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
Please follow our Rabbi's blog as he shares from our weekly Torah Portion from a distinctively Messianic Jewish Perspective! Shalom!