“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.”
- Shemot (Exodus) 1:8, JPS
With chilling detail, the above verse reminds of the constant struggle of anti-Semitism which we all face as Jews, and as like-minded Gentile believers. In the last number of Parashiot, Adonai raises up Joseph to the second most prominent position of leadership in Egypt and by doing so, blessing and honor is given to Adonai as the only true God, and where His chosen people are also honored. Yet as we come to Parashah Shemot, we are immediately confronted with how circumstances can so easily change when people choose the path of intolerance, prejudice and a hate for God’s chosen people. In this, Exod. 1:8 speaks volumes by indicating how this “new king” of Egypt had neither been taught, nor was willing to learn the lessons of the past concern Israel and the God of Joseph! Per Rashi (Sotah 11a, Exod. Rabbah 1:8) there are two possible views of this passage where one Sage indicates that Pharaoh at the latter end of Genesis had died, or of a second Sage, that it was just that the first Pharaoh’s policies and beneficial graces toward the Jewish people had radically changed back to a spirit of oppression, as he saw the Hebrews increase in both number and influence.
Regardless, this is for us as a Midrash, reminding that in every generation, the nations can so easily turn against us because we are chosen and aligned with the One and Only True God! Yet, in considering these truths, the will of God is not that we slip into despair or fear of what might be - but instead to know that He is always faithful and He will never leave or forsake us, where Deut. 31:6 reminds, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them., for Adonai your God goes with you, He will never leave you or forsake you.” With this friends, we are assured with confidence that no matter what 2021 might hold for us, God in Yeshua our Messiah is always with us and in every circumstance we can fully and completely rest in Him! Yes, of every generation there are those who rise up against us, but Every Moment of Every Day the Lord is watching over us and is our Hope and Salvation.
- Rabbi Mark Rantz
Shabbat - January 9, 2021 | 25th to Tevet, 5781
At the beginning of Parashah Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) we find our Patriarch Ya’akov (Jacob) living the final 17-years of his life in Mitzra’im (Egypt), away from the promised and of Canaan. Before his death, he asks his son Joseph to not allow his body to be buried in a foreign land … in the land of “slavery,” but instead he pleads. carry my body back home to be buried in the Holy Land. At this setting, he blesses Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and by doing so they are elevated to the status of his own sons as progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and as God’s Chosen People! As was promised to Abraham and Isaac, now we find Jacob extending the blessings of God to those who will now out distance him and proclaim God’s Word after he’s gone!
This is comparable to Rav Sha’ul (Paul), who near the end of his life declared,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [and] All that awaits me now is the crown of righteousness which the Lord, ‘the Righteous Judge,’ will award to on that Day….” (2 Timothy 4:7-8a, CJB)
Therefore, form this weeks Torah reading, our Patriarch knows that not only does the rewards of Adonai soon await him, but that he is assured that God has been faithful in every generation and that He will continue to fulfill all He has promised! This is an assurance to us today as well, knowing that in every generation - Adonai has been and will continue to be faithful to the Nation and People of Israel, the Apple of His eye!
We today are further reminded that in our generation, despite the visceral attacks which fly against God’s people, the Lord has never forsaken Israel and that He will always protect and be with His Messianic Community, Yeshua has never broken a single promise and His covenant stands forever!
Dear friends, from these promises we can REST this Shabbat in the Goodness of God, knowing that He alone is Good and His Mercy Endures Forever! Rejoice in the Lord - Beit Hallel! Rest in the Lord O Servants of Adonai and Sing His Praises all you Peoples -
We serve a God who is Faithful and True and He is for us and never against us!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
Shabbat, January 2, 2021, 18th of Tevet, 5781
Throughout this last year, the world has seen untold suffering - both economically and as a result of the devastating Coronavirus. With such trouble, religious persecution in the past few years has skyrocketed - where believers in Yeshua are being beheaded and imprisoned around the world at numbers not seen in centuries! According to the ADL’s “Center on Extremism,” anti-Semitism is surging at numbers unheard of in decades. Of this, in 2019 alone, some 234 incidents of violent anti-Semitism were reported in the United States and around the world!
Even with the recent COVID-19 shutdowns, some believe there has even been undue targeting against Orthodox communities (all disproportionate to non-Jewish areas) in New York City, where some have even wondering if the powers at be are possibly using this pandemic to justify religious bigotry? Of the tsuris (troubles) we are all facing many hardships at this time as many are isolated from their families and loved ones Yet, in this there is a Message of Hope found in this week’s Parashah (Vayigash) in Genesis 44:18-47:27, and with it, a reminder of our Calling in Messiah Yeshua!
In Genesis 45:1-11, Joseph is brought to a place of not just healing - but also the necessity of Forgiveness and possibility of full Restoration. In the chapters prior, he had been sold into slavery by his own brothers, suffered as a slave and then imprisoned - only to later be elevated by God to a place of power ad prominence! From a secular-mind, many might falsely think this new-found wealth and power of Egypt would erase past memories, but we all know that no amount of money can really do that! Thus, in vs. 3 he reveals, “I am Joseph,” your brother and the family is again Reunited, Healed and Restored. In reading this, you might wonder how do the events of this week’s Torah portion have ANYTHING to do with us in 2020?
To this, we would have to state - EVERYTHING!
Joseph faced trouble beyond imagination, even greater than ours today and in the end through pain, tears and a healing which only God could provide, Joseph became an agent of God’s Hope and Deliverance not only to his family, but also many thousands of others! For Joseph it began with forgiveness and in seeing a sinful world through God’s loving and forgiving eyes and as manifest in his declaration that what his brothers had meant for evil, God nevertheless intended for their good! In this, we are reminded of the goodness, faithfulness and sovereignty of Adonai!
So, friends, when we see the troubles and experience the hurts of betrayal and rejection for the sake of Messiah - know that today we are also being chosen by God to be agents of restoration to a broken nation and world!
Following last week’s betrayal and enslavement of Joseph in Parashah Vayeshev, and his imprisonment due to the lies of Potiphar’s wife, today (in Parashah Miketz, Genesis 41:1-44:17) we see the end of his unjust incarceration.
With the life of Joseph, the miraculous always seems to follow him. Although, in the telling of his vision to his brothers Joseph should have used more wisdom, God nevertheless still chose and anointed him as an anointed prophetic voice in a time of great spiritual and physical need. However, when Joseph is released from prison, it was not because his sentence had reached its end, but because of his ability to interpret dreams and give direction from God to a pagan king. In this, Pharaoh dreamt of seven fattened cows who were swallowed up by seven lean ones of which Joseph interpreted that there was a time coming of seven years of plenty, only to be follow by seven terrible years of great famine! In this, Joseph’s advised Pharaoh to take the next seven year to prepare for the dire times ahead. These times which were coming was not something that simply could be “prayed or wished away” nor could Joseph or Pharaoh “bargain with God” for a different outcome … The time of famine had been set, determined, in fact it could accurately be said that it was predestined and the job of Pharaoh was to simply prepare and keep his focus in the right place and the right things.
This is a lesson which many of us have a hard time with in the Body of Messiah. We think that in every circumstance we can just work harder, pray harder or even believe harder and this will always tip the circumstances in our favor. Truth be told, sometimes God does do this (Baruch HaShem), yet in a calling to even deeper faith, we are often positioned in an uncomfortable place to persevere and through hardship and hope, declare the Glory and Sovereignty of God to a world that is perishing!
Friends, never forget that He will never lead us where He will not guide or protect us - Adonai is a good Father and He will never let you go! EVER! So, in our daily cares, needs or desires, as we seek the Lord and long to know His heart, let’s also be honest with our hearts before Him asking, …
Am I praying that my will would be done in every given circumstance, or am I choosing to be faithful to Yeshua, in allowing my first and primary prayer to be, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)
Because Adonai is always faithful and true, we can trust Him in every situation and for every outcome!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
December 19, 2020 | 4th of Tevet, 5781
In this week’s Parashah of Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) we find a remarkable story which all of us can relate in some way or another, as God calls Joseph as a Prophet and Seer and in turn, through a great act of betrayal, his bother Simeon plots to kill him out of jealousy, Yet instead of death, through the leading of Reuben refutes the will of Simeon and Levi and they throw Joseph into a pit, where later he is sold to a band of Ishmaelites who drags him off to as a slave to Egypt! For Joseph, all seems lost, and his father Jacob is deceived and lead to believe that his favorite child has been ravaged by beasts and was killed and eaten alive! If our story was to stop there, what hope or suggestion of good news would there be, but this was not the end of the story where later in Genesis, Joseph is affirmed by Pharaoh for his prophetic gift and is elevated to the second-highest office in the land!
Now in saying that this is a remarking story which all can relate to, some might retort and disagree , stating, “No, not everyone can - for who can claim to having to endure such dire circumstances and as a result, receive such a great elevation or high-reward?" Although this may be true for many, what nevertheless stands true is that the indelible imagery and reality of hope in the human heart and our desire to be free from oppression, neglect and seemingly hopeless circumstances is ever with us!
Such a story is also reminiscent of our Chanukah story, where God sent Judah Maccabee (a young man like Joseph) to do great exploits for the purposes of God and His Kingdom and people. Through invasion and assimilation, we as Jews faced utter annihilation and extinction, yet from the direst circumstances Adonai used a band of teenagers to change the course of both Jewish and human history! Through Chanukah we are reminded that our greatest fears and worries can be transformed to light and to a hope fulfilled for us and for all the nations of the nations of the world in Messiah’s name! Yet as with Joseph and Chanukah, it was never our own strength which has saved us, but as Maoz Tzur reminds, it has always been the Lord who has been our defense and He will rescue us in every circumstance!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Happy Chanukah, 5781
26th of Kislev | December 12, 2020
In this week’s Parashah (Genesis 32:4-36:43) we find two amazing events that demands our attention. To ignore these details would be our loss and we would be amiss to ignore or marginalize its importance. First, after a 20 year stay in Haran, Ya’akov (Jacob) sends words via messenger to his brother ‘Esav (Esau) with the following message,
“I have been living with Lavan and have stayed until now. I have cattle, donkeys and flocks, and male and female servants. I am sending to tell you this news, in order to win your favor” (32:6).
Secondly, at a place (makom) of visitation, Ya’akov wrestled with a “man” until daybreak, and of whom he would not let go until this “man” blessed him and as a result, his name was change from Ya’akov to Isra’el. (32:23-30). It was therefore for this reason that Ya’akov named that location “P’ni-El” meaning, “The Face of God,” for it was there that he saw in this man who no mere man at all, but in fact was a physical manifestation of Adonai.
Like last week in Parashah Vayetze, there was a place of visitation marked by the reality of divine revelation Yet in Genesis 32, what we find is the section point where human responsibility and the presence of God meet! First, with Ya’akov whom God positions first reconcile with his brother ‘Esav (and where Ya’akov is the one required of Adonai to make the first move. Secondly, before and with God (through a theophany) our Patriarch receives a powerful visitation from The Holy, who in that visit, bless him and change his name to Israel and sends him forth to do the will of Adonai!
Sadly, in our culture and even in the Body - many think that God will do everything and all we have to do is just “show up” and be recipients of blessings and divine providence. But this is a lie and in no way reflects the truth! As with Ya’akov, we too must obey and follow the path of healing, righteousness and personal responsibility if we are to receive the full measure of blessings and promise! Yet in the weight of this powerful command, God by His Spirit gives us the strength and ability to fulfill His will and Kingdom purpose, and in it we receive in Messiah, exceedingly, above and beyond what we could ever ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20)
Does God desire to bless us? YES! Does He will that we suffer and go without? NO! But if we love Him we will do what He requires (John 14:15) and walk in the Spirit of Love, Reconciliation and the Power of the Ruach!
Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Mark
19th of Kislev, 5781 | December 5th, 2020
During times of challenge and difficulty, many ask - “God, where are You? - “Do you hear me when I pray” - or are my circumstances every going to change?” In our frailness, and lack of focus on the Lord, we often forget that Adonai is always watching, always protecting and will never forget the promises he made to you, reminding that He has always given us Hope and a Future in Him.
In this week’s Torah reading of Parashah Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) Ya’akov (Jacob) leaves his hometown of Beersheva and journeys to the land of Haran. In route he encounters a location which the Scriptures simply refers to as makom (or, “the place”). At this place our Patriarch and sleeps there and while dreaming, Adonai gives him a vision of a ladder connection both heaven and earth and angels of God descending and ascending upon it. Of this strange dream and “dream vision,”, the Spirit of God gives the prophetic interpretation where God appears to the man He has chosen and promises (as He did to Avraham (Abraham) and Yitzchak (Isaac), proclaiming that the land upon which he slept will be given to his descendants forever! Of this, the Torah powerfully reminds,
“I am Adonai, the God of Avraham your grandfather and the God of Yitz’chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth. You will expand to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. By you and your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-15, CJB)
From this, we see two central points - First, that Adonai is a God who both makes promises and keeps them, and Secondly, nothing happens in our lives apart from holy visitation. This echoes Parashah Terumah (in Exodus 25:8), where Isra’el was to make Adonai a sanctuary, so that He might “live (or dwell) among them!”
Here we find both Promise and Revelation, Assurance and Impartation and that of Hope and Visitation - and miraculously this is all verified and confirmed in our weekly Parashah!
Thus, in Vayetze, we find that God had to first bring our Patriarch to the (makom) “place” for him (Ya’akov) to receive His Appearing and Prophetic Direction! It was from this “makom” (place) that God continued in reminding him that ALL He had promised from generations past would in fact be fulfilled!
This is a powerful word for us today as well, in that as we seek Adonai, He will not only lead us to the place we need to be, but he will always reveal to us all that He has promised and desires to fulfill in our lives. From this we are assured that we are never alone and that we have a God who is lovingly active in every aspect of our existence!
Be blessed and know you are chosen by Him and for Him!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Erev Shabbat | November 27, 2020, 12th of Kislev - 5781
“And Yeshua went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am’?” - Mark 8:27
As the months have passed, 2020 has brought to all of us challenges as well as twists and turns which no one anticipated or even, ahead of time conceived were ever possible. Of these events, none stand out with greater impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on culture, our economy and our perceptions of reality. In some cases, this deadly virus has shaped how government, travel, the job market and even in some cases how some approach faith and that of human responsibility.
During the early months of the year, prognosticators warned that soon many if not all of us would know someone who have contracted the disease, and at the time we all doubted - with only to become true! Yet with truthful reporting, there has also been lies and deception mingled in by the Adversary to produce fear, anxiety and doubt in even the most mature believer. Even with the spread of the disease, other factors have arisen to exploit and play upon these fears and anxieties, causing many believers and non-believers alike to question God’s faithfulness and strip away from us a sense of security and in wondering what the future might hold? During the late-spring and summer months we saw forced shut downs and when we thought things could not get any worse, riots and unlawful acts of violence spread the nation and world - and in some cases, even went completely unchecked!
When reading our nations and the worlds headlines, we are nevertheless reminded that there is nothing new under the sun and we have all seen this before. In this, our age of COVID and unrest is easily reminiscent of the first-century, as Rome ruled unlawfully in Jerusalem and that of ancient-Israel. For many, this was a time of great fear, uncertainly and injustice and where life was cheap and very little value. Yet, in the perfect moment of God’s impeccable and divine timing he sent Yeshua our Messiah to live and die and rise again. He came to us declaring the Good News and asking us as he did his talmidim, “Who do you say that I am?”
In the “Tale of Two Cities” we are initially told that “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times,” and with COVID-19, it is as if Dickens is speaking again where I believe that Adonai has been speaking clearly and loudly about our calling as the Body of Messiah during this terrible pandemic in reminding that despite the anxieties, fears and uncertainties of the world - that this could in fact be our finest hour!
Friends, it is always in times of deepest destress and greatest worries that the Lord speaks with that still small voice and reveals both words of comfort, revelation and assures that we are never alone. This reminds us of Hebrews 1:3 in stating,
“The Son is the radiance of the Sh’khinah, the very expression of God’s essence, upholding all that exists by his powerful word …,”
In this, Yeshua our Messiah is the very presence of Almighty God - and his glory dwells in us as we go in his name declaring Restoration in Yeshua’s name to our hurting and broken city and unto the entire world!
Yes, this year has brought changes and uncertainties like no other in recent years - but the calling of God upon us is now ever greater than ever before and with every step we are called to go in God’s love, proclaiming freedom and deliverance and with our lives - in going we are asking the world, “Who do you say that Yeshua is?”
Rabbi Mark Rantz
November 21. 2020, 5th of Kislev - 5781
"Of Sarah, she was as beautiful at 100 as she was at 20 … and she was as pure at 20 as she was at 7 - these were the years of Sarah’s life.” ~ Midrash on Genesis 23:1
In Judaism, very few women are honored as that of Sarah, the wife of Abraham!
According to Jewish tradition, the words of Eshet Chayil ("Woman of Valor" in Proverbs 31) is believed to speak of Sarah while holding a direct link to our Parashah 5 in Genesis 23:1-25:18. In this section of Scripture we find a unique paradox where Sarah is honored in Judaism as our greatest and first matriarch. What is even more noteworthy is the name of our Parashah, “Chayei Sarah” (the Life of Sarah) but is acclaimed not as she is living or following a great accomplishment - but instead at the time of her death. Here at the offset, Judaism from its early beginnings is set apart from the practices of all other faiths in areas of mourning and remembrance.
Yet, in speaking of this Parashah reading, it is most outstanding when read from the Art Scroll translation in its keynote verse in Genesis 23:1in declaring,
“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.”
Of modern translations, a proper memorial or yahrzeit of Sarah’s life seems to be lost in only stating that Sarah lived to be 127 years of age with no further description. Yet through rabbinical eyes, our true meaning comes forth where each and every one of us are challenged to be as Sarah in making the best and most of our lives before the Lord! It is for this reason our Midrash above notes that our matriarch was as beautiful at 100 years old as she was when she was but a girl of 20, and she was, in turn just as holy before Adonai at the age of 20 when she was but a small child at age 7 when she was untainted by a sinful world! Such an honoring holds within its sentiment a very real tension between mourning, loss and pain and a somber remembrance of the one we love and have lost. Abraham knew this as we mourned his wife in Genesis 23 and sought to bury her and as he “zachor” - Remembered her for who she was before Adonai!
Christian funerals and memorial services often miss this reality where instead of holding this God given tension, the time of “mourning” is turned to a party or a celebration of life - and in the proves a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4) is lost altogether. In this many forget that the point of Chayei Sarah is to remember and to be reminded, where we see in Sarah’s life an example of righteousness from Hashem in everything!
As you read this, today, the Lord would remind us all that the work of holiness is that of the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Although Sarah was a righteous women who committed everything to the ways of Adonai, it was nevertheless the power and presence of God in her life that enabled her to be an example for us to live in holiness, fear and faithful obedience to Torah. Yet, even in this we must daily choose as with (Chayei Sarah) “The Life of Sarah” to lead lives of faithfulness and obedience as she did. We like Sarah have all been set-apart by God’s grace and like her, we must never forget that we are called to be holy, for He is holy! (Leviticus 19:2)
Rabbi Mark Rantz
November 14, 2020, 27th of Cheshvan, 5781
With last week’s Parashah Vayera וַיֵּרָא, (Genesis 18:1-22:24), central to God’s message for us is the reminder of Adonai’s enduring faithfulness despite what we may deem as evidence, timing or actual fulfillment. In retrospect, the heart of doubt and spirit of unbelief always questions the faithfulness of God for His people as noted in the Psalm of Asaf reminds, "Why should the nations ask, 'where is their God'." (Psalm 79:10, CJB)
In the turbulence of our 2020 Presidential election, many believers have become disillusioned and questioned where God is in light of the Promises we know He has spoken and he direction His Spirit has told us that He is leading. This was also Sarah’s concern in vs. 13, where she “laughed’ in unbelief, doubt and fear when she heard she would deliver a son in her old age.
Yet in the end, the word of לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech Lecha (Gen. 12:1-3) was fulfilled and from Avraham and Sarah, God made a great nation and from that, the nation and people of Israel was born! In the dark night of the soul, if looking at the natural alone - one can easily become sidetracked, and lose sight of what the Lord has promised, but like Avraham and Sarah - today dear friends we must place our Hope and Trust in Yeshua alone, as we pray - despite the outcome of political elections, that God will reposition us for His Kingdom Purposes and His Heart in this season. In this, it vital that we keep our eyes (spiritually and physically) looking to Adonai and His high calling on us in Last-Days for the things of the Kingdom and the salvation of those who are perishing.
In the end dear friend, Adonai has not forgotten you and every promise He has uttered to you will be fulfilled! His faithfulness is not limited to the will of man or the schemes of the Adversary and his agents, Instead, the Purposes of God will be fulfilled in you and you seek Messiah in everything and choose to be used by Him in this definitive hour. the heart of the word, of all peoples and every nation is what hangs in the balance, will you walk in confidence, faith and hope and declare justice to the nations and salvation to the lost?
Hold fast to His perfect and unfailing and perfect promises!
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