Tag Archives: Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Shabbat, Purim, and What Makes You Happy


I was reading this week’s column by Rabbi Kalman Packouz and found a few points that might actually apply to those of us who are “Hebraically-aware Gentiles.” He was discussing Purim (which begins this Wednesday evening at sunset) and Happiness, but I’ll start with something about Shabbat.

R. Packouz’s Dvar Torah for this coming Shabbos is based on a small portion of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book Growth Through Torah (which I own and highly recommend):

The Torah states:

“Six days you shall work and on the seventh day, it should be a complete rest sacred to the Almighty” (Exodus 31:15)

What does it mean “a complete rest”?

Rashi, the great commentator, tells us that rest on Shabbat should be a permanent rest and not merely a temporary rest. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of the Mir Yeshiva, clarifies that a temporary rest means that a person has not really changed his inner traits, but he merely controls them on Shabbat. He still has a bad temper and has a tendency to engage in quarrels, but because of the elevation of Shabbat, he has the self-discipline not to manifest these traits. The ultimate in Shabbat observance is that a person should uproot those negative traits which are contradictory to peace of mind on Shabbat. One needs to uproot such traits as anger and the tendency to quarrel with others. Only then is your rest on Shabbat a complete rest.

It is not sufficient for a person just to refrain from the formal categories of creative acts on Shabbat. Shabbat is the gift of peace of mind. This is not considered righteousness, but an essential aspect of Shabbat. Only by being a master over your negative emotions can you have true peace of mind.

I know the Shabbat can be one of the many “touchy points” between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic and Hebrew Roots communities. If you are of the belief (as am I) that all of the parts of the Torah apply exclusively to the Jewish people and only certain portions can be said to apply to the rest of humanity, then you are left with the question of what should a Gentile do for Shabbat (if anything at all)?

I know all the arguments (I think). Hashem sanctified (made Holy) the Seventh Day and “rested” on it (God doesn’t get tired so He doesn’t “rest” in the conventional sense). If the Sabbath was created well before the Torah was given, how can it be a “Jewish-only” thing?

But then there’s the fact that the Sabbath is a sign of the Sinai Covenant which was indeed given exclusively to the Children of Israel. Yes, the “mixed multitude” was there, but in receiving the Covenant, they became permanent residents within Israel and on the third generation, their descendants were absorbed into the tribes. No, there’s no leverage for saying Gentiles received the Torah at Sinai as well.

However, Isaiah 56:1-8 famously declares that “foreigners who keep from profaning the Shabbat…will be made joyful in Hashem’s House of Prayer” (Holy Temple in Jerusalem).

So how do those two contradictory viewpoints resolve?

It’s been suggested that how a Jew and Gentile approach the Shabbat has fundamental differences. A Jew observes the Shabbat while a Gentile merely recognizes its holiness. But what does that mean?

R. Packouz’s Dvar Torah may have given us an inadvertent clue (it’s doubtful he was writing to people like me). In his commentary on Purim, he spoke of the “secret to happiness,” saying in part:

People often think that the secret of happiness must be some hidden Kabbalistic mystery or exotic activity. The truth is that it’s simple and easy to understand. It’s something every person knows, but just doesn’t focus that he knows it.

Happiness is the pleasure you have in appreciating what you have; it is looking at the glass as half full. It says in Pirke Avot 4:1 (“Ethics of Our Fathers” — found in the back of most Jewish prayerbooks), “Who is the rich man? He who is happy with his portion”. There used to be a common motivational sign during the Depression hanging in businesses in the United States: “I was sad that I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”

Happiness is not dependent upon material acquisition. There are plenty of people who have what you desire and they are not happy.

In my opinion, we “Hebraically-aware Gentiles” were never given the full set of Torah observances were the Jews (Acts 15 backs me up), so a lot of us have gone through what I call “Torah envy.” We want what the Jews have and some folks out there go right ahead and claim it for themselves through one process or another.

But according to the Sages, who is rich? He (or she) who is happy with their lot. That is, it’s very possible to be happy and not have everything someone else has and in fact, even if you had it, that possession might not make you happy.happyGoing back to R. Pliskin, the character and nature of any given Jewish person doesn’t change on the Shabbat. The person with a bad temper still has a bad temper. However, in honor of the Shabbat, he/she choses not to express it (in Judaism, some believe Hashem grants the Jew an additional “soul” on the Shabbat). Even more, you can use the sanctity of the Shabbat to learn to permanently “uproot” negative traits and generally become a better person over time.

If the non-Jew was not given the Shabbat relative to all of the specific observances, we can still choose to honor God as Creator of the Universe (and all human beings were created by Hashem) by “elevating” ourselves and choosing to be a little happier than we are the rest of the week or even choosing to become better people over time. We can take the life we’ve been given (not everyone can be Jewish) and appreciate what we have been granted by God rather than bemoaning our state as a non-covenant people. After all, through our devotion to Rav Yeshua and by his merit, we have been granted many of the blessings of the New Covenant without being named recipients.

What’s not to like?

“Happiness is not doing what you enjoy, but enjoying what you do.”


Vayechi: The King’s Scepter

LionLast week I shared with you four Torah prophecies charting Jewish history: 1) that the Jewish people will be eternal though 2) we will be few in number and 3) scattered to the four corners of the earth and that 4) the host nations were ultimately inhospitable to us. This week, 2 more prophecies!

One would think, if the Jewish people were so reviled to be persecuted and killed, that we would have little impact upon those nations persecuting and killing us. Yet, the Torah prophesies that we will be…

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayechi

You may be wondering what this has to do with this week’s Torah portion, with the blessings Jacob confers on his children and his grandchildren and his subsequent death, or with the burial of Jacob in Canaan, or with the death of Joseph and the end of the book of Genesis. Consider the following:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; so that tribute shall come to him and the homage of peoples be his.

He tethers his ass to a vine, his ass’s foal to a choice vine; he washes his garment in wine, his robe in blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine; his teeth are whiter than milk.

Genesis 49:10-12 (JPS Tanakh)

These are the blessings Jacob set upon Judah before Jacob’s death. From a Christian standpoint, we see an obvious image of the Messiah, of Jesus in this blessing.

But now we have to find the connection I’m making between Rabbi Packouz’s commentary and the Torah reading:

“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You shall become a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. Through you all the communities of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). The prophet Isaiah (42:6) states, “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations.”

Which, of course, reminds Christians of this:

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 8:12 (NASB)

Immediately after the Master said these words, the Pharisees he was speaking to objected and accused him of false testimony. These men could not have failed to recall the prophecy of Isaiah that it was Israel who was the light to the nations. How could this one man claim to be such a thing, to represent all of Israel as it were, unless he were their King?

Interestingly enough, Rabbi Packouz referenced Genesis 12:2-3 which ends with, “through you all the communities of the earth shall be blessed.” All the nations of the earth are blessed through Abraham’s seed, through Messiah (Galatians 3:16), through the light to the nations, the firstborn son of Israel.

And so Jacob passed on the blessings to his sons, including the Messianic blessing onto Judah, the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” Judah’s descendant is Messiah, the ruler, the King, the light, and as he was born into humility as Yeshua ben Yosef, he will return in power and might as Yeshua ben David, and ascend the throne of David in Jerusalem, and rule with justice and with peace over his people Israel, and over the entire population of the world.

In next week’s “Shabbat Shalom Weekly,” Rabbi Packouz will finish his series with “the final prophecy — the return from Exile — and what does it all mean.”

As you might have guessed, today’s Torah commentary is an extension of the one I wrote last week, the “cautionary tale” to the Christian Church to not take the ancient Messianic Jewish prophecies too lightly, and especially not to refactor them in such a way that favors the Gentile Christians over God’s chosen people and nation.

Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Zechariah 8:22-23 (ESV)

up_to_jerusalemFirst Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author and teacher Toby Janicki, in the episode Fringes of the Garment of the television series The Promise of What is to Come said that the Jewish man in question is the Messiah, as he interprets this verse.

Toby further said that those ten men from the nations were not just a random group of non-believing Gentiles, but are Gentile believers from “the Church” who, in my estimation, must recognize the Savior as the Jewish Messiah King, fully the King of Israel and the Jewish people, and that grasping his tzitzit, as it were, is a recognition of that fact, a representation of the profound paradigm shift required by Christians in order to even recognize Yeshua ben David as our “Jesus,” and the desperate attempt to heal the tremendous wound that separates Christianity from the Jewish Messiah.

If Toby’s interpretation of Zechariah is correct, and my interpretation of Toby is correct, then many in the Church today are laboring under a needless burden placed upon our shoulders by a long history of misunderstanding, anti-Semitism, and supersessionism. Much was lost after the apostolic era ended and the Gentile majority of the Messianic followers took over and reformed the “Church of Christ.” We have a lot of work to do to repair the damage and prepare the road for the return of the King.

But why wait for Messiah to return to take hold of his tzitzit? Let’s do it now by humbling ourselves before the King and studying his ways as expressed through the Jewish prophets and the Jewish apostles.

For from Zion shall come forth the Torah…

Isaiah 2:3

Salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22

For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

Acts 15:21

Come, let us go up to the mountain of Hashem, and to the house of the God of Jacob.

Peace and Good Shabbos.