31st July 2009/10th Av 5769
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This past month we have entered the time of reflecting and fasting, because of the loss of the 1st and 2nd Temples, and the subsequent suffering of the House of Judah in the generations to follow, many times repeated on the same date in Jewish history, namely on the 9th of Av. As always, this builds up to the longing to see the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem in our days, and our return from exile to the Promised Land. With the battle over Jerusalem almost daily in the news, and the world wanting to divorce Israel from their history and the Land promised to them by HaShem, it is with joy and awe that we include the latest archeological findings that confirm the Biblical accounts of the history of Israel and the Covenant that HaShem made with them concerning the future of Jerusalem, the Land of Israel, and the return of the Tribes of Israel to their promised inheritance. We furthermore include some valuable teachings and reflections on the yearly fast of Tisha B'Av, and the Torah Readings on the Shabbat of Consolation, which follows the fast of Tisha B'Av. Let us cling to the Torah and HaShem, in the confidence of victory, as He prepares the way before us in the pages of history past, and the history which is being written now, until the restoration of all things.
7th July 2009
The world of archeology is rocked by evidence of King David's palace unearthed in Jerusalem.
How Jewish is Jerusalem?
You might think that's a silly question, but in the world of academia, revisionist history and even biblical archaeology, scholars have cast the shadow of doubt over Judaism's intrinsic connection to Jerusalem. The Moslem Waqf, the religious authority that administers the Temple Mount -- the site of Judaism's First and Second Temples -- has been claiming for years that there was never a temple there. But the idea that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and Jerusalem its holy capital has been under attack from far more reputable sources in recent decades as well.
For a growing number of academics and intellectuals, King David and his united kingdom of Judah and Israel, which has served for 3,000 years as an integral symbol of the Jewish nation, is simply a piece of fiction. The biblical account of history has been dismissed as unreliable by a cadre of scholars, some of whom have an overtly political agenda, arguing that the traditional account was resurrected by the Zionists to justify dispossessing Palestinian Arabs. The most outspoken of these is Keith Whitelam of the Copenhagen School which promotes an agenda of "biblical minimalism," whose best-known work is The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History.
Finkelstein claims that the myth of King David was the creation of a cult of priests trying to create for themselves a glorious history.
Even in Israel, this new school has found its voice. Israel Finkelstein, chairman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology, began championing a theory several years ago that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. The scientific methods for his assumptions, called a "lower dating" which essentially pushes archaeological evidence into a later century and thus erases all evidence of a Davidic monarchy, were laughed off by traditional archaeologists. But his book, The Bible Unearthed, wound up on the New York Times' best-seller list and he became the darling of a sympathetic media. He concluded that David and Solomon, if they existed at all, were merely "hill-country chieftains" and Jerusalem a poor, small tribal village. He claims that the myth of King David was the creation of a cult of priests trying to create for themselves a glorious history.
Looking in the Wrong Place
But the debunkers of Jewish biblical history got some bad news recently, when a spunky, dedicated archaeologist began her latest dig. Dr. Eilat Mazar, world authority on Jerusalem's past, has taken King David out of the pages of the Bible and put him back into living history. Mazar's latest excavation in the City of David, in the southern shadow of the Temple Mount, has shaken up the archaeological world. For lying undisturbed for over 3,000 years is a massive building which Mazar believes is King David's palace.
For Mazar, 48, one of the world's leading authorities on the archaeology of ancient Jerusalem and head archaeologist of the Shalem Center Institute of Archaeology, the discovery was the culmination of years of effort and solid speculation. From the time she was a teenager, she had her nose in archaeology literature, and worked closely with her grandfather, renowned archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, who conducted the southern wall excavations next to the Western Wall. She holds a doctorate in archaeology from Hebrew University, is author of The Complete Guide to the Temple Mount Excavations, and in the 1970s and '80s worked on the digs supervised by Yigal Shilo in the City of David. The significant discoveries made then, including a huge wall called the "stepped-stone structure" -- which Shilo believed was a retaining wall for David's royal palace or part of the Jebusite fortress he conquered -- ignited Mazar to continue to look for the prize: David's palace itself.
Some biblical scholars gave up looking for the palace because, according to Mazar, they were looking in the wrong place. Scholars searched for remains of the palace within the walls of the ancient Jebusite city that David conquered and called Ir David (City of David). This city, while heavily fortified with both natural and man-made boundaries, was also very small, just nine acres in size. When no evidence of such a majestic palace as the Bible describes was found there, the next step was to claim that David's monarchy never really existed.
But Mazar always suspected that the palace was outside the original city, and cites the Bible to prove it. When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed, they went on the attack to apprehend him. This occurred after he conquered the Fortress of Zion, which was the actual nucleus of the city, and built his palace. The Bible says that David heard about it and "descended to the fortress," (2-Samuel 5:17), implying that he went down from his palace, which was higher up on the mountain than the citadel/city.
Mazar told Aish.com: "I always asked myself: Down from where? It must have been from his palace on top of the hill, outside the original Jebusite city." Mazar says she was confident in her assessment of where the palace would be. What she discovered was a section of massive wall running about 100 feet from west to east along the length of the excavation (underneath what until this summer was the Ir David Visitors Center), and ending with a right-angle corner that turns south and implies a very large building.
Scientist, Not Philosopher
Within the dirt fill between the stones were found pottery shards dating to the 11th century BCE, the time when David established his monarchy. Based on biblical text and historic evidence, Mazar assumed that David would have built his palace outside the walls of the fortified but cramped Jebusite city which existed up to 2,000 years before; and in fact, the structure is built on the summit of the mountain, directly on bedrock along the city's northern edge, with no archaeological layers beneath it -- a sign that the structure constituted a new, northward expansion of the city's northern limit.
"I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well-preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it."
What most amazed Mazar was how close the building is to the surface -- just one to two meters underground. "The cynics kept saying, 'there will be so many layers, so many remnants of other cultures, it's not worth digging, it's too far down.' I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well-preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it," Mazar said.
Mazar snickers at the idea that she is some sort of divine emissary revealing the eternity of David's kingdom. "I am a scientist, not a philosopher. My focus is on how magnificent and enduring these complex structures are, that they were preserved and protected for so many generations. In truth, when I began to excavate, I had to be prepared for any result. I even had to be prepared to accept Finkelstein's hypothesis if that's what the facts indicated. Still, I am a Jew and an Israeli, and I feel great joy when the details on the ground match the descriptions in the Bible. Today it's become fashionable to say there was no David, no Solomon, no Temple, no prophets. But suddenly the facts on the ground are speaking, and those outspoken voices are stammering."
The City of David is essentially the ancient nucleus of Jerusalem, located just south of the mountain on which the Holy Temples stood. From here the rest of the city as we know it grew and developed over the course of history. According to tradition, the first significant event that occurred there was the meeting between Abraham and Malki-tzedek, King of Shalem. King David, divinely directed, chose this city as the capital of his united kingdom. And the more archaeologists uncover and identify, the easier it is becoming to form a complete picture of the people who lived there -- with the pivotal Jewish history of the First Temple period, described in the Prophets, played out in its structures and installations.
The Bible says that King David brought God's Tabernacle to its final home in this original Jerusalem, expanded the city, and made it the spiritual and economic capital of the world at that time. According to Jewish tradition, he fulfilled God's master plan for a spiritual monarchy that would endure until the final Redemption.
"The construction that we found was a complicated and intricate engineering operation that must have required immense resources, and the dating matches," says Mazar. "This is the kind of step one would expect of a new ruler who wants to turn the city he conquered into his permanent residence, and who has an exceptional vision of the future development of the city."
According to the Bible, David's palace was constructed by Hiram, King of Tyre, the contemporary Phoenician ruler and his ally against the Philistines. Mazar, an expert in Phoenician construction from her excavations at Achziv on Israel's northern coast, attests that this building bears the mark of Phoenician construction, not likely to be found otherwise in the Judean hills.
In fact, quite a bit about David's palace is known from the Bible itself. It was a "house of cedars" built by Phoenician builders (2-Samuel 5:11 and 1-Chronicles 14:1) who used the cedars of Lebanon and developed a distinct style of stone masonry. Remains of pillars and decorative stone capitals in this particular style were discovered at the site years before, which was one clue Mazar used to look for the palace.
The Clay Disc
Mazar believes that the palace was used for Jewish monarchs until the destruction of the First Temple 450 years later. To indicate this, she speaks excitedly about a tiny clay item she found at the site (found on the 17th of Tammuz, the fast day commemorating the siege of Jerusalem before its destruction). It is called a "bulla," a clay disc, inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the name of the sender as a "return address," used to seal papyrus scroll "mail." The bulla bears the name of Yehuchal Ben Shelemiah,* who is mentioned in Chapters 37 and 38 of the Book of Jeremiah. Yehuchal was one of two emissaries dispatched by King Tzidkiyahu to Jeremiah, asking him to pray for the people during the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. In an about-face, Chapter 38 tells that Yehuchal was one of four ministers who asked the king to kill Jeremiah, claiming that he was demoralizing the besieged nation with his prophecies of doom and destruction.
The bulla found on the site of the palace indicates that the building was used by the king, or at least by his ministers, until the destruction of Jerusalem soon afterwards. (In fact, a nearby cistern uncovered in what might have been a king's courtyard is speculated to perhaps be the pit Jeremiah was lowered into, as recorded in Jeremiah 38:6).
"For me, finding the bulla was tremendous," says Mazar. "Yehuchal was no longer just some name in a biblical account that I might not even have been sure was true. He was a real person. We now have his business card. The account is a real account. It is very rare to find such precise evidence for a narrative in the Bible."
Mazar is heady, not with personal glory or the fame, but with what she considers validation of the Bible she so loves and respects.
Mazar took the bulla home to examine and decipher. With the help of a needle and magnifying glass, she cleaned off the grains of dust until the ancient inscription was revealed. Together with her boys, aged 14, 13, and 11, they managed to decipher the ancient Hebrew script. Mazar's late husband, also an archaeologist, had published material on bullas, and the boys made use of their father's articles which explained how to properly examine and decipher the clay.
Mazar is heady, not with personal glory or the fame that has followed her since the discovery, but with what she considers validation of the Bible she so loves and respects. "Today the scholarly approach to Tanach [the Bible] is that it's not true unless you can prove it true. Maybe we should do a little reverse. Why don't we say it's true unless we can prove otherwise?"
More than ten years ago, Mazar proposed a solid thesis as to the location of the palace, and argued her position in a piece published in Biblical Archaeological Review. After years of digging in the City of David under her professional mentor Yigal Shilo before he passed away, and based on finds several decades ago by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, she knew she was in the right place. David's palace was the topic of her last conversation with her famous grandfather, biblical archaeology Professor Binyamin Mazar, before he died ten years ago. He told her, "Kenyon found the protoaeolic capitals (of the decorative Phoenician stone-work), so go and find where she found them, and start there."
Despite her sound hypothesis and impeccable credentials, she couldn't find any financial backers, as if no one in the academic world really wanted to find David's palace. It would just be too politically complicated. It's no wonder, when even mainstream archaeologists are inclined to play down finds which might be considered too highly charged with biblical or historical accuracy.
An example is Adam Zertal, who in 1983 discovered an enormous sacrificial altar on Mount Eval, on the very mountain where Joshua was described in the Bible as having built an altar after the Jews crossed the Jordan River. The altar he found contained tools dating to the 12th century BCE, the time the Jewish people entered the Land, and its construction matched the descriptions of Joshua's altar in both biblical and rabbinic texts. But instead of the expected excitement accompanying such a monumental find, Zertal's academic colleagues ignored him and his discovery. The more vocal accused Zertal, a secular Jew raised on a kibbutz, of being politically motivated to support Jewish settlements in the area around Shechem (Nablus), where Mount Eval is located.
Despite the seeming indifference from the academic world, Mazar's proposal finally found a sponsor in the Shalem Center, an academic center in Jerusalem that recently established an institute for archaeological studies, and was funded by Roger Hertog, an American Jewish investment banker who told the New York Times that he fronted the dig because he wants to encourage scientific support for the Bible as a reflection of Jewish history.
David Hazony, editor-in-chief of Azure, a journal published by the Center, is excited about Mazar's results. "We don't want to see this shunted to the side like Zertal's discovery," he told Aish.com. "The message he got from his colleagues was, 'It's bad for business to find things from the Bible these days. It makes us look like unsophisticated messianic fanatics.' Unfortunately, academia has done much to undermine the Jews' capacity to say where they come from and what their past is all about. We want to create an environment where serious scholars can pursue their research without feeling intimidated."
Bulldozer on the Mount
But as fast as new Jewish artifacts are being unearthed, Mazar is concerned that a great number are being destroyed. As spokesperson for the Committee Against the Desecration of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, Mazar has for the past six years tried to alert the world to the vandalism being perpetrated by the Muslim Waqf, who have their own agenda of destroying remnants of proof of Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, and who consistently deny that there ever was a First or Second Temple.
According to agreements made between the Israeli government and the Waqf, to whom the Israelis handed control of the Temple Mount in 1967, the Arabs are not permitted to carry out independent works on the Mount without permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Over the years, however, there have been indications of the Waqf breaking this status quo, such as when they sealed up the ancient Hulda Gates entrance to the Temple Mount on the southern wall and buried the adjoining steps and ancient tiling, and the sealing of an underground water cistern that some rabbis thought would lead to the Temple foundations.
The greatest breech was discovered in 1999, when the Waqf bulldozed and then paved over close to 6,000 square meters of the ancient Temple Mount surface. Temple Mount artifacts were ripped from the Mount and secretly dumped in several places throughout Jerusalem, mostly in the Kidron Valley east of the Old City and also in the city dump. Over 100 truckloads of Temple Mount rubble, soil and artifacts were clandestinely removed.
Tzachi Zweig, then an archaeology master's student at Bar Ilan University, blew the whistle on the Waqf when he discovered Temple artifacts in junk heaps around Jerusalem, and then presented some of the artifacts he unearthed at an archaeology conference at the university. Under the supervision of his mentor, Professor Gabriel Barkay, dozens of truckloads of the "garbage" were moved to a special site near Mount Scopus, where until today teams of archaeologists and volunteers continue to find massive amounts of valuable, significant artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.
Is this absolute proof? No. But it is enough to shift the burden of proof.
Antiquities in Israel has long been a politically contentious topic, with all its religious and nationalistic overtones. The jury is still out on where all this activity will lead. But one thing is certain: Mazar's discovery has rocked the archeological world.
As Hazony wrote in Azure: "Is this absolute proof? No. But it is enough to shift the burden of proof... The normally reserved Amihai Mazar of Hebrew University, one of the most esteemed scholars in the field of biblical archaeology and author of the standard textbook, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 BCE, has described the discovery as 'something of a miracle'."
"In the end," says Mazar, "the integrity of the land and its history will prevail. And I'm grateful to have a small part in it."
*And Yehuchal's "business card" is actually one of several that have been discovered in the last decade, which give further testimony to the veracity of the biblical account of the king's court activities prior to Jerusalem's destruction. In another excavation site, thought to be the remains of a public building, over 50 bullas were discovered under the charred layers of destruction. King Nebuchadnezzar's fires razed the city, but those same fires solidified the clay seals like a kiln, preserving them in good condition and fully legible. They bear dozens of Hebrew names, two of them belonging to characters in the Bible who were contemporaries of Yehuchal. One of those is Gemaryahu Ben Shafan, one of King Yehoyakim's scribes, in whose chamber Baruch Ben Neria read Jeremiah's words of rebuke and repentance (Jeremiah 36:10). Another name is Azaryahu Ben Hilkiyahu, a member of the family of high priests who officiated before Jerusalem's destruction (Chronicles I, 9:10).
4,000-Year-Old Tomb Discovered in Bethlehem
June 25, 2009
unscathed 4,000-year-old tomb was accidently discovered in the city of
Bethlehem during renovation being carried out on a local house. Construction
workers were led to the tomb, which dates between 1,900 B.C. and 2,200 B.C.,
through a hole found near the Church of the Nativity. The workers contacted the
appropriate antiquities authorities, who arrived to document the tomb and its
contents, which were located about a meter below the surface.
Intact tombs from this period are rare. Burial items such as pottery, plates and beads were retrieved from the tomb, along with the remains of two individuals. The opportunity to properly excavate and record an intact tomb from the era is expected to allow scientists to gain greater insight into the burial practices of the people living during the Canaanite period.
7 6th July 2009
Temple Stone Quarry Discovered
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
have discovered a quarter-acre (one dunam) quarry in Jerusalem that apparently
was the source for mammoth stones used by Herod to build the Second Temple. The
Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered the quarry prior to the planned
construction of apartment buildings on Shmuel HaNavi Street.
The ancient quarry dates back 2,030 years, according to excavation director Dr. Ofer Sion. The immense size of the stones, which measure up to three meters long and two meters high and wide, “indicates it was highly likely that the large stones that were quarried at the site were destined for use in the construction of Herod’s magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple walls,” he said.
He also estimated that a large work force among Herod's estimated 10,000 laborers produced the stones by creating detachment channels with the use of a one-pound chisel. “After the channels were formed, the stones were severed from the bedrock using hammers and chisels,” Dr. Sion explained.
“We know from historical sources that in order to build the Temple and other projects which Herod constructed, such as his palace, hundreds of thousands of various size stones were required – most of them weighing between two and five tons each”, said the director of the excavation. “The dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry...are suitable for the Temple walls."
“The massive quarrying effort, on the order of hundreds of thousands of stones, lowered the topography of Jerusalem in the vicinity of the Old City," Dr. Sion said. "Today, with the exposure of this quarry, the intensity of the building projects as described in the historical sources can be proven… It is clear that Herod began quarrying closest to the Temple and worked away from it: first he exploited the stone on the nearby ridges and subsequently he moved on to quarry in more distant regions.”
Dr. Sion described the ancient “high-tech method of removing and transporting the stones on rolling wooden fixtures, some of which were pulled by camels."
Other artifacts discovered at the site include metal plates, referred to in the Talmud and which were used as fulcrums to sever the stones from the bedrock, as well as coins and pottery shards from the end of the Second Temple period in the first century, before the beginning of the non-Jewish calendar.
More than 60 people worked on the dig, which lasted approximately two weeks.
• Paperback: 204 pages
• Publisher: Mazo Publishers (December 2006)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 965734414X
• ISBN-13: 978-9657344149
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7th July 2009
There is now new and exciting DNA evidence for common Jewish origin –
just among Cohanim, the Priestly Class, but among Jews scattered all over the
by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman
Recently published research in the field of molecular genetics –- the study of DNA sequences –- indicates that Jewish populations of the various Diaspora communities have retained their genetic identity throughout the exile. Despite large geographic distances between the communities and the passage of thousands of years, far removed Jewish communities share a similar genetic profile. This research confirms the common ancestry and common geographical origin of world Jewry. Jewish men from communities which developed in the Near East –- Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen -- and European Jews have very similar, almost identical genetic profiles.
"Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. The results support the hypothesis that the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population, and suggest that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora." (M.F. Hammer, Proc. Nat'l Academy of Science, May 9, 2000)
The basis of this new field of population
research is the study of the Y-chromosome, which is passed virtually unchanged
from father to son. The rare mutations -– which are changes in the non-coding
portion of its DNA –- can serve as markers, which can distinguish peoples. By
studying the genetic signatures of various groups, comparisons can be made to
determine the genetic relationships between the groups.
Y-chromosome research of the Jewish people began as an outgrowth of the study of Cohanim –- the Jewish priestly family. These studies showed a very high genetic affinity among present-day Cohanim, indicating that they do have a common paternal ancestor, estimated to have lived some 3,000 years ago. (See The Cohanim/DNA Connection)
MOST RECENT RESEARCH
The most recent genetic research consists of obtaining DNA samples, and doing laboratory analysis and comparison of the DNA markers on the Y-chromosome –- which is passed from father to son, and on the mtDNA (mitrocondrial DNA) –- which is passed intact from mother to son and daughter. This genetic anthropology promises to be particularly informative for tracking the history of Jewish populations, and helping to resolve the debate on the origins and migrations of Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
The researchers proposed to answer the question whether the scattered groups of modern Jews can be identified as the descendants of the ancient Hebrews of the Bible, or whether their common ancestry has been diluted through influx of converts and through intermarriage so that little remains of their "Jewish genes."
The complex recorded history of dispersal from the Land of Israel and subsequent residence in and movements between various countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is expected to produce a complex pattern of genetic relationships among Jewish populations as well as between them and the non-Jewish peoples among whom they lived.
The research was based on samples from 29
populations, 7 Jewish, categorized into five major divisions: Jews,
Middle-Eastern non-Jews, Europeans, North Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans.
The findings were that most Jewish communities do indeed seem to be genetically similar. The findings were that most Jewish communities -- long separated from one another in Europe, North Africa, the Near East and the Arabian Peninsula -- do indeed seem to be genetically similar and closely related to one another, sharing a common geographical origin. These Jewish communities are more closely related to each other and to other Middle Eastern Semitic populations -– Palestinians, Syrians, and Druze -- than to their neighboring non-Jewish populations in the Diaspora.
The results also indicate a low level of admixture (intermarriage, conversion, rape, etc.) into the gene pool of these various Jewish communities. Among the Jewish communities sampled, North Africans (Moroccans, etc.) were most closely related to Babylonian (Iraqi) Jews. These populations may best represent the paternal gene pool of the ancient Jewish/Hebrew population dating back to the First Temple period, before the Babylonian exile (approx. 2,500 years ago).
The Y-chromosome signatures of the Yemenite
Jews are also similar to those of other Jewish and Semitic populations. In
contrast, the paternal gene pool of Ethiopian Jews more closely resembles that
of non-Jewish Ethiopian men.
Although the Ashkenazi (European) Jewish
community separated from their Mediterranean ancestors some 1,200 years ago and
lived among Central and Eastern European gentiles, their paternal gene pool
still resembles that of other Jewish and Semitic groups originating in the
A low rate of intermarriage between Diaspora
Jews and local gentiles was the key reason for this continuity. Since the Jews
first settled in Europe more than 50 generations ago, the intermarriage rate
was estimated to be only about 0.5% in each generation.
The findings oppose the suggestion that Ashkenazim are descended from the Kuzars.
The Ashkenazi paternal gene pool does not
appear to be similar to that of present-day Turkish speakers. This finding
opposes the suggestion that Ashkenazim are descended from the Kuzars, a
Turkish-Asian empire that converted to Judaism en masse in or about the 8th
The researchers are continuing and expanding their studies particularly of the Ashkenazi community. They are hoping that by examining the DNA markers in Jewish populations from different parts of Europe, they will be able to infer the major historical and demographic patterns in Ashkenazi populations.
In addition to questions of medical interest, there are many interesting possibilities concerning the origin of Ashkenazi populations and how they migrated in Europe. It seems likely that Jews began to arrive in Europe perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 years ago, when settlement was already sufficiently developed to provide them with opportunities to make a living.
One theory claims that the Jews of Eastern
Europe derive predominantly from Jewish migrants from the Rhineland or from
Italy, being fairly direct descendants of the original ancient Jewish/Hebrew
A second theory suggests a northerly
migration from the Balkans or from Central Asia, with the possibility of
large-scale conversions of Slavs and/or Kuzars to Judaism.
This argument parallels the controversy over the origin and development of Yiddish -– the language of Eastern European Jews. One theory proposes that Jews, migrating from the Rhineland and neighboring regions spoke an old form of German which provided the basis of Yiddish.
Other scholars reject the German origin of
Yiddish. These linguists see Yiddish grammar as fundamentally Slavonic, with
modern Yiddish developed by incorporating large numbers of German and Hebrew
words into the context of a basically Slavic grammar and syntax.
There has not been enough historical evidence to decide between such theories. Now, with the newly developed genetic methods, it is possible to test these ideas, for example to see if there was a significant Slavic contribution to modern Ashkenazic Jewry.
The researchers plan to continue their
research by investigating genetic variation in populations that can trace their
Jewish ancestry to localized communities of Europe, in order to better
understand the history and development of Ashkenazic Jewry.
The genetic research findings support Jewish
tradition –- both written and oral.
After over 1,000 years of history in the Land
of Israel, Jews dispersed to many and distant locations throughout the world.
Some Jewish exile communities were relatively stable for two millennia -– such
as in Babylonia (Iraq) and Persia (Iran). Others developed centuries later, following
successive migrations to North Africa and Europe.
All of these communities maintained their
Jewish customs and religious observance despite prolonged periods of
persecution. Jews remained generally culturally isolated from their host
communities. These genetic studies are a testimony to Jewish family
Only the Jewish people in the history of mankind has retained its genetic identity for over 100 generations, while being spread throughout the world –- truly unique and inspiring.
Perhaps, even more unique and inspiring, is
that this most unlikely scenario was a prophecy and a promise.
28:64 – “And G-d shall scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the
earth to the other end of the earth... (Deuteronomy 28:64)
30:2 – “And G-d shall return your captivity and be merciful to you, and will
return and gather you from all the nations whither G-d has scattered you.
31:36 – “As the natural laws are set before Me, so shall the seed of Israel
never cease from being a nation before Me, forever. (Jeremiah 31:36)
(Sections highlighted in blue by the Editor for emphasis.)
By: Rabbi Pinchas Winston
We now enter the
three weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, the periods when Jews especially
mourn each year the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And, it is not
just the destruction of the Temple that we mourn. That is just the symbol of
all that matters to the Jewish people, all that we have been forced to live
without because we are still in exile. Perhaps, the most striking loss is how
the majority of Jews today no longer even know about Tisha B’Av, and that the
Jewish people once had temples, two of them to be exact.
There is a story that once Napoleon happened upon a shul, and saw Jews sitting on the floor and mourning. When he inquired about this strange behavior, they explained that it was Tisha B’Av, and that they were mourning the loss of the Temple. Napoleon’s response? "Any people that can mourn an event that occurred thousands of years ago will one day return to their land."
What would Napoleon have said today?
Perhaps, one of the most destructive elements of the Holocaust—a churban unto itself, and part of the Tisha B’Av mourning—is that it completely distracted us from our history. It was such a monstrous and painful event that all we could do when it was over was focus on the present, and if and when we dared, the future of the Jewish people. The recent past was too excruciating to contemplate, and beyond that was too distant to relate to.
Now, decades later, that past has been called into question, and it is being called into question in a city that, by international standards today, it should not be all that important. It is a money world today, and what counts the most to the world are the money capitals: Washington, New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong—all the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and homes of "Big Money." In the past, perhaps, it was the dream and ambition of all great leaders to conquer Jerusalem.
However, today Jerusalem is but an archaeological relic from the past, beautiful to visit, but not a place to spend one’s energies and resources in siege and conquest. Conquer New York financially, and that’s a real conquest. Even to the secular Israeli, Tel Aviv, home of the Bursa (Stock Market), is the pulse of the nation.
Except, of course, for the three major world religions.
The Jews want Jerusalem because it is Jerusalem and all it has ever meant to the Jewish people throughout Tanach and history. The Arabs want Jerusalem because they believe Mohammed ascended to Heaven from there, and more than likely, also, if not specifically, because the Jews want Jerusalem. And, the Christians want it because that was where their religion began, and also because of what it means to the Jewish people.
However, in spite of the logic of it, Jerusalem is fighting its way back on to the international scene. Washington, London, Paris—all of them have to deal with the Jerusalem issue. For, ironically, the Arab nations who are fighting for Jerusalem also control the money markets, or at least wield great influence over them. History (read: Divine Providence) has worked it out that the most fearful nations today, both financially and politically, like the old days, want to vanquish Jerusalem as well.
A strange twist of fate? It might have been had it not been prophesized thousands of years earlier. As it says:
Sha’arei Leshem – “After Moshiach
comes, a major war will be instigated against Israel, as mentioned in the Holy
Zohar (Shemos 7b), and in Parashas Vayaira (119a) and Toldos (139). This is the
war of Gog and Magog spoken about in Yechezkel (38, 39), and Zechariah (14), as
well as in Midrash Tehillim (Mizmor 118:9). There it says: Three times in the
future Gog and Magog will come against Israel and go up against Jerusalem, and
assemble and anger the nations with him to go up to Jerusalem . . . (Sha’arei
Leshem, page 491)
see, Jerusalem is expected to be the central issue as history winds down. And,
more specifically, the Temple Mount, upon which the Arabs conveniently built
their mosque. Thus, whether we like it or not, and whether we are ready for it
or not, Jerusalem and the Temple are drawing Jews after them onto the world
stage, and back into our past, the only place, seemingly, where the answers to
resolve the present and the future conflicts can be found.
In other words, even most Jews today who still cling to their past in lifestyle and tradition do not in terms of mentality. We live in a highly advanced technological society with everyday mores that are anything but Torah-based. To be in golus is to live, deal, and cope with that society every day. Even the once isolated Torah communities around the world, even in Eretz Yisroel, can’t keep most of the outside influences completely at bay.
We don’t realize how much we have been affected; we don’t realize how much we have been dragged away from our Torah-outlook, even when we still live by Torah. It may not be our fault, at least not completely, just as the Midrash says that it wasn’t completely the Jewish people’s fault for worshipping idols in Egypt. "Metoch shibud"—within oppression—for so long, how can we resist and defend ourselves?
Perhaps, that helps to explain G-d’s phenomenal patience so far. In spite of the rampant assimilation and the horrific levels of inter-marriage, we have not suffered as previous generations have. In spite of the frightening daily profanation of G-d’s Holy Name, He seems to persevere and help us keep relative peace.
The question, of course, is always, for how long? Torah reality and Western reality are not one and the same thing, except in the rare places where they overlap. And, if there is an absolute and objective truth, which we Jews believe (and even know as much as anything can be known) there is, one of them must, by definition, be wrong. And, if one of them is wrong, then, by definition, at one point in time, the false one will have to give way to the true one.
Jerusalem and eventually, the Temple, returning to center stage and to the Jewish people represents that awesome historical process. Curious how Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were returned to the Jewish people in a SIX-day war—the number of the Divine Creation Process, and it is the SIXTH millenium in which the Final Redemption, and the Resurrection of the Dead will, according to our holy texts, occur.
Six corresponds to the sefirah called "Yesod" (Foundation), and the essence of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. It also corresponds to Yosef HaTzaddik, from whom Moshiach Ben Yosef is destined to come, if he hasn’t already. It will be Moshiach Ben Yosef’s job to re-build Jerusalem, as the Vilna Gaon taught:
According to the Gaon, all the work involved in gathering in the exiles, BUILDING JERUSALEM and broadening the settlement of the land of Israel, so that the Shechinah will return to it, all the principles of the work and all the major and minor details are connected to the mission and role of the first moshiach, Moshiach Ben Yosef. Moshiach ben Yosef is the miraculous power who will assist every act done when the awakening starts from below, in a natural manner, because he comes from the earth. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 1:2)
The main purpose of the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av is to stimulate such our spiritual awakening from below, so we can return to Hashem and have Him bestow His Divine Presence in rebuilt Jerusalem, in our very midst, speedily and in our days, amen.
(Author, lecturer, and scholar Rabbi Pinchas Winston is the director of ThirtySix.org)
After Tisha B'Av, the burning of the Temple continued for another day. Its effects continue to be felt throughout Jewish history.
by Larry Domnitch
The fires that
consumed the first Jerusalem Temple began on the ninth of Av, and continued to
burn until middle of the following day. The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yochanan
stated, "Had I been alive in that generation, I would have fixed [the day
of mourning] for the tenth [of Av], because the greater part of the Temple was
burnt on that day."
As Tisha B'Av has been a day of misfortune throughout Jewish history, so too has been the Tenth of Av:
22, 1306, the tenth of Av, the Jews of France were arrested and ordered to
leave the country.
Approximately 100,000 were forced to wander in search of new homes, and many
perished along the way.
The Jewish community was not aware of the planned expulsion, as France's king, Phillip the ‘Fair', did not want them to flee in advance with their assets. One of the monarch's motives for expelling the Jews was financial. Phillip saw plundering Jewish wealth as a way to shore up France's economic woes. No doubt, frustration at centuries of failed attempts to force the Jews into apostasy was also a contributing factor.
The expulsion had serious consequences beyond the immense human suffering. It ended the great era of Jewish scholarship of the Tosaphists of France, whose commentaries illuminated Talmudic texts.
Some local European provinces had previously expelled their Jews, but this decree -- which applied to most of France -- was by far the most significant expulsion to date in Medieval Europe. The expulsion also set a precedent for other mass expulsions, which plagued the Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages. The existence of Jewish communities within a European country became precarious. Jews never knew for sure if they might be compelled by law to pack their bags.
Ten years later, Louis the X invited the Jews back to France. Some accepted his offer. The return of the Jews of France would not last, however. They were expelled again in 1396 by Charles VI.
While Jews in some
countries were being expelled, other countries simply denied Jews entry.
In the late 19th century, England was a haven for tens of thousands of Jews fleeing oppression in Russia. Many of the immigrants made their way to the East End of London. Their continuous flow had slowly aroused the opposition of many British lawmakers. Some as far back as the 1880's dubbed the immigration wave, "the alien invasion." Many viewed these Jews as a pariah, or a "state within a state." With the increase of xenophobia, laws were proposed to limit this flow into Great Britain.
On August 11,1905, the tenth of Av, the Aliens Act was passed. This entitled an immigration officer to deny entry to an 'undesirable immigrant,' defined as one who had no means of earning a living, one who is judged to be a lunatic, or one who was convicted of a nonpolitical crime. The bill also allowed for the expulsion of those who had already immigrated and were deemed undesirable.
With the passage of the Alien Act, immigration restriction had become law. This British anti-immigration policy would become increasingly stricter over time. It also impacted American policy, and in 1924, the U.S. Congress passed the Johnson Reed Act which severely restricted the flow of immigrants from Eastern Europe. These restrictions remained in force throughout the Holocaust, having grave implications for European Jewry in desperate need of sanctuary.
On the tenth of Av in 1929, Arab hatred of
Zionism once again boiled over into full-scale riots.
The Arabs of Jerusalem were well aware of the significance of the Western Wall to the Jews and used this holy site to incite against Zionism. A few months earlier, the British consented to Arab demands to limit prayers at the Western Wall. In the middle of Yom Kippur services, British soldiers entered the grounds of the Western Wall and removed the mechitza, the divider separating men from women when in prayer.
Meanwhile, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, whipped Arab masses into a rage by charging that the Jews were attacking the Muslim holy places. On August 16, 1929, as a newly constructed door near the Wall was opened, Jewish worshippers were attacked, despite British assurances.
The next day, thousands of Arabs armed with clubs, swords and daggers converged upon the Mosque of Omar to hear impassioned hate speeches. The cry of "slaughter the Jews" spread throughout the Holy Land. Over the next ten days, Arab riots would take the lives of 133 Jews and leave 339 wounded. In Hebron and elsewhere, Jewish communities were ravaged by Arab mobs.
Throughout the Arab world, mass demonstrations were held in sympathy with the Palestinian Arabs. In Iraq, 10,000 assembled in anger over the victims of "British Zionist aggression." This pressured the British to yield to Arab terms: Passfield White Paper of 1929, and the MacDonald White Paper of 1939 imposed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration into the Land of Israel -- subject to Arab consent.
In 2005, on the tenth of Av, the government of Israel began the Gaza Disengagement, where 9,000 Jewish residents were evicted from their homes. Despite mass rallies against the disengagement, and an orange-ribbon campaign, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implemented the plan with the hope of reducing security concerns and diffusing the demographic problem of Gaza's 1.5 million Arabs. Upon completion of the evacuation, all 21 Jewish communities in Gaza were bulldozed and destroyed. Only the synagogues were left standing; these were then torched by Arab mobs.
The destruction of the Temple, which continued into the tenth of Av, was an unfortunate harbinger of more tragedies to befall the Jewish people on that fateful day.
(Editor: A wonderful testimony of the importance and results of unity: sections in blue highlighted by the Editor.)
Shorashim Newsletter Update No. 46
Escape from Atlit
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
A Stunning Victory of Jewish Unity.
Examples of the catastrophes forged by Jewish disunity are legion. Examples of the victories forged by Jewish unity, however, are much rarer, simply because Jewish unity is as rare as a snowfall in Israel. For one shining moment in 1945, however, Jews united -- and won.
As Hitler tightened the noose around the Jews of Europe, the British government, which ruled Palestine from 1917, increasingly restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. On November 9, 1938, the British, eager to curry favor with the Arabs, published a White Paper that reduced Jewish immigration to a trickle. That night in Germany Kristallnacht erupted. Almost 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps, 200 synagogues were destroyed, and 91 Jews were beaten to death.
The Jews of a Europe on the verge of conflagration were trapped; the main exit was locked by the British government.
Yet Jewish desperation to flee Europe was met by closed borders throughout the world and a British resolve to keep the escape route to Palestine barred. Just as Jews would later be packed into synagogues, the doors locked, and the buildings set aflame, so the Jews of a Europe on the verge of conflagration were trapped; the main exit was locked by the British government.
The Jewish community of Palestine was famously fractured between left and right, secular and religious. On the issue of Jewish immigration, however, all factions agreed: Jews who managed to escape Europe must be brought to Palestine. The movement for "illegal immigration," which its proponents preferred to call "clandestine immigration," was launched.
Ships, many of them not seaworthy, were hired and set sail from various European ports toward Palestine. The British, who had at their disposal radar, battleships, and airplanes, managed to intercept most of them, and sent their hapless Jewish passengers back to certain death in Europe. From 1934 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, some 3,000 "illegal immigrants" met their deaths while struggling against the British to enter Palestine. While some of them fell in actual skirmishes with British authorities, the vast majority drowned when their ships, refused port in Palestine, sank in the Mediterranean Sea.
The British Detention Camp for the Jews at Atlit, south of Haifa
In 1939, the British turned a military camp at Atlit, 20 km. south of Haifa, into a detention camp for illegal Jewish immigrants. When the Holocaust ended in 1945, the battered and bereft survivors were stuck in Displaced Persons camps in Germany and other European locations. Anxious to leave the blood-soaked continent of Europe and begin life anew in the Jewish homeland, thousands joined the new wave of clandestine immigration. Some 70,000 refugees in 63 ships made their embattled way to the shores of Palestine. Over the years, tens of thousands of them were interned in the detention camp in Atlit.
The Atlit camp, surrounded by three barbed wire fences and guarded by armed sentries in six watch towers, eerily resembled the Nazi concentration camps whose horrors had been branded into the survivors' psyches as surely as the numbers branded on their arms. The British could not have designed a more sadistic absorption process for the already traumatized survivors. After being forced to disembark from their ships, many of the refugees were put into cattle cars to be transported to Atlit. When the prisoners entered the Atlit camp, the men were sent to one side, the women to the other. They were sprayed with DDT, then told to undress and enter the showers. Then they were sent to sleep in long wooden barracks with corrugated tin roofs, a facsimile of the barracks from which they had recently been liberated. Men and women were assigned to separate areas of the camp, with barbed wire between them.
Yet even Atlit, located as it was in the Holy Land, was considered by the British too felicitous a final destination for Jewish refugees. Instead, the British started sending prisoners from Atlit to Mauritius, an island off the African coast in the Indian Ocean, and later to Cypress.
In early autumn, 1945, the Hagana (the largest faction of the pre-State Jewish underground) got wind that the British were preparing to deport to Mauritius the 208 refugees then interned in Atlit. The Hagana decided to attempt a daring rescue. First they sent in six "Hebrew teachers," who were really Hagana members, to prepare the prisoners to escape. Then they approached two of the guards who were Jews, and enlisted their cooperation in disabling the sentries' rifles by discreetly removing one small but indispensible part.
At 1 AM on the night of October 9, 1945, two platoons of the Palmach (the elite strike force of the Hagana), led by Nachum Sarig, cut the barbed wire fences on the north end of the camp. Some Palmach fighters stealthily climbed the watch towers and knocked out, tied, and gagged the guards. Others woke up the sleeping prisoners, whose belongings were already packed.
The plan was to lead the refugees by foot, under cover of darkness, up to Beit Oren, a kibbutz in the Carmel Mountains. But the Palmach did not take into account that the women and children in the group simply could not keep up the pace while climbing the steep footpaths up the mountain. As one of the Palmach forces, Yitzhak Rabin (later to become Prime Minister of Israel), put it, "Refugees are not soldiers."
The Palmach men carried the children and some of the suitcases, but the group continued to stumble up the mountain at a maddeningly slow pace. Dawn would mean certain capture by the British. In a desperate attempt to speed the escape, the Palmach leaders begged the refugees to leave their suitcases behind, promising to buy them new clothes and shoes. But it was not their apparel that the refugees cared about. Their suitcases contained photographs, letters, and mementos of their murdered families, keepsakes that they had succeeded in preserving through the camps or years of hiding. They would not relinquish their suitcases, even if it meant being captured again by the British.
Thousands of Jews -- some say the entire population of Haifa -- were massing around Beit Oren, forming a human shield.
As dawn approached and the escapees could hear the distant rumble of British vehicles in pursuit, it seemed like the rescue was doomed to fail. They would be sent to Mauritius after all, and languish there for years, like so many other Jewish "illegal immigrants."
But as they scaled the final ridge before Beit Oren, they saw a miraculous sight: Thousands of Jews -- some say the entire population of Haifa -- were converging on the kibbutz. Alighting from cars, busses, and lorries, Jews of all ages and persuasions were massing around Beit Oren, forming a human shield.
These Jews had been roused from their sleep in Haifa and surrounding communities by bullhorns announcing that "clandestine refugees" were in trouble on the way to Beit Oren. They had left their beds in the predawn darkness and, scrambling onto every imaginable conveyance, had rushed to the rescue.
The exhausted but exhilarated refugees emerged from the forest and easily mingled with the throng. The British police attempted to circle the mass of Jews, but it was impossible to identity who among the thousands had escaped from Atlit. After two hours, the British gave up and left. The refugees -- and their suitcases -- were given shelter throughout Palestine.
For once, the Jews united and won.
in blue are highlighted by the Editor for
Devarim: Errors and Redemption
by Yehuda HaKohen
We must be Careful Not to Reject the Redemption.
"They took in
their hands from the fruit of the land and brought it down to us; they brought
back word to us and said, 'Good is the land that HaShem, our G-d, gives us!'
But you did not wish to ascend, and you rebelled against the word of HaShem your
G-d." (Devarim 1:25-26)
Moshe rebukes the
Nation of Israel not for their sin, but for that of their parents who had
perished in the desert.
If the Sanhedrin is
capable of making such a mistake, then certainly modern scholars can err. Only
through relating this story and creating a feeling of collective responsibility
can Moshe offer his people an opportunity to appreciate and correct the sin of
their fathers. In order for Israel to correct past crimes, however, it is first
necessary to internalize what took place. And in order to appreciate this
lesson from Moshe, we must understand who the "they" are that he
refers to in these verses.
Bamidbar 14:6-9 - "Yehoshua son of Nun and Calev son of Yephuneh, of the spies of the land, tore their garments. They spoke to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, saying, 'The land that we passed through, to spy it out – the land is very, very good. If HaShem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. But do not rebel against HaShem! You should not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread. Their protection has departed from them; HaShem is with us. Do not fear them!'"
The "they" are Yehoshua and Calev, two of the twelve tribal leaders sent into Canaan to spy out the country and report back to their people. But Yehoshua and Calev were the minority opinion. The spies were the Torah giants of their generation. For reasons of pekuach nefesh ("preserving life"), the majority of rabbis argued against entering the land. It was the minority, Yehoshua and Calev, who asserted that Israel must ascend to their country and wage a war of liberation, not taking into consideration the superior military force of the Canaanite giants. This being the case, the question arises how following the majority of rabbis over a seemingly irresponsible and adventurist minority opinion could be called rebelling against the word of HaShem - especially when Israel has been instructed to generally follow the legal opinions of the rabbinic majority.
There is a general
assumption in many circles that the decisions of great rabbis must be inspired
by Ruach HaKodesh ("Divine Spirit"), which by definition must be
infallible. Although this belief is based more on fantasy than on a real understanding
of Torah, it has nevertheless managed to transform many students of Torah into
obedient robot-like followers, not daring to even respectfully question the
opinions of leading scholars.
Vayikra 4:13-14 - "If the entire assembly of Israel shall err, and a matter became obscured from the eyes of the congregation, and they commit one from among all the commandments of HaShem that may not be done, and they become guilty; when the sin regarding which they committed becomes known, the congregation shall offer a young bull as a sin-offering, and they shall bring it before the tent of meeting."
The Talmud explains that these verses instruct Israel regarding a situation where the Sanhedrin (high court of Torah authorities) commits a mistake and, due to their error in deciding the law, a majority of Israel transgresses a commandment. The Torah is clearly recognizing the possibility of a situation in which the Sanhedrin itself can lead Israel astray. And if the Sanhedrin is capable of making such a mistake, then certainly modern scholars can err in this regard.
The first Mishnah in
Tractate Sanhedrin states that Israel are not meant to follow the majority if
that majority is transgressing against the Torah. This is based on the verse in
Shemot (23:2) which states, "Do not be a follower of the majority for
of Vilna illuminates in Kol HaTor (the Gaon's teachings on the process of
Redemption) how even great scholars can miss the significance of events taking
place in their generation:
Kol Ha Tor - "The sin of the spies... hovers over the Nation of Israel in every generation.... How strong is the power of the Sitra Achra that it succeeds in hiding from the eyes of our holy fathers the dangers of the klipot; from the eyes of Avraham, the klipah of exile... and in the time of the Mashiach, the Sitra Achra attacks the guardians of Torah with blinders.... Many of the sinners in this great sin of, 'They despised the cherished land', and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the sin of the spies, that they have been sucked into the sin of the spies with many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already disproved fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproved by the giants of the world, the Rishonim and Achronim." (Kol HaTor, chapter 5)
Yehuda HaKohen Kook was once asked by the newspaper Maariv how Torah leaders in
his day, like those in the times of Yehoshua and Calev, could err in their
opposition to settling the Land of Israel. He answered:
"When one believes that the Redemption of Israel and the coming of the Mashiach must appear miraculously, from out of the heavens, in a way which transcends the natural order of life, then one fails to see the hand of HaShem in all of the events of the world. The Redemption is not obligated to appear with obvious miracles, nor does it have. To only recognize HaShem's hand over the supernatural is to place limitations on His greatness to be absolutely natural. Both miracles and natural world developments belong to the Almighty's domain. The Rambam explains that the appearance of Mashiach is also a natural historical process, which is revealed by the ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel, and even through wars. The Redemption of the Jewish people which comes to pass in a natural way is also from the Almighty."
an assumption among many Torah scholars today that Israel's Redemption is meant
to occur through great miracles. But the Redemption could very easily be a
process which develops gradually through natural events. To only recognize
HaShem's hand over the supernatural is to place limitations on His greatness
and to remove Him (from man's perspective) from the natural events that take
place throughout history. We must be careful not to reject the way in which G-d
has chosen to bring history to completion.
leaders must work to broaden our perception of HaShem so that we may understand
the actions He expects of us in this generation of universal Redemption.
2, 5769 / 23 July 09
V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
The Iron Furnace
from the Holy City of Jerusalem!
This week's parsha is
always read on the Shabbat following Tisha B'Av. This Shabbat is known as
"Shabbat Nachamu" (Shabbat of Consolation), based on the opening
words of the Haftorah: "Nachamu, nachamu, ami - Be consoled, my nation
(Isaiah 40:1). Shabbat Nachamu is intended to console us after the destruction
of our Temple, since our Sages teach that if the Temple is not rebuilt in a
given generation, it is as if the Temple were destroyed in that generation
(Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1).
Since Parshat Va'etchanan always coincides with Shabbat Nachamu, it seems logical that some type of "comfort" is found within the parsha itself. What comforting words does it share with us?
In this week's parsha, G-d tells the Jewish people (Deut. 4:20), "I have taken you out of an iron furnace" (kur ha-barzel). The expression "kur ha-barzel" refers to the Egyptian exile. We might wonder why the Torah describes Egypt with this particular phrase, when similar words could express the same idea. For example, a prophesy in the Book of Malachi (13:19) states, "Behold a day is coming, burning like an oven." It seems that the word "oven" would be an equally fitting description of Egypt. So why does this week's parsha specifically use the imagery of an iron furnace?
We can shed light on this issue by examining Rashi's commentary on our verse. Rashi defines the word "kur" (furnace) as "a vessel within which gold is purified." We could suggest that Rashi is not merely translating the word "kur," but is also explaining why we refer to the Egyptian exile as a "kur" (furnace) and not a "tanur" (oven). An oven is used for the everyday cooking and preparation of food. A furnace, on the other hand, has the specific function of refining gold. We can learn from here that G-d sent us into the Egyptian exile because He considers the Jewish people (Editor: All 12 Tribes within the two dispersed Houses of Israel.) to be as precious as gold. No one bothers to refine ordinary rocks, because the result is worthless; however, people will expend great effort to refine gold, because we know that the outcome is valuable.
So too, G-d sent the Jewish people into the hottest of furnaces because He knew how valuable we would be when we emerged. G-d knew that the Jewish people would be molded by the process of exile and that, through that process, we could achieve extraordinary levels. Everyone knows that through adversity, greatness emerges.
This is how this week's parsha comforts us after the desolation of Tisha B'Av. As a nation, we have certainly gone through many forms of "kur ha-barzel" during the two millennia since the destruction of the Holy Temple. Yet our experience in this "kur" is the surest indication that we are as precious as gold in G-d's eyes. Even as we yearn for redemption, we must realize that Go- will do whatever it takes to refine us, so that we can become as pure and as elevated as possible.
each recognize our intrinsic self-worth and utilize every golden opportunity to
become all that we can be. In this way, may we merit the re-building of our
Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
(Sections highlighted in blue were done by the Editor for emphasis.)
Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)
When Victory Is Assured
Greetings from the
Holy City of Jerusalem!
This week we begin Deuteronomy, the last Book
of the Torah, consisting of Moses's final words to the Jewish people before
they enter the Land of Israel. In this week's parsha, Moses recalls certain
infamous events of the previous 40 years, such as the incident with the spies.
He repeats the words he spoke to the people at that time: "The Lord your
G-d, has given ("natan") the land to you. Go up and inherit it"
This verse presents a few technical difficulties. First, why does Moses say that G-d has already given the land to the Jewish people? The Jews have not yet entered Israel, and thus have not officially taken possession of it. Why, then, is the verb "to give" in the past tense ("natan")? Furthermore, why does Moses say, "Go up and inherit [the land]" if he knows that the Jews will have to wage war before inheriting it? It seems that Moses should have said, "Go up and wage war"!
We could suggest a way of understanding the upcoming war based on the words Moses spoke to the nation immediately before the Splitting of the Sea: "G-d will wage war for you" (Exodus 14:14). When God promises to wage war for the Jewish people, there is no doubt as to the outcome. Therefore, even though the people are now facing an imminent battle, it is a battle that G-d has commanded them to fight, so it is already considered a victory.
This explains Moses's statement, "G-d... has given the land to you." The land is essentially already in the possession of the Jewish people, even though they have yet to go to war against the Canaanite nations. This also explains why Moses says, "Go up and inherit [the land]." If the war is as good as won, the Jews have only to inherit the land that G-d has promised them. Perhaps this is why Moses concludes the verse by saying, "Do not be afraid." The outcome of the battle is guaranteed; there is nothing to be nervous about.
A support to this interpretation appears
later in the parsha, when Moses recalls the battle the Jewish people waged
against Sichon, the Amorite king (Deut. 2:31-34). First, G-d told Moses,
"Go and inherit [Sichon's] land" (Deut. 2:31). Then Sichon's army
attacked the Jewish forces (Deut. 2:32), after which G-d gave the Jews the
victory (2:33). The order of these verses illustrates our point. The Jewish
people began to possess Sichon's territory even before Sichon attacked! When
G-d does battle for us, victory is assured from the outset.
HOPE OF ISRAEL
At the end of the war against Sichon, the Jewish people utterly destroyed all of Sichon's cities, along with the men, women and children (Deut. 2:34). The word used for "men" in this verse is "m'tim," a very unusual term. Why does Moses use this word rather than the more common term "anashim"?
We could suggest that the word
"m'tim" be read as "maitim," meaning "dead
people." In other words, when the Jewish forces captured Sichon's cities,
the inhabitants were already considered "dead." This hint in the text
emphasizes that G-d's promise guarantees the ultimate outcome.
Maimonides explains at length that this is the Jewish perspective on every war we fight: "When the Jewish people enter into war, we rely on the Hope of Israel and its Savior [G-d], the One who redeems us from distressing times, and we know that we are waging war for the unification of G-d's Name. Place your soul in His hand and do not be afraid or panic... Anyone who wages war with all his heart and without fear, with the sole intention of sanctifying G-d's Name, will have no harm come to him and no evil will befall him..." (Hilchot Melachim, 7:15).
The Book of Deuteronomy is also called "Mishneh Torah," implying a repetition of previous events. Similarly, Jewish history repeats itself. We don't know how current events in the Land of Israel will continue to unfold, but we know that, throughout the ages, Jews have put our trust in G-d that we will be victorious.
May we all merit to witness the peace that
comes from loving and respecting every human being, living in harmony, and
serving G-d together.
(Editor: Although this article focuses on the content of the Torah Portion Vayigash, Glenn McWilliams has some very interesting comments about the process of restoration between the Two Houses of Israel, as portrayed in the shadow pictures about Joseph in Egypt (exile) and his restoration with his brothers, and the role of Judah in the process of unity between the Two Houses.)
Excerpts from a
teaching: The Two Houses
By Glenn McWilliams
(The Sacred Name has been changed by the Editor.)
Portion: Vayigash “And came near”
44:18-47:27 – “Judah walked up to [Joseph] and said, 'Please, your highness,
let me say something to you personally. Do not be angry with me, even though
you are just like Pharaoh.
elav Yehudah vayomer bi adoni yedaber-na avdecha davar be'ozney adoni
ve'al-yichar apcha be'avdecha ki chamocha keFar'oh.
Our Torah portion this week contains within it many significant and timely prophetic shadow pictures and practical applications for our time. For the sake of integrity and clarity, let me state from the very start of this teaching that I am an advocate of the “Two House” teaching. For those who may be new to this teaching, let me give a brief explanation of this concept. The nation of Israel consisted of twelve tribes which descended from the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Benjamin, and Joseph.
I have listed Joseph last, because there is rarely mention of the tribe of Joseph. Instead, Jacob adopts Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own.1
When the children of Israel come out of Egypt, they are described as a mixed multitude.2 In the wilderness years the Set Apart One forms them into a mighty host, with order, officers, judges, laws, government, and an identifiable presence. When Israel crosses over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they are a nation of twelve tribes. Each tribe conquers and settles in its divinely appointed territory. These tribes are ruled over by judges for nearly 400 years. Eventually, as prophesied in the Torah, the children of Israel ask for a king to rule over them.3 Shaul was the first king of Israel, followed by David and then Solomon. During this time, Israel became a great nation and prospered in the land. But this rapid growth was not without cost.
heavily taxed the people of Israel in order to build his palace, the Temple,
and the army to protect the land. This taxation weighed heavily upon the
people, and stirred some to speak of rebellion. When Solomon died, his son
Rehoboam became king. David, Solomon, and
Rehoboam were all from the tribe of Judah, making Judah the strongest of all the tribes. The Temple was built in the territory of Benjamin, but was much aligned with the tribe of Judah. The Levites likewise, because of the Temple, were also largely located in Judah and aligned with that tribe.
The other tribes sent Jeroboam to intercede for them with King Rehoboam to lighten the tax burden on the people. But when King Rehoboam responded to their request with a promise to increase the taxes even more, the remaining ten tribes rebelled and separated from the southern tribes.4 The southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, became the House of Judah, while the ten northern tribes became the House of Israel, also sometimes referred to as the House of Joseph, or the House of Ephraim.
To keep his people from developing a renewed loyalty to Judah, Jeroboam built his own temples and established his own priesthood for the House of Israel. Eventually this false cultic practice led to rampant idolatry among the House of Israel. Because of their rampant disobedience, HaShem used the Assyrian Empire to exile the House of Israel to the four corners of the earth. The scattered House of Israel is often referred to as the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” Over the years and centuries these tribes have largely assimilated into their new cultures. Eventually these tribes will be gathered again. Proponents of the “Two House” theory teach that the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement is the beginning of this gathering process. Many of the Gentiles that are coming to Torah are doing so because the Ruach HaKodesh is drawing them back to the covenant. The promise of the new covenant is with both the House of Judah and the House of Israel.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 - “Behold, the days come, saith HaShem, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith HaShem: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith HaShem, I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their G-d and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know IHaShem: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith HaShem: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
should note that at the beginning of this passage the Eternal One declares that
He will make this covenant with both houses, while in the middle of the passage
it speaks only of the House of Israel. This is because the House of Judah was
never completely cut off from her Husband. We have talked numerous times about
the marriage between IHaShem and the children of Israel that took place at
Mount Sinai. When the House of Israel broke this marriage covenant, HaShem
literally divorced them, giving them a certificate of divorce and putting them
out of His house “I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce.”
It is this bill of divorce that explains the need for Y'shua’s death. Since the Sinai Covenant was entered into by both the Groom and the Bride, both are bound by its words. The Torah teaches;
24:1-4 - “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass
that shefind no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in
her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and
send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may
go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her
a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his
house; or it the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former
husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that
she is defiled; for that is abomination before HaShem: and thou shalt not cause
the land to sin which HaShem thy G-d giveth thee for an inheritance.”
it is that HaShem divorced the House of Israel, but not the House of Judah.
This is not to imply that the House of Judah does not need the atoning blood of
Messiah Y'shua. After declaring HaShem's divorce from the House of Israel,
Jeremiah goes on to declare, “And it came to pass through the lightness of her
whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and
with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith HaShem. And HaShem
said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than
treacherous Judah.” (Jeremiah 3:9-11)
Clearly the House of Judah was likewise guilty of breaking the covenant, and is therefore liable for the blood of the covenant. To understand this, we must remember that this covenant was sealed in blood.
24:508 - “And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt
offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto HaShem. And Moses took
half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on
the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of
the people: and they said, All that HaShem hath said will we do, and be
obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said,
Behold the blood of the covenant, which HaShem hath made with you concerning all
Now that the House of Judah had broken this covenant sealed in blood, either their blood or the blood of a substitute would be required. It is Yahu'shua who provides this atoning sacrifice, shedding his innocent blood for their guilty blood. Therefore both Houses will ultimately enter the new covenant through the sacrifice of Messiah Yahu'shua. Because both Houses broke the covenant, both were sent into exile. The House of Judah was sent into exile in Babylon. Unlike the House of Israel that was scattered to the four corners of the earth, Judah was sent relatively intact into the land of Babylon. After 70 years of exile, the House of Judah repented and returned to the land. Because of this repentance Judah was exiled, but not divorced.
Therefore it is only the House of Israel that is mentioned the second time as entering into the new covenant. Since a man cannot take back a defiled first wife that has been put away, the House of Israel is bound to remain outside the covenant and under the curse of this ordinance until either she or her first husband dies. The Messiah Yahu'shua came to reconcile the House of Israel back to her first husband and to atone for the sins of the House of Judah. Yahu'shua poured himself out to become one with us (regardless of which House we belong to), taking on our sin, even the sin of the adulterous bride.5 By faith in Yahu'shua, we (in our adulterous bride nature) are put to death. By faith in Yahu'shua we are likewise raised in him to become new creatures.6 As new beings, we may now enter into a new covenant with HaShem our G-d.
How sad it is to hear preachers and teachers saying that Yahu'shua died to free us from the covenant, when in fact Yahu'shua died that we may enter the covenant. Through his death and resurrection The House of Israel will be reconciled to the House of Judah, and both will become one body with Messiah as the head of the body of the bride that will enter this new covenant. So it is that this division of the nation of Israel will be healed. There are numerous Scriptures that prophesy this event.
37:15-17 - “The word of HaShem came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son
of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children
of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For
Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
And join them one to
another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”
Zechariah 4:11-14 - “Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the menorah and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No my master. Then said he, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Master of the whole earth.”
With this brief explanation as background, let us turn our attention to the Torah portion before us. I believe that this portion is indeed a shadow picture of numerous future events yet to unfold before us. In the story of Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers, we see a father grieved by the division and separation of his family. Here we should see Jacob’s grief over Joseph’s death and absence as our heavenly Father’s grief over the death and absence of the House of Israel.
Clearly nothing would delight Jacob more than seeing his whole family united again, including the son who was dead (Joseph) and is now alive. Here we should understand Y'shua's parable of the prodigal son as it relates to the Two House teaching. The two sons represent the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The House of Israel leaves the Promised Land and is defiled in the land of uncleanness. The other brother stays home and keeps the Torah. Finally the wayward brother (the House of Israel) repents and returns to the covenant, and receives the Father’s many blessings. The faithful brother (the House of Judah) is jealous over the affection and joy of the return of the rebellious one. The Father responds,
15:32 - “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy
brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32)
So it is that we shall see these same dynamics play out in the future as these Two Houses are reunited. In many ways our Torah portion this week gives us instructions for that day.
Torah portion begins with a bit of a role reversal. Throughout much of the
story of Joseph, we have focused upon Joseph as the type of Messiah. It is
Judah who embodies the spirit of Messiah in the opening verses of our portion.
Here we witness Judah pleading and interceding for the guilty brother, asking
the Viceroy for mercy and compassion on his brother and family. Not only does
Judah plead for his guilty brother, but he also willingly offers to give his own
innocent life in exchange. We should not miss the fact that Judah does this not for his own sake, but for the sake of his brother and out of love for
It is this powerful act of unselfishness on the part of Judah that stirs the heart of Joseph his brother and brings about the reconciliation of the family. We should take note that before this reconciliation takes place, Judah does not recognize his brother Joseph. Here we see a shadow picture of the Two Houses again. We may also see the beginning of this process in a statement made by Joseph when his sons were born. Joseph was exiled to a distant nation. There he was somewhat assimilated into the life and culture of the land, given a Gentile name, and even a Gentile wife. Joseph’s life had become very comfortable in the land of Egypt. This reality is evident in the names of Joseph’s two sons.
41:50-52 - “And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came,
which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph
called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For HaShem, said he, hath made me forget
all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he
Ephraim: For HaShem hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
many ways this is a description of the House of Israel that has become
fruitful, comfortable, and even somewhat forgetful in the land of exile. The
House of Israel has adapted to and even adopted the culture and customs of the
land of exile. But it is Joseph that first recognizes his brother Judah and
begins to weep for home, and for his father. This is where I believe we are now
in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement. The House of Israel recognizes Judah
(The House of Judah) as brother and family. There is a stirring in the heart of
Joseph (the House of Israel) and a longing for family, unity, forgiveness,
healing, and especially for Father. We should note that Joseph several times
asks Judah if his father is still alive. But as of yet, Judah does not recognize Joseph (the House of Israel) as a brother. Joseph still looks too
much like Egypt for Judah to see him for who he really is. In the same way,
those of the House of Israel still look a little too much like the world, the
nations, and the Church for Judah to recognize them as being their brothers.
When it is time for Joseph to reveal his true identity, he sends everyone but his brothers out of the room. I believe that Joseph does this for two reasons. First, by sending everyone out of the room, Joseph covers the shame of his brothers. Joseph would not allow anyone to see his brothers in a shocked and remorseful condition. I believe that there is an important message for those who understand themselves to be a part of the House of Israel. They should neither judge nor expose (through criticism) their brother’s blindness. For far too long those in the Christian Church have been exposing Judah’s blindness to the Messiah, while at the same time being blind to their own identity, as well as to the Torah.
is what Shaul meant when he wrote,
Romans 11:7-25 - “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, HaShem hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall?
but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke
them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the
diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I
magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are
my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the
reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from
the dead? For if the firstfruit be set apart, the lump is also Set Apart: and
if the root be Set Apart, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be
broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and
with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the
root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be
grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear: For if HaShem spared not the natural branches,
take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of HaShem: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for HaShem is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own
conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
far too long Christians have boasted against the branches that HaShem pruned
from the tree for the sake of the new branches being grafted in. Measure for
measure, those that have been boasting have been deceived in their blindness.
Just as Jacob exploited his father Isaac’s blindness to steal Esau’s blessing,
and then was himself deceived by his sons concerning Joseph, so too those of
the House of Israel boasting against Judah’s blindness to Y'shua as Messiah are
blind to the pagan sun-god worship they practice and call truth. Little does
the Church realize that the blindness that her brother Judah has suffered was
for her sake and not his own. Now she, like Joseph, must learn to see the hand
of HaShem in all that is transpiring. This is not only for their
reconciliation, but for the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of all
So it is that the Church now must learn to appreciate her brother’s blindness and suffering, and seek to cover his nakedness. She should not be pointing out how blind her brother is, but rather how he has been suffering this blindness for her sake. So in the spirit of Joseph, the Church should seek to protect her brother’s (Judah's) reputation.
A second reason that Joseph sends everyone from the room is that it leaves him in a very vulnerable position. Alone in a room with eleven brothers who have been known to kill in order to rescue one of their own7 is a vulnerable place to be. By removing everyone from the room, Joseph removes any appearance of threat before he reveals who he is to his brothers. Here we should also note that when Joseph reveals himself to Judah and his brothers, they do not immediately respond.
45:1-3 - “Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by
him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with
him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and
the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his
brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not
answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.” (Genesis 45:1-3)
we should note that Joseph cannot contain himself. This is true for many of the
House of Israel. When they come to the realization of who they are, it is
difficult to contain the joy, the freedom, and the excitement of realizing they
belong to the covenant. But like Joseph, their joy, excitement, and enthusiasm
is not always shared by their brother Judah. Even though they declare their identity
to him without any other intention than to embrace their brother and be
embraced by him, their revelation is not always welcome news. Joseph’s brothers
remember the past. They remember the animosity, the fear, the anger, and the
wrongs done. Let us here also recall that Joseph’s brothers did what they did
to Joseph because they perceived him as a threat.
Now again they fear Joseph, not knowing what his intentions really are. So it is presently with the Two Houses. In this present situation, the House of Judah is the one who has been hurt and victimized by those now claiming to be their brothers. So when former Christians/Egyptians who have been testing and trying the House of Judah suddenly say, “We are Joseph, your brother,” it is not always so settling. Our brother Judah receives this news with some fear and trepidation. We should note in our portion that it is not enough for Joseph simply to say, “I am Joseph.”
Genesis 45:4 - “And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother…”
beckons to his brothers to draw near to him. After his brothers draw near to
him, he says, “I am Joseph your brother.”
House of Israel today too must show their brother Judah that they mean no harm.
They must seek to draw their brother near to them. They must first build trust
and mutual understanding. When their relationship is no longer threatening,
then they may declare they are the House of Israel; that they are brothers, not
adversaries. Because of the Christian Church’s evangelical efforts to liberate
those of the House of Judah from their bondage to the Torah and convert them to
sun-god worship through persuasion, persecution, and the penalty of death, we
have much to overcome.
The third application of this concept of those of the House of Israel putting every man out from them and standing alone to reveal themselves may be that those in the House of Israel need to put away from them any connection with their pagan Christian past before they can speak with integrity to their brothers. It does them little good to continue to declare themselves as belonging to the covenant people if they are still practicing the pagan idolatry that caused them to be driven from the house of HaShem to begin with. To “stand alone” means that they must clearly come out of the Church and stand, honest and vulnerable, before their brother Judah and invite him to embrace them. For reconciliation to happen, for the Two Houses to become one, it will require confession, repentance, restitution, and restoration in both houses.
We should also take note here that this “reunion” takes place in the land of exile and not in the land of Israel. So it is that we should expect to see the healing of the Two Houses take place outside the land before it enters into the land. While this does not exclude the possibility that those present in the land will experience this restoration, it does seem to indicate that it will begin outside the land and then come to the land.
I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in the realm of end-time prophecy. I do my best to stay away from such topics. But let me venture to suggest here just a possible shadow picture involving this text. The fact that it is a famine in the land of Israel that forces the House of Judah out of the land, and that eventually all of the brothers leave the land and come to the House of Joseph, which largely, though not exclusively, lives outside the land, I believe that this indicates that the
restoration and reconciliation of the Two Houses will take place during the time of Jacob’s trouble and the great tribulation. In other words, when Judah is again driven from the land of Israel, the House of Joseph, still living outside the land, will rise up and provide rescue, respite, refuge and nourishment to his brother Judah.
Unlike World War II, when no country wanted the Jews and left them to be slaughtered by the millions, this time Joseph will declare himself and reach out to his brother Judah. Once again I believe food and not theology will be at the heart of this reconciliation. Those of the House of Joseph who live in the United States and other places of prosperity and abundance, like Joseph, must realize that they have been exiled to these places by the hand of HaShem for the purpose of sustaining life. Like Joseph, they must realize that they are to be planning and preparing during these years of plenty for the bad years of tribulation and persecution yet to follow. I believe that before reconciliation comes between the Two Houses, there will be a time of purging in the land of Israel. Whatever the impetus may be, I believe that this reconciliation will be brought about by necessity rather than simply a spirit of goodwill.
Our portion makes it quite clear that whatever the impetus for reconciliation - famine, war, or persecution, it will be by the hand of HaShem. This does not mean that Joseph should not already be reaching out to his brothers in a spirit of love and reconciliation. As I said earlier, time is indeed needed to build trust and understanding. Relationships will be limited by suspicion and fear. Theologies, ideologies, lack of understanding, and religious spirits will hinder the progress of these relationships. Thus like Joseph and his brothers, the Two Houses will spend time testing each another to see if the invitation to relationship is mutual, safe, and sincere. Necessity will ultimately push them beyond their comfort zone and cause them to meet each another.
There is yet another danger that is revealed within this portion. Again let me emphasize, as does the portion, that this reconciliation will take place out of necessity and outside the land of Israel. We should note that the bulk of the movement is away from the land of Israel. Within this story of Joseph and his brothers we see three trips down to Egypt and back again. The first trip to Egypt is without Benjamin; the second trip is with Benjamin; and on the third trip, all the seed of Jacob come down. Again, daring to venture into the realm of the prophetic, I will suggest that this is a shadow picture of three separate exiles from the land of Israel. I believe that the first trip down to Egypt represents the exile of Judah to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar.9 Judah returned from this trip seventy years later under the Persian king Cyrus.10 The second journey of Judah to Egypt is a picture of the exile by the Roman Empire.
After a lengthy occupation of the land, Rome sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the House of Judah from the land of Israel, renaming it Palestine. Israel returned from this exile in 1948 to begin rebuilding a homeland. I believe the third journey that includes the whole house of Jacob will be this final future exile while the land of Israel is being purged. Here, however, we see yet another danger.
Joseph is securely and powerfully situated in the land of exile. Blessed by the hand of HaShem, Joseph has the ability to provide for the well being and security of his brothers that are driven into exile by the famine. We should note that Joseph does all in his power to isolate and insulate his brothers and family from the immorality and idolatry of the land of Egypt. When the brothers come into the land of Egypt, Joseph instructs them to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds. This seems like peculiar advice, given the further information that shepherds are considered an abomination in Egypt.11 But it was this advice that would assure that the children of Israel would be given the best and most fertile land as well as be isolated from the rest of the Egyptian culture. Living with abundance can be a blessing, but when this abundance draws one away from his calling and purpose, such abundance can easily become a curse. After all, the children of Israel came to the land and settled there. The Torah teaches us that they had possessions in the land of Egypt.
47:27 - “And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and
they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.”
While Egypt was a place of rescue and refuge for the children of Israel, it was never to be their heritage. The land of Israel was their heritage. We have already seen that the land of Israel is indeed a special land. If the rabbis and sages are right, then at least one part of the message of Jacob’s dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder at Bethel, was to show the special sanctity of the land of Israel.12 We should also note that every journey out of the land is described as going “down” to Egypt, while every return to the land is described as “going up” to Israel. This is not just a geographical description but a moral one as well. We must ascend to being Israel. Remember that Jacob’s name was changed only after he wrestled with his yetzer hara and prevailed.13 We should also note that the sons of Jacob are not called the children of Israel until after they have overcome their differences and reconciled one with another. Thus, while it is in the plan of HaShem that the children of Israel “go down” into the land of exile, it should never feel like home. The danger that lurks in the abundance and security of the land of exile is evident in the Hebrew of the above quoted verse. In Hebrew, this verse may rightly be read,
Genesis 47:27 - “And Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and it seized them, in it they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” (Genesis 47:27)
Ezra and Kli Yakar teach that the brothers were no longer content with what
Joseph gave them and bought their own land in Egypt, indicating that the
brothers were no longer feeling like aliens but assimilated citizens.14 Seized
by the prosperity and lushness of the land, the children of Israel soon forgot
the ravished land of promise. The comfort of Egypt/America can indeed be
tempting. There are many from both houses that already have put down their
roots in the land of exile. If we look carefully, we will see how subtle its
bondage begins. In our portion we must already realize that while Joseph
literally saved the country of Egypt from starvation and destruction, and while
he sat in the second highest position of authority in the country, he was in
many ways still a slave to Pharaoh and could not leave his position even to
retrieve his father and family. Again we should note the subtle pattern that
emerges here. At first, the presence of the children of Israel is seen to be a blessing. As the land of their habitation is blessed because of
their presence, all is well. But when the land of their exile realizes that the
blessings they are experiencing are because of the presence of the children of Israel living among them, they will eventually seek to entice them to stay, and then
ultimately assure they will stay by enslaving them. When Israel then rebels against this enslavement, the persecution begins in earnest.
While by necessity the House of Judah may leave the land to “go down” to the land of their exile, a land of refuge and provision, the heart of the children of Israel must always be to “go up” to the land of promise and the land of Torah. Israel will never be able to fulfill its calling in a land where Torah is not the law of the land.
With all of this being said, we do indeed need to be careful and cautious about where our treasures are, for as Messiah has taught us, where our treasures are, there our hearts will be also.15 We should also realize here the importance of the feast of Hanukkah when we seek to rededicate our living temples and purge them of all the defilement of the pagan culture around us. We should remember that we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world and this land. When Pharaoh inquired of Jacob his age, the patriarch responded,
Genesis 47:9 - “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the day of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”
Notice here that Jacob first of all counts his life in days and not just years. This tells us that Jacob lived each day of his life as completely as possible. But we should also notice that Jacob describes these days as few and evil. He also describes his life and the life of his fathers as a pilgrimage on this earth. We too should not become so attached to this passing world. This is true whether we are currently living in the land of Israel or in the land of exile. Our home is in the world to come. Anywhere else we live other than the world to come, we do so only as pilgrim and ambassadors of Messiah.16 Therefore our treasures are not to be in this world.
must be careful that we do not become possessed by the land of exile. We shall
see in next week’s portion that it took the death of Jacob to cause the
children of Israel to return to the land.
But even then they returned to Egypt. Thus the Set Apart One would eventually drive them out of the land by great persecution. I pray that when the time comes for us to return to the land, we will be ready to walk in faith and go to the land of our heritage, the land of Torah.
While there certainly are dangers involved in leaving the land and coming to live in a land of refuge and plenty, we should realize that HaShem is with us even in exile. HaShem spoke to Jacob,
Genesis 46:3-4 - “I am HaShem, the G-d of thy father: fear not to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again…”
When the time of Israel’s final exile from the land comes, it will be by the hand of HaShem, and to fulfill the purposes of HaShem. While we may be exiled from our land, we will not be exiled from our G-d. He will lead us and guide us. In the end, even in exile we shall see and understand how all that has transpired in the history of the children of Israel and the world has been by the guiding hand of the Creator. We shall see His purpose in the events of our lives and be drawn ever closer to Him. Thus, when He calls us to come out of the land of exile and cross again through the wilderness, I pray we will have the faith to follow Him to His Set Apart
Mountain where He shall cleanse us from every spot, wrinkle, theology, philosophy, man-made tradition, addition, subtraction, and uncleanness, and present us to Himself a new Bride, ready to enter the new covenant and live in the land of Torah as the restored image of HaShem in the world.
1 Genesis 48:5
2 Exodus 12:38
3 Deuteronomy 17:14ff; 1 Samuel 8:5ff
4 1 Kings 11:11ff; 1 Kings 12:1ff
5 2 Corinthians 5:21
6 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21:5
7 Genesis 34:26
9 1 Chronicles 6:15
10 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
11 Genesis 46:34
12 Genesis 28:12
13 Genesis 32:24-29
14 The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash Bereshit, Mesorah Publication, Pg. 294
15 Matthew 6:21
16 2 Corinthians 5:20
PEACE AND BLESSINGS
Compiling editor: Agatha van der Merwe
Content control: OvadYah Avrahami
Participating editors: Dr Robert Mock, Geoffrey Messervy-Norman, Stephen Spykerman