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Posted February 1, 2019 - 11:54am

Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Yeshua’s encounter with a Gentile woman who had come to him begging that he exorcise a demon from her daughter. With our modern, egalitarian perception of Yeshua we would think that he would immediately have compassion on this unfortunate girl and agree to help. However, the Gospels record for us what may be the Master’s most shocking response to our Western ears. He told the woman, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26).

What? Did he really say that? Why did Yeshua make this seemingly racist statement against this poor Gentile woman who was begging for his help? How do we deal with this? Some people would like to censor Yeshua’s words, while others would like to claim that some Gentile-phobic Jewish editor slipped that into the text shortly after it was written. This passage is definitely a stumbling block for people considering faith in Yeshua. In a time when we are being told to “unhitch” ourselves from the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish foundations of our faith this passage can add fuel to the fire.

Is it really reasonable for Gentiles to be called dogs by religious Jews of Yeshua’s day, and even by Yeshua himself? Where does this idea stem from? If we look at this week’s Torah portion we can see its origin. At the end of Exodus 22 we read this:

You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. (Exodus 22:30[31])

Commenting on this verse, Rashi interprets this to mean that torn flesh may be given to a Gentile. But how does he (and other commentators) come to this conclusion of equating Gentiles with dogs in this passage. The question is easily answered when we turn to Deuteronomy and see almost the exact same language:

Posted January 25, 2019 - 11:57am

A Pentecostal Experience

Parshat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

We are all familiar with what took place in Acts 2. After Yeshua’s resurrection he instructed his disciples to remain in Jerusalem so that they would be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–8). Here’s the account of how it happened:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1–4)

Yeshua’s disciples encountered the Spirit of Hashem in a powerful way that not only transformed their lives but also empowered them to boldly proclaim the good news of Yeshua’s coming Kingdom. But what does this event that happened during the lives of the Apostles have to do with our current Torah portion? Parashat Yitro records for us the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, particularly the “Big Ten” of the 613 commandments. It tells us how God revealed Himself to an entire nation at once:

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off.” (Exodus 20:15[18])

Posted January 18, 2019 - 12:00pm
Parashat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

What is it? This is what the Children of Israel asked when they saw the manna when it first appeared in the wilderness. Before it appeared they had been grumbling against Moses and Aaron because their bellies craved more than what they had at the time. They were so dissatisfied that they spoke about their time of slavery in Egypt as if it brought back nostalgic memories for them saying, “We sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full” (Exodus 16:3). Hashem heard their grumbling and told them He was going to put an end to it. He would give them quail in the evenings and manna in the mornings. They would have no more reason to complain.

The LORD told Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day” (Exodus 16:4). He calls the manna “bread from heaven.” What does this phrase mean and why is it used? First, throughout the Scriptures the word bread is used as a general word for food. In this context it simply means that the food Hashem is going to provide for them is going to be unlike any food they have ever eaten. It will be something miraculous and of a divine nature. How so?

Our sages tell us that the manna was completely unparalleled in that it was uniquely tailored to each individual. No matter the size or the need of the person they gathered exactly enough and exactly what they needed. It provided not only what that person needed, but also what he desired. To one it would taste this way and to another it would taste that. This is based on the passage in our portion that says:

They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. (Exodus 16:17–18)

Posted January 11, 2019 - 7:53am

Parashat Bo

Exodus 10:1-13:16

In Parashat Bo we learn about the final three plagues with the culmination being the death of the firstborn. This is the final act of God that released the Children of Israel from the grip of Egyptian slavery. But right before this final plague is poured out, the Children of Israel are given instructions for the Passover Lamb and all that went with it. They were to take a male lamb without blemish on the tenth day of the month and keep it until the fourteenth day when they would slaughter it. They would then smear some of its blood upon the doorframes of their houses so that the firstborn of the Israelites would not face the same fate as that of the Egyptians.

That night they were to eat it “roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Exodus 12:8). And whatever was not eaten was to be burned in fire. They were to eat it in a special way: “with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste” (Exodus 12:11).

All of these instructions were to be observed meticulously so that the firstborn of the Children of Israel would be spared when the LORD struck the firstborn among the Egyptians. But after this we read about how this event should be memorialized and relived year to year thereafter. Aside from the offering of the Passover Lamb most of the instruction is focused around matzah, unleavened bread. In Exodus 12:17 there is a fascinating instruction given that most people miss because of our English translations. Most English translations render it, “And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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