Parashah Vayishlach

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah # 8: Vayishlach (He sent) Genesis 32:4-36:43Haftahah:

Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21

B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12


This week we learn that Jacob returns home after 22 years and meets his brother Esau on the way. True to his cunning character and sense of logic, he prepares for the possibility of a fight with Esau in three ways using some of the tenets of war we should use in our own spiritual warfare. First, he divides his family into two camps in case of attack. Second, then he prays G-d rescue him from his brother Esau. Finally he sends gifts ahead to Esau. His priorities preparing for this potential battle should cause us to question his priorities. Should he have prayed first? There is a lesson for us here. Although Jacob prayed to G-d second, he did not assume a “wait on G-d” stance. Rather, He demonstrated to G-d that he was taking responsibility for a possible upcoming confrontation and he provided for the safety of his family. Then he acknowledged that G-d was the only One who could intervene and save him. 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, the evil inclination head-on, but is preparing himself to battle with the yetzer hara.

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. People mistakenly think we can “rebuke the devil and he will flee.” How arrogant is that! 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, giving us a lesson through His statements and perseverance during extreme stress. Finally in Luke 4:12, we read the same account as in Matthew 4:7. There should be no doubt 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 the need to rely on G-d evidenced by his prayers and the way he bred the sheep and goats in the previous parashah.

The subtle or covert approach is what Jacob refers to when he says “my brother.” At times nations and individuals attack us by befriending us. Unfortunately, the United States is covertly (for now) attacking Israel by rejecting its right to defend itself and take a Biblical stand against her enemies. Our leaders continue to pressure Israel’s leadership to lower the country’s level of protection and Torah observance to G-d’s commands. Yes, some of the Oral Torah is not supported by G-d’s Torah, but many of the basic content is consistent with G-d’s Torah such as Israel’s ownership of the land and protection of her people. This strategy typifies that of hasatan and Amalek, attacking the physically and/or spiritually infirm from the rear (point of greatest vulnerability).For Israel, continued subsidy from the United States is still an important source of income for her military. I submit there will be a time in the near future when Israel’s only Source of help will be G-d.

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. This one example illustrates how important it is to check the original Hebrew to make sure nothing is added or left out.

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? Did the first statement indicate Ya’akov was to look forward to the name change at a later time at which it happened? If so, 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 if 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 Yaakov, and after an all-night battle the Angel decides he cannot win and declares Yaakov 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 Yaakov and darkness by Esau.

We read that Jacob suffered injury to his thigh. I believe it was to remind him not to become arrogant or proud because G-d provided him such revelations on account of his communion with YHVH Elohim. We too should not entertain any pride in G-d’s mark upon us. We should honor his grace and mercy with our obedient service out of love.

Haftarah: Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21

The punishment of Edom, the descendants of Esau is mentioned this week. Obadiah, himself an Edomite convert to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation Edom. Note that Ovadayah is a convert from Edom! This fact illustrates that any person can come to Yahshua from any nation at least for now. Ovadayah 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

We are told of the impending Tribulation in the beginning verses of this passage. But thanks be to G-d, 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. 2:9), of Mechzaldek. Those who are to be saved when they stand before Yahshua will be administering His Millennial Kingdom. Some will not have physically died if they were marked to serve during the Tribulation. 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 of 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 or if they can be seen by other believers. 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! True repentance and acceptance of Yahshua as Messiah is the only way. 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 profession] 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 Levi) 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, 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) (See Rabbi Phil Davis’ book No Covenant for the Gentile Church.” 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. The definition of a true believer in the book of Revelation is that of YHVH/Yahshua. He is One (Echad) and remains “asher haya v’hoveh v’yavo (Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come).” May His coming be in our lifetime.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Tamah Davis