Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4 - 36; Hosea 11:7-12:12

How do you cope in a crisis? If you live on planet earth with the rest of us, at some time or other you will face one. In fact you will probably face several. By "crisis" I do not mean just a period of stress but something far more overwhelming. I am thinking of an event which turns your whole world upside down, something which is even life-threatening. Do you turn to God at such a time? And is He there? Or do you take the view that you will have to sort this one out yourself - "God helps those who help themselves" and all that. - Read More >

Ki Tissa: Exodus 30:11-34:35

After reading Sidra Ki Tissa we should sigh with relief. Things could have been very different for Israel because of the incident of the golden calf. Because of Israel's idolatry the Almighty threatened to destroy them and start again with Moses, then later He threatened to withdraw His presence and leave them to themselves. Either eventuality would have been disastrous for Israel. We can only marvel at the patience of the LORD. - Read More >

Yayakhel: Exodus 35:1-38:20

After the awful events of Sidra Ki Tissa, Vayakhel comes as a breath of fresh air. How willing the people were to bring their offerings for the construction of the Tabernacle! Moses told the people what was needed and day after day the gifts piled up. From the lowest to the highest the people brought what they could, and those with skill to weave and sew made the cloths and coverings of skins needed. - Read More >

Yayikra: Leviticus 1:1-5:26

How wonderfully the LORD God provides for his sinful children so that they may approach Him! In the early chapters of Leviticus God ordained all that was necessary for them to approach Him in worship. Without such provision the sinner could only approach God fearfully thinking, "What if this is not God's way? Will God be angry with me?" The punishment of Nadab and Abihu, who approached God with "alien fire" (Tanakh; New JPS Translation) shows that such fears would have been fully justified. - Read More >

Pesach: Exodus 12:21-51; Numbers 28:16-25; Joshua 5:2-6:1, 27

The people of Israel walked free from Egypt; those who were slaves were free to serve the LORD. How good is the LORD to His people! How great is His power! These are the feelings we should have as we read the story of the departure from Egypt because that is what God intended, as He said to Moses earlier in the book of Exodus: "Tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."  - Read More >

Shemini: Leviticus 9-11

How quickly our joys can turn to sorrows! How soon after heights of elation can we find ourselves in depths of grief. This was the experience of Aaron on what should have been the greatest day of his life. It was the day he first began to act as the High Priest for his people. - Read More >

Tazria: Leviticus 12-15

If you were ordered to do something and were then rebuked for being obedient it would be confusing to say the least. If you asked your Rabbi for guidance and did what he told you what to do, but afterwards said you needed to go to the Mikveh because you were unclean you would be puzzled. But this seems to be what the LORD does in Sidrot Tazria. - Read More >

Acherei Mot - Kedoshim: Leviticus 16:1-20:27

The sixteenth chapter of Leviticus is one of the most important passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. The instructions for observing Yom Kippur are given after the sons of Aaron offered strange fire before the LORD and died, alerting the high priest to the dangers of approaching God in ways other than He has authorised. Even the holiest man in the nation is forbidden to approach the Most High other than at the time and in the manner He specifies. - Read More >

Emor: Leviticus 21:1-24:23

The Bible is a very symbolic book. That is not to say the Hebrew Scriptures are mythological or on a level with the Babylonian and Egyptian holy writings. The Tanakh is a historically accurate collection of documents that record God's dealing with Israel and the nations. But within the historical record are symbols evidently intended to teach Israel about their God. - Read More >

Behar-Bechukkotai: Leviticus 25:1-27:34

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2) - Read More >

Tetzaveh: Exodus 27:20 - 30:10

There are some things we cannot do for ourselves; we just have to have someone to do it for us or to represent us. Getting Saddam Hussein to agree to comply with United Nations resolutions may be something you would like to do, but only one man represents the view of the international community: the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Iraq listened to him because he was appointed by the nations of the world to speak on their behalf. In Sidra Tetzaveh the high priest is presented as just such a person; someone to represent Israel before the LORD. In Sidra Terumah we recognised a problem: God is holy and we are not, therefore we cannot approach Him. Aaron did for Israel what they could not do for themselves. His sons assisted him, but he was the key figure. - Read More >

Terumah: Exodus 25 - 27:19

God actually wants to dwell among men! If He hadn't said so Himself, we might find it difficult to believe; but He did say it: "Make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them." That sanctuary reveals to us more about God and what He requires in order for Him to be able to dwell among us. - Read More >

Mishpatim: Exodus 21:1-24:18

Mishpatim shows us that our goal in life should be nothing less than fellowship with the Almighty Himself. The Sidra concludes with Moshe, Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel being invited by the LORD to eat in His presence. This was no doubt an awesome experience for them all, but it was one that God desired for them. Despite our sin, there is a way to enter His presence, a way that He Himself has made for us.

Little is said of what they saw in the vision but it is clear that they saw God represented in human form. This surely teaches us that there is something about God to which we can relate. It says in Genesis 1 that man was created "in the image of God". A relationship is possible. Beneath God's feet they saw a paved work of a sapphire stone, clear like the heavens, which revealed Him as the God of power, ruling from the heavens, altogether above us. His rule is pure and, like a paving, ordered and according to a plan. How great and glorious God is! And yet it is possible for us to enjoy fellowship with Him. Is that your desire? - Read More >

Vayeshev (Hanukkah): Genesis 37:1-40:23; Zechariah 2:14-4:7

The rabbis encountered a considerable problem when it came to understanding what the Tanakh teaches about the Messiah. There appears to be two irreconcilable strands of revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures. The second Psalm, for example, reveals the Davidic Messiah as the Son of God to whom God promises the nations as his inheritance. A similar picture is painted in Psalm 110; the Messiah, full of the dew of his youth, is revealed as the head of an immense army of volunteers, seated at the right hand of God until all his enemies become his footstool. - Read More >

Mikketz: Genesis 41-44:17; Zechariah 2:14-4:7

"How long, O LORD?" is the cry of many a believer in God as he or she goes through troubles. It is difficult to imagine that Joseph did not feel the same way during his early years in Egypt, especially as things went from bad to worse through no fault of his own. He did not appear to be guilty of any great sin but his brothers sold him as a slave. He worked hard but ended up in prison. He helped his fellow prisoners but remained incarcerated. - Read More >

Vayiggash: Genesis 44:18 - 47:27; Ezekiel 37:15-28

In our Torah and Haftorah readings this week we see, as they say, a pattern emerging. In both readings the tribes of Israel (particularly Joseph and Benjamin) are reunited, there is a national repentance and the blessings the nation receives overflow to the gentiles. - Read More >

Vayechi: Genesis 47:28-50:26; 1 Kings 2:1-12

The famous Dr. Johnson once observed that when a man knows he has but a short time to live "it concentrates his mind wonderfully." This Sidra contains a glowing example of that in the dying days of Jacob. - Read More >

Shemot: Exodus 1:1-6:1; Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23

In the Bible names mean something, and throughout the book of Genesis people are given names by God and have their names changed by Him in order to reflect their character and their place in His purposes.

Abram, the "exalted father" becomes Abraham, the "father of a multitude" to rival the stars of heaven. Sarai, "my princess" becomes Sarah, "the Princess" of all. After wrestling and overcoming the Angel of the Lord, Jacob the "supplanter" is renamed Israel, the "Prince with God". - Read More >

Va'era: Exodus 6:2 - 9:33

Biblical quotations are from The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1917. - Read More >

Bo: Exodus 10:1- 13:16

The people of Israel have walked free from Egypt; those who were slaves are now the "armies of the LORD". How good the LORD is to His people! How great is His power! How fearful are His judgements! These are the feelings we should have as we read the words of Sidra Bo because that is what God intended. As He said to Moses at the start of the Sidra: "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." - Read More >

Beshalah: Exodus 13:17-17:16

What a roller-coaster Israel is riding in our Sidra! From the heights to the depths. What heights they ascended to when the LORD led them through the sea on dry ground and then destroyed the Egyptians before their very eyes. How they sang His praise! But then they went down to the depths complaining that there was no water or food. - Read More >

Yitro: Exodus 18:1-20:23; Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6

The giving of the Ten Commandments was a great episode in the history of Israel, but why did God make the event so dramatic? Obviously, He was determined to make a powerful impression on His people. Mount Sinai covered with thick smoke, thunder and lightning, the earth quaking, a trumpet growing louder and louder and then, finally, audible words booming forth the Ten Commandments. What was the result? Great fear. The people trembling and asking that only Moses should speak to them. Which was exactly what God had intended should happen. What does that tell us about the spiritual condition of the people? They did not fear God as they should have. - Read More >

Bemidbar: Numbers 1:1-4:20

In the centre of the camp of Israel stood the Tabernacle. In the inner circle - around the Tabernacle of the Congregation on the east side were stationed Moses, Aaron and the priests; on the north side were the 3,200 sons of Merari; on the west side were the 2,630 sons of Gershon; on the south side were the 2,750sons of Kohath. In the outer circle the tribe of Judah camped on the east side; the tribe of Dan on the north; the tribe of Ephraim on the west, and the tribe of Reuben on the south side. To the three sons of Levi and their families was committed the service of the Tabernacle, and to each of the divisions of the Levites clear instructions were given regarding the transportation of the tabernacle from place to place. - Read More >

Naso: Numbers 4:21-7:89

The very last words of this Sidra assure us of the truth of the Torah, that it does not consist of the ideas of men or the accumulated insights of sages over many centuries. Rather, the LORD spoke the words of the Torah directly to Moses in the Tabernacle, and Moses wrote them down. The Jewish scribes have faithfully preserved God's words so that when we read the Pentateuch today we should be in no doubt that we have before us God's words to Israel and mankind. How we should thank Him for that. So many people today are in spiritual darkness. Their ideas of God are so off-beam as they struggle to understand what He is like. But in the five books of Moses we are told exactly what God wants us to know about Himself. - Read More >

Ki Tavo: Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8

The day after his installation as Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Dr. Jonathan Sacks expressed the opinion, on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, that the Jews have survived as a people because "the final chapter has not yet been written." Maybe I misunderstood Dr Sacks, but in the light of this week's Sidra, it was a little surprising to discover that the spiritual leader of Britain's Jewish community appeared to believe that Israel's survival is due to there being no ultimate purpose for the nation. If the last chapter has not been written, Israel's future still hangs in the balance. - Read More >

Ki Tetsei: Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19

Kids. Who'd have 'em? You give them the best years of your life, you feed them, clothe them provide for them and then they turn into teenagers. Hormones begin to surge round their rapidly changing pubescent bodies. Suddenly our sweet little angels turn into obnoxious, surly, highly-strung couch potatoes who refuse to do a thing they are told. What can you do? Ground them? Stop their pocket money? Stone them to death? - Read More >

Beha'alotecha: Numbers 8-12

How grateful we should be that the Most High does not leave His people in darkness and ignorance. In this Sidra we read of the many ways in which He guided Israel. There was the lampstand, which pictured the light of understanding He gives us from the Torah. The Levites, set apart for His service, were to study God's Word and teach the people, as we find them doing at various points in Israel's history. - Read More >

Shelach Lecha: Numbers 13-15

Do you know the difference between intentional and unintentional sin? Between wilful rebellion and accidental disobedience. According to our Sidra the difference is very important, for there was a way of atonement for unintentional sin, but not for deliberate rebellion against God's revealed will, for which the penalty was death. The Sidra gives us an example of deliberate sin in the man who went out collecting sticks for a fire on Shabbat. The penalty was death. The man was aware of the command not to work on Shabbat and the penalty for disobedience, but he treated God's command with contempt. There can be no clearer example of wilful rebellion; here was a person who had no regard for God's Law and did what suited him. - Read More >

Korah: Numbers 16-18

What awesome events we read of in Sidra Korah! Should we not fear God when we read of such judgements. But there is an abundance of mercy too. - Read More >

Chukkat: Numbers 19:1-22:1

The overwhelming impression we get from Chukkat is that sin is everywhere, affecting everything and everybody. We read of defilement from contact with a dead body. We read of sin in God's greatest servant, Moses, when he failed to honour God before the people and so forfeited the right to enter the land of promise. We read of the death of Aaron, reminding us that even those in highest spiritual office have sinned and must die. Finally, we read of the people complaining (yet again) and, as a consequence, dying from snake bites. - Read More >

Balak: Numbers 22:2-25:9

What an extraordinary figure Balaam is. He appears suddenly, out of nowhere in the account of Israel's wilderness wanderings. He was obviously known far and wide in the ancient Middle East because although he lived 400 miles from Moab, Balak the king of Moab was aware of his reputation as a soothsayer. Balaam must have had a reputation for truth and accuracy in his prophetic messages or he would never have become so famous and Balak would never have called him. Balak wanted Israel to be under a curse so that Moab might enjoy peace, so he called for the man known throughout the ancient world as one whose words came to pass. - Read More >

Pinchas: Numbers 25:10-30:16

It is good to be zealous in the things of God and Pinchas was certainly a zealous man. Many Israelites were sinning with the Moabites and Midianites. Because of this, pious Israelites assembled before the tabernacle, weeping. Pinchas was among them. The sight of another Israelite flagrantly bringing a Midianite woman into the camp stirred him so deeply that he acted to stem the tide of evil. For this he was highly commended because the zeal of Pinchas was the LORD's own zeal. - Read More >

Mattot-Massei: Numbers 30:2-36:13

For some people the most difficult passages of the Torah to read or to memorise are those that consist of lists of names. In this Sidra we have such a passage. Moses lists the places Israel that had passed through on their journey from Egypt to the land of promise. - Read More >

Devarim: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:23

Thanks to the insights provided by archaeological discoveries, we now know that book of Deuteronomy fits into the framework of ancient Middle Eastern covenant documents. In the world of the Bible, kings and nations entered into treaties in which the parties offered sacrifices to their gods and took oaths binding themselves to keep the conditions laid down in the covenant document. - Read More >

Shofetim: Deuteronomy 16:18-21

There is inquisitiveness in the heart of man and a desire to know the future. The nations that inhabited the land of Canaart before the Israelite conquest used different occultic means to see into the future. In Shofetim Moses issues a strong warning to Israel: " When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who uses witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who consults interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium or a spirit[ual]ist or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out before you" (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). - Read More >

Ha'azinu: Deuteronomy 32

I cannot imagine it was very easy for Israel to sing some parts of the Song of Moses, a song which the LORD had given to him. Certainly it ends on a note of rejoicing, but there is plenty in it to cause sorrow and even anguish because, as the LORD Himself describes it, it is "a witness for me against the children of Israel." In it God declares how Israel will stray from His ways and suffer the consequences. However, it ends on a positive note: the hope of atonement for sin. - Read More >

Rosh Hashana: Genesis 21; 1 Samuel 1-2:10

The birth of a child is always a cause for celebration. If anything can make a man sing or a turn him into poet (even a bad one), it is to witness the birth of a son or daughter. - Read More >

Sukkot: Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers29:12-16; Zechariah 14

When I was young I used to wonder if our world was just an atom in an even bigger cosmos and whether the atoms that made up our universe were themselves infinitesimally small worlds. And what if those worlds were made up of even smaller worlds? And were there people in those tiny universes thinking the same as me? All mind blowing stuff. Thinking about it used to sometimes keep me awake for hours. - Read More >

Shemini Atseret: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17; Numbers 29:35-39; 1 Kings 8:54-66

Nowadays, we do not often see these words come up on our TV screen:
NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Breakdowns are few and far between, thankfully. But when I thought about the eighth day of Succot and the sacrifices described in the additional reading for the Sidra that phrase came to mind, not because of a breakdown, but because of a change. That may seem strange to you but I wonder how you explain the gradual reduction in the number of the bulls to be brought as burnt offerings during the first seven days of the festival and then, on the eighth day, a more dramatic reduction so that things are "back to normal" with the same offerings as on Rosh Hashanah. It seems to me that while a key element of the feast is rest and rejoicing, nevertheless life has to be resumed at the end of it. The LORD knows this and prepares the people for this reality by what we would call a "wind down". It is not meant to dampen the genuine joy of the festival but to gently prepare the way back into normal life. How wise God is! This means that the worshipper should arrive at the end of the festival with a quiet sense of satisfaction, peace and contentment. This should lead to a grateful readiness to resume normal life in service to the LORD - normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. - Read More >

Bereshit (Machar Chodesh): Genesis 1:1-6:8; Isaiah 42:5-43:12

The first chapters of the Bible are the most important for they lay the foundation of all that follows. Without the revelation of the nature and character of God in Genesis 1 we could not distinguish the true God from the countless idols worshipped by the nations. Without the Genesis account of the creation of man we would have no answer to king David's question in Psalm 8: "What is man?" Apart from the third chapter of Genesis, the origin of evil would be an enigma to us forever. - Read More >

Noach: Genesis 6:9-11:32; Isaiah 54:1-55:5

The South of England has just suffered its worst storms since the great hurricane on 1987 and as I write more heavy rain is expected and several town are on flood alert. In the Shalom office we found ourselves surrounded by water rising from the River Darenth and had to take emergency measures to prevent flooding - Read More >

Lech Lecha: Genesis 12-17; Isaiah 40:27-41:16

Promises and gifts, gifts and promises! No, it's no-one's birthday, nor is it a festival. So, don't panic you have not forgotten anything. But this is a gift which is for anytime - the gift of righteousness. As for the promises, the Shorter Oxford Dictionary tells us that promise in the religious sense is "a Divine assurance of future good or blessing." If you are reading this page then I am sure that that is important to you. In Lech Lecha Avraham avinu sets us all an example to follow, as all good fathers should, and the lesson could not be more vital. Is anything more important than to be righteous and to know God's promises are for us? - Read More >

Vayera: Genesis 18-22

How does it affect a man to receive great promises from the LORD? What changes take place in one who receives righteousness as a gift? In Sidra Lech Lecha we read of God giving these things, in Sidra Vayera we see how Abraham is affected by God's gifts. - Read More >

Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23-25:18; 1 Kings 1:1-31

There's a wonderful scene at the end of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the villain has to choose the true "holy grail" from a vast and diverse assortment of cups. The right choice will bring eternal life to the one who drinks from it and, in traditional Steven Spielberg-style, the baddie disintegrates before our eyes after drinking deeply from a gem-encrusted gold cup. The ancient guardian of the grail then comments dryly: "He chose...poorly". - Read More >

Toldot: Genesis 25:19-28:9; Malachi 1:1-2:7

Isaac is a man who often gets overlooked. Comments on Sidra Toldot usually spend a lot of energy arguing the rights and wrongs of Jacob's behaviour and poor old Isaac gets missed out, and as he never gets to appear again in any significant way in the Scripture account it seems to me that he is done a disservice. I want to try and set things to right and take a good look at Isaac. - Read More >

Vayetsei: Genesis 28:10-32:3; Hosea 12:13-14:10

Choosing the winning author for the Booker Prize must be tough. Choosing a President seems to be causing problems for Americans at present. But what if you were asked to choose the one man in the world who showed the signs of being God's favourite above all others? An impossible task you might well think. What about in Jacob's day when there were fewer people to have to consider? No doubt there were a number of suitable candidates but do you think Jacob would have been on the short list? - Read More >





   
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