Tag Archives: fear

Vayishlach: The Good Fight

wrestlingIn this week’s parsha, our father Yaakov, fresh from his successful escape from Lavan, prepares to encounter his brother and sworn enemy, Eisav. He sends malachim to deal with Eisav before he will actually meet with him face to face. The word malachim signifies two different meanings. One is that it means agents, messengers, human beings who were sent on a particular mission to do Yaakov’s bidding. The other meaning is that the world malachim signifies angels, supernatural messengers of God who were sent to Yaakov to help him in his fateful encounter with his brother.

Rashi cites both possible interpretations in his commentary. When Rashi does so, he is teaching us that both interpretations are correct at differing levels of understanding the verse involved.

-Rabbi Berel Wein
“Human Effort and Supernatural Help”
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayishlach
Torah.org

A plain reading of the text suggests (at least to me) that Jacob sent human beings as messengers to his brother Esau rather than supernatural angels. It makes the most sense given the context. However, there is another encounter Jacob has with the supernatural that bears scrutiny.

Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.” Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.” Jacob asked, “Pray tell me your name.” But he said, “You must not ask my name!” And he took leave of him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, meaning, “I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping on his hip. That is why the children of Israel to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip, since Jacob’s hip socket was wrenched at the thigh muscle.

Genesis 32:25-33 (JPS Tanakh)

A man comes out of nowhere in the middle of the night, encounters Jacob and starts wrestling with him. Amazingly, both fighters have the strength and stamina to sustain their combat for many hours until dawn nears. The intruder then pleads with Jacob to release him because the sun is coming up, but rather than demanding who the person is and why he attacked him, Jacob asks his fellow combatant to bless him.

At least from this translation, we only learn that the “person” who attacked Jacob was supernatural when we arrive at verse 31:

So Jacob named the place Peniel, meaning, “I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

It is commonly believed that Jacob wrestled with an angel of God, but some believe is was some form of incarnate God Himself, while others believe it may have been a “pre-incarnate Jesus.”

Who knows?

But from Rabbi Wein’s commentary, we can assume, at least on the surface, that the mysterious fellow could either have been human or an angel.

Who was Jacob wrestling with? If it was an angel, why couldn’t the angel defeat a mere moral? When the attacker couldn’t defeat Jacob, why did he injure Jacob’s hip? Why did the “angel” attack Jacob in the first place?

Our problem is that if Jacob is truly alone, who can be wrestling with him? One possible answer is — no one! Jacob is actually wrestling with himself. This would explain the ambiguity in the passage. However, by solving the textual problem (if indeed we are correct), we have raised an even greater problem: Why would a sane man wrestle with himself? A careful reading of the text may give us some insight.

The “man” is referred to in Hebrew as an ish. And we find another verse — a great deal less enigmatic — in which it is apparent that the ish is clearly Jacob.

-Rabbi Ari Kahn
“Vayishlach: The Struggle of Jacob”
from M’oray Ha’Aish: Advanced-level Commentaries on the Weekly Parasha
Aish.com

OK, you’re probably not buying that, but I think the interpretation has merit, even as a metaphor. However, this isn’t the only way to look at this encounter:

Who is this man with whom Jacob wrestled? According to the Sages, he is the “angel of Esau,” and their struggle, which “raised dust up to the Supernal Throne,” is the cosmic struggle between two nations and two worlds — the spirituality of Israel and the materiality of Edom (Rome). The night through which they wrestled is the long and dark galut (“exile”), in the course of which Jacob’s descendants suffer bodily harm and spiritual anguish, but emerge victorious.

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Wrestling with Angels”
Chabad.org

shoahSo, in this interpretation, the guardian angel of Esau attacks Jacob but is unable to defeat him, presumably because of the blessings of God that rest upon Jacob but not Esau.

I suppose it makes more sense, especially when considering that Jacob realized he had been wrestling with a divine being. This operates as another metaphor and even on a prophetic level. The descendants of Jacob will be attacked by the descendants of Esau and although the Children of Israel, the Jewish people, will be injured, sometimes terribly, and carry the marks of their injury forward through history, they will ultimately prevail.

But let’s get back to the immediate situation Jacob was facing:

The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps

Genesis 32:7-8 (JPS Tanakh)

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.

-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Fictional heroes may face danger and death without fear, but real men and women are afraid all the time. Jacob had a lot of good reasons to be afraid. In fact, fear was one of his primary motivations for leaving his home in Canaan and seeking refuge, such as it was, in the home of his kinsman Laban.

For twenty years, Jacob labored under extremely difficult conditions, married, raised a family, went from being in poverty to becoming very wealthy. He, his family, his servants, and his livestock had all just survived the pursuit and threat of destruction represented by Laban, but now Jacob must face his oldest foe and his greatest adversary: his brother Esau.

Jacob's-Ladder1Jacob had done everything he could think of, everything humanly possible to appease Esau and to create a circumstance between them that wouldn’t immediately result in armed conflict when they finally met, but Jacob had a bigger enemy than Esau: this own fear and perhaps even guilt.

No matter which way you look at it, Jacob not only removed Esau’s birthright and blessing from him, on both occasions, he had done so by guile and trickery, even to the point of deceiving his own father Isaac. Such a thing for the grandson of the sage and tzaddik Abraham to do. One dream about angels at his exit from Canaan, and he’s gone.

What results from Jacob’s fight with the stranger in the dark?

  • Jacob is permanently disabled, walking with a limp for the rest of his days.
  • Jacob is blessed with the name “Israel” because he combatted with the divine and was victorious.
  • Jacob not only survived the encounter with Esau, but was welcomed by his brother back into Canaan.

And [Esau] said, “Let us start on our journey, and I will proceed at your pace.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; if they are driven hard a single day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I travel slowly, at the pace of the cattle before me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

Then Esau said, “Let me assign to you some of the men who are with me.” But he said, “Oh no, my lord is too kind to me!” So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed on to Succoth, and built a house for himself and made stalls for his cattle; that is why the place was called Succoth.

Genesis 33:12-17 (JPS Tanakh)

Alright, Jacob also didn’t trust his brother Esau as far as he could throw him, so he lied. Instead of following Esau at a slower pace, he detoured to Succoth, avoiding any future meeting with his brother.

All night long, Jacob struggles with his success. His spiritual self and his physical self collide as he tries to determine his true identity. But Jacob is unable to resolve this conflict.

In the resolution that is finally achieved, the physical realm is forced to yield. Laws, like that of the hip tendon, Gid HaNashe, will create spiritual boundaries within physical experience, making possible the elevation of the physical world to a spiritual plane.

-Rabbi Ari Kahn

Rabbi Kahn sees the struggle as the conflict between the physical and spiritual forces within Jacob. Would he join with his brother Esau and combine wealth, denying his spiritual destiny as the inheritor of Abraham and Isaac, or would he defeat his baser self, and become the true father of Israel?

Kahn says the outcome is obvious and reflected in Jacob’s refusal to accompany Esau and rather, to pursue a higher destiny.

Rabbi Tauber sees the victory a little bit differently:

It is a long and difficult struggle till dawn. But in the end we triumph over men and prevail over the divine as well. For this is the essence of Israel.

Rabbi Tauber sees Jacob defeating both the forces of evil that Esau’s angel represents and the divine itself, illustrating that it will always be Israel’s destiny to contend, even with God. This may sound like a bad thing, but it has merits.

A relationship with God always involves struggle. The worst thing a person of faith can do, even worse than becoming an apostate, is to take faith for granted and become apathetic.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Revelation 3:15-18 (NASB)

coastSometimes it takes a crisis to shake us out of apathy. Like the church at Laodicea, Jacob had become rich. He was in danger of taking God’s blessings for granted. The angel of Jacob delivered the same message as the angel to the church in Laodicea (although the message of the Master may have been delivered by a human messenger rather than an angelic being). Do not be lukewarm. It would be better if you were cold than lukewarm. Do not let your material wealth fool you. You are miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Only through God can you be rich with true riches.

So what was the ultimate achievement attained by Israel’s struggle with God?

God appeared again to Jacob on his arrival from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, “You whose name is Jacob, you shall be called Jacob no more, but Israel shall be your name.”

Thus He named him Israel.

And God said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Be fertile and increase; a nation, yea an assembly of nations, shall descend from you. Kings shall issue from your loins. The land that I assigned to Abraham and Isaac I assign to you; and to your offspring to come will I assign the land.”

Genesis 35:9-12 (JPS Tanakh)

It may seem disrespectful and even dangerous to struggle against or contend with God, but remember, in the example we have with Jacob, God started it. Jacob was alone in the dark. He was afraid. He was uncertain. He did everything humanly possible to deal with his fears and to protect his family, but he didn’t know what was going to happen.

God knew all of this and challenged Jacob. It doesn’t look like Jacob had much of a choice. He could either fight off his attacker or surrender. Jacob chose to fight. He couldn’t afford to be “lukewarm” in this situation. He fought back and he won, not because he literally defeated God, but he defeated the challenge God set before him, the one Jacob had to defeat in order to overcome his fears; in order to become Israel, father of a nation, patriarch of an empire.

poured_outMost of us aren’t going to be the father or mother of a nation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges we must overcome in order to advance God’s plan and to grow spiritually. We can take from Jacob’s example that our challenges aren’t always easy. We can also see that God doesn’t always step in and overwhelm our challenges for us and in fact, sometimes He is the challenge, and we must contend against Him.

Even when we don’t escape such struggles unscathed, in the end, if we persevere, the injuries are worth the blessing.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NASB)

Good Shabbos.

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Asking to Walk with God

father-son-walkingOn further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G‑d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one’s real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, “I was created to serve my Creator” — seeing that most of one’s time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledgeability, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.

-Translation of a letter from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
“Is Most of My Life a Waste?”
Chabad.org

Some people feel discouraged. They then assume that these feelings are facts: since they feel discouraged that is a “proof” there is no hope. But feelings only represent a person’s present state of mind, they cannot predict the future.

They can ask themselves: “Do my present feelings actually prove that there is no hope?” Of course not. There is never absolute proof that your situation will not improve. By believing you have no hope, you are causing yourself great harm. Adopt the attitude: “It is always possible that the future will turn out much brighter than I presently feel it will. What constructive action can I take for improvement?”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift 943: “Feelings Aren’t Facts”
Aish.com

Last Sunday afternoon, a friend challenged me. I hate these sorts of challenges because they always mean that I have to crawl out of my comfort zone. Yes, we all have one. The place where we spend most of our lives or want to, anyway. The place where we excel. The place where people see us as competent, and significant, and see all of the good things in us we want them to see.

And we see them in ourselves.

But…

…but there isn’t so much to actually achieve there. The comfort zone is where you exercise all of the skill sets you are already really good at. There’s nothing more to learn in the comfort zone. Oh, you may learn some stuff, but it’s stuff that never really surprises you. It never shocks you. It certainly never scares you.

That’s why when my friend suggested that I get out of my comfort zone and ask God to show me more of Himself…a real encounter with Him, I experienced true dread. I know that sounds horrible. After all, in the realm of religious people, who doesn’t ask, plead, beg to experience a closer walk with God?

Most of us. A closer walk with God means having to change, not just a little bit and not in the direction we feel comfortable changing (or not changing and just pretending to change). I mean real, unanticipated, unpredictable, uncomfortable, “I don’t wanna go there” change.

Yuck! Who wants that?

But what’s the alternative?

My soul thirsts for You; my flesh pines for You.

Psalms 63:2

One Yom Kippur, after the Maariv (evening) services that ended the 25-hour fast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev exclaimed, “I am thirsty! I am thirsty!” Quickly someone brought him water, but the Rabbi said, “No! I am thirsty!” Hastily they boiled water and brought him coffee, but again he said, “No! No! I am thirsty!” His attendant then asked, “Just what is it you desire?”

“A tractate Succah (the volume of the Talmud dealing with the laws of the festival of Succos).” They brought the desired volume, and the Rabbi began to study the Talmud with great enthusiasm, ignoring the food and drink that were placed before him.

Only after several hours of intense study did the Rabbi breathe a sigh of relief and break his fast. The approaching festival of Succos with its many commandments – only five days after Yom Kippur – had aroused so intense a craving that it obscured the hunger and thirst of the fast.

It is also related that at the end of Succos and Pesach, festivals during which one does not put on tefillin, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok sat at the window, waiting for the first glimmer of dawn which would allow him to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin after a respite of eight or nine days.

Today I shall…

…try to realize that Torah and mitzvos are the nutrients of my life, so that I crave them just as I do food and water when I am hungry or thirsty.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 11”
Aish.com

plead1Particularly in Jewish thought, performing the mitzvot are the nutrients of life but what you do lacks meaning if you do not employ kavanah, otherwise known as “intention” or “direction of the heart.”

When asking for a closer connection with God, it’s always important to consider that time-honored caveat, “Be careful what you ask for.”

It’s sort of like dying of thirst but being afraid to drink because you might drown. It’s like dying of thirst, but the only source of water is at the bottom of a massive waterfall. You only need a few drops or a glassful, but your only option is a raging torrent.

How about just a little revelation, God…something I can handle, something not too scary or overwhelming. Let’s warm up with that and see where we should go from there.

Believing in God is easy. Trusting God is hard, and yet we have this.

Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

Psalm 146:3-7 (NASB)

I have plenty of experience being disappointed in human beings, including me. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by God, but then again, have I ever given Him the chance?

Has this ever happened to you?

The Worlds Within Ourselves

??????????????????????????????????That’s when I noticed the rosary beads.

The woman next to me had them on her lap, running them through her fingers. Was she a nun? I didn’t want to violate the Code, so I couldn’t just turn and look. I also didn’t want to distract myself from my davening for too long. (How long is too long? I think it’s similar to the five-second rule for eating food you dropped on the floor – a moment is okay, after that you’re asking for trouble.)

Then I noticed the plastic divider in front of me, which separated us from the driver (affording him protection from spitballs, if nothing else). It was reflective, and I could see my seatmate perfectly well in it without having to turn.

She was middle-aged, dressed conservatively, her nondescript features notable only for the intensity of her expression, her lips moving in fervent prayer. Was she a nun on holiday, and thus out of her habit and habitat, or just a holy roller on her way to work? Was she even now praying for the return of Jerusalem to the Church’s hands? Had she noticed me with my siddur and added in a few prayers for the salvation of my soul? Or maybe its damnation! After all, she’d no doubt been taught that someone in my family had killed her Lord. Even though her Lord was actually someone in my family

-Eric Brand
“Peace on Earth in 30 Min., 45 with Traffic: Rosary beads, a yarmulke, and a lot of overthinking”
Aish.com

Eric Brand will never know how glad I am that he wrote this missive. Lately, I’ve been going through one or two challenges as far as how Jewish people see Christians. I haven’t experienced it as very complementary, to say the least.

On top of that, I’ve been musing about how my wife and children see my Christian faith. I’ve been taking a few conversations and a few cues and clues, and winding myself up quite a bit about what they mean. Maybe I’m right, but then again, like Mr. Brand, maybe I’m overthinking things.

A chance encounter on a public bus in New Jersey results in a Jewish man and a Catholic woman sitting next to each other. Both of them are praying, him with a siddur and her with rosary beads. Their religious orientations are unmistakable. While the “code” of riding public transportation from Jersey to New York forbids each of them from talking with or even looking at each other, what could they have been praying about?

That ticked me off. Was it right to stereotype and scapegoat me? Hadn’t my people suffered enough? Did I have to be subjected to this? I was just a guy on a bus!

I tried to go back to my siddur, but I could see those hands working the rosary beads out of the corner of my eye, and I could sense those lips going a mile a minute, spewing who knows what. Well, okay, lady, I thought, maybe this is a test from God to see if I have the right reaction! How about I throw in some prayers for your soul? How about we have a nice debate and pick apart your faulty theology?

I was mulling this over, thinking about a good opening crack, when I was struck by another thought. If I can see her, she can see me. And she can see me looking at her – and not davening. Better get those lips moving, buddy, you don’t want to give this religious nut a leg up on feeling superior.

I admire Brand’s transparency in describing his thoughts and feelings. I try to show that side of myself as well. What “teachable moment” might we inspire or intersect if we just write down what we think and feel about each other and let those words be accessible via the Internet? More than that, what can the writer learn in the writing?

I was still mouthing some words from the siddur when my brain re-engaged momentarily and focused on what I was reading. “God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely.”

Oh, while there were two people in that seat, there were actually three “personalities” present. God had something to say to Brand and maybe to his Catholic traveling companion as well (we’ll never know what she was thinking during all this, alas).

“God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely.”

jewish-christian-intermarriageI know the assumption in the text from the siddur is that “all who call upon Him” means “all Jewish people who call upon Him,” but if God’s House is really to be a house of prayer for all people, then all people aren’t just Jewish people. It’s everyone who “calls upon Him with sincerity.” What if the Catholic woman was calling upon God sincerely? Was God as close to her as He was to Brand? Is God close to all of us when we sincerely call upon Him? Is He as close to me, a Christian, when I pray as He is to a davening Jew?

We religious people make a lot of assumptions about God and we make a lot of assumptions about each other. It would have been a complete breach of public transportation etiquette for Brand to have introduced himself to his seat-mate and struck up a conversation with her about their faiths. But if that could have been accomplished, maybe his fears would have been allayed somewhat (or maybe not). One Catholic person commented on Brand’s column and this might help figure out what the woman on the bus could have been thinking:

As a Catholic, who reads aish.com, I can almost guarantee that very few of us are condemning anyone to hell. We are all G_d’s children.

While Brand never talked with the Catholic person next to him on the bus, God managed to get his attention in the pages of his siddur.

I know I’ve wondered if my Jewish wife feels at all threatened about me going to church and what that means about my attitude towards Jews, but I wish she’d believe that we’re all God’s children.

But more than my concerns about my wife’s fears about me, Brand taught me that my own imagination could well be creating a situation that isn’t real.

But I left the bus undaunted – even after Comb-Over stepped on my foot as he rushed to get to the escalator – with a smile on my face. Jewish tradition tells us we should consider the world as though it was created for each of us. Because each of us has a unique touch of godliness that gives the universe purpose.

But there’s another way to look at it. We each create the world for ourselves. Our perceptions, our attitudes, our thoughts produce the world around us every moment of our waking days. We see, hear, experience what we want, what we will. And in doing so, we affect all the other people busily creating their worlds.

That’s a big responsibility. I’m glad I was able to figure this out before the journey ended. Fortunately, there was traffic.

The world is still a big, bad, ugly place in many ways. There’s all kinds of trouble and troublesome people around. But we also create the world we live in. We can choose to be upset, anxious, or angry because we are choosing to imagine what people think and feel about us. We can choose to communicate or choose to be silent. And even if silent, we can choose how we consider the people in our lives, for good or for ill.

I’ve heard it said that an anxiety attack is a person’s response to an emergency that does not exist. It still feels real, but the only danger is the choice we’ve somehow (it’s not volitional) made inside. Perhaps my being a Christian isn’t the danger I’ve imagined it is to my wife and children. And if some Jewish people, including my friends, believe my faith is a problem, please talk to Eric Brand. Maybe my faith isn’t automatically against you. Maybe I love you.

The Terrible Living God

terror-keepers-of-the-faithMany people express gratitude to the Almighty for being saved from desperate and problematic situations. But surely they’d have preferred that the problem would have never have arisen in the first place!

This, however, is not the proper attitude. The purpose of all problems is that they should serve as a means for a person to become closer to the Almighty. Both the problems – and the solutions – are part of the Divine plan to help elevate you.

The next time you are faced with a problem, think for a moment: “This problem enables me to become closer to my Creator.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #756: Problems Bring Us Closer”
Aish.com

The world is not obstructing you. It is challenging you.

It knows its deepest treasures can be revealed only by the deepest faculties of your soul, and it taps those powers by providing isometrics for the soul.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Isometrics”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Gosh, that all sounds so reasonable, so wonderful, so illuminating, so wise. I bet there are plenty of Christian writers who give similar advice. Just reading the words, I can imagine many other religions and philosophies also offer such an outlook and I don’t doubt that there are just tons and tons of books, including secular self-help books, that say more or less the same thing.

But when you’re actually having real problems, you may not immediately think in a cheerful inner voice, “Gee, this is a challenge God is giving me to help elevate me and bring me closer to Him.” You more likely are praying to God something like, “HELP!

I’m not saying that Rabbi Pliskin and Rabbi Freeman are wrong, just that such enlightened perspectives (and the vast majority of self-help aids on the market) fail to take real human beings with real worries, fears, and anxieties into account. They don’t consider the actual, lived experience of a person who is recovering from a serious accident or illness, who has just heard the news that a loved one is terminally ill, who has just had their house foreclosed, who has just had…

…you get the idea.

My father said: Truth is the middle path. An inclination to the right, to be overly stringent with oneself and find faults or sins not in accord with the truth, or an inclination to the left, to be overly indulgent, covering one’s faults or being lenient in demands of avoda out of self-love – both these ways are false.

“Today’s Day”
Thursday, 27 Adar I, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Life, like truth, runs a middle path. Most of us aren’t incredibly holy and elevated people and most of us, if we have a spiritual awareness at all, aren’t feeding on the bottom of the river with the catfish either.

But people with a spiritual awareness can often drift off center, and when hard times come, we can either treat ourselves harshly, like we must have done something horrible to deserve this tragedy, or we may think that it’s totally unfair of God to let bad things happen to us and that He should cut us some slack. I’ve experienced both and “lived in” both places, and in my experience, hitting that “middle ground” is a very hard thing to do. It seems to be more reasonable and takes a lot less energy to just let yourself go emotionally and spiritually “limp” and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, which in this case is God.

But then Rabbi Freeman says:

There’s no such thing as defeat.

There’s always another chance. To believe in defeat is to believe that there is something, a certain point in time that did not come from Above.

Know that G‑d doesn’t have failures. If things appear to worsen, it is only as part of them getting better. We fall down only in order to bounce back even higher.

failureKind of makes me wonder if Rabbi Freeman has ever been in a situation where he’s felt defeated. Probably so, but one doesn’t successfully write motivational missives by admitting to such a thing.

You may gather from the topic in today’s meditation that I’ve been having a bad time lately, but that’s not actually true. However, I do sometimes react when I read advice articles or columns that I think are overly “perky.” I’m not sure that “religious people” always know how to cut someone enough slack to be compassionate without being so “mushy” that they (we) become enabling.

On the other hand, I think that there are times when we need to be confident in our faith and, in spite of the problems that are kicking us in the teeth, we need to persevere and push on. Certainly people like Brother Yun have had to do just that over and over again while being tortured, while being in prison, while being on the run from the law, while being hungry, while being homeless, and all of his other experiences as a Pastor and an Evangelist in Communist China.

But I also think there are times when the weight of a thousand, thousand problems, pressures, hurts, injuries, depressions, and hopeless situations land with a solid “thunk” on our chests and threaten to smash us flatter than a hockey puck and all we can to is cry out to God. Sometimes we can’t even do that and as we feel faith and even life oozing out of us, the only thing left is to give in and say, “God, do as You will,” and then let whatever’s going to happen, happen.

The trick is to know the difference. Neat trick. I wish I could learn it.

Or maybe I don’t. I’ve noticed that those people who have sincerely asked God to use them in a powerful way often experience trials and circumstances that were and are a lot tougher than they anticipated. Brother Yun made such a request of God and if you’ve read my review of his book (see the link above), you’ll know that he suffered tremendously.

For that matter, look at the lives of Paul, Peter, John, and the other apostles. Most of all, look at the life of Jesus.

During a sermon a few weeks ago, my Pastor told a story. The story was about a Pastor who was giving a preaching series on discipleship. The series took many weeks to complete and was very thorough. When the Pastor finished his series, one of the long-time church members approached him and said:

Thank you Pastor for giving such an informative and insightful sermon on discipleship. Now that I understand what a disciple is and what it takes to be a good one, I don’t want to be a disciple anymore.

That’s supposed to inspire a “knowing” chuckle from the audience.

heavy-burdenWe always say that we’ll pick up our cross and follow Jesus anywhere, but how true is that? Do we put limits on how far we’ll go for our faith? Do we ever ask Jesus when we’re following him, why the territory seems to be getting so gloomy, scary, and dangerous looking?

Probably. Expecially in America and other Western nations, Christians aren’t used to having to work too hard at that “picking up cross and following” thing. Frankly, we should be afraid of it because we don’t really understand the implications, and if we did, we wouldn’t want them.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV)

I think we all know how that one turned out. Actually, in an ultimate sense, it turned out well, but not in the short run.

So what does that mean for us? Should we limit what we do for God because of the potential consequences? Should we stiffen our spines and just take what God gives us, no matter what, and be happy about it? I’d like to say the latter, but it scares me. I know faith demands the latter, but what will happen?

Becoming a Christian is like getting married. When the idea comes up and even as you approach the wedding day, everything seems great. You look forward to it. You see only the rewards. Then the big day comes, there’s the ceremony, all of your friends and family are there, you have the reception, you get lots of gifts and attention, sure there’s stress involved, but it’s hardly noticable in the whirlwind of activity.

Then there’s the honeymoon, setting up housekeeping, everything seems wonderful at first, you see only the good.

Then you have your first fight. A year passes, children a born, other years pass, you change, your spouse changes, and something interesting happens.

Stuff that you never, ever imagined would happen, happens. It could be stuff people, your parents, your Pastor, a counselor, tried to tell you would happen, but you didn’t listen or figured it would be no big deal. It could be stuff that you never imagined would occur in a million years. Stuff that only happens to other people. Stuff that you didn’t even think was possible.

But all that stuff makes your marriage hard!

You even think of divorce.

Actually, lots and lots of people get divorced and lots and lots of people stop being Christians and leave the church. End of story. It was too hard to be married. It’s too hard to be a disciple of Christ.

But then there are many, many other marriages that last thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or more years. Some of these marriages have managed to retain the love and devotion that the couple felt from the start, although the “magic” comes and goes periodically throughout the relationship. And then there are many, many other marriages where the relationship lasts just as long but the couple have drifted apart. Maybe some big problem forcefully inserted the initial wedge between them and then they traveled in different directions or maybe the initial “disconnect” was so subtle that neither husband nor wife noticed.

And now they live in the same house, eat the same meals, maybe even sit on the same sofa and watch the same TV shows, but they are actually living two separate lives. They never fight. They never argue. They never cuddle. They never make love. They’re just there.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Revelation 3:15-22 (ESV)

goldilocksThat probably describes a lot of Christians and a lot of Christian churches. The real tragedy is that these folks actually want it that way. A lukewarm bath is comfortable. Kind of like Goldilocks and the porridge. Not too hot and not too cold.

And not too demanding, stressful, or dangerous.

Lots of Christians describe themselves as “on fire for the Lord.” But fire burns out. Coals grow cold. Fuel turns to ashes.

How do we respond? First off, we should be careful what we ask for. Secondly, we should ask to be built up, so when God really does ask for something outrageous and spectactular from us, it doesn’t come as a complete shock. We’ve been prepared.

We should ask for mercy. Paul asked three times that his “thorn” (whatever it may have been) be removed from him, but the Lord said that his grace was all Paul needed. Pray that when the moment comes, we can let the Lord’s grace be all that we need as well.

And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:30-31 (ESV)

Each of us is fighting a hard battle in our lives. Pray that God will show compassion and mercy to us all, for if we haven’t realized it yet, we have all failed and will all fail…and then fall into the hands of the living God.

Afraid of Church

leaving-the-churchNot a word is said in the “olive tree” passage (see Romans 11:11-24) or anywhere else in Scripture about splitting the promises into earthly ones for the Jews and heavenly ones for the Church. However, God has made two kinds of promises. In regard to the promises which relate to individual salvation, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28), no distinction between them (Romans 10:12), no dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-19). On the other hand, there remain promises to national Israel, the Jewish people, in which Gentile nations corporately and Gentile believers individually have no direct share – although it is worth noting that there are also promises to certain Gentile nations…

-David H. Stern, Ph.D
Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians
Chapter 2: “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel,” pg 25.

The only reason I’m reading this book is because one of the Associate Pastors at my church asked me to read it and evaluate it for him. He’s obviously read it a number of times himself, because there is evidence of a great deal of note taking and underlining in its pages, so he must know its contents well. And yet, this charming, older gentleman from Oklahoma asked me if I’d read Stern’s small book and give him my opinion on how we can restore the Jewishness of the Gospel. Of course, I told him I’d be glad to.

But I was a little worried. My first introduction to Dr. David Stern was through his best known work, The Complete Jewish Bible and it was presented to me as a “real” Jewish Bible (New Testament, actually) within a Hebrew Roots (advertising itself as Messianic Judaism) congregation. I didn’t know any better and so I was thoroughly enthralled with what I read. Real “Hebrew” words were sprinkled among the English. Later, I found some Yiddish also anachronistically inserted within its pages. Ultimately though, I discovered that I desired a Bible that focused on accurate translation with no specific audience in mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand what Dr. Stern was trying to do, but there were already a number of New Testaments translated into Hebrew and many other Christian Bibles in English that would have served as well. Also, since I have separated myself from the “One Law” expression of the Hebrew Roots movement, Stern’s “Complete Jewish Bible” is a painful reminder of how incredibly naive I was once upon a time.

So in approaching Restoring, I was a little timid and figured what I was going to be reading would be “old school” Hebrew Roots at its finest.

Wow, was I surprised. The book is about 76 pages long, minus an appendix or two and I’m just on page 26 so far, but I was completely impressed. The writing and teaching is basic (but after all, Stern was trying to reach the widest possible Christian audience), but the ideas he documents are very close to what I’ve been trying to express. Given that I associate him with “One Law” and that his New Testament translation is still well-regarded in some Hebrew Roots circles, I just naturally believed his stance was in support of Hebrew Roots Christians rather than Messianic Jews.

Man, was I wrong.

I’m not writing this in any way as my response to the aforementioned Pastor, since he probably isn’t interested in this aspect of Stern’s book, but in recent conversations on Acts 15 commentary and why I go to church, I’ve entered a debate or two on why I believe (though it’s not as if I haven’t stated my reasoning many times before) that there are fundamental differences between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ relative to identity and covenant obligation.

But theologically, the Jews are unique because God chose them as the vehicle for bringing salvation to the world. The entire Hebrew Bible attests to that, as does the New Testament (see Yochanan [John] 4:22; Romans 3:2, 9:4-5). The Jews are God’s people in a sense that applies to no other people on earth. Because of this, the New Testament abounds with theological Scyllas and Charybdis rocky places that offer dangerous passage. What other people is faced with Galatians 3:28 (“there is neither Jew nor Greek”) or Ephesians 2:11-22 (“the middle wall of the partition”)?

-Stern, pp 12-13

praying_jewNotice what Stern doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that the Jews are theologically unique and identical to the Gentile Christians who have joined their ranks. He doesn’t obliterate Jewish identity and, from the quote above, Stern supports a view that God made unique promises to the Jews that are not shared with Gentile believers just because Christ performed a unique service in the plan of God and allowed the Gentiles to also be saved.

Some of the debates I’ve been having in the comments sections of some of my other blog posts lately have to do with the following:

But many believers feel uneasy about restoring Jewishness to the Gospel and encouraging Messianic Jews to express their Jewish identity. They fear an elitism will arise in which Gentile Christians will be made to feel like second-class citizens of the Kingdom. This is a real pitfall, and Scripture warns against division between Jew and Gentile in the Body of the Messiah. However, the New Testament also gives assurance that both are one in Yeshua, serving one God by one Spirit. Therefore, let all believers, both Jewish and Gentile, work together to avoid invidious comparisons, which only serve the Adversary. Let every Messianic Jew and every Gentile Christian demonstrate in his own life those elements of Jewishness which arise from his own spiritual consciousness and identity, without feeling condemned for expressing either too much or too little.

-Stern, pg 14

That last paragraph might seem ambiguous in terms of how Stern sees the differences between believing Jews and Gentiles, but put together with the other quotes, we see his opinion develop. Both Jews and Gentiles are unique in God’s plan but not in identical ways. They are united in salvation but do not share a uniform identity. There is danger in forgetting the uniqueness of the Jews, especially in light of how some Christians interpret scriptures such as Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 2:11-22, as if the aforementioned uniqueness of the Jews was cast aside. Jewish believers must be allowed and encouraged to express a wholly lived Jewish identity by we Gentile Christians. To do that, we Christians must set aside our fears that the Jews will “take over” somehow, and cast the Gentiles out of their midst and “back into the churches.” Stern doesn’t seem to object to both Jews and Gentiles expressing “elements of Jewishness” (which should be a given for Jewish believers) but that which arise from “his own spiritual consciousness and identity (emph. mine).”

Recently I was chastised for my support of Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David (TOD), particularly as it inspired my own return to church. One of my (and Boaz Michael’s) especially passionate critics is Judah Himango, a long time blogger in the Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots space.

My interpretation of his response to me and particularly to Michael’s TOD book seems to be precisely what Stern predicts when he says, “…they fear an elitism will arise in which Gentile Christians will be made to feel like second-class citizens of the Kingdom.” Coupling TOD with the philosophy of “bilateral ecclesiology” presented in Mark Kinzer’s book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, a portrait of a Messianic Judaism that is plotting the expulsion of all Gentile Christians from their ranks disguised as a benign attempt to reconnect “Messianic” non-Jewish believers to their counterparts in the “Church” begins to emerge.

Or is it what Stern wrote about in 1988 and earlier; that the fear of Jewish elitism by Gentile Christians in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots realm, is still very much alive and kicking (and I’ve got the metaphorical boot prints on my backside to prove it)?

But do Hebrew Roots Christians really have anything to be afraid of?

Yes and no.

kinzer-postmissionaryOK, let’s be fair. The people and groups within the expression of Messianic Judaism I’m discussing very much support Jewish unique identity and distinction within the larger body of Messiah. Much of Stern’s book addresses this in an attempt to help its Christian audience understand that when a Jew becomes a disciple of Jesus, they are not only allowed, but obligated to remain a Jew relative to Torah and halachah (although again, to be fair, Stern hasn’t addressed halachah as of page 26). Messianic Judaism walks a fine line in terms of Stern, because on the one hand, he encourages Jews to continue living as Jews and as having the right to be a unique people chosen by God, but on the other hand, he is insistent that uniqueness and distinction absolutely not get in the way of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers.

So far, he hasn’t outlined his vision for how believing Jews and Gentiles are supposed to be separate and unique and yet also united, except to say that we share equality in salvation but the Jews are unique in certain national promises from God.

I’m not offering this as a solution, but as an explanation and a reminder that this problem has been around for at least a few decades and it’s not going away anytime soon. But we are talking about relationships and identity that are based on fear and on who your group is opposed to and struggling against. Both Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism feel victimized by the other. Hebrew Roots fears Jewish elitism and that the Jewish believers will seize sole possession of the Torah mitzvot, and Messianic Jews see the encroachment of Gentile Christians who demand a “Jewish identity” identical to the Jews as a form of replacement resulting in the obliteration of everything it means to be Jewish.

It’s fear that is at the very heart of Hebrew Roots opposition to Michael’s TOD book, as if somehow elitist Messianic Judaism will “force” or “trick” the Hebrew Roots Christians back into their “church ghettos.”

I’m not afraid because I’ve already come to terms with who I am in Christ and what it all means. I have also come to terms with what (to the best of my ability to comprehend) it means for a Jew to possess a unique Jewish identity and role, mainly just because I live with a Jewish wife and have three Jewish children (although their apprehension of their lived Jewish identity varies from one child to the next). I’ve learned what it is to be a Christian living with Jews without having to worry about the distinctions between their identity and mine. I can go to church and not lose anything and in fact, I actually gain quite a bit…and I still get to live with my Jewish family…and they still get to be Jews…and my Christianity doesn’t have to inhibit or interfere with that in any way.

What some of the “fine bloggers” who are deeply concerned with the implication of Michael’s TOD book are missing are the myriads of voices across the Internet who here and there are saying that TOD is changing their lives for the better. TOD is helping people overcome their “fear of church.” People who I’ve known for years and who I never thought would see the inside of a church again are seeking out Christian Bible studies and worship services…largely because they read or are reading TOD and listening to the voice of reconciliation and restoration.

David Stern speaks of restoring the original Jewishness of the Gospel so that both Jews and Christians can hear the voice of the Jewish Messiah King. Boaz Michael speaks of healing the vision of the “Messianic Gentile” or the Christian who has become or is in the process of becoming aware of the “Jewishness of the Gospel;” Stern’s primary message to us. Michael may as well have written the sub-title of his book as restoring the vision of the Christian and the Church. If minds and hearts and relationships really, really are being healed because of this book and the overarching vision it presents, who are you or I to say that’s a bad idea. People are perfectly free to reject the message of healing if they so choose because of fear, because of prejudice against Christians (and sometimes against Jews), or for whatever reason.

But for every blogger who protests, how many people who we may never see or hear from are beginning a journey that will transform isolation, loneliness, broken fellowship, and sometimes, broken families, into a path leading to reunification and reconciliation? Most likely (though I only have anecdotal information to go by), a lot more of them are out there than there are bloggers who oppose those Christians and their mission.

dont-go-to-churchI’ve said this before, but I’ve seen that it’s gone unnoticed, so I’ll repeat the message. Author Boaz Michael and his wife Amber are “walking the walk,” so to speak. For the past several years, Boaz and Amber have been attending a small Baptist church in their community in Missouri. To the best of my knowledge, this church is their only regular worship venue, so they infrequently are able to visit a Messianic (or otherwise) Jewish synagogue. Again, to the best of my knowledge, Boaz and Amber haven’t lost a thing by attending this church, and in fact they’ve gained fellowship and belonging and have shared their unique vision with the Church.

If they aren’t afraid of losing who they are by “going to church,” how should the rest of us feel? I suppose anyway we want. But if we are afraid of church, then we should be honest and ask ourselves why. I was certainly afraid of what returning to church would mean to me, but with a lot of help, I set those feelings aside. And in returning to church, I found that I could also encounter God within its walls and with other Christians. That doesn’t have to be you if you don’t want it to be, but please, don’t let it be fear, animosity, or hostility that stops you from walking that path or causes you to disdain those of us who do.

If you are confident that G‑d will help you, why is anxiety written all across your face? If you are truly confident, show it and celebrate!

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Celebrate”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Oh, and I’ll let you know how the rest of Stern’s book turns out.

Vayechi: Being Strong Until the End

Lion of JudahThe scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from his descendants, until the Moshiach comes . . .

Genesis 49:10

Every soul possesses a spark of the soul of Moshiach

—Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

After the passing of Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch in 1772, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok led a group of chassidim to settle in the Holy Land.

One day, a somewhat deluded individual climbed the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and sounded a shofar. Soon the rumor spread that Moshiach had arrived, setting off a great commotion in the street. Rabbi Mendel went to his window and sniffed the air. “No,” he said, “unfortunately, the redeemer has not yet arrived. On that day, ‘the world shall be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea,’ and ‘all flesh will perceive’ (Isaiah 11:9 and 40:5) the reality of the Creator. I do not sense the divine truth that will permeate the world in the era of Moshiach.”

Said the renowned mashpia, Rabbi Grunem Estherman: “Why did Rabbi Mendel need to go to the window to sniff for the presence of Moshiach? Because the all-pervading truth of G‑d was already a tangible reality within the walls of Rabbi Mendel’s room.”

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Moshiach in the Air”
Chabad.org

I know this commentary seems rather fanciful and not particularly realistic (can you smell Moshiach in the air?), but as I read it, I was reminded of how in certain corners of Christianity, the topic of the end times and the second coming are very prominent, almost to the point of obsession. It’s as if we haven’t read the Gospels in our own Bibles.

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Matthew 24:23-28 (ESV)

Why are we so worried about the coming Messiah? He gave us great advice about what worry is all about.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV)

But as I said before, it’s very difficult for us to change our thinking and to rise up out of the darkness as a light. It is very difficult to let the world be the world, to just do our best, and to have faith and trust that everything will work out according to God.

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:7-8 (ESV)

Who is Moshiach?Is waiting and rumor a test of faith? It’s been nearly 2,000 years since the ascension and we’ve been waiting ever since. Jews cry out “Moshiach now” but Moshiach has yet to come. Rabbi Mendel said that the world will be filled with the knowledge of God before the Messiah’s coming (return) but that’s just one of many different thoughts about what must happen beforehand. We can’t be that sure of our facts. In many ways, the Bible is a mystery containing clues we struggle all our lives to interpret.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Chazak, “the Shabbos of reinforcement,” because of the custom of declaring, Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazaik (“Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened”) at the conclusion of the Torah reading, in acknowledgment of the completion of the Book of Genesis.

The awareness nurtured by the reading of Vayechi generates strength. When a Jew knows he has been granted a heritage of life expressed through a connection with the Torah, and that there will come a time when this connection will blossom, he will acquire the inner strength to confront the challenges presented by his environment.

By heightening the expression of this potential in our people as a whole, we hasten the coming of its fruition in the Era of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.

-Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
“True Life”
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 160ff; Vol. XV, p. 422ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayechi, 5751
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayechi
Chabad.org

So Joseph and his father’s household remained in Egypt. Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph lived to see children of the third generation of Ephraim; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were likewise born upon Joseph’s knees. At length, Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Genesis 50:22-26 (JPS Tanakh)

chanukah-josephs-tombThe final verses of this Torah Portion and the book of Genesis find Jacob and Joseph dead and Jacob’s descendants continuing to live in Egypt. This sets the stage for the birth of Moses and the centuries of slavery of the Jewish people under a “new king who arose over Egypt and who did not know Joseph.” If Jacob understood prophesy, he must have known what was going to come after his death, just as Joseph did. True, he was reassured by God that He would go down into Egypt with Jacob and his family, and that God would bring Jacob’s descendants back out of Egypt (Genesis 46:4), and yet what a bitter thing to go to your grave knowing your children and your children’s children will suffer.

As Rabbi Touger states, at the end of this Torah portion, it is customary to declare “Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazaik (“Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened”).”

Where ever you are in your life and whatever your experiences are, however you anticipate your future, whether it be long or brief, you…we…all of us must be strong.

But that can be so very hard. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

God be merciful, and may Moshiach come soon and in our days. Amen.

Good Shabbos.