spirituality; exposing darkness that separates man from Hashem.

Hashem commanded the Mishkan (Tabernacle) to be built by the Children of Israel by using “Kerashim” (planks) from acacia trees. Acacia trees do not bend. Jacob (Yaakov) planted them in Egypt, and upon the Israelites leaving in the Exodus, they cut the trees down and took the wood into the Wilderness. The Mishkan was the resting place for the Shechinah—Divine Presence. Hashem desires to dwell with us. The Divine Presence, Torah, and Israel are three bonded together as ONE– Echad. They will NEVER be separated. We, too, are to be that “Mishkan” for the Divine Presence to dwell in us so that our mini menorahs can be lit to shine Hashem’s Light for others to see.

Looking back, we can see that the Levites are in the second line-up of the three. It’s remarkable the amazing intimate treasures Hashem revealed during this chapter! In the division, the upper and lower waters, Travis passed over (the waters) into Paradise, and Shawn (Hebrew name) fills in the gap; shining Torah (G-d is merciful and gracious) for those who will hear (Shema) and see.

“Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!” (Ecclesiastes/ Kohelet 4:12)[8]

 

Shalom!

 

[1] Deuteronomy/ Devarim 31:6, Sefaria

[2] Name changed for privacy.

[3] Name changed for privacy.

[4] Psalms/ Tehillim 139: 13-16, Sefaria

[5] Shabbos 88a

[6] The Wisdom in the Hebrew Months, Zvi Ryzman p. 309 (Rabbinic teachings)

[7] Exodus/ Shemot 32:26, Sefaria

[8] Ecclesiastes/ Kohelet 4:12, Sefaria

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Reflection or Deception?

Reflection or Deception? 

 

The worldly path manifested outside of G-d’s Instructions creates distortions that could lead people stumbling into darkness. The Creator looked into the Torah and created the world; man looks in the Torah and sustains the world.  We are called to be Hashem’s Light to the world to take the Torah to the Nations. There are many obstacles and attractions that become distractions from G-d’s Divine word. Social media, certain music, movies and sitcoms can feed man’s desires (Nefesh/ flesh) that take precedence from living in Torah when we lose focus, lacking wisdom and discernment. These desires can sometimes mirror images of the beast. When we are not careful to exercise wisdom, a snare will entangle us without being detected. We are to be diligent, and a reflection of Hashem’s Goodness—shining Hashem’s light.

It’s important to be under our Father’s covering and to be obedient to Torah. When we choose differently, false securities (idols) are created that are not beneficial to our well-being, physically or spiritually. Unfortunately, people can fog their thoughts in daily living with self-seeking cravings. There are two directions to go: the lighted holy path of the Torah that leads to life that’s eternal, or self-direction, opposite of Torah that leads to destruction. We were given “free will” and it’s up to us what kind of manager we will be. Of course, there’s forgiveness with opportunities to make a U-Turn, but will we?

The good news is many Jews are returning to Torah. They want to have teshuvah (returning to Hashem in repentance), to be Torah Observant and walk in obedience by observing Shabbat/Shabbos and the festivals. The Non Jews are becoming interested in the festivals, and they are asking questions pertaining to Judaism. A big awakening is taking place. We are reminded in Jeremiah 31:32-33 when G-d made a covenant with us, He placed His Torah (law) in our minds and wrote it on our hearts. This is the covenant Hashem sealed with the House of Israel. All will come to know Hashem from the smallest to the greatest. Hashem loves and welcomes everyone to come to Him, but Hashem allows us to decide our eternal fate. In love, we are to bring Torah to the Nations, teaching by example. Teaching includes application.

We are called to be overcomers, in doing so; we will have to climb that mountain in our wilderness—leaving our Egypt behind. There will be many distractions and obstacles to overcome, thankfully, with faith (Emunah) and trust in Hashem, He will light our path. It will seem lonely and difficult when we enter our wilderness; however, Hashem is waiting to have a one-on-one intimate time with us for our personal spiritual growth. Hashem desires to reveal more of Him. When Hashem is quiet and it seems as though He isn’t listening, we need to remember Hashem will never leave us nor lead us astray.

Time is precious and valuable. It can’t be given back once spent. The world is very good at keeping us preoccupied with our own yearnings that become justifications. One of the main excuses we tend to fall into is that we’re too busy to study, or too tired. Evil Inclination loves to keep us busy. A good friend of mine, Angie, states it best in an acronym (BUSY): (B) Being (U) Under (S) Satan’s (Y) Yoke. Now to be clear, there are times when rest healing is needed, especially when it’s a medical situation. There are also individuals, and families, who have children with special needs that contend with irregular daily/nightly hours. We do our best. Hashem knows the desires of our heart; His heart is pierced with ours. He will always help us. It’s important to never feel defeated. We just have to keep getting right back up.

We cannot serve other g-d’s (Deuteronomy 6:14-16). Our soul is confused with a divided heart. The confused soul is like a beast without boundaries. The Nefesh is a bundle of appetites, desires, and intellect. Will our treasures we invest in be eternal? A divided heart will rule over its soul and its possessions. The human heart has four chambers. Day Four in Creation is to govern. What will our hearts “govern” in this lifetime? “Time and Money” are crucial areas man will invest in. To become divided is a separation cut into two parts. Day Two in Creation is the separation of the upper (heavenly) and lower (earthly) waters.

“And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, And a twig shall grow forth out of his roots. 2And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord; And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, Neither decide after the hearing of his ears.” (Isaiah 11:1-3 Jewish Publication Society 1917)[1]

The seven spirits placed upon the Menorah in its proper order for its purpose and function, the second spirit of G-d is “Understanding.” Our investments in life are either eternal or temporary of this world. If we don’t seek Hashem’s wise counsel we are bankrupt of understanding.

The key factor is: we need to keep things in its proper perception, and not get caught up in areas that become a snare (sin) that pulls us away from Torah. We must be diligent and make that choice to place Hashem first in our lives. Without Hashem’s Breath of Life we are nothing. His Breath (Ruach) is life, and His Light (Torah) is a lamp unto our feet that leads the way. If we will not walk in Hashem’sTorah, we are in direct disobedience (willful sin); and essentially, choosing a different path that leads to our destruction—death. “A road may seem right to a man, but in the end it is a road to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)[2]

Individuals are becoming desensitized by self-deception. Some people feel as though they have to “fit-in” in order to be accepted. We can become hesitant to mention our beliefs to not offend others. Man’s agendas are becoming more prioritized because of man’s EGO. The ego of man pushes Hashem out by “Edging G-d Out.” When our ideals and desires come before keeping and guarding Torah, or reciting daily blessings and prayers, we have chosen to edge/ push G-d out and positioned ourselves above Hashem. No one is exempt from falling into deception, a sickness of lies from the accuser—hasatan! When a person says “G-d knows my heart…” that is a true statement. However, we are the manager of our hearts, thoughts, words and actions. How is our personal management going?

The heart is the most deceitful of all, and it is fragile–who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)[3]

The path we walk should be in the Light of the Lamp—His Torah of Truth.

“Make your Your ways known to me, HASHEM; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the G-d of my salvation, to You I have hoped all the day. Remember Your mercies, HASHEM, and Your kindness, for they are eternal” (Psalm 25:4-6)[4]

Hashem has an incredible love for His Children. He will light the way of truth with His righteousness. Hashem wants us to cast our burdens on Him. Hashem’s love is indescribable. His mercy is incredible. There comes a time in our spiritual growth to take that step upwards, to walk in Hashem’s truth; turning away from distractions that keep us from studying Hashem’s word. Living Torah is a change in our lifestyle; removing any distorted beliefs and/or wrongful attitudes that taint our walk in Torah.

It’s time to make a decision to step outside of our comfort zone. We need to step away from the crib that holds us captive to live in obedience, fine-tune our priorities, adjust our attitudes, have a heart’s desire to follow Torah, love and forgive others, breathe life (not death) in our words, and lift each other up for the Kingdom of G-d.

We need to completely rely on Hashem for our provisions, and trust that Hashem can help us stay on the path of Light. We place ourselves on a slippery slope with an open invitation for the Adversary when we begin to justify our reasons to live outside of the Dvar (word).  We cannot continue to disobey the Torah and expect a good outcome, eternally. When Hashem sends a messenger it’s the perfect time to listen, and encompass His ways, changing ours.

Let’s dig a little deeper in Numbers 22:

  • The she-donkey saw the angel of HASHEM and crouched beneath Baalam. Balaam’s obstinateness deterred him from seeing an angel standing in front of him. Hashem removed that blindness so Balaam could “see”.
  • Balaam’s anger flared and he struck the she-donkey with the staff. Baalam was so pompous and agitated with pride he hit and yelled at a talking donkey for refusing to obey his orders. Blinded to self-deception, he was unable to see any miracles. Self-deception is arrogance that ignores godly counsel.
  • Balaam said to the angel of HASHEM, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing opposite me on the road. And now, if it is evil in your eyes, I shall return.” Hashem already told him not to go. Balaam twisted what G-d said. Self-deception justifies finding exceptions for self-will.
  • Balak was fearful of Israel. Many today are fearful of G-d’s Chosen people (the spirit of Amalek is in every generation).

We need to evaluate our attitudes, words, and thoughts. Self-deception places us in bondage when godly wisdom is ignored with actions justified, and will remain unteachable by not listening to Good Counsel. To remain passive (self-satisfied/complacent) to Torah is sin, spiritual adultery. One should never selfishly seek undeserved entitlement from others for personal gain. However, when we break something, or harm others (accidently, or willfully), there’s an accounting of restitution to be made.

Our identity is found in Hashem by how we relate to others—character traits. A good character trait is thankfulness. When we are thankful for what Hashem has provided, gratitude leaves little “wiggle room” for bitterness to sneak in. A good friend of mine visits third world countries. She shared in a letter about an individual who had lived in a cardboard house. With permission given, she wrote, “We went to Sabana Grande in the mountains one day and spoke with Angela now living there with her family. She grew up with her mom in a casa de carton, a cardboard house, and she always gives thanks to G-d for taking her out of such poverty.” I sat back in my chair contemplating the gratefulness of this person. I took that thought by contrasting it to the expectations of American kids today. While “Angela” lived in a cardboard box home, “Sally” expects the newest iPhone and a new car given to her. As mentioned, it really does come down to a heart matter. 

The Torah is a mirror that removes the distortions from man’s concepts. A person who does not remain in the teachings of the Torah is a poor marksman. His eyes deceive him. His ears have deafened.

The world seeks to devour Hashem’s Light with corruption by removing the validity of morals and values. Hashem will not allow His Light to be removed or put out. As long as there is at least one person on the earth believing in G-d, following Torah, life remains. Abraham was the first Jew. He didn’t use his circumstances if life by living in a pagan environment to determine his choices or future. He knew there was something more than what his home life offered. He set out to seek Truth—Emet. And so should we.

[5]

Doron Kombluth has a video on Jewish.tv “Raising Kids to Love Being Jewish.”

Our desire for our children/grandchildren is to keep them Jewish. Kombluth shared five key principle factors that are paraphrased below:

  1. Role Models of parents/Grandparents: The Jewish identity our children/grandchildren are learned from the role models of their parents. An example of everyday living as a Jew is to let our children see us doing good things for the Jewish community. Giving Tzedakah. Another good example is to have our home environment show we are Jewish (Jewish books, Mezuzah, Star of David, Shabbos candles, Menorah, etc.). Children need to see their parents reading Jewish literature, walking the walk. Family dinners are crucial as it keeps a home stronger within–building memories. That means all books, papers, and devices are to be kept from the table and actually talk to one another over a meal together. Investing in our family is key. Family should be valued, not left overs.
  2. Get our children/grandchildren involved in Jewish activities: We invest in our children by teaching them to care about being Jewish. We need to teach them how to choose the right friends and activities that do not conflict Jewish upbringing. We are to encourage our children to be involved in a Jewish lifestyle: Trips to Israel, Chabad activities, Jewish holidays, Shabbos; even if it’s one thing they can invest in such as a reading for the Festivals or family readings. By getting our kids involved, they will “own it,” and be willing to hold on to their Jewishness. This is love shown.
  3. Sense of belonging: A very powerful concept for our children is for them to know they belong to their Jewish people, their Torah, their holidays, and their foods. Pesach (Passover) Haggadah, the “Four questions” are asked by the children. This should remind us that we are not individuals, we are a community. We are connected to all Jews—past, present, future. When our people are attacked, we are attacked. We need to have a sense of belonging to our people.
  4. Jewish Education: Jewish educated children have stronger ideals of being Jewish. We live in a different generation. We need to be more active and involved in their lives; helping them incorporate Jewish things into their daily lives. Today’s world is drawing our people away by “other” things (assimilation). At the very least, hire a Jewish tutor. Sadly, in most cases in America, after the child’s bar/bat Mitzvah, it’s the end of their Jewishness. It should be the beginning of their Jewish lives! When we do not continue to teach our children their identity (even if it’s into their twenties in age), Kombuth points out it would be like taking away all of their Jewish books; leaving them nothing! Because we are the “People of the Book” we are to continue Jewish studies. Jacob was a tent dweller (Torah study). Esau ran from it, red, wild and hairy.
  5. Positive in Jewish living: Keeping our Jewish identity is crucial. Smart parents pick their battles. Teaching comes by showing our true actions by being involved, and being real. Being real or not is noticed.

The secular world doesn’t accept “religious” ideas that are G-d’s instructions because darkness cannot comprehend light. I conclude that many place their Nefesh (a bundle of appetites, desires, and intellect) above their Ruach (Spirit), allowing the Nefesh to lead. I would suggest that social media and worldly interests are taking priority. Some teens may see hypocrisy and want to hang out with friends, losing interest in following Torah. Sadly, many teens today do not want to have accountability for their choices and/or lifestyles; leaving them with much confusion.

Teens, and adults alike, sometimes struggle with concrete evidence if it doesn’t fit their ideals. Hasatan is working overtime whispering lies to our children— self-deception. If hasatan can convince children, layman, and others that some of the Ten Commandments don’t apply anymore, prey on their weaknesses, then he (hasatan) can convince them to sabotage themselves, in sin,  just like Balaam when he deceived the Israelites to mix sexually (corruption) with the Moabites. It was the Moabites who tempted the Israelite men to commit adultery and idolatry. The Adversary will use what people desire against them to fall into sin.

The Nefesh is very strong and if we allow it to rise up above our Ruach (Spirit), we place our Ruach under our heel—at ground level. That isn’t a good place to be [ground level is placed in the dirt]. The Nefesh doesn’t like the words “no” or “wait”.  The Nefesh thinks it is going to die. If you recall Esau, he sold his birthright for some red soup. He thought he was going to die. He wasn’t going to die; he wanted what he wanted without waiting!

Balaam’s sin was a heart matter, he let his Nefesh lead, not his Ruach. Leaving heart matters unchecked without accountability can devise wicked plans. Balaam’s sin came from the fourth of the “Wicked Lamp” that is an abomination. It is very thought-provoking “Balaam” means “Burning” such as the burning of the desires of the Nefesh. “Balak” means Destroyer—no promise of Eternal Good.

Hashem knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will get our attention when He calls us to repentance. Sometimes Hashem will send the Adversary, one of His Agents, if that is what it’ll take to expose the sinner. He even sent a talking donkey once. The donkey was wiser than the man. Man falls into the “sin of Balaam” when there’s resistance to suffering. In other words, when we set our mind on things that are contrary to the will of G-d, we are resisting the trials Hashem set before us. Consequently, refusing to allow Hashem to work in our lives by not allowing the Father to transform us, like the angel of Hashem that opposed Balaam, we place ourselves into judgment.

What or who will we choose to “mirror” with our actions and attitudes? Our hearts are a heart matter that reflects our character. Who are we listening to? Do we want our ears entertained? What kind of movies are we watching at the expense of our spirit being forced to see? Are we holding our Ruach captive to the desires of the Nefesh?  Are we entertaining our Nefesh by justifying poor reasoning, dancing with forbidden fruit? What entertains our thoughts and eyes? It’s a heart matter, indeed.

We need to understand the seven abominations that G-d hates.

Proverbs 6:16-19

  • A proud look
  • A lying tongue
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations/plans
  • Feet that be swift in running to mischief/evil
  • A false witness that speaketh lies
  • He that soweth discord among brethren.

It’s important to receive GOOD COUNSEL and Hashem’s wisdom in all things. Are we seeking counsel from those who don’t have a relationship with the Father and/or despise Torah? Are we listening to others who speak negatively (evil speak) others? Are we listening to hasatan who whispers lies into our ears? Perhaps we should exercise g-dly wisdom to seek an individual for truth instead of seeking to have our ears entertained.

The Adversary has many angles to deceived our children (Adults too!). After all, he is an expert in his work! Self-deception is apparent when it is taught that the Torah is no longer validated.  This is a heart matter and the lust of the flesh. Eve (Chavah) was asked by the serpent, “Did He really say……?” Had Chavah gone back to the Father before answering, the outcome for her would have been different.

“A road may seem right to a man, but in the end it is a road to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)[6]

We need to have a desire to be in covenant with Hashem and have Teshuva (repent and return to Hashem). Justifying our selfish desires (spiritual adultery) removes man’s value of the Torah. We need to have a change of heart—one that is made of flesh, not stone. It is important to have a true relationship with our Father in Heaven, our Creator; honoring His Name on High. It’s time to allow the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) into our lives for comfort and good counsel. We need to be careful how we treat G-d’s Messengers. Did we disregard what was said? By whose ruling brought us to the point to ignore what someone else said? It doesn’t matter if we didn’t like what they said, are we sure Hashem didn’t use them to stir us up? Sometimes Hashem will use nonbelievers to get our attention.

Let’s join together under Hashem’s protective covering, His Cloud of Glory, His Sukkah, and allow Hashem’s provision to surround us by not remaining opened to the world’s ideals.

“For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you—declares the LORD—plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)[7] 

[1] Isaiah 11:1-3, Jewish Publication Society 1917

[2] Proverbs 16:25, Sefaria

[3] Jeremiah 17:9, The Stone Edition

[4] Psalms 25: 4-6, The Stone Edition

[5] All photos from Pixabay, free domain.

[6] Proverbs 14:12, Sefaria

[7] Jeremiah 29:6, Sefaria

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A Voice in the Midst

A Voice in the Midst

Communication can be very complex when the recipient cannot understand what the individual is trying to express. Communication is frustrating when there’s a breakdown from written language to verbal expression. When we communicate written language in a letter, email, or text, not seeing body language of the sender can leave the reader with uncertainty if there is sarcasm.

If the sender unintentionally leaves out additional information for clarity, it can also be a breakdown. However, the sender could have sent the message with perfect clarity, but the reader could be in a bad mood, or has past issues left unchecked; giving him/her the wrong temperament reading the message with a biased opinion.

Miscommunication can be daunting and hurtful to both parties. It comes down to motives and where our heart and thoughts are when messages are sent or received. Having said that, we need to be additionally careful on social media how we present ourselves. We should never use social media, such as Facebook, to call others out with intentions to shame or embarrass. If there’s a question of concern, a private message would show maturity and honor; looking for the good in others.

Using our voice can be another way to communicate. Having a voice gives one an advantage, in most cases, to express our needs. Our voice can ask questions, give directions, teach, as well as to scream for help. One can read stories to children, sing, laugh, give counsel, and pray with others with a voice. The list goes on. Our voices can be very powerful—the tongue. Trouble arrives when we don’t keep our heart and thoughts in check.

Our tongue can be a blessing or a curse to others, ourselves included. Language can build up or tear down. Our words can breathe life or death into others. Our voice is a gift from Hashem, therefore, wisdom should be used before we open our mouths. Do we want to speak love and life, or like a knife, cut people down by belittling and mocking that shatters them with a broken spirit? How we speak to others exposes and reveals our character and heart. From the heart speaks the mouth. A gentle tone goes a long way. A listening heart and a soft spoken word of encouragement is chesed (Lovingkindness).

Let’s imagine we are at the finest restaurant with the most exquisite foods. When the server places our dessert in front of us, what would it (our words spoken) taste like if we had to eat our own words? What taste would our tongue deliver? Would that spoonful be soft, sweet as honey that gives life and hope to others? Life within extends the beauty of Torah into the lives of others. On the other hand, would our words taste like poison that brings death? Would our words taste of death like a rotten carcass left in the heat? Words matter. Words are remembered by our souls.

Our “words” spoken to others, as well as to ourselves can build up and heal. A deeper connection of “words” holds a higher level of meaning; such as, words of encouragement, confidence, compassion, integrity, promise, and g-d- esteeming others. The words breathed out bring Life or Death. It’s a flood gate. The flooding of words can either bring hope and refreshment, or a hot-headed tongue that scorches like a forest fire. Our words manifest from our thoughts to our heart and it comes out of our mouth. Our tongue is a sharp-edged sword. When we cross blades with others, the Father hears and sees. May Hashem see our words of joy and healing.

The words we speak impacts our outlook in life, health included. It’s important to give ourselves grace, to be a friend to ourselves; especially when others may not be available emotionally. It can be discouraging when others are disconnected from G-d’s grace, but Hashem’s love for us surpasses everything. Hashem gives us His strength, and joy. Our Father in Heaven will carry us and wipe every tear shed. Our tears are held in a bottle.

“You keep count of my wanderings; put my tears into Your flask, into Your record.” (Psalms 56:9)[1]

Hashem knows our heart and thoughts. G-d will send trials that’ll reveal the measure of grace we give others. It’s never a good idea to ignore the Father when He is teaching goodly things. Evil speech (Lashon hara) is destructive and comes in forms of hurtful words such as: shaming, yelling, pointing fingers, lies, gossip, belittling, mocking, derogative, embarrassing others, especially in public. If one is yelling while the other person is in tears, a heart and tongue check needs to be evaluated with forgiveness requested.

Our words spoken determine who we are within. One should never be humiliated. The measure of grace, or lack of, is the same measure we will receive from G-d. How much mercy and grace do we want on Judgement Day? We need to take each step in life in “baby steps,” giving the measure of grace to others that we would want to receive from the Father.

When we listen to gossip, we become a participant in Lashon Hara (evil speech). In other words, as human beings, we are created to be in G-d’s image. The choice is to honor G-d by blessing others with our kind words and actions (good deeds), or its opposite that takes on the image of the Beast (beast and man were created on the sixth day) that dishonors G-d and others with evil inclination (Yetzer Hara).

Yetzer Hara takes on the Nefesh (soul/flesh) that acts on impulse. Evil inclination moves us away from the goodness of Hashem with selfish thoughts and/or self-gratification, self-praise (haughtiness), and acts as a self-appointed g-d. The tongue cuts like a knife. Once the harsh word leaves our mouth, it’s too late, it can’t be taken back. We can ask for forgiveness and start over with a change of heart; however, natural consequences of sin can remain.

Lashon hara is one who speaks with an evil tongue about another person regardless if it’s true, or not. They discredit the character of others with uncomplimentary words. Motzi shem means “evil reports.” One who spreads evil reports is malicious, and spreads evil. They are considered a moral leper.

There is a Chasidic tale about a man who went into the community spreading false reports about a Rabbi. His words were very hurtful, malicious, and slanderous. After a while, he felt guilty about his poor behavior and wanted to make a mends; asking the Rabbi for forgiveness. The Rabbi asked him to return to his home and take some of his feather pillows, cut them open and scatter the opened pillows throughout the room with the window opened for the breeze to come inside. The man thought it was a strange request but simple to do in order to receive the Rabbi’s forgiveness.

Returning to the home of the Rabbi to report what he had done, the Rabbi told him to return home to gather up the feathers. The man said it’s impossible to retract them, the feathers blew everywhere. The Rabbi told the man despite his change of heart and his sincerity to correct what was done, like the feathers, it’s impossible to gather the damage caused with words.

 “A man’s belly is filled by the fruit of his mouth; He will be filled by the produce of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue; Those who love it will eat its fruit. ” (Proverbs 18:20-21)[2]

Yetzer Hara is first mentioned in Genesis 6:5—“HASHEM saw the wickedness of Man was great upon the earth, and that every product of the thoughts of his heart was but evil always.”[3]

Our words should be a blessing that grow others in the breath of life, love, and truth; bringing honor to Hashem. When we use our words with Yetzer Hara (evil speak), we are violating G-d’s will and it invites the “spirit of impurity.” G-d’s righteousness doesn’t bow down to corruption.

There are times our voices need to be heard:

What about people with special needs who can make sounds with their voices but cannot speak, or is unable to make any sound due to a medical condition? They need their voice to be heard. Sign language and braille (for those who are blind) can be a blessing so that their “quiet voices” can be heard. Yet, there are others who are unable to use sign language; although, they can use communication devices. When it comes to programming communication devices, programming can be challenging. Some individuals are more advanced than others. Evaluations and observations can usually determine their level of understanding. However, in some cases, those methods are not always accurate. Every person is at a different learning level.

We learn at a different pace. Programming communication boards (iPad or other) for those who are nonverbal can become very challenging as it reveals the density of language. It’s more than a language barrier between two people from different countries trying to communicate. When one isn’t able to demonstrate what he/she understands, creating a device to meet the needs of the individual can be perplexing, especially if the child/adult doesn’t initiate the conversation.

When a communication device is designed to have a voice command state what the photo is, that’s the beginning of a new world for one who is nonverbal. The complexity is revealed when we “up the Ante” on the communication board. We realize that when two verbal people can carry on a conversation about anything, trying to design a touch screen device to mimic “conversations” is impossible. Although a simple question and answer can be programmed, they remain the same until it’s reprogrammed. As an advocate for those without a voice, it’s our responsibility to be that voice. We do our best and allow a lot of grace on each side. The nonverbal person becomes our teacher, and over time, we will reap those blessings when they come pouring out for the glory of Hashem.

No matter what we are able to do in life, Hashem hears our voice. He hears our thoughts and He knows our motives, struggles, plans, desires, fears, and concerns. We can learn from one who is nonverbal. When we enter a facility or a home with a special needs person, it’s important to take a few minutes to show kindness by acknowledging them. One might offer to read him/her a story, mention how nice they look, or comment on their beautiful smile. They are aware who spends time with them and who doesn’t. We are called to love one another—loving kindness (Chesed).

“Of HASHEM’S kindness I will sing forever; I will make Your faithfulness known to every generation with my mouth. 3 For I said, “Forever will [Your] kindness be built; the heavens, You establish Your faithfulness in them.” (Psalms 89:2-3) [4]

Language is a gift and so is the ability to hear. Will we hear (Shema) G-d when He calls? This type of hearing is from within. Hashem wrote His Torah upon our hearts. Isn’t it amazing that those who are nonverbal, physically deaf, and find it challenging to communicate with others in written, speech, sign, or with devices can still hear (Shema) the voice of G-d when He calls? In the same breath, those who are blessed with a voice to speak, and given the intelligence to understand written language with perfect hearing can be blind and deaf to the voice of G-d.

“Hear this, O nation that is foolish and without a heart,
They have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear!” (Jeremiah 5:21)[5]

Moses reminds us that G-d doesn’t seek blind obedience. “‘He wants us to listen, not just with our ears, but with the deepest resources of our minds. If G-d simply sought out obedience, He would have created robots, not human beings with a will of their own.[…] G-d, in making human beings “in His image,” was creating otherness. And the bridge between self and other is conversation: speaking and listening. When we speak, we tell others who we are. But when we listen, we allow others to tell us who they are. This is a supremely revelatory moment. And if we can’t listen to other people, then we certainly can’t listen to G-d, whose otherness is not relative but absolute.’”[6]

Courage is demonstrated when we open ourselves to others; giving someone an opportunity to be heard, understood, and cared for. It’s a spiritual act to listen to others, and to G-d. Listening to others is the greatest gift one could offer. It can be life-changing.

The question remains… how will we speak to others? Do our words edify? This is a very important question. Are we willing to listen to others?

We edify G-d’s creation by acknowledging the value in others. Our choices reveal our character, and our heart. Will we breathe life or death into others? Will we bring blessings or cursing with our speech? Will we honor, or shame and embarrass others? What do our words taste like? I hope our words taste like the sweetness of honey, edifying others with lovingkindness.

Chofetz Chaim reminds us in A Lesson A Day, “‘[…] when anger comes upon a person, he guards the sanctity of his soul and does not allow it to become uprooted and replaced by the “foreign g-d” [that is anger], then he is a person who is fit to be near. However, if he does not guard the sanctity of his soul, allowing it to become uprooted so that the “other side” can dwell in its place, surely he is a person who rebels against his Master, and it is forbidden to seek his company… he is a person who “tears apart his soul in his anger” (Iyov 18:4).’”

Death and Life are in the tongue’s power.

The measure we give others is the measure we receive from G-d. In other words, if we hope to receive grace and mercy from G-d, we need to extend that same amount of grace and mercy to others (if not more), ourselves included. When we hold on to anger it is holding on to idolatry.

We never know what Hashem is doing in the lives of others. Like a seed planted in dirt, it remains in a dark place for a certain amount of time to germinate. However, during that time, life is happening. There is movement. We don’t see it on the surface until growth sprouts. There is life in that seed and the Father is watching. He is watching the seeds, the soil, and the ones planting. He is also watching those who throw toxic weed seeds (hurtful words and poor actions) in His Garden. Our words can either demonstrate kindness through intelligent speech that esteem others, or words of the beast that hurt and tear down like the tearing of teeth from a beast that rips into flesh for pleasure.

Let our words lift up each other in prayer and song. Let our voices call out to Hashem with joy and praises; thanking G-d for everything. Let’s breathe out words of life that bursts forth sprouts of life that encourages others.

Our voice comes through our mouth. Hebrew for mouth (speech and silence) is Peh. Peh also represents the gematria value of eighty. Eighty is “spiritual strength to control the body impulses. A person develops this maturity with ripening age.” (Tiferes Yisrael) Ironically, Moses was eighty years old when G-d sanctified Moses with His words to speak properly. Moses did not remain stagnant in his old age; he continued to learn to serve G-d and others.

 “And HASHEM G-d formed the man of dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) [7]

Whether our words are verbalized or left in silence, our thoughts bring forth actions, emotions, spirituality, and physical transformation into fruition. Will our basket of offerings be sweet as honey or rotten?

“The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the firmament tells of His handiwork. Day following day utters speech, and night following night declares knowledge. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is not heard. [But] their precision goes forth throughout the earth, and their words reach the end of the inhabited world. In their midst He has set up a tent for the sun, which is like a groom emerging from his bridal chamber, it rejoices like a powerful warrior to run the course.  Its source is the end of the heavens and its circuit is to their end; nothing is hidden from its heat. The Torah of HASHEM is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of HASHEM is trustworthy, making the simple one wise; the orders of HASHEM are upright, gladdening the heart; the command of HASHEM is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of HASHEM is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of HASHEM are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, than even much fine gold; and sweeter than honey, and drippings from the combs. Also, when Your servant is scrupulous in them, in observing them there is great reward. by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern mistakes? Cleanse me from unperceived faults. Also from intentional sins restrain Your servant; let them not rule me, then I will be perfect; and I will be cleansed of great transgression. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HASHEM, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:2-15)[8]

There will be times we feel as though our prayers are not heard, isolated, and alone. Hashem holds every tear we’ve cried, and one day HIS GLORY will rain on us with amazing joy that is “Heavenly Scented.”

We need to remember the ones who are nonverbal that G-d hears them just as much as He hears us. Our words don’t need to be physically vocalized; it is given through breathing life into others with blessings and good deeds. Our voices, silent or not, are heard by the Father. The Torah is the Lamp of His Light—Amen!

The Midrash states, “Words, like the ocean, can be stormy or calm. An evil mouth, like turbulent waves, can destroy and kill. A sharp tongue, like deep water, is feared. Good words, like pearls on the ocean floor, are precious…” (Midrash Alpha Beisa)

As we study Torah with an eagerness to learn, what benefit is a beautiful flower that blossomed in the middle of an isolated desert. In other words, when we are gathered to learn Torah, we acquire wisdom (Chokmah) when to teach, or when to remain silent. We can use our Peh and bring Torah to others to benefit from that same wisdom.

My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. To those who curse me, let my soul be silent; and let my soul be like dust to everyone. Open my heart to Your Torah, then my soul will pursue Your commandments. As for all those who oppose and who design evil against me, speedily nullify their counsel and disrupt their design. May it be your will, Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my forefathers, that human jealousy may not rise up against me, nor my jealousy upon others; may I not become angry today, and may I not anger You. Rescue me from the Evil inclination, and place my heart submissiveness and humility. O our King and our G-d, cause Your Name to be unified in Your world; rebuild Your city, lay the foundation of Your House, perfect Your sanctuary; gather in the scattered exiles, redeem Your sheep, and gladden your congregation. Act for Your Name’s sake; act for Your right hand’s sake; act for Your Torah’s sake; act for Your sanctity’s sake. That Your beloved ones may be given rest; let Your right hand save, and respond to me. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem my Rock and my Redeemer.” (The Complete Artscroll Siddur)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so  that  you will follow My decrees and guard My ordinances and fulfill them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)[9]

Shalom!

 

[1] Psalms 56:9, Sefaria

[2] Proverbs 18:20-21, Sefaria

[3] Genesis 6:5, The Stone Edition

[4] Psalms 89:2-3, The Stone Edition

[5] Jeremiah 5:21, The Stone Edition

[6] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/4091059/jewish/Listen-Really-Listen.htm

[7] Genesis 2:7, The Stone Edition

[8] Psalms 19:2-19, The Stone

[9] Ezekiel 36:26-27, The Stone Edition

 

 

Categories: Musings & Blessings, Women of Valor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shemot/Shemos (Names)

Shemot/ Shemos (Names)

Exodus 1:1-6:1

Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 (Haftarah)

As we continue our journey in the Torah Portions, we will have a better understanding of why “Names” are important to Hashem. The ones who love and give glory to Hashem, their names become very important to HIM.

It is amazing how Genesis and Exodus are tied together! As we delve into this Parshah you’ll be able to see the connections in the Creation Story. Hashem separated the light from the darkness, and it happened again in Exodus when Hashem separated the Israelites (with light), and Mitsrayim (Egypt) with darkness.  As we study these Portions, you’ll often see a phrase that is used often: seeing, saw, or to see. It is more than just seeing with the eyes, but to actually see within, taking notice, and having empathy for others.

I find the following connections (patterns) very exciting: The Ark that Noah built under the direction of Elokim and the Ark (basket) that Moses floated in, in the reeds were both covered in tar and pitch—the exact same substance! Moses, as a baby, floated along the Nile in the reeds, and when Elokim used him as the Deliverer, they were taken through the water—the Reed Sea.

Looking back, when Joseph (Yosef) was in Egypt with his family, life was good. They were taken very well care of so why would they want to go to the Promised Land? Isn’t it interesting to note that we tend to be like that too? When life is going great and everything seems to be going our way (in our comfort zone), do we like to be moved into a different place or given a different agenda? Hummmm.

Let’s continue on our exciting study of Moshe (Moses) in Exodus and see what it is that Hashem calls for.

~These are the names of the people who are exiting Mitsrayim (Egypt) ~

“‘These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each coming with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. The total number of persons that were of Jacob’s issue came to seventy, Joseph being already in Egypt. Joseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation. But the Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them. A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.” So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor; and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field. The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, saying, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, look at the birthstool: if it is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, fearing G-d, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth.” And G-d dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and increased greatly. And because the midwives feared G-d, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, “Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.’” (Exodus 1:1-22)[1]

The Pharaoh decreed all of the baby boys to be cast into the river, but to keep the female children. To cast out is a very strong word as in to “throw out the trash.”  A decree to kill children is a very evil act; having much violence, fear, and hate. The meaning behind the name of “Pharaoh” is “The mouth of evil being spoken. “Pharaoh’s name isn’t mentioned, but the names of the two Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Pu‘ah, mean Shofar and Beautiful. The midwives were given an order to kill all baby boys born. That would have been very scary and tragic, but they had a greater fear for Elokim. They refused to kill the baby boys. The Israelites grew abundantly and multiplied.

The women of Israel actually set the foundation….

Pharaoh’s plans for the annihilation of the Israelite children are defeated by women—the human feelings of the midwives, and the tender sympathy of a woman of a royal birth, and a sister’s watchfulness in extremity. It was to the merit of the pious women that Israel owed it’s redemption in Egypt, say the Rabbis.”[4]

A side note: Indecently on the count of “70” descendants, the mother of Moses was the “70th” (69 +1).  Yocheved, birth mother of Moshe (Moses), was the daughter of Levi. Yocheved was married to Amram (grandson of Levi). Because of the age of Moses’ mother (130 years), she married her nephew (Amram) for a man young enough to father children [Yocheved was older than the age of Sarah when Sarah conceived]. Aaron was born three years earlier than Moses, Miriam was the oldest sibling. Moses was born just as they arrived in Mitsrayim (Egypt). Moses was born circumcised. Later on, Moses married Zipporah, who would later circumcise their son to save the life of Moses.

Yocheved in Hebrew means “Glory of G-d”. Moses’ father’s name, Amram, means “An exalted people.” Moses’ name was Egyptian, but Jews give names to their sons on the eighth day during circumcision. His Jewish name is believed to be “Tovia.” He was a “Goodly” child.

 When the Glory of G-d is wed (Bride) with the exalted people (His Chosen) Redemption is our New Beginnings, called GOOD.

Yocheved could no longer hide her baby after three months (Moshe was three months premature). She made a wicker ark, coated it with tar and pitch, and laid the baby boy in the basket in the reeds of the river. She sent Miriam, his sister, to keep watch to where the ark went. The Pharaoh’s daughter was down at the river to wash (Mikvah). When she saw something floating, she sent her maidservant to get it. When the Pharaoh’s daughter opened up the wicker ark, saw a weeping baby, she took compassion upon the child and said, “This is one of the children of the Hebrews.” The sister of the baby asked if she should go and call for a wet nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child. Of course, she said “yes.” Interesting that the Egyptian women would have never done that, but a blessing they didn’t! Miriam fetched her mom.

The Pharaoh’s daughter told the woman to take the baby, nurse him, and to bring him to her when he no longer needed to be nursed. She paid her wages. The mother brought Moshe back to the Pharaoh’s daughter when he was older. He became the Pharaoh’s daughter’s son by adoption, named Moshe “Because I have drawn him out of the water.”

When Moses had grown and became great, he had empathy for others. He was able to set aside his “role” and have understanding and compassion for the feelings of others—he noticed!

He looked and noticed the burdens of the Hebrew slaves. He saw a Mitsrian (Egyptian) striking (whip) a Hebrew slave (his brother)/ Moshe looked this way and that way, smote the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand. And the next day, he broke-up a fight between two Hebrews (it would seem he wanted to resolve matters, keep others from being oppressed, and desired people to live in harmony). But when they asked Moses who made him the judge, and if he was going to kill them like the Egyptian, Moses became fearful that the Pharaoh would kill him and he fled to Midian. As he sat by the well in Midian, the priest’s (seven) daughters came to their father’s well to draw water, they poured water into the troughs to water the flock. Some shepherds arrived and drove them away, but Moshe stood up, helped the women, and watered their flock.

 “When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why did you leave the man? Ask him in to break bread.” Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah as wife. She bore a son whom he named Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.” A long time after that, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to G-d. G-d heard their moaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. G-d looked upon the Israelites, and G-d took notice of them.” (Exodus 2: 18-25)[2]

Re’u’el is a title of Yitro- meaning “Friend of G-d.”

 

“‘Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of G-d. An angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up?” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, G-d called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am,” He said, “the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at G-d. And the LORD continued, “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the region of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover, I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.” But Moses said to G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship G-d at this mountain.” Moses said to G-d, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And G-d said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’” And G-d said further to Moses, “Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: The LORD, the G-d of your fathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob, has sent me to you: This shall be My name forever, This My appellation for all eternity.’” (Exodus 3:1-15)[3]

Hashem SAW that Moshe looked and saw the bush burning, yet Moshe NOTICED it was not being consumed. He didn’t just walk by it…. Not only did Hashem reveal to Moshe who He was by stating the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob (Israel), but Hashem told Moshe His Name, which was never revealed to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.

WOW!! This is so powerful, and so humbling. Hashem’s name is above all others, Creator of all things– seen and unseen. Hashem wants us to personally know, believe, trust and love Him.

As I mentioned earlier, some may not want to be moved from their comfort zone. They may be too prideful, fearful, or set in their own “beliefs.” Only the Ruach ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) can set their hearts on Hashem. The Pharaoh was set in his ways, and his arrogance and pride hardened his heart from allowing Hashem to teach him differently (though he learned later—the hard way).

We need to remain teachable so that our hearts don’t harden from learning Torah.

At the burning bush, Moshe was given Hashem’s word that He would be with Moses, and would be his voice. He said, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be].” Hashem wanted Moses to be sure to tell the children of Israel that G-d has surly visited himThey would then know Elohim has sent the deliverer as Joseph told the people before he died –that Hashem would surly visit them and they would carry his (Joseph’s) bones out of Egypt. So this phrase was a secret code Pakod Pakadeti—I remember I remember!  I have remembered to take you out of Egypt and to bring you all to Eretz Yisrael. And they would know it was true!

The amazing thing about this is the Children of Israel knew Moses had a speech impediment (his lips were burned with hot coals as a toddler), with Moses saying this Hebrew word, Pakod Pakadeti , perfectly, they saw a miracle had taken place!

“‘But Moses spoke up and said, “What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me, but say: The LORD did not appear to you?” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he replied, “A rod.” He said, “Cast it on the ground.” He cast it on the ground and it became a snake; and Moses recoiled from it. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and grasp it by the tail”—he put out his hand and seized it, and it became a rod in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob, did appear to you.” The LORD said to him further, “Put your hand into your bosom.” He put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, his hand was encrusted with snowy scales! And He said, “Put your hand back into your bosom.”—He put his hand back into his bosom; and when he took it out of his bosom, there it was again like the rest of his body.— “And if they do not believe you or pay heed to the first sign, they will believe the second. And if they are not convinced by both these signs and still do not heed you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and it—the water that you take from the Nile—will turn to blood on the dry ground.’” (Exodus 4:1-9)[4]

I need to point out some interesting connections:

  1. Did you notice that Moshe “fled from the serpent” in fear and Elokim wanted him to overcome the serpent; yet in Genesis, the serpent ruled over man by trickery? We need to trust that Hashem has everything in His power! Interesting spin on this!
  2. There are (3) signs Hashem speaks of that will come into play. G-d is a G-d of patterns. Hashem gave three signs for the Pharaoh to see: The staff (serpent), healing of the hand and water turned to blood.

Let’s look a little more:

“‘But Moses said to the LORD, “Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” And the LORD said to him, “Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and I will be with you as you speak and will instruct you what to say.” But he said, “Please, O Lord, make someone else Your agent.” The LORD became angry with Moses, and He said, “There is your brother Aaron the Levite. He, I know, speaks readily. Even now he is setting out to meet you, and he will be happy to see you. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth—I will be with you and with him as you speak, and tell both of you what to do— and he shall speak for you to the people. Thus he shall serve as your spokesman, with you playing the role of G-d to him, and take with you this rod, with which you shall perform the signs.” Moses went back to his father-in-law Jether and said to him, “Let me go back to my kinsmen in Egypt and see how they are faring.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” The LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought to kill you are dead.” So Moses took his wife and sons, mounted them on an ass, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses took the rod of G-d with him. And the LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the marvels that I have put within your power. I, however, will stiffen his heart so that he will not let the people go.’” (Exodus 4:10-21) [5]

Do we sometimes feel as though we are not qualified to be called as Hashem’s servant?  We tend to forget Hashem doesn’t call the qualified. He calls those who are available and willing. Why do we limit Hashem’s power to perform miracles through us? He called Moshe by name, showed him signs, and yet, Hashem’s power was still questioned. We do not always trust the ONE who created us. Our Nefesh (flesh) cannot see or know what is spiritual because the Nefesh only knows what is carnal. It’s important that we place our Nefesh under our heel, allow Hashem to lead, and always trust Hashem ways are good. When we allow fear to rise up, we cannot function correctly; giving into the adversary (Evil Inclination).

How many times have we said to Hashem “I can’t do it, I am not qualified, send someone else?” Let’s be mindful and trust our Creator has a purpose and a plan for each and everyone one of us. Hashem loves and wants to bless us with great rewards.  I think Moshe felt very intimidated having a speech impediment, unknowingly to what he was actually doing; placing his problems above Hashem’s capabilities (pride).

When G-d “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart, in the Hebrew, “hardened” means to strengthen. Elohim didn’t want the Pharaoh to give up his challenge and just let G-d have His way out of fear. Hashem wanted Pharaoh to have a change of heart, to turn his direction to Hashem’s way, and to repent. Hashem knew Pharaoh would need the strength to able to stand up against G-d without feeling fearful. Hashem “strengthened/ chazak” Pharaoh’s heart. The difference is: G-d strengthened Pharaoh’s heart, and when Pharaoh hardened his own heart, he let pride and arrogance rule him.

The Israelites only experienced the first three signs, while Egypt experienced the last seven as well. The Israelites were given light; they were covered (protected) while Egypt was not under Hashem’s covering. Of course, the lamb’s blood and blood from the circumcised males were placed on the door posts for death to Passover. Pesach is one of the commanded festivals to be kept for all generations. Hashem separates before the in-gathering.

I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you…

Then the humble shall have increasing joy through the LORD, And the neediest of men shall exult In the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant shall be no more, The scoffer shall cease to be; And those diligent for evil shall be wiped out, Who cause men to lose their lawsuits, Laying a snare for the arbiter at the gate, And wronging by falsehood Him who was in the right. Assuredly, thus said the LORD to the House of Jacob, Who redeemed Abraham: No more shall Jacob be shamed, No longer his face grow pale. For when he—that is, his children—behold what My hands have wrought in his midst, they will hallow My name. Men will hallow the Holy One of Jacob And stand in awe of the God of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29: 19-23)[6]

We have worked through this Parshah. Hopefully, more connections were made. It is so humbling and amazing how much love Hashem has for us. It is hard to understand how a G-d with so much Power and Glory, WHO is full of Majesty, loves us with an indescribable compassion. Very humbling.

Shalom!

 

 

[1] Exodus 1:1-22, Sefaria

[2] Exodus 2:18-25, Sefaria

[3] Exodus 3:1-15, Sefaria

[4] Exodus 4:1-9, Sefaria

[5] Exodus 4: 10-21, Sefaria

[6] Isaiah 29: 19-23, Sefaria

Categories: Mikveh, Torah Portions, Women of Valor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bereishit/ Bereishis (Part 2)

Bereishit/ Bereishis (Part 2)

Tishrei—In the Beginning

Gen. 1:1-6:8

 Is. 42:5-43:10 (Haftarah)

 

Welcome back to Bereishit/Bereishis. If you haven’t read Bereishit Part 1, you can click here.

We will look for the connections of the four rivers and learn its significance to the Creation Story. As we recall, Bereishit/ Bereishis means “In the Beginning.” So in the beginning, there were events that were very substantial: The Creation of the heavens and the earth, Adam and Eve, the first sins, and the first argument with Kain and Abel over the appointed times, curses, and their consequences.

We will focus on the four rivers:

Draw near to Me and hear this: From the beginning, I did not speak in secret; From the time anything existed, I was there. “And now the Lord G-d has sent me, endowed with His spirit.” Thus said the LORD your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: I the LORD am your G-d, Instructing you for your own benefit. Guiding you in the way you should go. If only you would heed My commands! Then your prosperity would be like a river, Your triumph like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:16-18)[1]

Hashem has warned us to heed His Torah, keep His Festivals, as they are His Will. Hashem said if we love Him, to keep His Mitzvoth (commandments). The Torah is Light. Hashem is our Redeemer and G-d. We need to pay very close attention to obey His commandments so that our well-being would flow like a river…

The seven days of Creation were set in patterns. These patterns have chiastic connections as well as contranyms (at their opposite). G-d is a G-d of order. In other words, the events during Creation, Adam and Eve (Chavah), Kain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, as well as others, were established with a purpose—not randomly.

Hashem’s appointed times are known as calendar dates Hashem established; connecting the fourth day of creation: sun, moon, and stars that governs our days and nights. Those seasons are also the (3) pilgrimages: Pesach , Shavuot, and Sukkot .

Kain and Abel brought their offerings to Hashem at Sukkot, but Kain’s did not meet the criteria and fell short because his offering wasn’t his firstfruits, just fruits. Kain didn’t give his best to Elokim, just the leftovers. We, too, are to give Hashem our best offerings. Our offerings to Hashem are from what comes from our heart and lips since we don’t have our third Temple, yet. From the mouth speaks the heart.

Eden’s primary river isn’t mentioned by Name, Hashem is the source of life in water, as well as the Tree of Life.

If we look at a rainbow photo from NASA, we see a rainbow is circular. The Biblical Festivals start back to the beginning from the end. The Garden had four rivers with a main source giving direction. The essence of the four rivers is to increase and burst forth with fruit. This includes the seasons of chag: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, which also are the firstfruits offerings. The River in the Garden also gave off a mist that controled the climate and atmosphere for the Garden. Because it is a carbon-based earth, it makes it the perfect environment for trees, plants, all living creatures, including man. This plan was not only perfect, but very soothing for the man’s souls and spirit and a body made from dirt. It was also a dwelling for the Father to communicate with man. This was the plan for man to exist within the boundaries established in which man and G-d could fellowship together.

What is fascinating is the chiastic Menorah’s description that not only applies to the  Spirits of G-d (Isaiah 11:2-3) , seven Festivals, with the seven days of Creation, but it includes the branches of the four rivers that all flow from the same source—The Garden of Eden.

Such is the story of heaven and earth when they were created. When the LORD G-d made earth and heaven— when no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because the LORD G-d had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a flow would well up from the ground and water the whole surface of the earth— the LORD G-d formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. The LORD G-d planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. And from the ground the LORD G-d caused to grow every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad. A river issues from Eden to water the garden, and it then divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon, the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where the gold is. (The gold of that land is good; bdellium is there, and lapis lazuli.) The name of the second river is Gihon, the one that winds through the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, the one that flows east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD G-d took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.” (Genesis 2:4-15)[2]

The river flowed out of Eden to water the Garden. The head of the river divides into four rivers. Pishon and Gihon have recurring qualities that return, circular. Hashem’s Festivals always return on the calendar, and like good gold, and precious stones, we too shall thirst for Torah, and become refined.

Rivers of Eden

As you view the Menorah, you’ll be able to see the 4 Rivers.

EUPHRATES/PERAT   is the middle branch, which is the furthest boundary of Israel; yet, the fruit of it is being the Great River. The middle branch feeds out to the others.

“I will set your borders from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of Philistia, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hands, and you will drive them out before you.” (Exodus 23:31)[3]

Even though there isn’t a description of its movement, it is still synonymous with Shavuot and it corresponds with Sukkot. The chagim (3 pilgrimages) are all first-fruit offerings. Shavuot is first-fruits of wheat. This represents the Ruach ha’Kodesh, which is located on the fourth menorah candlestick—Center!

“The Euphrates River is later mentioned in G‑d’s promise to Abraham regarding the Land of Israel, and is used as one of the defining borders of the Promised Land. We are also told that there was a time when Jewish civilization had spread so far that members of the tribe of Reuben were living all the way to the banks of the Euphrates!”[4]

PISHON

Pishon means to increase. Looking at the menorah of the four rivers provided, you will notice that the Pishon River “heads” or divides into the 1st and the 7th branches. The movement of the Pishon River is surrounding (savav), and is thought to represent the Nile.

The plagues and the Nile originated during the Exodus Passover. Looking at the menorah provided, on the far left branch (branch one) it is also Passover (first festival) which is Israel’s account to have increase. Just like in Creation when Elokim separated the light from the darkness, Goshen was separated from the darkness that was sent to Egypt. The more the Egyptians afflicted the Israelites, the more the Israelites increased in number; which was concerning to the Pharaoh! The increase of the Pishon River and the increase of the Israelites (Plagues of the Nile) do parallel concisely.

Now, let’s look at the seventh branch (far one to the right—last one). The 7th branch is also the Sukkot. Sukkot is celebrated in remembrance of the Passover—a chiastic connection! This also represents Wisdom/Chokmah and Reverence of Hashem.We know there are seven days in creation, seven Spirits of Hashem, seven Festivals that are appointed times to gather with Hashem. So let’s try and place the dot-to-dots on this.

 

One will begin on the far left branch; working its way over to the last branch on the far right of the Menorah.

  1. Spirit of Wisdom (Chokmah)/PesachLight & Darkness
  2. Spirit of Understanding (Binah)/ Unleavened Bread(Chag HaMatzah)/ Upper and Lower Waters
  3. Spirit of Counsel (Etzah)/First fruits of Barley(Yom HaBikkurim)/Earth, Fruit, Seed, plants
  4. Ruach/ Shavuot/Sun, moon, stars
  5. Spirit of Power (Gvurah)/ Rosh Hashanah/ Birds and Fish
  6. Spirit of Knowledge (Daat)/ Day of Atonement (Yom Hakippurim)/ Beast and Man
  7. Spirit of Reverence/Fear (Yirat Adonai)/ Sukkot/ Sabbath (Shabbat/ Shabbos)

Please don’t let this overwhelm you! It takes time for it to soak into our thoughts. We all have been programmed to just surface read; scratching the surface. Torah is much deeper than just surface reading. I don’t know of you like onions, or not, but imagine one in front of you. I will imagine the red onion—yummy, sweet with a kick. One can cut that onion easily enough in half. But if you take the onion and begin to peel off each layer, one layer at a time, you’re going to be there awhile soaking up its juices. Learning Torah are layers upon layers. In other words, the more we study Torah, the more we will have a better understanding on a deeper level in Hashem’s Presence.

OK, before I trail off too far, let’s get back to the Four Rivers!

 

GICHON

Gichon divides into the second and sixth branch, described as bursting forth. To draw forth as to give birth. On the second branch, there is Binah, which means to build (Understanding), Chag Hamatzah (Unleavened Bread) chiastically connects to the sixth branch of Da’at which means knowledge, Yom HaKippurium (Day of Atonement).

Song of Solomon 6:10

On Yom Kippur, which is the sixth day, the High Priest is anointed just as King Solomon (builder/Ruach Binah) of the first temple. The anointing was at Gihon—another connection!

CHIDEKKEL

Chidekkel (noisy, rapid, roaring, Tigris). This will be a division into the third and fifth branches of the Menorah.

The Hebrew word, halakha, means “walks” or “goes” in a movement.

Connections:

  • Fifth day of Creation-birds and fish moved rapidly.
  • Fifth festival, Rosh Hashanah, blowing the shofar that is very noisy!
  • First Fruits of Barley.
  • Etzah (Spirit of Counsel) and Gvurah (Power).

The main river came from the Throne itself, giving nourishment to the Garden of Eden. Adam was in charge of moving the water, but he was not the creator of the water. Adam was able to freely irrigate the garden, trees included. He was given charge over the care and keep of the Garden. Adam’s physical and spiritual strength soon came to a weakened area after he sinned. After the fall, cultivating the soil became a lot harder- breaking sweat; fighting weeds.

Since Adam was placed in the Garden after he was created, we need to remember that it was Elokim Who caused the trees and plant life to grow. Adam was Hashem’s partner; having the reward of the Ruach ha’ Kodesh.

Hashem is the source of this nourishment– Water. He sustains life, and we, as His servants, are happy to help (good deeds). Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot are the rivers that give nourishment/drink in order to provide that water to “Good Gold” and “Precious Stones.” In other words, humans were created to walk through this water—Eden’s Four Rivers.

BDELLIUM

When the Israelites were in the wilderness with Moses for 40 years, Hashem sustained their needs. For example, their leather shoes and clothing lasted as the material never wore out. For forty years the Father provided and gave them Manna for their daily food. The manna was a miracle that happened every six days. On the sixth day, they would gather a double portion to have rest on the seventh day. Manna was not given on the seventh day so they had to plan accordingly.

“The house of Israel named it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers in honey.” (Exodus 16:31)[5]

The appearance of manna resembled Bdellium, which was a precious stone that was encircled in the land of Havilah of the Pishon River. The seventh river, Pishon, boarders the land of Havilah where the bedolach was. Sabbath is identified with set apart– holy.

I think it is fascinating that the connection of bdellium is found to sparkle and glisten like a rainbow-crystal clear, and Manna was sparkly; wet clear dew for the Israelites! The dew would have glistened in the sunlight, refracting the prism of the rainbow. Moreover, if you take the menorah and tip it upside down, you’ll see a rainbow. It also looks like a bow and arrow readily to hit the mark—to be on target –Torah. Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful message given to us from our Father directly from the Throne of Glory?!

A psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah. God, You are my God; I search for You, my soul thirsts for You, my body yearns for You, as a parched and thirsty land that has no water. I shall behold You in the sanctuary, and see Your might and glory.” (Psalms 63:1-3)[6]

The Onyx Stone

The Onyx is another precious stone of Havilah which appears black, but’s contranym (opposite of itself) is likely a whitening process. Shoham, Hebrew word for onyx appears to mean “ to blanch.” This would be the idea of making something holy by whitening. The priests of the Temple wore white linen garments. The linen was made of shesh.

Shen is one of the Hebrew letters in their alphabet. Shen means teeth. In Hebrew, the Shesh is spelled with (2) shens, which literally places the whiteness of the linen, and it also has a fiery connotation with the number six. If you look back to the menorah, or day six of Creation, you’ll soon recognize that on day six was the day that beast and man were created.

The 12 stones represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The shoham stones were connected to the breastplate (choshen) upon the priest’s shoulder using gold chains.

“For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named “The Mighty G-d is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.” (Isaiah 9:5)[7]

When we surface read, as taught in Western/ Greek cultures, we miss so much! It is exciting to have the true understanding of Torah. I can only hope we are able to peel back those onion layers to really get into the depth of Hashem’s precious word.

Conclusion

Hashem is the Aleph and the Tav. He is the beginning and the end; which of course after the seventh day (completeness), the eighth day is a new beginning—full circle!

He is our Creator, we are His creation. The main river came from the Throne of Glory, giving nourishment to the Garden of Eden.

Adam was in charge of moving the water, but he was not the creator of the water. Adam was able to freely irrigate the garden, trees included. Hashem is the source of this nourishment- Hashem’s River of Life. He sustains life, and as His servants, we should rejoice as He is our Rock of Salvation! Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot are the rivers that give nourishment/drink in order to provide that water to “Good Gold” and “Precious Stones.”

The Four Rivers came from the Thorne of Glory, pouring into into Gan Eden! Hashem is our Life Source.

Shalom!

 

[1] Isaiah 48:16-18, Sefaria

[2] Genesis 2:4-15, Sefaria

[3] Exodus 23:31, Sefaria

[4] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/3082157/jewish/Where-Are-the-Four-Rivers-that-Come-from-Eden.htm

[5] Exodus 16:31, Sefaria

[6] Psalms 63:1-3, Sefaria

[7] Isaiah 9:5, Sefaria

Categories: Jewish Festivals, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bereishit/ Bereishis (Part 1)

 

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Bereishit/Bereishis

Tishrei —In the Beginning

Gen. 1:1-6:8

 Is. 42:5-43:10   (Haftarah)

 

Hashem’s Torah is our treasure of Truth, Light, and Life.

As we open up our Holy Tanach to Genesis we are blessed to read: “In the beginning of G-d’s creating—the heavens and the earth.” [1]

 

One Day:

When G-d began to create heaven and earth— the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from G-d sweeping over the water— G-d said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness. G-d called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5) [2]

Hashem is Light. Wind is Spirit (Ruach) of  G-d Who hovered over the waters of Chaos. On Creation Day One, darkness was separated by light. Light was called  Day, and darkness was called Night. Hashem said it was Good, Tov.

Day Two:

“G-d said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, that it may separate water from water.” G-d made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. G-d called the expanse Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.”(Genesis 1:6-8)[3]

Day Two was the separation of the expanse (Rakiah) between the upper (heavenly/Shamayim), and the lower (earthly/Mayim) waters. The firmament was separated the upper and lower waters. The Heavens in Hebrew is “Schamiam.

Day Three:

 G-d said, “‘Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear.” And it was so. G-d called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good. And G-d said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.’”(Genesis 1:10-14)[4]

Day Three was a gathering of the lower waters into one place so that dry land could appear. The gatherings of the waters were called Seas, and the land gathered was called earth. There was vegetation, seed-bearing plants, and fruit-bearing trees. G-d called it good.

Day Four:

G-d said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years; and they serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so. G-d made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And G-d set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And G-d saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” (Genesis 1:15-20)[5]

Day Four, Hashem gave us His set times, the Moedim. The sun, moon, and stars were created to be great lights: the sun to dominate day, while the moon to give lesser light at night. The day separates the darkness– Rulership. To Govern. And G-d said it was good. We, too, are to illuminate Hashem’s light, bringing Torah to others in kindness. Like the moon, our face should illuminate His Truth that shines down on us.

G-d is our King and Ruler. He is Sovereign Who created the heavens and the earth. He is our Shield and Protector. He is merciful, yet “Elohim” means judgment. Man cannot live under strict justice alone. Man needs a merciful G-d in order to have existence. Hashem’s righteousness is too powerful contrary to our sinful nature.

Our Father knew we needed Hashem’s mercy, a delicate balance of Mercy and Justice. “Reisheet t’vuato” is referred to the Children of Israel as the “First Fruits” of Hashem’s Harvest, according to Jeremiah 2:3. Israel is Holy to Hashem.

“Through the reishis Hashem created [the heavens and the earth],” and reishis means Torah, as in “Hashem made me [the Torah] the beginning (reishis) of His way” (Proverbs 8:22) [6]

Hashem created the world for the sake of Israel. Hashem made the Torah, and He created His Throne of Glory. Hashem is Light yet, be He can be concealed in darkness by restricting too much light into the world. The darkness cannot comprehend light. This reminds us when Moses returned down the mountain, the people couldn’t bear to look at the brightness of Moses’ face; therefore, he covered his face from the people.

Day Five:

“G-d said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” G-d created the great sea monsters, and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And G-d saw that this was good. G-d blessed them, saying, “Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” (Genesis 1: 21-24)[7]

Day Five was creation of birds of the sky and fish of the sea. Hashem blessed them to be fruitful and multiply (according to its kind). Hashem endowed the living creatures to reproduce,  to teem in swarms of currents in the wind, or through water; rapidly with Hashem’s might and power given. G-d said it was good.

Likewise, with Torah, we are to take the Torah out to the Nations, rapidly, planting our Father’s seeds of Truth; bringing G-d’s Light to others.

“Come and see how powerful is the might of the Torah, and how high it rises above all! Because whoever conducts his life according to the Torah has no fear of those above or below, and mishaps or illnesses of this world do not concern him. Through the Torah, he is attached to the Tree of Life and learns from it every day.”(Zohar 1:11a, 3)[8]

Day Six:

G-d said, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind.” And it was so. G-d made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And G-d saw that this was good. And G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.” And G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them. G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.” G-d said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. And to all the animals on land, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that creeps on earth, in which there is the breath of life, [I give] all the green plants for food.” And it was so. And G-d saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. “(Genesis 1:25-31)[9]

Day Six was the creation of Beast and Man. Hashem provided light, soil, water, seeds, plants, trees, and food for all living creatures, and Man. Beast needed to be created before Man so that Man (Human kind) could have domain over all things. Adam came from the dust. G-d blew in the Breath of Life, Ruach, into Adam’s nostrils. With the dust being formed into man, we can only imagine a little of the kneading and forming by making Challah, separating it with a blessings. Chavah (Eve) was designed from Adam’s rib. She didn’t come from his heel to be walked on, nor from Adam’s head to be above, but to be at his side, evenly, protected under his arm.

Day Seven:

“The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. On the seventh day G-d finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And G-d blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it G-d ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)[10]

Day Seven was declared the Sabbath, G-d abstained from His work. It is to be a day of rest from the ordinary six days of work– to be set apart from what is ordinary. The Torah tells us that G-d blessed and sanctified the seventh day to be a Holy convocation unto Hashem. Our fourth commandment tells us to “Remember” the Sabbath and keep it holy. Adam and Eve were created just before Sabbath. Man was given the intelligence and wisdom to bring the holiness of the Sabbath (Shabbat/Shabbos) into their ordinary weekdays. Animals were created to perform like beasts, while Man was created imperfect so that we could continue to improve ourselves; having the ability to grow closer to Hashem– to learn how to surrender ourselves to G-d. The Torah is our lifeline back to the Father. The Torah is like our umbilical cord, life source, connecting us to Hashem. Our souls are like a newborn baby, crying out to our Father, waiting for Hashem’s comforting love and guidance.

The Torah is powerful! It was given to us (through Moses) by the Hand of G-d; written by His Almighty finger. Hashem brought forth the cure for the sickness (sin) of man that will draw us to our Redeemer through Teshuvah. When we have Emunah (Faith) in Hashem’s Truth, through His light given, Redemption comes with the might and power of Hashem—returning us back to the Garden.

Hashem will always protect Israel, without her, nothing would continue to exist. Israel is the Bride. She will be redeemed!

Let’s take a closer look at “Bereishit/ Bereshis.” It means “Beginning.” Hashem is the beginning and the end. Hashem is the first and last. There is no other G-d. The first letter of the Hebrew letter is “Aleph” which is silent. “Beit/ Beis” is the second letter which means “to build.”

“A house is built by wisdom, And is established by understanding.” (Proverbs 24:3)[11]

Wisdom (Chokmah) builds (Beis) her home with understanding (Binah). Binah is part of the sephira, below Keter (Head/crown) on the Tree of Life. Binah is discernment to foresee what belongs, and what doesn’t.  In the beginning, Elohim brought forth His Healing Power, with Chokmah. Binah builds the house with Emet (Truth) of G-d, as it is written in the Torah and lived through in the Oral Torah.

 “For the commandment is a lamp, The teaching is a light, And the way to life is the rebuke that disciplines.(Proverbs 6:23)[12]

“Mitzvah” is Hebrew for Commandments. Hashem’s Torah (Law/Instructions) is our Light! We are to keep Hashem’s mitzvoth daily. Can one remove the Torah from their life and believe they are truly living out their days that honor Hashem, our Creator? Removing the Torah would remove the Truth Hashem gave to us on Mount Sinai.  There would be no more light. No Truth. No Life. The Adversary is the Evil Inclination who lies, wandering “to and fro” on the earth seeking for someone to devour. Did he not question G-d’s authority back in the Garden of Eden when he asked Chavah what Elohim really said? Hasatan twisted the Torah for man to question G-d’s authority. It’s important not to take verses out of context. The Torah is our guidance, and way to have Life that is Eternal.

“[I swear] by the Torah and the teaching, that they will make this statement to you, that has no light of dawn.”(Isaiah8:20)[13]

We look to the G-d in Heaven, our Creator, Who is mighty with great power Who brings our redemption.

Let’s briefly recap:

Let there be light, and light came into the world. There was light, but man hated darkness. G-d created the light and said it was good, but wicked men hated the light, therefore, G-d separated the light from the darkness. Those who hate darkness do not seek what is light, and those who love truth, seek to walk in the light—TORAH!

Torah is the living truth and light. If we do not want to be corrected (to be teachable), then the alternative states we do not want Truth.

“And the LORD G-d said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!” So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22- 24)[14]

When Adam and Eve (Chavah) sinned, they became separated from G-d, and had to leave the Garden. The Tree of Life needed to be guarded by Angels (with swords) until Hashem brings Redemption for us to return to the Garden. Hashem’s love, mercy and grace protected man from the Tree of Life, not to be left in a sinful state [Eternally] that would leave man dead, spiritually.

You shall make a curtain of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen; it shall have a design of cherubim worked into it.” (Exodus 26:31)[15]

Just like the Cherubim’s that guarded the Tree of Life, we cannot just go through the Holy of Holies by ourselves as there is a sword.

“The LORD said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover.”(Leviticus 16:2)[16]

We cannot return to Gan Eden by ourselves, based on our own terms.  Hashem is an all- consuming fire. We cannot return to the Garden without His restoration through Hashem’s redemption—it is amazing to know that the Garden of Eden (Gan Eden) was not part of the Creation. He didn’t speak it into existence. He planted it HIMSELF. Hashem is the Gardener!

“HASHEM G-d planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed.” (Genesis 2:8)[17]

When Elohim created Adam, he formed Adam outside of the garden, breathed-life (Ruach) into man, and placed him into the garden. Adam was the one who was given the commandment not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve wasn’t designed yet. She was designed from Adam’s rib later on. It was Adam who forgot about G-d with his ego. Eve sinned when she desired to have more knowledge (pride). Sadly, Adam blamed G-d and Eve without taking any responsibility that he had forgotten G-d and listened to a different master–hasatan. OUCH!

“The LORD G-d formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)[18]

Also read:

The LORD G-d took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it. And the LORD G-d commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.” The LORD G-d said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” And the LORD G-d formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for Adam no fitting helper was found. So the LORD G-d cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. And the LORD G-d fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This one at last Is bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman, For from man was she taken.” (Genesis2:15-23)[19]

G-d brought forth the woman to be Adam’s “protector.” We will talk more on that later on a different topic.

This Torah Portion is about the Creation of the heavens and the earth. Man was nothing until Elohim breathed life into him. The Haftorah is about the creation of the Nation of Israel.

Thus said G-d the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and what it brings forth, Who gave breath to the people upon it And life to those who walk thereon: the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you, And I have grasped you by the hand. I created you, and appointed you A covenant people, a light of nations— Opening eyes deprived of light, Rescuing prisoners from confinement, From the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not yield My glory to another, Nor My renown to idols.” (Isaiah 42:5-8)[20]

Just as Elohim gave light on the fourth day of Creation (before the sun, moon and stars were created), Hashem is a going to build up and restore Israel! Hashem separated light from the darkness in Creation; Hashem also separated Israel from the Nations with His covenant to be SET APART. Hashem will bring our Messiah to come. G-d will bring the restoration of One Accord (Echad), One Belief, and One G-d.

The LORD desires His [servant’s] vindication, That he may magnify and glorify [His] Teaching. Yet it is a people plundered and despoiled: All of them are trapped in holes, Imprisoned in dungeons. They are given over to plunder, with none to rescue them; To despoilment, with none to say “Give back!” If only you would listen to this, Attend and give heed from now on!” (Isaiah 42:21-23)[21]

Hashem will restore all matters. He will bring us all home to Israel for His ingathering:

Fear not, for I am with you: I will bring your folk from the East, Will gather you out of the West; I will say to the North, “Give back!” And to the South, “Do not withhold! Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the end of the earth— All who are linked to My name, Whom I have created, Formed, and made for My glory—“(Isaiah 43:5-7)[22]

Hashem will call His Witnesses:

My witnesses are you —declares the LORD— My servant, whom I have chosen. To the end that you may take thought, And believe in Me, And understand that I am He: Before Me no g-d was formed, And after Me none shall exist— None but me, the LORD; Beside Me, none can grant triumph. I alone foretold the triumph And I brought it to pass; I announced it, And no strange god was among you. So you are My witnesses —declares the LORD— And I am G-d.”  (Isaiah 43:10-12)[23]

Hashem separated Israel and became scattered. But He will bring an ingathering; calling back His Sheep (people) to Israel when there is a restoration of Israel. You can read more about Hashem’s Sheep in “Our Shephard’s Voice.”

After reading through these verses, we can verify the truth of the Torah, given to us by Hashem. Hashem is our G-d, Creator, and will make all things right.

The (4) Rivers will flow out from His inmost being. Just like in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, the (4) Rivers flowed.

A river issues from Eden to water the garden, and it then divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon, the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where the gold is. (The gold of that land is good; bdellium is there, and lapis lazuli.) The name of the second river is Gihon, the one that winds through the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, the one that flows east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10-14)[24]

 

Stay-tuned to Bereishit Part 2 . We will look for the connections of the four rivers to the Creation Story.

 

[1] Genesis 1:1, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[2] Genesis 1:1-5,  Sefaria

[3] Genesis 1:6-8. Sefaria

[4] Genesis 1: 10-14, Sefaria

[5] Genesis 15-20, Sefaria

[6] Bereishit Rabbah 1:1

[7] Genesis 1: 21-24, Sefaria

[8] Zohar 1:11a,3

[9] Genesis 1:25-31, Sefaria

[10] Genesis 2:1-3, Sefaria

[11] Proverbs 24:3, Sefaria

[12] Proverbs 6:23, Sefaria

[13] Isaiah 8:20, The Stone Edition

[14]Genesis 3:22-24, Sefaria

[15] Exodus 26:31, Sefaria

[16] Leviticus 16: 2, Sefaria

[17] Genesis 2:8, The Stone Edition

[18] Genesis 2:7, Sefaria

[19] Genesis 2: 15-23, Sefaria

[20] Isaiah 42: 5-8, Sefaria

[21] Isaiah 42: 21-23, Sefaria

[22] Isaiah 43:5-7, Sefaria

[23] Isaiah 43:10-12, Sefaria

[24] Genesis 2:10-14, Sefaria

Categories: Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sukkot

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Sukkot

Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days.”(Leviticus 23:24)[1]

Tishrei fifteen to twenty-one is celebrated for the “Season of Joy.” After completing the sobering Fast of Yom Kippur (self-evaluation and teshuvah), we celebrate the love and provisions G-d has given us. According to Leviticus 23:40 and Deuteronomy 16:14, we are commanded to be happy and rejoice in Hashem. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe and the Highest King wants to celebrate with His people. Instead of complaining, we rejoice and eat yummy kosher foods! Those with a willing and contrite heart were to bring their offerings to Hashem. It is a joyful act to the giver, as well as to the receiver-happiness. It is also a loving way to rejoice in all of Hashem’s provisions He has given.

Sukkot is an ingathering of raising up tents or booths; praising Hashem for delivering us out of the land of Egypt; knowing G-d completed everything. They were to tell their children for all generations to always remember that Elokim is their/our G-d. It is a celebration of resting in Hashem; remembering and praising Hashem for delivering the Israelites, and the mixed-multitude, out of the Egyptian’s hands (slavery) of four hundred and thirty years.

Sukkot is also one of the three appointed times known as “Pilgrimages.” The three pilgrimages are: Passover (Pesach), Shavuot, and Sukkot, as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:16. These appointed times, along with Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzah), First Fruits of Barley (Ha Bikkutium), Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are the festivals of Hashem.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days. The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations; seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations. Those are the set times of the LORD that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it— apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD. Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the LORD [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your G-d seven days. You shall observe it as a festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages. You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your G-d. So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:33-44) [2]

Also read:

And Moses instructed them as follows: Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your G-d in the place that He will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel. Gather the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere the LORD your G-d and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the LORD your G-d as long as they live in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)[3]

Sukkot is the last fall festival. It is also called Booths. On the seventh day of creation, Adam and Chavah were to rest. As you remember, they were created last on Day Six. Many ask why they had to rest when they didn’t even work the garden for a week. It wasn’t anything they did or didn’t do to earn that rest.

The Sabbath/Shabbat/Shabbos was blessed, sanctified, and made Holy. It is a remembrance that everything is completed in Elokim. There isn’t anything we can do to improve what Hashem has already done.

During Sukkot, the priests were divided into three groups. One group was in charge of the offerings and sacrifices. The second group was responsible for drawing water for pouring ceremony. Then there was the third group who would cut the required amount of willows; located from the brook. The High Priest went from the Water Gate, located at the South Gate that went downward to the Siloam pool. A golden vase was used to draw up water from the pool by the priest. During the ceremony, a silver vase would be filled with wine by the High Priest to be carried by the High Priest as the head in the procession line; leading the way to the Temple. From the eastern gate, the Beautiful Gate, the large willows were cut. As they journeyed back from Motzah Valley, the processions line of people sang beautiful praises to G-d. The willows carried were swishing from side to side; creating a sound of a rushing wind (Ruach), and the pilgrims waved their “lulavs” (myrtle, willow, etrog, and palm branch). The first group, a choir of the Levites sang the same songs as the people from Psalms 118:25—The Hallel

“Hosanna, save now!” The branches would be beaten harshly against the altar. The priests would stand in procession thirty feet apart, take one step, wave the willow, and take another step. The waving of the willows created a wind represents the Ruach. The waving during the purposeful steps continued in this fashion all the way up to the temple. As the two groups converged on the temple, another priest stood on the southeast corner of the temple wall and played the flute calling them into the temple. Since the flute was the pierced instrument, he was called the pierced one.

“The LORD is my strength and might; He has become my deliverance. The tents of the victorious resound with joyous shouts of deliverance, “The right hand of the LORD is triumphant!” (Psalms 118:14-15)[4]

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD. They said: I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance. This is my G-d and I will enshrine Him; The G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him.” (Exodus 15:1-2)[5]

It’s so amazing what Hashem has set before us in the Torah. Hashem desires and longs for us to dwell with Him. There is a very important connection with Pesach and Sukkot that brings them together on a whole new level, chiastically. Passover is the first gathering, Sukkot is the last (bookends), the seventh gathering. On the seven-branch menorah, the first branch and the seventh branch are joined together—a pattern. We have a beginning (Pesach) with its completion (Sukkot), number seven completes. However, when we get to the end, we are back at the beginning—spherical—never-ending. If we were to look at NASA photographs of Rainbows, we’d soon discover they are complete circular formations. No beginning and no end.

Let’s take a closer look that may help bridge the gap for understanding:

Pesach represents the beginning of their (Israelites) first night of freedom, out of Exodus. They had food and shelter provided. Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah, and a covenant given. Sukkot is the last holiday. What we have is freedom to be in covenant with Hashem with His Divine protection—a marriage! It is an Eternal marriage covenant of the Bride, and the Bridegroom.

 

During Sukkot, the children dwelt in booths when Elokim brought them out of Egypt. Looking back, we can understand how we, too, are included. As they slept in booths, He brought them/us out the first night. The Book of Exodus tells us they journeyed to a place called Sukkot on the first night, which commemorates the place called Sukkot. The Talmud speaks of the covering of the cloud—The Clouds of Glory. A pillar of cloud is our protection!

Genesis reminds us that Jacob left Laban’s house and the first night he slept, he built booths for his cattle—sukkahs. Like Jacob, he left a form of slavery under Laban and had lots of cattle. The Torah states an accounting of four hundred and thirty years that the Israelites endured slavery in Egypt. Before Elokim delivered them out of Egypt they had a “settling down.” In Egypt, they had shelter, a home, and they knew when their next meal was. After they left to go to Sukkot everything changed. They had no plans or knew what to expect. They had to learn how to trust G-d. They had their own choices, yes, but not wise discernment. Exodus tells us they ate unleavened bread as they had no time to take provisions. They had Matzah—this connects Pesach! ONE NIGHT—TWO Holidays (Pesach and Sukkot).

The first night they realized they were no longer slaves of Egypt while sleeping under their Booths. The act of faith brings us to a new level—trusting G-d for everything! He saw the efforts they made to follow Hashem, and His kind response stirred to give the Children safe protection and provisions. Sukkot teaches us that Hashem is our true Provider, and His covering is for our Shelter to dwell in. The Children of Israel lived in “booths” for forty years [in the wilderness] with high temperatures. G-d provided a cloud covering, water, and manna. Their sandals and clothing never wore out.

Sukkot is a seven-day celebration, and the eighth day is a High Sabbath, as is the first day. The number eight implies a type of “New Beginnings. The Orthodox Jews observe the first two days and the last two days of Sukkot, followed by Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. We are to observe Hashem’s festivals by building a Sukkah and waving the Four Kinds.

Hoshanah Rabbah is celebrated on the seventh day of Sukkot. Hoshanah Rabbah completes the seven-day festival of Sukkot (but there’s the eighth day), and the completion of the days of Judgment finalizes our fate for the following year. The days are issued during Rosh Hashanah and completed [for us] on Yom Kippur. One might say our fate is now sealed for what is determined the following year. During Sukkot, there is a judgment on the amount of rain that’ll be given during the next year. (Talmud “Rosh HaShanah” 16a)

Hashem is calling for us:

“To be sure, they seek Me daily, Eager to learn My ways. Like a nation that does what is right, That has not abandoned the laws of its G-d, They ask Me for the right way, They are eager for the nearness of G-d.” (Isaiah 58:2)[6]

We are to take the “willow” as if this was a willow ceremony dated back to the Ancient Bible times when our prophets took an additional willow on Sukkot on the seventh day. They were very large willow branches (eighteen feet each) and were set around the altar in the Holy Temple for Sukkot every day. The “Four Kinds” were included in the ancient ceremony.

During the synagogue services on Hoshanah Rabbah, the people who stand around the bimah (Torah reading table) hold the Torah after it’s taken from the Ark. The congregation circles the Torah seven times while holding on to their Four Kinds; reciting the Hoshaanot prayers. The ones who circle seven times conclude with gathering the bundle of the five willows; striking the ground five times symbolizes our sins. No matter how hard we beat the lulav on the ground to remove its leaves, it isn’t easy to do. This is symbolic to our sins and how hard it can be to remove our sins without G-d’s help. There’s a huge mess left. This reminds us how much we need our Hashem to remove our sins. Everyone (men, women, and children) are encouraged to participate in the celebration. In the synagogues, the whole Book of Deuteronomy and Psalms are read (at midnight), followed with more prayers. After services, they continue to celebrate with a festive dinner in their sukkahs with honey cake for dessert. Because of Diaspora, eating in the sukkah includes the eighth day—Shemini Atzeret.

Shemini Atzeret is a joyous time celebrating the end of Sukkot in diaspora (exiled lands). Shemini Atzeret is known by its Biblical name in the Tanach. (Leviticus 23:33-44, 2 Chronicles 7) Though we still dwell in our sukkah, the first night has no blessing. It’s a memorial for the departed souls. The prayer, Yizkor is said the first night. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the eighth day. It is customary to light a small “yahrtzeit” candle while reciting the Yizkor on Shemini Atzeret to pray for our deceased parent(s).

The blessings are given as the annual Torah readings to commemorate Sukkot. The first two nights are both celebrated with the lighting of the candles (women and girls light the candles), reciting the appropriate blessings (Kiddush), festive meals, dancing, and by not working. It is permissible to cook as long as it’s not on the Shabbat. Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion and the restart of the Torah readings that goes back to Genesis—the rolling back of the Torah. The combination of the two days (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) is called “YOM TOV”—a major holiday when most work ceases. The Shemini Atzeret prayer commemorates the rain Hashem sends to Israel, and the Yizkor prayer gives thanks and praise to Hashem for His mercy to remember the souls departed. The highlight of Simchat Torah reminds us to have “Joy of the Torah!” Remember to light the candles before sunset on the first night, and just after sunset the second night. The ninth day is finished with Havdalah.

Simchat Torah, during the celebration, Synagogues bring out the Torah as it’s held in dance, marching, and song. It is customary for every man to participate in the celebration and to Aliyah. There are two definitions for Aliyah. One, the honor of being called up to recite one of the blessings over the Torah, and the other is immigration to the Land of Israel. It is an honor for every man to be called up to read the blessings of the Torah. The children are also encouraged to Aliyah—give blessings over the Torah.

While living in exile, a synagogue may not be possible to attend depending on the location one resides at. Hashem honors those who do their best at home; blessing Hashem, his wife and children, taking part in the Readings of Torah, home service (meeting with like kind) and study. Hopefully, there is a way to move into a Jewish community. There are many who live in exile wait for the call of Hashem to Aliyah to Israel.

The Sukkah (booths): Let’s celebrate the amazing miracle of the Exodus remembering our faithful and Righteous G-d who delivered the Israelites, and the mixed multitude, from the harsh and crushing slavery of the Egypt! The sukkah (booths) celebrates the Clouds of Glory that protected and surrounded our ancestors during the forty years of sojourning in the wilderness; completely relying on G-d’s provisions leaving Egypt.

(Leviticus 23:42-43) Jews, and non-Jews, build sukkahs that are temporary dwellings to commemorate Sukkot. Sukkot is celebrated by eating and sleeping in a sukkah during the week of Sukkot. Many live in colder regions in which it may not be possible to sleep or eat in a sukkah. It’s important to remember that if one can’t build a sukkah (perhaps it’s against rental/leased homes policies, or health reasons), Hashem will be honored to see us trying our best to please Him during the appointed times.

In the Sukkah, we can read from our holy scriptures, share devotionals, and invite guests (Ushpizin) for a meal. The gathering of people will give more opportunities to share what an amazing G-d we have. If there are children or adults who have special needs, or elderly parents with health issues that would cause suffering to sleep outside on the ground, there are other ways to show chesed—loving-kindness. For example, we can play beautiful Hebrew music, tell the Exodus Story, and help them build mini sukkahs—to eat! That’s right! All one needs is a box of Graham crackers, M&M’s (trademark), or other colorful candies, green frosting, and a whole lot of fun! Place three squares together; using frosting for the glue. Spread green frosting along the top (roof) and let the decorating begin!

The Sukkah is generally made of wood or bamboo with at least three sides. The roof should have some clearing that allow the stars to be seen during the nights. Palm leaves, or other greenery can be placed along the top that allows some coverage and shade during the day.

If a kosher sukkah is desired: There are important factors to be considered before building a kosher sukkah (Instructions can be found at http://www.chabad.org).

May your week of Sukkot be a blessing!

Shalom!

[1] Leviticus 23:24. Sefaria

[2] Leviticus 23:22-44, Sefaria

[3] Deuteronomy 31:10-13, Sefaria

[4] Psalms 118:14-15, Sefaria

[5] Exodus 15:1-2, Sefaria

[6] Isaiah 58:2, Sefaria

 

 

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Yom Kippur- Day of Atonement

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Yom HaKippurim/Yom Kippur

~Day of Atonement~

 

On the tenth day of the same seventh month you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial. You shall do no work. (Numbers 29:7)[1]

Mark the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD; you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the LORD your G-d. Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin; and whoever does any work throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people. Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements. It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:27-32)[2]

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a High Holy Sabbath, the holiest day of the year. It occurs on Tishrei Ten (September/October). It is a day of humbling ourselves before our Holy G-d. Yom Kippur is also referred to as Yom Hakippurim that means “day like Purim.” The Book of Esther is the story of redemption. The term Yom Kippur derives from “Yom” which means day and “Kaphar/Kofer” which means to atone for as in covering, protection, redemption, and ransom. Kaphar/Kofer (pitch) was used on Noah’s Ark as a covering to keep the water from seeping in. Pitch was also used on the basket (little ark) that Moses floated in down the Nile among the reeds—another connection. Kaphar/Kofer was the pitch used to not only cover, but to conceal and keep it protected from damage and leaks. This teaches us that the sacrifices on Yom Kippur atone for by covering, protecting, and concealing Israel for another year. The Day of Atonement was a day of grace and compassion. Hashem would give the Israelites a “New Beginning” as a covering for their sins.

This is the sixth festival of the appointed times. It is the last day of Teshuvah, a beautiful time for people to draw nearer to G-d in repentance. We celebrate in humbleness with fasting for twenty-five hours. (Leviticus 23:27-28) People generally dress in white on this day to resemble purity.

There are seven festivals, and Yom Kippur is the sixth holiday. At the concluding season of repentance, Elul One begins on the first of the sixth month. It is the only day the High Priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies; encountering Hashem face-to-face by calling upon The Name–HASHEM. The High Priest would make blood sacrifices for the sins of the people. A bull and two goats were offered for the atonement. The bull would be the atonement for the Mishkan; while the two goats would be chosen by drawing lots which one would carry away the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16)

L’Adonai would be offered to the Hashem, and the other goat, Azazel, would have the sins of the people confessed (through the laying of the hands from the High Priest) upon that goat and carried away into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:21) If G-d accepted the sacrifices and atonement from the High Priest, the bloody garments that were hung up turned white, according to tradition. We are reminded if our sins are like scarlet; they will be white as snow through forgiveness. (Isaiah 1:18) This is the day we will see Hashem face-to-face; prophetically on a future Day of Atonement.

The Heavenly doors are opened during this ten day period; however, the doors will be closed on Yom Kippur as Yom Kippur is Judgment. The “Ten Days of Awe” is the time to reflect on ourselves for teshuvah. The Day of Judgment will be the day that atonement is executed. Do we look at it as a big judge in a courtroom wearing a long, over-sized black robe; ready to pass the death penalty on us? Or would we look at it as a day of rejoicing and praising Hashem for His redemption? We can find joy knowing that we are Hashem’s Chosen people—signed—sealed—and delivered!

Beast and man were created on Day Six. When Adam and Eve (Chavah) sinned, they needed atonement, the sixth feast. The sixth spirit is Knowledge, or “Da’at”. This isn’t head knowledge; rather it implies intimacy and maturity in Hebrew. It is a type of knowledge or knowing that loves something or someone enough that they will give their life for the other. When a man neglects the Knowledge, his fallen state becomes more extreme and he identifies more with the beast he hunts. The Spirit of Knowledge patiently works and builds understanding in the relationship. The Spirit of Knowledge is a deep mature love that exhibits the awareness of the needs and desires of another. It is a spirit that moved on the sixth day of creation to inspire the creation of Adam & Chavah (Eve)—the mother of all living.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew letter “VAV” is also the number six (in Hebrew), and means to attach. When man sinned, they could no longer continue living in the Garden, nor could they dwell with the Father as sin separated them. Through the mercy of Hashem, He will bring our redemption.

As we mature and grow in Torah, we can abide in:

✡ Mercy and Grace (A husband should protect his bride)

✡ Covering of sins (Hashem brings redemption, compassion, covering)

✡ Healing (loving one another with loving kindness)

✡ Restoration of relationships (restoration)

✡ Repents & seeks forgiveness

Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy.

Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy

Let’s look at the Story of Jonah for some more connections. Let’s consider Jonah’s actions when disobedience comes into play.

Yonah was called by Hashem to go to Nineveh with a message from G-d to repent from their sins or they would be destroyed. But he ran away to Tarshish, instead. Why did Jonah run from Hashem? Can anyone really hide from the King of the universe?

When Jonah knew Hashem was giving Nineveh a chance to be forgiven, life no longer mattered to Jonah. He wanted them to pay for their evilness. Jonah was the son of Amittai (Truth). Yonah saw his dreadful journey coming true after Hashem told him to go to Nineveh and accept their apology.

Looking back at the story while Jonah was on the ship, he was on the lowest level; sleeping in the height of the storm. Jonah ignored Hashem when He called out to him. The sailors cast lots. He told them to throw him overboard. He didn’t know Hashem had a whale ready for action. After the sailors tried to help Jonah, they threw him overboard, regretfully. While he was in the belly of the whale, Yonah still wanted to die, but Hashem had different plans.

Jonah’s Prayer of Distress:

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights. Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me. I thought I was driven away Out of Your sight: Would I ever gaze again Upon Your holy Temple? The waters closed in over me, The deep engulfed me. Weeds twined around my head. I sank to the base of the mountains; The bars of the earth closed upon me forever. Yet You brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my G-d! When my life was ebbing away, I called the LORD to mind; And my prayer came before You, Into Your holy Temple. They who cling to empty folly Forsake their own welfare, But I, with loud thanksgiving, Will sacrifice to You; What I have vowed I will perform. Deliverance is the LORD’s! The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.” (Jonah 2, Sefaria)

While Jonah was in the belly of the whale he thought he would never see dry land again. He was in the whales belly for three days and three nights. After Jonah delivered the message, Nineveh repented and Hashem relented the ra’ah (evil) that would have destroyed them with Hashem’s burning wrath. Jonah, in his disappointment and anger, prayed for Hashem to take his soul because it would have been better for his death than to have lived. (Jonah 4:8) Hashem remained quiet and gave him a lesson with the worm instead.

Yonah (Jonah) sat up on the hill; overlooking the city of Nineveh in hopes Nineveh refused to repent so that Hashem would destroy them (Nineveh would probably be what ISIS is like in today’s world). He made himself a Sukkah (booth/tent) to sit under for shade. The question is, if Yonah had shade already, why did Hashem place a kikayon plant over (covering) Jonah’s sukkah? Ra’ah was first mentioned when Hashem wanted to send Yonah to Nineveh because they had done evil (ra’ah) in the sight of Hashem and were going to be destroyed. They made a teshuvah! Elokim relented the ra’ah He was going to place on Nineveh. It’s interesting how the role of events play out when Yonah (Jonah) felt a dreadful ra’ah coming his way and he needed Hashem’s protection. Yonah became very angry towards Hashem because he already knew that Hashem would change His mind, which only partially answers why Jonah ran from Hashem. The Book of Jonah states, “I knew that you are a gracious and merciful G-d, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and relent from doing harm.”(Jonah 4:2)[3]

Hashem revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to Mosheh (Moses) on Mount Sinai after the sin of the golden calf. It was Hashem’s grace and mercy that saved the Jews and mixed-multitude from destruction. Looking back in the Book of Jonah, it is revealed that Jonah’s father’s name is Amittai (root word is Emet, truth), son of Truth. Was Jonah looking for Divine Justice on Nineveh? Go back to Jonah sitting in his sukkah and the plant created for extra shade (covering) even though he knew that Elokim had spared Nineveh. Yonah found great joy in the plant that provided shade over his head. He felt loved. Then the worm ate the roots of the plant, and when the plant faded and died, Yonah (Jonah) once again wanted to die; stating that he was “grieved to death.” (Jonah 4:9, Stone Edition, Tanach) Why was Yonah upset over the plant dying? What did the plant represent?

The plant demonstrated Hashem’s lovingkindness and mercy given so that Jonah could see His Compassion. So if the plant giving shade is the countenance of Hashem’s compassion, what is the face of the worm? Justice.

Hashem was trying to show Jonah that there’s a conflict between having compassion, and applying justice. Jonah needed to learn G-d is a G-d of Mercy—Forgiveness given undeserved. Hashem caused a plant to grow from nothing in a world it didn’t belong, and Jonah had compassion for it.

Nineveh belonged in the world—G-d’s creation; yet, Jonah wanted them to be destroyed without mercy. Nineveh was very evil indeed, but because they had Teshuvah, who didn’t deserve Hashem’s compassion and forgiveness, we can appreciate what we can become with a changed heart! Yes, their sins were forgiven. They couldn’t change their past actions, but they could change their future. We are also given that same opportunity because He loves us. Our heart defines our character when others (who have hurt us) need forgiveness.

As we enter Yom Kippur we need to acknowledge that even though we can’t change our past we can reflect on our past, and reevaluate our impending changes for the future; giving all Glory to Hashem. We need to seek Hashem for forgiveness (Teshuvah) for our sins, ask Him to help us have Chesed (loving kindness) for others, to be forgiving of others (even if they don’t deserve it), to honor Torah, and to follow G-d’s way.

When we love Hashem’s Creation, we can nurture it, have unity, and restore healing.

“Remember us for the sake of Life, A King Who desires Life, Inscribe us in the Book of Life For Your sake O’ G-d of Life. Who is like You O’ Father of compassion, Who remembers his creatures for Life with compassion.”

How to observe Yom Kippur:

  • Self-reflection—acknowledge your sins
  • Fast for twenty-five hours—drink plenty of water the day before.
  • Tashlich ceremony—a beautiful tradition for family to go out to a body of moving water such as a stream or river and toss in bread crumbs, or tiny rocks, if it’s not on the Sabbath. This is done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but can be celebrated during Yom Kippur. This reminds us of G-d’s forgiveness by casting our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
  • Teshuvah (Repentance)—Seek Hashem for the forgiveness of sins. There are also five prayers that are recited:
  • Kol Nidre—to annul all vows.
  • The Shema
  • Amidah
  • Avinu Malkeinu—“Our Father, Our King,” (It’s a prayer during a time of fasting).
  • Minchah (Leviticus 18) – while this is read in the synagogues, the Midrash explains that we shouldn’t uncover the “nakedness” of others, just as Hashem didn’t uncover the “nakedness” of Israel. It is also a reminder that sexual immorality is a sin, but can be forgiven.
  • Viduly—prayer of confession upon the sins made.
  • Neilah—closing the gates (Day of Atonement).
  • Seek Forgiveness—if you have acknowledged your sins, it is time to approach those you have hurt, offended, or transgressed against with sincerity and honesty to ask for forgiveness. If they are resentful and do not accept your apology then it’s in Hashem’s hands. Sometimes we have to wipe the dust from our shoes and turn it over to Hashem. But we must try first.

Practice the customary restrictions that remind us of humility:

  • No perfumes or oils on body,
  • Baths and showers are skipped.
  • No animal products (leather shoes) are worn.
  • Fast from foods and water for twenty-five hours—this can be omitted for those with medical issues, pregnant, nursing, young children, or elderly.
  • Donate money—if it isn’t plausible, donate your time to those less fortunate.
  • Attend Shul or a synagogue if possible.
  • Nosh—after the sun goes down on sunset on Yom Kippur, it’s time to break the fast and eat! The first meal is the pre-fast meal—the meal of separation. The second meal is after the fast. Both meals are to be prepared before the fast.
  • G’mar Hatima Tova (Say to others): May you be sealed in the Book of Life!
  • G’mar Tov (Say to others): May you have an easy fast!

 

Shalom!

[1] Numbers 29:7, Sefaria

[2] Leviticus 23:27-32, Sefaria

[3] Jonah 4:2, Sefaria

 

 

 

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Last Breath Gives Hope

Ocean_surface_wave

Last Breath Gives Hope

It wasn’t long before it would be too cold catching the last awesome waves before fall. My high school friend and I decided to head for the beach and hit some waves (body surfing). Of course, by the time we arrived, it was cloudy and riptide warnings were given. But we were strong swimmers and knew what we were doing (so we thought).

No one was at the beach—not even a Lifeguard. It was all to ourselves! The waves were very big, and inviting. We were having a blast. My friend wasn’t too far from me, but the distance was enough that caused a separation by a couple of waves; allowing her to get back to shore without much effort. Without warning things shifted, the waves became extremely HUGE! I tried to swim in but I had to turn back to swim over the waves to not be crushed (which meant going out further). Unfortunately, without knowing at the time, I was entangled in riptides and deeply snared.

The waves soon became too immense and powerful. I was getting tired. How many more waves could I swim over to avoid being smashed underwater while realizing the uselessness of trying to get back to shore? I was too far out to body surf to shore. The waves were crashing over more waves. The scenery of fun faded; only death was around the corner. The powerful waves brought mayhem with no way out. It no longer mattered that I knew how to swim in riptides; unfortunately, pride got me into a life-threatening situation. Tired muscles feeling like rubber, numb, and panicked, I was in a terrible position without time to think things through. The ability to stay above water was a concern. The riptides were overpowering me in my weakness.

Looking at eye level over the surface of the ocean while the waves tumbled over me, salt water in my eyes, my view became blurry while being swept underwater; a reality check on life—almost too late. I was slammed underwater.

The waves began to thrash about; dragging and twisting me in every direction. I opened my eyes in salty water; hoping to see which way the bubbles were going. The bubbles were whirling in all directions. I managed to find my way to the surface and gasp for air just as another wave came crashing down; spiraling downwards and dragged once more along the ocean floor like a Raggedy-Ann doll (I can still see it in my mind).

I, again, attempted to get to the surface. When I felt the ocean floor with my hands, I placed my feet on the sandy ground, with all my might; I pushed up and swam as hard as I could. Hopelessly, after reaching the surface, little air received before another enormous wave crashed down on me; spiraling downwards, again. At that point I couldn’t do it anymore. I was out of breath and out of all my strength. I was going to drown—I was out of time! No one could help me, my mistake was horrific. My family and friends would be devastated.

Out of breath, beyond exhaustion, unable to fight, packed with sand from dragging along the ocean bottom, too far from shore, out of hope, I cried out to G-d (obviously in my mind—not outwardly to get water in my mouth). I told G-d I couldn’t do it anymore and asked Him to help me. I needed Him! I was so scared (thirty-some years later, and I still tear-up).

As soon as I called out to G-d for help something powerful happened! Though I couldn’t see who or what, an amazing strong Almighty Power reached down into the depths of the riptides that bound me. With a rushing of water, I was brought (carried) up out of the water– able to gasp for air. G-d or one of His angels protected me. Miraculously, the waves were still large (though in a peaceful state); none of the waves dragged me down. I was freed from the snare. I was able to swim in a zig-zag motion. I soon could see my friend. She was running up and down the shoreline calling out my name. When I got to shore, my friend grabbed my arm and helped me up the dry sandy beach. I collapsed. She said she didn’t know what to do. She said she would see my head pop out of the water just as another wave would crash down over me for long periods of time–expecting to find a dead body floating.

We had made an enormous mistake acting cool, haughty, and prideful—especially me. When we are tempted with sin, like riptides, we need to stay away from it. When we act out in our Nefesh (Flesh), we become prideful and haughty (by saying I can handle it, I’ve done it before), and become entangled. And before we realize it, Ha’satan (Satan) has his grip on us. The enemy uses our own desires to trap us.

Out of breath, out of time, out of hope (from our own efforts), HIS GLORY can lift us out of the dirt (or should I say water). In my own efforts I had nothing. I was overpowered and weakened quickly. In Hashem’s strength, hope was found: Behold a mighty strong arm WHO can reach into the depths of darkness and bring us to His Light!

I didn’t know who G-d really was (no relationship), but I knew G-d is the Creator of all things. I wasn’t walking in the right way I should have. But when I called out to G-d with my last breath of life, pleading for His help, Hashem answered my cry (knowing I would SEEK after Hashem years later). I am humbled by the love and mercy Hashem has for someone like me to give me ‘time’ and set my path to be introduced to Him many years later, properly. Hashem loves you too. If you do not know Him yet, Hashem is just a thought, a call, a cry out to, and a prayer away. Do not delay in seeking Hashem. We never know when we will have our last breath of life.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is G-d from of old, Creator of the earth from end to end, He never grows faint or weary, His wisdom cannot be fathomed. He gives strength to the weary, Fresh vigor to the spent. Youths may grow faint and weary, And young men stumble and fall; But they who trust in the LORD shall renew their strength As eagles grow new plumes: They shall run and not grow weary, They shall march and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)[1]

Our G-d is very gracious, and merciful. From the depths of chaos, and darkness, Hashem brought order with peace (Shalom). Let’s look at the Book of Genesis for more understanding:

Genesis 1:2 teaches us “the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from G-d sweeping over the water.”[2]

  • The Ruach (wind) of G-d was moving over the surface of the waters.
  • Moving means “hovering.” Like a bird hovering/fluttering over its young.

In my attempt to enter water in chaos, the deep was not in order. The disorderly waves could not be controlled by man, only by its Creator G-d of Majesty. In my weakness and last breath in despair, my call out to G-d (protective mother bird) did He move quickly: hovering over the waters; bringing hope and protection by removing the darkness and chaos that captured me. The waves remained large, but a given order of peace moved over the waters.

G-d said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)[3]

  • Elohim divided the ohr (light).
  • Ohr is a light. Eternal Light, light of life, light of instruction, Hashem’s shining face. Proverbs 6:23 “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah light.”
  • Choshech, darkness, obscurity.

Pride and haughtiness is a sin of rebellion, and like all sins, man becomes ignorant into believing their sins are hidden in darkness (Choshech). Sin will find itself out (Numbers 32:23). Sin is a snare, entangled with destruction or death.

The Eternal Light of G-d (Ohr), sees all, and knows all. Darkness cannot comprehend G-d’s light and power. All creation must obey the word of G-d. Torah is the Light, and the Lamp. Hashem has all power (Gvurah) over the chaos, darkness, and terror. With His word, the water became peaceful and the rage was gone—Be still and know that I am G-d.

I have shared this story during home school, as well as with youth groups. It’s too easy to let pride take over. It can be hard for someone to ask for help when the sin has entangled them. My life-threatening experience was extreme, thankfully, most people will never endure that. The good news is we have forgiveness. And through forgiveness, we are cleansed with Hashem’s righteousness.

Leading up to Cleansing:

It is thought-provoking the near-drowning encounter Hashem allowed me to go through that in every way of a human being in that situation, there was no way out by man’s own effort. I was trapped with limited air. His power is mighty. He never lost control, nor did Hashem lose me. He had a hold of me in His hand even when I felt everything was hopeless.

“Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your G-d; I have strengthened you, even helped you, and even sustained you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:14) [4]

In Exodus, we are reminded that after the ten plagues, and the Israelites were released to leave Egypt; including pleasing items (livestock, silver, gold, and fine linens). After three days, the Pharaoh regretted releasing the Israelites (and the mixed multitude), commanding his strongest soldiers and chariots; bolting after them.

Hashem brought the Israelites out of Egypt in a route that would be a long way, not a shortcut. The Children of Israel would have traveled through the land of the Philistines had they have taken a shortcut. Hashem wanted to free the Children from all Egyptian influences. He wanted His soon-to-be Bride to unlearn “Egypt” and follow Him in the Torah, the Divine Way, and to be free of bondage and to be in covenant with Him.

We will begin to see two patterns, a separation.

  • Day One of Creation—Light and Darkness
  • Day Two of Creation—the separation of the upper and lower waters: Mayim (earthly), and Shemayim (heavenly).
  • Day Three of Creation—Wet and Dry Land, Resurrection, Eternity.
  • Water and Fire
  • Life and Death

Life and Death, Light and Darkness—spiritually and physically:

When Pharaoh pursued the Children of Israel, the Children became terrified; feeling trapped with no way out. They feared for their lives; sadly, some of the Children of Israel were willing to return as slaves under bondage; deceiving themselves that it was a life worth living. Others began to rebuke Moses; blaming G-d for bringing them out into the Wilderness to their graves.

“‘They said to Moses, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this thing you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:11)[5]

Moses spoke to the Children by way of G-d’s assurance and tells them, “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of HASHEM that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again!” (Exodus 14:13)[6]

“The angel of G-d who had been going in front of the camp of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and went behind them. 20. It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel and there were a cloud and darkness—while it illuminated the night—and one did not draw near the other all the night.” (Exodus 14:19-20)[7]

Separation of Upper and Lower Waters, Dry Land, Fire and Water:

The Children of Israel needed to have faith knowing Hashem was all-powerful to save them from death, and to trust Hashem would never abandon them. Hashem told Moses to spread out his rod over the Reed Sea (Yom Suf) and split it with a mighty wind. Dry land came forth for the Israelites to journey the crossing. The path of the Israelites was upon day land, while the path under the feet of the enemy sinks; grabbing hold of the chariot wheels while the riders of the chariots were dragged to their death.

“At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, The floods stood straight like a wall; The deeps froze in the heart of the sea.” (Exodus 15:8)[8]

  • Mayim—Earthly waters.
  • The water was shrewdly, and with its Chokmah (wisdom), the water sent judgement to Egypt, and a salvation to Israel. Water separated to dry land. We are reminded of Isaiah 63:13 about G-d’s vengeance upon the Nations. Waters can also remind us of the ocean depths of chaos, the Abyss and without form.The Heart of sea–Body of water that roars.

Let’s looks closer:

“Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me.  (Jonah 2:2-4)[9]

The lowest of the sea is unapproachable to man, and the heart of Heaven is less approachable by its height by man.“The heavens for height, the earth for depth, and the heart of the kings cannot be fathomed.” We are reminded in our human limitations, the King’s heart remains unsearchable. (Proverbs 25:3)[10]

Hashem knows the inner depths of the sea like the inner depths of our hearts. The heart of man is wicked, and through repentance (Teshuvah—turning back to the Father), our life is restored and reconciled to Hashem. He wrote His Torah on our heart. Our mini Menorah within becomes lit when we become crushed, and broken. But we can overcome with Hashem’s help.

Let’s look at connection of Creations Day Three and Five:

On the third day of Creation water was gathered; dry land appeared with plants, trees, and fruit-bearing seed. Land, trees, plants and fruits are visible. On the other hand, within the depths of water, man cannot see below the surface; physically by standing on land. In the depths of water, fish are hidden—concealed. The depths of life are a mystery and below the surface it is hidden. The Torah is Eternal, Hashem brings Resurrection.

Dry land and water are two layers. We also have two layers; one is our surface and the other is our concealed inner-self. Our top layer is the surface of our strengths, weaknesses, talents and abilities. It’s our personality and character seen. The inner-depth lies in wait; undeveloped with our hidden strengths, talents, and abilities until discovered.

Fish and birds were created on Day Five. Fish and Birds swim rapidly through mighty currents and in swarms. We are to take the Torah out to the Nations—rapidly! Man’s identity is found in the Torah— Israel swims in Torah. The Jewish people have been scattered; thankfully, Hashem is gathering His Chosen back to Israel, and bringing in the “other sheep” who are to become grafted into Israel.

Let’s take a closer look at numbers two, three and five more in-depth:

Two: Division, Separation, Conflict. The body, our vessel is more inclined to pull into the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination). This comes from the fall when Adam and Chavah ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is “Free Will” that has two sides to discern. The world we live in, the lives of those around us, by our words and deeds (good or evil) spoken or given, we can use it to build up or destroy (tear down). We become what we choose to be. We are our own manager of our soul. We can choose life and blessings, or death with curses. May our thoughts and deeds mirror Hashem; as two becoming one. Choose Life!

Three: Creation Day Two was not called “Good” until Day Three (Gathering). It brings balance to what was separated. There are three forefathers, better known as the Three Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was named “Israel.” Israel is where Hashem will gather His chosen people. Three resembles the three Pilgrimages: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This also brings us to the understanding of being liberated from slavery (Passover), receiving the Torah (Marriage Covenant on Shavuot), and Sukkot is living in booths under the “Clouds of Glory,” under Hashem’s protection.

 THE SUKKAH (Hashem’s covering)—His PROTECTION.

On Tishrei fifteen to twenty-one, Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is celebrated for the “Season of Joy.” After completing the sobering Fast of Yom Kippur (self-evaluation and teshuvah), we celebrate the love and provisions Hashem has given us. According to Leviticus 23:40 and Deuteronomy 16:14, we are commanded to be happy and rejoice. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe and the Highest King wants to celebrate with His people. Instead of complaining, we rejoice! Those with a willing and contrite heart were to bring their offerings.

It is a joyful act to the giver, as well as to the receiver-happiness. It is also a loving way to rejoice in all of Hashem’s provisions. Sukkot is an gathering of raising up tents or booths; praising Hashem for delivering us out of the land of Egypt; knowing His work has completed everything. They were to tell their children for all generations to always remember that Hashem is their/our G-d. It is a celebration remembering and praising Hashem for delivering the Israelites, and the mixed-multitude out of the Egyptian’s hands (slavery) of four hundred and thirty years. Sukkot is also one of the three appointed times known as “Pilgrimages.” The three pilgrimages are: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:16.

The three signifies Hashem, Torah, and Israel. Esther 4:16 teaches us that Esther (Hadassah) fasted three days and three nights. It should remind us that Jonah was inside the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.

Five: The Five Books of the Torah are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The world was created by the Breath (Ruach) of Hashem using “Hey” (the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet), in order to reveal Hashem and His Will of Torah. “By the word of HASHEM the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts.” (Psalms 33:6)[11] The fifth Festival is the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur. The five Books of the Torah are foundational to understanding the Bible, and our life force (the giving of the Torah is our Covenant and marriage to Hashem—Redemption). Ohr (light) is mentioned in Creation Day One five times. Are we seeing more amazing connections?

Moses was sent upon the waters (Sea of Reeds) in a basket covered in pitch—a covering. The Water is the Torah and oil is the Wisdom within the Torah. Water is drawn from the well by a bucket. The bucket will distribute the water like a vessel—serving the Giver of the Torah. Torah cannot be given without wisdom. Wisdom is found in Torah of oil and water: “A truly wise person must recognize the importance of having both properties—oil and water—mingling with ordinary people freely, but ensuring that socializing with the masses does not cause him to be corrupted by the materialism of the world.” [12]How do we view ourselves? Prideful? Humble?

The Torah is the Blueprint of both man and creation. Just as the world is round, so must be the Torah; having no beginning or end. The cycle repeats itself. When the Torah Portions are read to the end, the Torah is rolled back to the beginning. This gives us an opportunity in life to “roll back” and start over with lessons learned for a better year breathing Life (Chesed/loving kindness) toward others; while growing closer to Hashem by walking in His Ancient Path. When we follow Torah in obedience, the path becomes narrower so that we can see more of G-d and less of ourselves.

We have been called to observe, keep, and guard (obey) His Torah. We are to be vigilant and safeguard Hashem’s Instructions—Torah. We are to take Torah—His Light—into the world to illuminate Hashem’s Light to the world without the dark world affecting us. The reality is, without Torah and without Israel, the world has no reason to exist.

When we become cornered in a situation (feeling helpless and hopeless from our own efforts), we are reminded that the Israelites experienced a horrible predicament. They were at the edge of the sea when the Egyptians were angrily approaching with powerful soldiers and fast chariots. They realized they needed a Higher Power—HASHEM! We, too, are limited in our abilities. When we become trapped, or in my case, without air while drifting under the depths of the sea, are we able to split our own sea with the help of Hashem. When we cry out to G-d, His Power is made known and additional strength is given.

Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey; they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.”[13]

Shalom!

 

 

[1] Isaiah 40:28-31, Sefaria

[2] Genesis 1:2, Sefaria

[3] Genesis 1:3-4, Sefaria

[4] Isaiah 41:14, The Stone Edition

[5] Exodus 14:11, The Stone Edition

[6] Exodus 14:13,The Stone Edition

[7] Exodus 14:19-20, The Stone Edition

[8] Exodus 15:8, Sefaria

[9] Jonah 2:2-4, Sefaria

[10] Proverbs 25:2, The Stone Edition

[11] Psalms 33:6, The Stone Edition

[12] The Wisdom in The Hebrew Month, Zvi Ryzman, Pg.88

[13] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1831859/jewish/Why-the-Need-to-Split-the-Sea.htm

 

 

Categories: Musings & Blessings | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Shepherd’s Voice

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Our Shepherd’s Voice

 

Have you ever questioned why G–d refers to human beings as sheep in the Tanach? Is it because we’re cute and cuddly? Maybe it’s because sheep (people) like to run about merrily. There are other reasons that would be more accurate; however, the ones mentioned certainly contribute. Running wild in an open field, aimlessly, certainly invites mischief. Sheep need constant care, direction, and protection from a shepherd, just as man needs their Shepherd.

“We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and HASHEM inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)[1]

We may not always understand Hashem’s ways, but His ways surpass our understanding. Having raised sheep, I can testify that our sheep needed proper direction, protection, and constant care.

I would like to tell two short stories about two different flocks of sheep. It will be fairly easy to understand the connection to why people are referred to as “sheep.”

The first group was a wild bunch–a mixed multitude of breeds. Most were the typical fluffy sheep, white in color; however, there was an additional sheep that was a blackish-cinnamon mix in the fold. Even though he was different from the others, he enjoyed spending the day with the other sheep. Sheep are very social animals and share in the joy of eating and sleeping together. They are often seen running gleefully in all directions.

Whenever I walked into the pasture and called out his name, he would stop what he was doing and run to me. Often, centered in the middle of the crowded flock, it was extraordinary to see his head pop-up every time he heard the familiar voice of his shepherdess.

I do believe that is the response Hashem loves to see when He calls to us. Will we hear and obey (Shema)? As His flock, we need to recognize Hashem’s voice and know Him by His Name (Isaiah 52:6), believe G–d reigns, and raise our voices, singing in glad song. Hashem’s sheep, like my blackish-cinnamon mixed lamb, are to be obedient and run to Him joyfully. We are reminded in Psalms 23 that Hashem is our Shepherd and He will guide, comfort, and protect us.

While raising sheep, they constantly needed their shepherd (my husband) or shepherdess (me) nearby. If the lambs found a gap in the fence, they would crawl under it. We also had a mischievous neighbor (children) who liked to open the gate occasionally. There were large dogs that lived down the road that delighted in chasing sheep and relished having lamb chops for dinner. The sheep were naïve and carefree; unable to detect danger.

They had plentiful water, grass, and feed to eat, but they seemed to never hesitate to wander off. One would hope since they followed each other out of the pasture, that upon returning home, they would follow suit. NOPE! It wasn’t easy getting them back into their pasture. They would go in separate directions; willfully-minded! Does that sound familiar?

“‘HASHEM said to the Satan, Where is it that you are coming from? “The Satan answered G–d, and said, “From wandering and walking about the earth.’” (Job 2:2)[2]

Like the dogs desired lamb chops, the Adversary prowls along…seeking someone to devour. When His sheep choose to follow their own agenda, we become easy prey for Satan (haSatan).

Sheep can become alarmed and separate rapidly. Imagine holding a dandelion in your hand, blowing it, and watching the seeds scatter in the wind. When frightened by sounds and sight, sheep scatter in like manner.

Sheep have excellent hearing and rely heavily on their eyesight. If one loses its way and gets stuck in a corner, all it sees is darkness. The poor sheep is unable to figure out that all it needs to do is back up and turn around. It could simply turn its face to the light to be out of darkness—freed from bondage. Sadly, if the shepherd doesn’t notice the trouble the sheep is in, it will remain in darkness, alone and depraved of sustenance, leading to death. Likewise, without turning our face to His light we will remain spiritually dead and starve to death. We need the guidance and protection of Hashem who brings our redemption. Will we turn toward His Light? Hashem’s Light is Truth (Emet).

What of the second group of sheep? The previous owner had neglected them. They continually went into other farmer’s fields searching for food. My husband and I took in this drove of sheep. They were the black-faced sheep called Suffolks. They were pregnant and in four to six weeks they would be ready for lambing. They were very scrawny and needed proper nutrition in order to deliver healthy live lambs.

We provided for their nutritional needs. We prepared with specialized paint, iodine, string, and a clean sheepfold so everything would be ready when the time came for the mommies to deliver. Of course, when the time arrived, it was almost midnight during a BLIZZARD! Thankfully, we had a spotlight set up from the house that shined light towards the corral and sheepfold. While my husband was at his place of employment, I was on watch. Sure enough they had begun to deliver—all at once! I was grateful for all preparations we had done. Sheep become anxious easily. Lambing can be challenging enough. The blizzard intensified their tensions. The stressed ewes would deliver their young, stand up, and walk off. The umbilical cord not yet cut, the lamb would be in tow—connected to the umbilical cord! Yes, I was a little apprehensive as well.

I had string, scissors, iodine, and special paints ready for action. Trying to keep a ewe immobile long enough to tie the strings, apply iodine, dab on some paint, and cut the umbilical cord was a bit like a well-choreographed musical. Sheep don’t always accept their offspring and it’s important to identify which lamb belongs to which ewe. The paint is used to mark the same alphabetic letter on the mommy and her lamb in the same color. The letter/paint system came in handy considering all thirteen- fourteen sheep delivered twins and triplets!

The ewes delivered their lambs wherever they were; on top of snow drifts or the muddy banks in their large pen! While some acknowledged their lambs, others were first-time moms and didn’t know what to do. I am happy to announce a good report that a shepherdess can be a midwife for her flock with multiple deliveries without assistance!

As a shepherdess, I was responsible for supplying their provisions, assisting with deliveries, guiding them to where they were supposed to be, and providing the opened doorway into a clean warm sheepfold. Their fresh food and water were readily available. I cannot recall the amount lambed-out, but it had to have been over thirty lambs. It had been a long, cold winter’s night.

One of the lambs wasn’t doing well. I took it inside our heated home to provide additional care (I had placed him on the bathroom floor and wrapped him in bath towels to keep him warm). Unfortunately, the poor lamb couldn’t retain its temperature. My heart broke when he died. I felt so helpless and wept at the loss of this little lamb in spite of the many survivors. Even though I lost one lamb during that horrible blizzard, others have voiced that it was remarkable to have lost only one lamb under those circumstances. It was heart-wrenching to have lost just that one. As a shepherdess, wrapping the lamb in towels reminds me of when Hashem clothed Isaiah in His salvation and righteousness:

“I will rejoice intensely with HASHEM, my soul will exult with my G–d, for He has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness has He cloaked me, like a bridegroom who exalts [himself] with splendor, like a bride who bedecks herself with her jewelry.” (Isaiah 61:10)[3]

Hashem sees all and places His spotlight upon the Torah—Light. He has given us “Free Will” to choose “Life” or “Death.” Will we stay in Hashem’s sheepfold, close to the Master, follow His Ways, or will we choose to wander our way—away?

“[He is] like a shepherd who grazes his flock; who gathers the lambs in his arm, who carries them in his bosom, who guides the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)[4]

Here is another very interesting parallel for us to gleam from:

“‘Our teachers have said: Once, while Moses our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moses ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moses approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love—by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.’”(Shemot Rabbah 2:2)

As His sheep, we may not always do things correctly. We might stand dumbfounded in a dark corner, lie in the mud, or just walk around aimlessly before we begin to learn to follow Torah.

We need to turn our face away from the dark corners in our lives and look to G–d. He will guide our feet in His paths of righteousness. He guides and provides for us. He breathes Life! Hashem is Sovereign, and the Torah is our lamp and a light to our feet (Proverbs 6:23). Will we turn our faces toward Him? Will we come running to our Shepherd who prepares a table for us as written in Psalms 23? Will we trust in Hashem and in His promises?

It’s important to learn to ignore the many counterfeit voices calling out to us. Those other voices are an imitation, only seeming authentic. When we walk in His Ways, His Torah, we will become refined; discerning the difference and easily identify the truth.

Let’s do a comparison with Jeremiah 23:1-2 and Ezekiel 34:1-22 (read the entire context).

The Coming Messiah—the Righteous Branch:

 “Woe to the shepherds who lose and scatter My sheep of pasture!—the word of HASHEM. 2 Therefore, thus said HASHEM, G–d of Israel concerning the shepherds who tend My people: You have scattered My sheep and dispersed them, and you did not pay attention to them; behold, therefore, I visit upon you the wickedness of your deeds—the word of HASHEM. 3 And I shall gather together the remnant of My sheep from all the lands wherein I had dispersed them, and I shall bring them back to their cotes, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will establish shepherds for them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid nor be terrified nor suffer losses—the word of HASHEM.” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)[5]

Hashem has clearly sent a warning. The G–d of Israel has His hand upon Israel. He will gather His chosen ones (His sheep), the remnant, as well as the non-Jews who will be grafted into Israel—not the other way around. In other words, contrary to the false teachings of replacement theology, the Jews were NEVER removed from the Covenant that was given to them on Mount Sinai, or replaced, by G–d, our Creator!

 “My sheep wander on all the mountains and upon every high hill; My sheep have scattered upon the whole face of the earth, but no one seeks and no one searches. 7 Therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of HASHEM: 8 As I live—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM—[I swear] that because My sheep have become spoils, and my sheep have become food for every beast of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not seek out My sheep, for the shepherds tended themselves, but did not tend My flock— 9 therefore, shepherds, hear the words of HASHEM! 10 Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will seek out My flock from their hand, and I will cause them to cease herding sheep, and the shepherds will no longer tend themselves; thus I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, and they will no longer be food for them. 11 For thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am here, and I will seek out my sheep and I will tend them. 12 As a shepherd tends his flock on the day he is among his separated sheep, so I will tend to My sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of cloud and thick cloud. 13 I will remove them from the peoples and gather them from the lands and bring them to their soil, and I will tend them upon the mountains of Israel, in the streams and in all the land’s habitations. 14 I will shepherd them upon good pasture and their fold will be upon the heights of Israel’s mountains; there they will lie down in a good fold and graze upon fat pastures, on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:6-14)[6]

The days are drawing near when Hashem will gather His scattered “sheep” and will bring them home into the Land of Israel—The New Jerusalem for the Kingdom of G–d. Hashem will take vengeance on those who have brought harm to His Sheep, as well as on those who led His sheep astray with false doctrines. He will seek after His sheep to bring them Home into the Land of Good Pasture, Israel, protected by Hashem!

~The Restoration Of All Israel~

Israel is G–d’s flock. In His timing, Hashem will bring all of Israel back home to the Land of Israel completely restored. Those who have brought harshness and deep affliction upon the “Apple of His Eye,” causing scattering, assimilation, division, and unspeakable conduct such as the Holocaust, will not escape the Day of Judgment. No amount of evil will ever crush the Light of the Jewish people, for HASHEM’s Chosen ones carry the Light to the Nations!

 “They will no longer be spoils for the nations, and the beasts of the land will no longer devour them; they will dwell securely, and none will make [them] afraid. 29 I will establish for them a planting of renown, and they will no longer be decimated by famine in the land, and they will no longer bear the shame of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, HASHEM their G-d, am with them, and that they are MY people, the House of Israel—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM. 31 Now, you are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man; I am your G–d—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM” (Ezekiel 34: 28-31)[7]

 

Israel will be planted firmly in their land; forever under the protection of G–d. Nothing will come up against them with fear or harm.

“HASHEM will be the King over all the land; on that day HASHEM will be One and His Name will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9)[8]

We are called to “trust” G–d for His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The ways of man lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). Man’s ways of understanding leave out the Ruach (Spirit). When the Ruach is left out, the flesh leads; disregarding the Ruach. The Ruach is to lead (head), the Nefesh (flesh) is the feet (lowest on body). We are at dirt level when the Nefesh leads. We are called to trust the Will of G–d. When we trust in Hashem, we affirm our faith in Him.

As Hashem’s sheep, we will encounter many hardships during our journey in “our wilderness.” On our journey, though difficult, we will learn that Hashem does everything for our good. Learning to accept that, our Emunah is strengthened by trusting in Hashem’s promises.

“Emunah” is a Hebrew word which means having the faith that goes beyond belief. It’s the understanding that G–d is above us and much wiser—Sovereign. It’s the acceptance that throughout life, our trials and tribulations become lessons learned for our benefit.

“Bitachon” is a Hebrew word which means “Trust.” It’s a powerful sense of optimism and confidence built on Emunah. Bitachon gives us the confidence to accept the trials with the ability to move forward in life. Sometimes life brings many hardships, failures, loss of loved ones, tragedy and brokenness. Emunah is the ability to reach into our past without fear or anger, grasp it, and have the “Bitachon” knowing that we can stand up from our brokenness and take those difficult steps forward.

“Faith/Emunah” is when we accept the brokenness and difficulties in our life and truly see the validity in the lessons given for our benefit in order to grow in His righteousness (whether we understand its reasons or not) is spiritual maturity. Trusting G–d with all things is accepting, knowing, and believing that no matter what trials are given Hashem has our best interest in all things. G–d is Good!

For His Glory!

[1] Isaiah 53:6, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[2] Job 2:2, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[3] Isaiah 61:10, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[4] Isaiah 40:11, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[5] Jeremiah 23:1-3-4, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[6] Ezekiel 34: 6-13, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[7] Ezekiel 34: 28-31, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[8] Zechariah 14:9, The Stone Edition, Tanach

Categories: Musings & Blessings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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