Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah # 8: Vayishlach (He sent) Genesis 32:4-36:43
Haftarah: Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
We start this week’s parashah with Jacob’s return home after a 22-year absence. However, he is about to meet Esau on the way. Jacob prepares for the possibility of a fight with Esau in three ways:
1. he divides his family into two camps in case of attack,
2. then he prays G-d rescue him from his brother Esau,
3. then he sends gifts ahead to Esau.
His priorities preparing for this potential battle provide a valuable lesson for us. Rather than dealing with our family and possessions first, we should pray first, family second and other preparations third. As we’ve previously discussed at the sud (secret) level of Biblical study, Esau is considered the personification of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) with which we are confronted daily. Therefore, Jacob is not only preparing himself to meet Esau, symbolic of the evil inclination head-on, but is preparing himself to battle with the yetzer hara. However, his priorities are a bit mixed-up as he prepares for this confrontation.
For those who have other versions of the Bible, or even the Complete Jewish Bible, the verbiage in Genesis 32:12 is not complete. The complete sentence in the Hebrew is “Save me now from the hand of me brother of me from hand of Esau.” In other words, Jacob uses repetitive language, mentioning Esau in two different forms. Why? He has only one brother, and there is only one Esau. It would seem that either description would have sufficed. Some of the Sages (Kedushat Levi, and the Ben Ish Chai) understand this seeming redundancy as a hint to two different approaches of the yetzer hara, extremely important for our learning how to confront the evil inclination.
One approach of the yetzer hara is to attack us head-on, and to try to actively prevent us from following G-d’s Torah. This approach is called “Esau”- the overt use of force to keep us from practicing our faith by trusting in the faithfulness of Yahshua’s sacrifice and guarding the commands of G-d.
The other approach is more covert or subtle in which we let our guard down by believing our faith and strength against hasatan (satan) is stronger than it is. Many Christians are mistakenly taught that they can “rebuke the devil and he will flee.” This is both an arrogant attitude and incorrect. James 4: 7 reads “Therefore, submit to G-d. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you. Come close to G-d, and he will come close to you.” There is a significant difference between taking a stand against hasatan in submission to G-d, and testing G-d by claiming power to rebuke him on your own! This is a secular humanistic approach that maintains man has a better idea and can solve all problems without G-d. Yahshua commands us not to test the L-rd our G-d in Deut. 6:16; “Do not put Adonai your G-d to the test, as you tested him at Massah [testing].” Matthew 4:7 reads “Do not put Adonai your G-d to the test.” In this scripture He was speaking directly to hasatan as he was trying to tempt Yahshua, but this statement also applies to us. Finally in Luke 4:12, we read the same account as in Matthew 4:7. There should be no doubt then, that we can do nothing on our own, but submit to G-d in everything, including standing against hasatan and the yetzer hara. Jacob understood this as we discussed last week on the subject of breeding the sheep and goats.
The subtle or covert approach is what Jacob refers to when he says “my brother.” At times nations attack us by befriending us. A perfect illustration is the tactics used by ISIS since late May. They are cultivating a base of support in Aleppo and Raqqa governorates, and to a lesser extent in Damascus and Deir al-Zour, all in Syria. Aleppo is the largest city in Syria. One of the main ways it has gone about this is through dawa forums in neighborhood squares. Dawa is calling non-Muslims to join the religion; calling them to the worship of Allah. In Aleppo, al-Bab, al-Dana, Jarabulus, Azaz, and other cities, ISIS speakers frequently exhort people on the virtues of jihad and fighting the Assad regime, sometimes balancing the speeches with fun, fair-like activities like tug-of-war competitions.
In addition, the group has interacted with children in order to curry favor. At one forum, local boys sang a jihadist nashid (religiously sanctioned vocal chant). Children have also been invited to participate in pie- and cantaloupe-eating contests and a Quranic recitation competition. In al-Tabqa, ISIS members even gave presents to children during Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. And many of the group’s videos feature kids talking about the ills of the “Nusayri” (a derogatory term for Alawite) regime and the valor of mujahedin. In short, ISIS seems to realize that winning the long war requires gaining the trust and support of children.
Besides light-hearted activities aimed at endearing themselves to the people, ISIS members have also provided aid to civilian protestors in Damascus, free medical services to locals in Jarabulus, bags of food to the needy in rural Aleppo, and below-market fuel to residents in Deir al-Zour governorate. These materials have been branded with the group’s black flag, illustrating that ISIS has significant organizational and financial resources as well as a clear intent to publicize its charitable aims. The group has also put up billboards in various areas to reinforce its dawa message, bearing slogans such as “Yes to the rule of sharia in Manbij.”
This strategy typifies that of hasatan and Amalek, attacking the physically and/or spiritually infirm from the rear (point of greatest vulnerability). Rather than attacking the physically infirm in this case, the attack is made through the innocent naiveté of children and the economic want of so many people.
This analysis helps clarify the meaning of Jacob’s seeming redundant statement, which we now understand is not redundant at all. When Jacob asks to be saved “rom the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau,” he is asking for two different types of protection. He asks for strength to resist the temptations of false brotherhood and camaraderie (my brother) and the ability to protect himself from overt physical attack (Esau). We need to internalize this concept and apply it to our lives.
Another apparent anomaly is found in Genesis 32:29 and 35:10. In the former we read: “Then the man [Yahshua] said, ‘From now on, you will no longer be called Ya’akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both G-d and men and have prevailed.” In the latter we read; “G-d said to him [Ya’akov], ‘Your name is Ya’akov, but you will be called Ya’akov no longer; your name will be Isra’el.” The question is why did Yahshua [the man] tell Ya’akov this once, then G-d repeat it? Didn’t Ya’akov hear it the first time? Did the first statement indicate Ya’akov was to look forward to the name change at a later time at which it happened? Why bother to tell him beforehand? After all, the man said “from now on” which seems to indicate at that point his name would be changed.
In the first case Jacob is told by the man with whom he struggled that his name would be changed. Jacob did not recognize him as Yahshua, so he may have wondered with what authority this man could change his name, especially considering the importance of Hebrew names. In the second episode, G-d himself tells Jacob about the name change, therefore validating what the first man said in Jacob’s mind. Imagine if you will, what Jacob may have thought when he heard this from G-d? I can see him asking himself, “Who was that man that wrestled me?” The answer is that the then “veiled” Yahshua gave Jacob a glimpse of the change that was about to come. No longer would he be considered the supplanter or the heel as indicated by his name. His destiny would reflect his name Isra’el; a prince of G-d; prevailing. The angel [Yahshua] at that time did not have the authority to rename Jacob as His time had not come to be revealed to humans, nor was the change to take effect immediately. The angel [Yahshua] merely revealed to Jacob what G-d Himself would do later. True to His character, Yahshua does the same for us throughout the B’rit Chadashah as well as the Old Testament in admonishing us to prepare for the Rapture, the Tribulation, His return, and the various judgments. The wonder and beauty of this written revelation is that we are given this information from which to learn and prepare ourselves for that which Yahshua has foretold just as he did for Jacob. May we have ears to hear!
The Orthodox view of this encounter maintains that that it was actually Esau’s angel who picked a fight with Ya’akov, and after an all-night battle the Angel decides he cannot win and declares Ya’akov the champion. The Sages say this was not just a physical fight but also a fight between light and darkness, purity and impurity. Purity represented by Ya’akov and darkness by Esau.
We read that Ya’akov suffered injury to his thigh. I believe it was to remind him not to become prideful by G-d’s revelations to him on account of his communion with YHVH Elohim. We too should not entertain any pride in G-d’s mark upon us except to honor his grace.
Haftarah: Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21
The punishment of Edom, the descendants of Esau is mentioned this week. Obadiah, himself an Edomian convert to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation Edom. Note that Ovadyah is a convert from Edom! This fact illustrates that any person can come to Yahshua from any nation. Ovadyah found a special place in G-d’s plan as his name indicates (servant of G-d). His prophesies occurred at around 900 BCE. The Edomites did not come to Judea’s assistance when she was being destroyed by the Babylonians, and even joined in like a pack of wild dogs. Many years later the Edomites (the Roman Empire) themselves destroyed the Second Temple and killed or enslaved their Jewish cousins without any mercy or remorse.
Though the Roman Empire was one of the mightiest in world history, Obadiah forewarns that G-d will bring down those who attempt to place themselves among the stars and fly high as the eagle. “And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the L-rd has spoken.”
After describing the division of Esau’s lands amongst the returning Judean exiles, this passage concludes with this beautiful familiar passage: “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the L-rd shall have the kingdom.” Ken yehi ratzon! (May it be so soon)!
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
In the beginning verses of this passage we read of the impending Tribulation. However, there is a blessed hope for those who are true believers and those sealed to serve G-d through this time (NOT the Church!) In the typical symbolic language of G-d’s Torah according to Matthew Henry, the blowing of the four winds together means a dreadful and general destruction of the Tribulation. But the destruction is delayed. Seals are used to mark those of the 12 Tribes as listed in this passage. Note that Levi is now a tribe. Why? Because true believers from the loins of Avraham belong to a higher priesthood (1 Pet. 2), of Mechzaldek. Those who are saved when they stand before Yahshua will be administering His Millennial Kingdom. The Levites will be supervising the sacrifices in the 3rd Temple. Dan is no longer listed. Although Ruben was the first born, we see that Judah is listed first. The tribe if Joseph and M’nashah are half-tribes from the Son of Joseph. Now they are split into two separate tribes. We do not know if the seals are visible to those marked, if they can be seen by other believers, or if they are only visible to hasatan and his followers. Whatever the case, G-d will protect them from harm as they carry out their mission of witnessing to Jews who have not accepted Yahshua as the Messiah. Note: this is NOT a conversion to Christianity. Rather, it is the acceptance of the second requirement of the seven-fold witness stipulated by Yahshua for those who want to be considered true believers. The witnesses will tell those who are alive on the earth at this time about the Kingdom of G-d that is about to come and of Yahshua’s return as Messiah ben David. Judah will understand this terminology and their eyes will certainly be opened. The sealed ones will also tell of the wrath of G-d that is about to fall on those who oppose Yahshua’s coming and choose to reject His Word. A profession of faith is clearly not going to cut it! Action speaks louder than words! When their mission has been fulfilled by G-d’s standard, the end shall come as prophesied in Matt. 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom [not of faith] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come.” True believers will be teaching in direct opposition to the forces of the harlot World Church that has within it the replacement theology that G-d has rejected the Jews and is therefore no longer any earthly provision for a Jewish kingdom. Many in the harlot will be expecting an all-inclusive Messiah, not a Jewish one. The Messiah many already have and will accept is the counterfeit Messiah (Antimessiah). The world can either accept the truth that these 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel preach or they will continue to choose deceptive teachings and beliefs consistent with secular humanism and false religion labeled by Yahshua as apostate (Rev. 17-18). Those who reject the message of those sealed by G-d will believe that hasatan is G-d and that the Babylonian Kingdom he rules fulfills the promise of a kingdom of G-d. They will take the mark of the beast and by doing so will receive the same fate as the beast, his false prophet and satan at the judgment. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Those Jews from Judah (tribes of Benjamin, Judah, and Levites) who repent and accept Yahshua during the Tribulation will be martyred (Rev 13:15). However, they will understand this compares not to eternity with YHVH/Yahshua in the New Jerusalem. However, let us not assume an elitist attitude. The grafted branches are in the same Olive Tree as the natural branches when all is said and done (Ezekiel 37). A study of Romans chapters 9-11 makes it clear that all people who fulfill the requirements of the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation as the definition of a true believer according to Yahshua, whether Jew or Gentile make up the bride of Yahshua spoken of throughout the Bible and in Revelation specifically. Israel in this context consists of these true believers, again, NOT the Church! After all, according Hebrews 12:22-24 describes the promise of a new covenant (not for Christians) that was made with the house of Israel and Judah, not to Gentiles (Jer.31:31-33). The new covenant spoken of in these verses in no way implies a new system that advocates abrogation of G-d’s laws, regulations, and statutes. Yahshua came to interpret his Father’s laws in a way that man could understand; not only in his teachings, but by his life.
There is no difference between G-d/Yahshua in the Old Testament or His definition of a true believer. He is One and remains “asher haya v’hoveh v’yavo (Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come).” May it be in our lifetimes.
Rabbi Tamah Davis