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As the portion cycle came to a close it was traditional to read Parasha Vezot HaBracha on Simchat Torah. For the sake of further study into the final chapters of the Torah below is a table comparing Jacob’s blessing on his children with Moses’ blessing on the tribes. I pray you find the parallels insightful and this table enhances the study you have already done. Shalom!

  Jacob’s Blessing (Genesis 49) Moses’ Blessing (Deuteronomy 33)
Reuben Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! Let Reuben live, and not die, but let his men be few.
Simeon Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. No mention.
Levi [Same as above] Give to Levi your Thummim, and your Urim to your godly one, whom you tested at Massah, with whom you quarreled at the waters of Meribah; who said of his father and mother, ‘I regard them not’; he disowned his brothers and ignored his children. For they observed your word and kept your covenant. They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar. Bless, O Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands; crush the loins of his adversaries, of those who hate him, that they rise not again.
Judah Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk. Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.
Zebulun Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon. Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents. They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.
Issachar Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor. [Mentioned above]
Dan Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for your salvation, O Lord. Dan is a lion’s cub that leaps from Bashan.
Gad Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels. Blessed be he who enlarges Gad! Gad crouches like a lion; he tears off arm and scalp. He chose the best of the land for himself, for there a commander’s portion was reserved; and he came with the heads of the people, with Israel he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments for Israel.
Asher Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies. Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.Your bars shall be iron and bronze, and as your days, so shall your strength be.
Naphtali Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns. O Naphtali, sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake and the south.
Joseph Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers. Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choicest gifts of heaven above,and of the deep that crouches beneath,with the choicest fruits of the sun and the rich yield of the months,with the finest produce of the ancient mountains and the abundance of the everlasting hills,with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwells in the bush. May these rest on the head of Joseph, on the pate of him who is prince among his brothers.A firstborn bull—he has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall gore the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
Benjamin Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil. The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.
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One of the most surprising parts of this week’s parasha is that through all the traveling, confusion, deceit, and bickering, G-d is still with Jacob and He still speaks to him. This may not seem amazing to you but while reading I kept hoping that Jacob would eventually take David’s advice from Psalm 34:14 and: “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” It wasn’t that Jacob participated in a lot of the sin but it seemed to take a long time before he realized he should “turn away” from Laban and move on. Nevertheless G-d was with him, blessed him, granted him favor, and spoke to him. It is truly a miracle that throughout the trials and tribulations Jacob faced that G-d brought forth the 12 tribes of Israel! The whole story is orchestrated by G-d.

“When the L-RD saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”  Genesis 29:31

 “And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the L-RD.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.’”  Genesis 29:35

 “And G-d listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.”  Genesis 30:17

 “Then G-d remembered Rachel, and G-d listened to her and opened her womb.”  Genesis 30:22

This should come as no surprise considering G-d’s promise not to leave Jacob.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

 He is faithful. He is merciful. He is the Master of the universe. If ever you have been challenged by someone subscribing to dispensational theology regarding the lack of grace in the Torah it is quite clear the challenger has not read the Torah. This portion alone is a beautiful example of G-d’s grace toward Jacob and his family. Jacob is privileged to have several encounters with G-d and be involved in the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. G-d promises the land of Israel to Abraham and an abundance of offspring in Genesis 22:16-18, then He reiterates that promise to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5, and now we have the same promise mentioned also to Jacob in Genesis 28:14-15. This promise is from G-d and it is continually spoken by G-d. How gracious is He to remind us of His promises!

The promise to Abraham is reiterated to Jacob in his dream about the ladder that reached heavenward. This fascinating passage is teeming with messianic foreshadows.  To begin, scripture tells us:

 “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.” Genesis 28:11

 We know the “place” is called Bethel which means house of G-d. Also we know from scripture that Messiah Yeshua is likened unto a stone several times.

 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22

 “So this is what the Sovereign L-RD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’” Isaiah 28:16

 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom G-d raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:8-12

 “Come, let us sing for joy to the L-RD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1

Jacob essentially finds rest in the “stone” from the House of G-d just like we who are heavy-laden seek our comfort and strength from Messiah. (Matt. 11:28) As for the dream he sees a ladder extending from the earth to the heavens and angels are ascending and descending. Messiah Yeshua also ascended and descended.

“And he said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of G-d ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” John 1:51

32Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of G-d is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34They said to Him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ 35Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:32-35

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38

Then G-d spoke to Jacob in the dream and reiterated the promise given to Abraham, tells him He will bring him back to the land, tells him that the families of the earth will be blessed by him, and finally promises to be with him. Messiah serves an important role throughout all of the things mentioned to Jacob, especially the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of His kingdom in Jerusalem. After Jacob awoke he rightfully acknowledges that he is present in the house of G-d, but he also declares the place is the “gate of heaven.” What an interesting description! My understanding of a gate is an entrance to a fortified location. Who is the only way to eternal life? Who guards the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6

Another intriguing parallel is that Jacob pours oil on the stone after he is cognizant of the holy place on which he has been standing. So too, will Messiah Yeshua be publically proclaimed as G-d’s anointed Son and as King.

26 ‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the L-rd and against His Anointed’—27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:26-28

It would appear that Jacob saw the gate of heaven and the house of G-d. It is important to focus on Jacob’s reaction following such an awe-inspiring occurrence. (1) He demonstrated fear of G-d, (2) made a vow of dedication and service, (3) and he “went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east.”(Gen. 29:1) Shouldn’t being born again lead to the previous actions? Should we not, for the first time, fear the King of the universe and vow to be His servant? Of course if we fear Him, then we must keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13) and we would seek to dwell with the body of Messiah. We would no longer fellowship with the world but we would separate ourselves from the world and fellowship with the congregation of Messiah. As you read this week’s portion, I encourage you today to focus on our Messiah. Glorify Him and give thanks to the G-d of our salvation. “Oh give thanks to the L-RD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 106:1)

The first interesting point in this week’s parasha is the puzzling name for the parasha chosen by the Sages. Chayei Sarah translates to “Life of Sarah” but the first part of the portion is about Sarah’s death and burial. The intention here, if I understand it correctly, is to demonstrate the legacy of Sarah. Even though she has passed away we see the influence of her life on Isaac as he takes Rebecca as a bride, Abraham as he sends away the “concubine-children” [Gen. 25:6] from Isaac just like Ishmael, and Ishmael himself as he comes back to fulfill the mitzvah of burying his father.

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitudes – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:11-13

In parasha Chayei Sarah we see the progressive fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham and Sarah. These promises continue even to this day. Though their lives ended HaShem’s promises are amaranthine. We can learn from how Abraham and Sarah lived out their faith. Yes, Sarah lived to see her promised son Isaac born but she did not live to see kings of peoples rise from her. [Gen. 17:16] Abraham lived to see G-d do as He promised to Sodom and Gomorrah but he did not live to see his offspring become increased like the stars in the heavens. [Gen. 22:17] Nevertheless they feared G-d and obeyed His every word. Even so, we may not live to see the second coming of Yeshua but we should, by faith, live as though it were today. If you knew Yeshua was coming back today, how would that change your walk?

Other interesting concepts in this week’s parasha are the similarities between Abraham and his brother Nahor’s family despite the physical distance. In regard to hospitality both entreat their guests to stay, wash their feet, and provide food. We know this of Abraham from last week’s parasha and we know this of Nahor’s son and grandson here:

“He said, ‘Come, O blessed of HaShem! Why should you stand outside when I have cleared the house and place for the camels?’ 32 So the man entered the house, and unmuzzled the camels. He gave straw and feed for the camels, and water to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have spoken my piece.’” Genesis 24:31-33

It appears that hospitality was a defining characteristic in Abraham’s family. Was Terah the person who inculcated generous hospitality? It would seem so since we read accounts of Abraham’s hospitality [Terah’s son], Lot’s hospitality [Terah’s grandson], and Laban’s hospitality [Terah’s great grandson]. Here we have a beautiful example of generational faithfulness specifically relating to hospitality.

Here is another similarity between Abraham and Nahor’s family in regard to blessing:

[Laban and his Mother to Rebecca] “They blessed Rebecca and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes.’” Genesis 24:60

[G-d to Abraham] “that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy.” Genesis 22:17

Did Abraham’s family know the blessing G-d gave him after the binding of Isaac? Either way the blessing given to Rebecca was prophetic. My intention for highlighting similarities between both families is to emphasize the importance of the biblical selection process for a spouse.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Abraham knew the importance of Isaac finding a virtuous woman which is why he forced his servant to take such a strong oath.

“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,” Genesis 24:2

Interestingly enough the word here for thigh is יְרֵכִֽי which can also be understood as loins or related to the word for descendants as it is in this verse:

“All the descendants of Jacob [ יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹב ] were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” Exodus 1:5

It was as if Abraham was swearing an oath on his descendants! In other words, Abraham declared that the fulfillment of the oath [finding a wife for Isaac from his country and his family] was directly related to the fulfillment of G-d’s promise of innumerable descendants! Both were dependent on G-d. Abraham’s servant realized this which is why he relied solely on G-d for the success of the quest. Finding a righteous wife was an essential ingredient for generational faithfulness and the servant used a revealing test. Would this beautiful young woman willingly demonstrate righteousness and love beyond what is requested? Rebecca completed the challenge and agreed to be Isaac’s wife.

Too often marriages are formed based on emotion. Marriage is too important to rely on ourselves. This passage in Genesis is just one of the many places where G-d reveals His process for selecting a spouse. Notice the important traits of Rebecca: Generous, loving, obedient, pure, beautiful, AND she demonstrated these characteristics before she knew someone was even interested in her! When these traits are faked or they manifest themselves during the “in love” euphoria it is easy to fall prey to the call of the siren. Brothers and sisters, I implore you to heed the wise words from the Song of Solomon and “..not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” [Song of Solomon 2:7] We have been promised that our inclusion of G-d and stringent selection criterion will evoke blessing.

Shalom.

This week we see a very important portion, especially in Judaism. In my opinion, Genesis 22:1-19 is one of the most difficult of all the trials Abraham faced. Here he is asked to offer his only son, whom he loves, as an offering. This whole passage contains messianic foreshadowing of Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.  Some of the parallels include; Isaac being the “only son, whom you love” and Yeshua being G-d’s only Son; both being offered as an offering upon G-d’s request; the wood, which was the source of death since it sustained the fire, was placed on Isaac and he carried it up the mountain just as Yeshua carried the wooden cross up the hill; both Isaac and Yeshua had the faith to walk out their father’s will; and so on.

In Parasha Vayera we see yet another fascinating parallel between Isaac and Yeshua. In the last portion G-d commands Abraham,

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations..” Genesis 17:11-12

Sure enough Abraham’s “only son, whom you love”, Isaac, is miraculously born and circumcised on the eighth day. Not only was Isaac promised to Sarah and Abraham just as Yeshua was promised to Mary and Joseph, but both mothers gave birth despite the physical impossibility. It is just as impossible for a woman without a menstrual cycle to give birth as it is for a virgin to give birth. It appears that Isaac is the first male to be circumcised on the eighth day. Ishmael was thirteen and there isn’t any indication that the people in Abraham’s household had just been born. Why is this significant? Because Isaac is the first child to fulfill the entire commandment of circumcision. Yeshua also fulfilled this commandment in its entirety by being circumcised on the eighth day.

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:21

There are even similarities in the outcome of the sacrifices of Isaac and Yeshua. The writer of Hebrew’s mentions,

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that G-d was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11:17-19

Which sounds similar to,

“When Abraham bound his son Isaac on the altar, and slew him and burned him, (the lad) was reduced to ashes, and his ashes were scattered on Mount Moriah; then the Holy One, blessed be He, brought down life-giving dew and revived him […] See S. Spiegel in the Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume (New York, 1964), pp. 553-566.]1 (emphasis mine)

Also, we know that Yeshua died and rose from the dead. However, the difference between Yeshua and Isaac is the most important part. Yeshua was, is and always will be G-d. His precious blood provided eternal atonement and it is through Him that we may be grafted in to Israel His bride. It is our responsibility to read the Apostolic Scriptures through the lens of the Tanach. In regards to Yeshua, those who believed recognized Him from Scripture. They saw the prophecies being lived out. They saw the messianic references in the Tanach come alive before their eyes. We may not have the incredible honor and privilege of walking physically with Yeshua, but as He said in John 20:29,

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Shabbat Shalom!

 


1 Courtesy of Curious Jew blog. Cambridge University Library manuscript (Or. 1080, Box I: 48), of the Midrash on Shibbole ha-Leket
http://curiousjew.blogspot.com/2007/01/isaac-died-alternative-version-of.html

Each week there are endless lessons and individual studies that can be gleaned from the portion. For instance, was it right for Abram to instruct his wife to lie to Pharaoh? What was the “severe plague?” What was a “bitumen pit” and why was it significant to mention them?

This week, however, my focus is discussing a lesson about walking in faith and humility.

Abram noticed the strife between his herdsmen and his nephew’s herdsmen. The potential cause of this dissention may be found in proceeding verses where we learn Abram was “very laden with livestock, silver, and gold” [Gen. 13:2] and Lot only had “flocks, cattle, and tents.” Perhaps scripture mentions Abram’s wealth because he was able to pay his herdsmen and Lot was unable to do the same. However the strife could have simply been caused by the struggle to maintain separation between Abram’s livestock and Lot’s livestock. After all, “the land could not support them dwelling together..” [Gen. 13:5]

Regardless, in order to resolve the issue Abram humbly proclaims that Lot may decide where he would like to settle and Abram will dwell opposite his choice. What a guy! We just read about the severe famine in the land so it wasn’t as if all the land around them was inhabitable. It was possible that Abram may have ended up in a harsh, deserted part of the land. Nevertheless, Abram selflessly humbled himself and gave Lot the amazing opportunity to settle anywhere. Lot’s decision is significant.

“So Lot raised his eyes and saw the entire plain of the Jordan that it was well watered everywhere – before HaShem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden (גַּן) of HaShem, like the land of Egypt, going toward Zoar.” Genesis 13:10

Here we see several reasons for Lot’s choice. The land:
• was flourishing and well watered.
• was in close proximity to the large, wealthy city of Sodom.
• resembled the Garden of Eden (בְגַן־עֵדֶן). (most likely because it was the most lush and fertile region they had seen thus far)
• resembled Egypt. (most likely because of the immense wealth of the city)

Lot’s choice was completely selfish, lazy and self-serving.  It is no mistake that scripture mentions the Garden of Eden. Lot would have certainly known the story of Creation and here he disgracefully compares a plain to the Garden of Eden AND Egypt.  I believe that was an insult. He draws a comparison between something holy and common. In addition, he chose a land that appeared to require little to no work since it was well watered and also a land close to cities in which he could easily acquire any earthly possession. He heeded the call of fleshly lusts and desires. In fact, Lot ends up dwelling in Sodom!  The very epitome of wickedness and sin! I am reminded here of the verses,

“The L-RD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” Psalm 147:6

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

The L-RD indeed supported Abram and blessed him. The land in which Abram dwelled at that point, the land of Canaan, is the Promised Land! Here we read a demonstration of G-d’s ability to use any situation, even the wicked decisions of men, to accomplish His will. We also see the fulfillment of G-d’s just words in regards to humble and wicked people. Abram did humble himself and he received blessing and victory. However Lot exalted himself and received shameful incarceration.

Abram had faith that G-d would provide for and sustain him in any part of the land. He knew that G-d would never leave him nor forsake him. Abram walked out that faith in bestowing to Lot the ultimate choice of dwelling place. Also in this portion we see Abram’s humble decisions to put his life and the lives of his disciples at risk by rallying to rescue Lot and refusing wealth from the king of Sodom. May we be able to refuse wealth and self gratification for the sake of G-d’s glory. May we be willing to not “stand idly by the blood of our fellow” and rescue those who are in distress. Trust in the L-rd this day for His plan is perfect. Be encouraged and follow Abram’s example!

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