Parashah Tol’dot

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah #6: Tol’dot( History) B’resheet (Genesis) 25:19-28:9Haftarah:Mal’akhi (Malachi) 1:1-2-7

B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:6-16

This week’s parashah continues the historical process of the perpetuation of the G-dly and ungodly lines of Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishma’el; now Jacob and Esau. This is a war of the worlds that will continue until Armageddon described so graphically in the book of Revelation. Once again, it is imperative that we establish a strong foundation in our knowledge of the Old Testament in order to accurately understand the references to it in the “New Testament”, the B’rit Chadashah. If our government leaders had this foundation they would have realized a long time ago that peace with the Arab nations cannot and will not occur by having a quilting party or invoking sanctions. G-d says as much. Genesis 25:22 begins, “The children fought (jostled in the Hebrew) with each other inside her so much that she [Rivkah] said, ‘If it’s going to be like this, why go on living?’ So she went to inquire of Adonai, who answered her, ‘There are two nations in your womb. From birth they will be two rival peoples. One of these peoples will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Once again we see the sovereignty of G-d as He chooses to reverse the general order of patriarchal rights and privileges of the firstborn. Cain was the elder brother and he was jealous of the younger Abel. The promises of the covenant were given to Isaac, although Ishma’el was also blessed. Now, Rivkah is told things will be different between her sons also. G-d’s statement to Rivkah poses a dilemma for Orthodox Jews who do not subscribe to the concept of original sin as do Messianic Jewish believers. Let’s examine how this dilemma is resolved to give us a better understanding from where our Jewish brethren are coming. First however, take note that although Isaac prayed to Adonai for his wife that she become pregnant in the first place, Adonai did not answer that prayer for 20 years! We cannot place a timeline or “throw a fleece” expecting G-d to answer our prayers in our time. It is His time that is perfect. Furthermore, the Arabs make the same mistake many of us make; we do not accept G-d as sovereign; we think we know what is best and how things should be according to our own personal solar system. G-d chose Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau. G-d shows mercy to whomever he will (Rom. 9:15).

Rashi states a Midrash that says “Whenever she [Rivkah] passed the entrance to the House of Study of Eber, Jacob struggled to exit. Whenever she passed the entrance to houses of idol worship, Esau struggled to exit.”

The above Midrash seems to imply that Esau and Jacob were already fixed in their tendencies to evil and righteousness, respectively, before birth. However, that would contradict the Torah principle of free will. It would also contradict another teaching of the Sages. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 91b) relates that Rebbe Yehudah, the descendant of Jacob, and the Roman leader Antonius, the descendent of Esau, debated when the yetzer hara (evil inclination)[we call original sin], enters a person. Rebbe Yehudah maintained that it enters at conception and Antonius maintained that it enters at birth. After Antonius brought scriptural proof to bolster his opinion, Rebbe Yehudah acquiesced that it enters at birth. It is important to note the so-called “scriptural proof” is not defined. Sounds like many who offer comments they heard without any credible references of support such as “Hey! I saw on the Internet that someone said our phones are coded with a microchip that identifies what we buy every time we take the phone into the store!” The other person says “what was the source of that information?” The first person says, “I don’t know, but it sounds like something they would do!” Who are they? Can we see the eisegetical analysis of information that has absolutely no reliable proof? If you have not encountered family, friends, or others telling you these sorts of things, get ready. Yahshua knew it would happen (Matt. 24:23). We see it every day and it will only get more intense as the time for His return draws closer.

The Midrash as cited seems to attribute the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to Esau prior to birth. However, Maimonides explains that a person’s nature does not cause him to be righteous or evil. Rather, the choice is completely in his own hands. This is where we must qualify the Messianic Jewish believer’s understanding of original sin. While we agree that the choice to act on evil impulses or succumb to our basic animal instincts is ours alone, original sin remains with us throughout our lives with physical death as a consequence and spiritual death unless we reconcile ourselves to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice. It is original sin within us or the yetzer hara (evil inclination) that mandates we make conscious choices concerning Torah observance or sin. Original sin is within our genetic code since the fall of Adam and is therefore present before birth. Orthodox Jewish believers resolve the problem of in-born traits with individual free will and a belief that while no two people are born with identical character traits, these traits are under the influence of many factors, but are not inherently good or bad. They are “neutral” or pareve, and can be influenced either way. A predilection towards anger, for instance, is not necessarily an evil trait. There are situations when anger is an appropriate response. Unbeknownst to Orthodox Jews, Yahshua’s response to the unfair selling practices in the Temple was a perfect example! Similarly, all natural tendencies tend to be directed in both positive and negative directions. That is, reason and emotion interact as we make every decision. The universal guide for how to make right choices is G-d’s Torah. Nomos (Strongs 3551) is the Greek word translated “law” in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament). Nomos has many definitions — it can mean law of the land, any codified law/set of laws, a basic principle, and of course, it can mean Torah. There was no specific Greek word for “legalism” and often nomos is used when Sha’ul is referring to legalism (rabbinic Judaism; the traditions of men NOT G-d) — since legalism itself is also a set of laws, nomos fits well there too.

Having defined law, it’s time to define ‘lawlessness.’ In Greek, it is anomos — that is, anti-law. Christians are taught to assume that every single instance of ‘law’ in the Scriptures can only mean Torah (I’ve shown above that is not true in all cases — its a broad word); yet few stop to think of the ramifications. If ‘law’ can only mean Torah — then what does “lawless’ mean? Anti-Torah? In the case of lawlessness, I submit that Torah is indeed meant — that the sign of the end times would be “Torah-lessness.” Christians are taught to believe they are “free from law” not realizing that’s just a seemingly nice way of saying “without law” or “having no law.”

The argument is made by Christian clergy that Torah was only given to show man how sinful he was, to show he could not keep Torah and that he needed a Saviour. The truth is that Torah was given to show us how to overcome sin and the holiness of G-d. G-d said He gave Torah to show man how to live as a mikra ‘called out’ people (note, “church” is modern english translation of Greek word ekklesia– which also means mikra, that is, “called out ones”). Torah is a lifestyle document. Christianity would have you believe G-d gave Torah to His Chosen People so that He could later introduce “Grace” and then condemn His original Chosen People in favor of other nations. Think about the absurdity of this thought process for a moment. If that was how G-d treated His Chosen Ones — how much better will He treat His non-Chosen Ones? Would a G-d who is described as all love in the Christian realm deliberately give people a document they could not obey, and then condemn for their expected failure? Yahshua came 1500 years after Torah was given — that’s 1500 years of fruitless efforts to obey? Think about it.

When YHVH gave Torah, He promised blessings for obedience, punishments for disobedience. This is a theme throughout the Torah. Israel strayed from Torah and received many punishments — right up to being taken into captivity and being divorced for a time. If man was incapable of following Torah, if it was given only as a trick to show it couldn’t be kept — that would make G-d a liar and a sadist for punishing people for failing to do an impossible task which He commanded we undertake!

Torah was not given to show man couldn’t keep it. To the contrary, G-d Himself declared man could and can keep G-d’s Torah (Deut. 30:11-14). Obedience to G-d’s Torah is attainable and there is no other. Man chooses to disobey — but the fault lies within man, not Torah. Obedience to Torah is not placing ourselves “under the law” as purported by Christian clergy. Obedience to G-d’s Torah is our reasonable service and the way to show our true devotion and love for G-d and His Word (See John chapter 14).

All Scripture must be tested against Torah for accuracy. If you hold to a doctrine that contradicts Torah, your doctrine is wrong and you are guilty of lawlessness. Torah is the foundation. Misunderstanding this fact will lead to incorrect doctrines and a skewed misunderstanding of Scripture. As Sha’ul says “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”(Romans 7:12).

Using the internet, for instance, can be for biblical research and honest inquiry or for the purpose of hacking and causing harm. Although the character traits of the user are predetermined, their function and control are totally in the hands of the individual. The truth of this statement cannot be overemphasized. We cannot blame anyone for our actions but ourselves if we are alert and oriented. We use our free will in using our character traits for good or bad, and suppressing these tendencies when necessary. We are engaged in a spiritual war of the worlds every day of our lives. Choices cannot be made if there is only one option. There cannot be a “right” if there is no “wrong.” The Torah defines sin, how we can overcome it, and the options and the ramifications of our choices.

This major theme of the war of the worlds in our parashah leads to the consequences that can be traced through the history of Israel the nation and Israel(true believers) recorded in G-d’s Torah. Those of note who descended from Esau include Amalek, and Edom. Amelek as a nation descended from Esau’s marriage to one of Ishmael’s daughters. Amelek was the first nation to attack Israel following the Exodus (Ex. 17:8). They attacked the weak and infirm from the rear in a manner no less cowardly than the subtlety of Hasatan who attacks us at our weakest points. Edom as a kingdom established by Esau became the Roman Empire according to the Sages (Leviticus Raba 13, 5). We are presently in our final Diaspora, called the “Diaspora of Edom” that began with the destruction of the second Temple at the hands of Rome. Today’s Western world has evolved out of the Roman Empire which converted to Christianity in the 4th century CE and established the Christian Church. Just look where the Western world is at the moment! I submit to you that America’s view is that of Esau, not Jacob.

In Jacob’s view, Temple service is the obligation of the first-born. In our world, it is everyone’s obligation to serve our Creator above all else. As the establishment of a connection to G-d is the highest priority among all human needs, the first child born in each generation should naturally dedicate his or her life to this activity, occupying as it does, the place of primary importance in the plethora of possible careers. Of course in Orthodox Judaism, the first-born male assumes this role over a first-born female, but this tradition of man is slowly changing.

Esau has no patience for this. He has the power to bring order to the world without focusing on another existence. He will use his powers of persuasion and if necessary, the power of the sword. After all anything is justified if it can bring the world to a state of perfection and eliminate all the evils that infect it, up to and including death. He tells Jacob he will gladly trade places. He does not see Temple service as occupying a place of primary importance. Jacob’s message is the wrong one as far as Esau is concerned. According to Esau, the obligation of the first-born is to focus on this world, not to spend life dreaming of the next. Unfortunately, Isaac loved Esau for his “manliness, love of the hunt, and living for the moment (Gen. 25:28). The Roman Empire and all its successors including the Spanish, French, British, Prussian, Austrio-Hungarian, etc., always carried out their imperialistic policies in the name of world progress and the promotion of true civilization. If we replace the words “America” in place of “Esau” in this paragraph, it is obvious our country has become more like Esau than ever before in its history. The entire global community including America has not progressed past Esau’s vision. We still believe that all our problems have earthly solutions that can be solved with mans’ wisdom. We are taught to live in the present; seize the moment. However, true believers know what mans’ wisdom leads to (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Yes, we must fight the war of the worlds within our hearts and minds on a daily basis and seek the right choices by referring to G-d’s Torah. As Sh’aul (Paul)said in Romans chapter 7: “7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7

This week’s haftarah begins with mention of the tremendous love G-d has for the children of Jacob, and the retribution He will visit upon the children of Esau who persecuted their cousins. Malachi then rebukes the priests who offer “seconds” on G-d’s altar: “ were you to offer it to your governor, would he be pleased or would he favor you?…O that there were even one among you that would close the doors [of the Temple] and that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain!”  Here is a perfect example of a suboptimal practice falling below even legalistic keeping of G-d’s laws. The priests went through the steps of making the sacrifices, but like Nadab and Abihu, they decided to take short-cuts and do it their way. When will we learn that G-d is not at the other end of a fast-food restaurant speaker waiting to take our order! The haftarah ends with a strong enjoinder to the priests (and I say those like them) to return to the original covenant that G-d made with Aharon as the High Priest. “True teaching was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. In peace and equity he went with Me and he brought back many from iniquity.” Taking short-cuts will place on a highway to Hell. We must learn to follow the instructions of the One who paved the road with love and fear.

B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:6-16

“But the present condition of Israel does not mean that the Word of G-d has failed. For not everyone from Israel is truly part of Israel; 7 indeed, not all the descendants are seed of Avraham; rather, ‘What is to be called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak’. 8 In other words, it is not the physical children who are children of G-d, but the children the promise refers to who are considered seed.9 For this is what the promise said: ‘At the time set, I will come; and Sarah will have a son.’ 10 And even more to the point is the case of Rivkah; for her children were conceived in a single act with Yitzchak, our father;1 and before they were born, before they had done anything at all, either good or bad (so that G-d’s plan might remain a matter of His sovereign choice, not dependent on what they did, but on G-d, who does the calling). 12 it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ This accords with where it is written, ‘Ya’akov I loved, but Esav I hated.”14 So are we to say, ‘It is unjust for G-d to do this’? Heaven forbid! 15 For to Moshe he says.” I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will pity whom I will pity,’16 Thus it doesn’t depend on human desires or efforts, but on G-d who has mercy.”

The first verse of this passage provides proof that not all who live in geographical Israel or are biological Jews are true believers (truly part of Israel). Furthermore we are reminded that G-d will call whom He will. Remember “many are called but few are chosen?” This statement is the conclusion to the parable of the wedding feast. Yahshua spoke this parable to show what the kingdom of heaven will be like when the end of the age comes. In the parable, the king sends his servants out to gather the wedding guests to the wedding feast. But those invited refuse to come, some because they were too busy with eating, drinking, and pursuing the earthly life, others because they were totally hostile toward G-d and obedience to His Torah. So the king commands his servants to go out and invite anyone they find, and many come and fill the wedding hall. But the king sees one man without a wedding garment (repentance), and he sends him away. Yahshua concludes by saying that many are called/invited to the kingdom, but only those who have been “chosen” and have been reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice will come. Those who try to come by their own route, taking short-cuts, negating Yahshua’s sacrifice, riding the fence between two religions described by Yahshua as “lukewarm” (Rev. 3;15-16), and subsequent following His Torah will find themselves inadequately prepared for the wedding just as the virgins without oil in their lamps(Matt. 25:1-12). The absence of light with no “oil” (spiritual) will result in being sent into eternal “outer darkness” in which YHVH/ Yahshua will have no part (matt. 25:12)  Many people hear the call of G-d that comes through His Torah, the Holy Spirit’s prompting, observance of His creation, and our conscience. But only the ‘few” will respond because they are the ones that are truly hearing. Yahshua said many times, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 11:15; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8, 14:35). The point is that everyone has ears, but only a few are listening and responding. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”(John 6:44). May we be among the chosen. Let us not be caught unaware with no oil in our lamps or find out too late that there is no blessing left for us as did Esau (Gen. 27:34-41)!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Tamah Davis