From Joseph, through Judah: Foretelling Messiah

The ability to recognize our sin, to take responsibility for it and to repent is at the core of what is meant by the idea of a Messiah.” 

 “… the courage to admit guilt, to take responsibility, to change. This is the lesson that the Messiah will one day teach the world. Man controls his destiny. No matter what mistakes he has made, man can fix them.” –  Rabbi Ari Kahn [1]

The Messiah is a prophet, a prophet who has/will declare perfectly the will of the Almighty and teach us of His Ways, as per Psalm 119.

Therefore, the Messiah will show us

  • what true repentance is;
  • what it means to be truly and fully obedient to the Almighty;
  • to truly ‘forgive those who trespass against us’’;
  • to speak into the world in an attempt to heal it (Tikkun HaOlam); and
  • to demonstrate to the point of accepting death that ‘no greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his friends’.

For more on the Messiah from a Hebraic Perspective listen to our Podcasts – Part 1 and Part 2

This weeks Torah Portion (Genesis 37-40) contains so much wisdom and is so heavy with prophetic vision and typology.

There is a well known Jewish saying: ““the actions of the forefathers serve as a portent (a sign or warning) for their descendants.” That is, we can learn so much about both how to live today and about what is coming tomorrow, from studying the narratives of the Hebrew/Jewish patriarchs.

This Torah portion begins with: And Jacob settled in the land in which his father dwelled.” – Gen 37:1

Today, Jacob’s children have again settled in the land in which his father dwelled.

The next verse reads:These are the generations of Jacob; Joseph was seventeen years old ...” – Gen 37:2

Note how immediately Joseph is brought into the picture. Joseph’s whole life is such a strong ‘type’ of Messiah. That is, there is so much of his life that acts as a sign to the future coming of Messiah [2].

Notice also in the very next verse that Jacob is now referred to by his name Israel.

“Israel loved Joseph more than any of his sons …– Gen 37:3

Perhaps this indicates that the love that Jacob/Israel has for his son Joseph is a national love, a love that all Israel should share, a yearning not just for the leadership and wisdom of Joseph to return to lead the people, through Messiah, but a love for their brother, for their neighbour and for their God, so powerfully declared through the example of Joseph [3].

But much goes wrong first!

Much time and heartache and loss occurs between the birth and exile of Joseph, and the redemption of Israel’s family through this same Joseph.

The favourite son is scorned by his brothers. He is handed over to the pagans and endures much suffering. But ultimately he rises up to stand at the right hand of the highest authority in the land.

Ultimately, his position of great authority, acting as the principal agent of the King (the Pharaoh of Egypt) will bring redemption and salvation to his brothers who rejected him, and to his entire family (as well as to many Gentiles – Egyptians).

Note that there is an intriguing break in the narrative though.

The last verse of Genesis 37 informs us that Joseph has been sold into slavery in Egypt.

 “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.” – Gen 37:36

Then in the first verse of Genesis 39 (NOT 38), the story of Joseph in Egypt and his rise to great authority and ultimate redemption is begun.

“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” – Gen 39:1[4]

So what is ‘in the gap’? The story of Judah and his illicit union with Tamar, which produces the line of King David and the King Messiah.

Why is this story placed here as an insert, as a pause in the narrative of Joseph, the great ‘type of Messiah’?

Perhaps as a ‘portent’, as a sign for the future, so that we may consider what it may be telling us.

The son of Israel, chosen by HaShem as a Messiah (an ‘anointed one’) to bring the redemption and shalom is rejected by his brothers and ‘disappears’ from view for a time. While he is ‘away’ in a ‘far land’, Jacob grieves for his loss and much tension and conflict arises between the brothers, especially against Judah. Ultimately they all leave the Land of Israel to ‘find’ their Messiah, their savior Joseph dressed and disguised as an Egyptian (Gentile), and through his efforts they find salvation from the famine and are ultimately returned to the Land.

At the end of the Genesis 38 and the story of Judah we read of his repentance.

It is then that the story returns to focus of Joseph and we read of the redemption of the people of Israel; the restoration of Jacob/Israel with his son Joseph, the restoration of Joseph’s brothers with Joseph and finally the  return of all Israel to the Land of Israel.

We also see during this time that Joseph is involved in the Gentile world, that the Gentile world is greatly blessed by his involvement, his leadership and example.

Could this narrative be a further ‘sign’ that after the last great exile and dispersion from the Land of Israel (a direct result of the prophetic fiat of God through Moses on the plains of Moab – see Deut 29-30), the Jewish people will return and their Messiah will be revealed to them. Jacob/Israel will learn that he was not dead, that he has been given great authority and that when the time is right he will bring full restoration and real shalom to Israel and all the nations of the earth!

May Messiah come speedily!

For more on the return to israel in these present/last days see my article: ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’.

Paul Herring
December 2012

[3] And of course through the example of Yeshua (Jesus), who a number of famous Rabbi’s and Professors have called the greatest ethical teacher ever. This was certainly the view of Prof. Joseph Klausner, of Hebrew University (retired in 1949) who was an historian of the Second Temple period.

[4] For a great article of this fascinating story I strongly recommend the article ‘The Light of Messiah’ by Rabbi Ari Kahn at Aish.com – see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48914512.html

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Distressed by the Tragedy of Loss of Life

This weeks Torah Portion, Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43) contains the story of the reunion of Jacob and Esau. In Genesis 32:8 we read: Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.”

Many Rabbi’s have asked why the Tanakh repeats the verb here. Many of them go on to argue that Jacob’s being afraid, was because of his fear of the consequences of Esau and his men coming and attacking him. They then suggest that Jacob’s distress was over the moral issue that if he killed Esau or one of his men in self-defense, he would still be greatly distressed at the death of a man created in the image of God.

This brought to mind the tragic life of my PNG brother, Gus.

Gus was living in a secure complex in Port Moresby some years ago and had got up early around dawn, one morning to take his wife and children to the airport. He had some security downstairs, but he heard two of the ‘rascals’ climbing over the balcony to enter upstairs where he and his family were. They would most likely have killed them in the process of stealing their possessions.

Gus a giant of a man both physically and spiritually, went out on to the balcony and fought with them. In the process he ended up knocking one of the men over the balcony and the man died.

When I next met up with Gus after this tragic event and some time had passed, Gus was still struggling with the reality that he had killed another human being. Even though he had, in all likelihood saved his wife and beautiful young children, he still found it difficult to live with. He may have been ‘morally right’ but that did not make his involvement in the tragic loss of a man’s life easy to bear.

Gus went on to do an incredible job of raising his daughter and three sons and then before he had reached the age of 40, with his eldest girl, Yuana still only around 16, Gus had a heart-attack at work and died.

Receiving the news of his untimely passing was one of the most upsetting days of my life. The sun shines less brightly without the great impact of this man of God who was cherished by so many.

Rabbi Sacks writes a great article on this Torah Portion and this moral issue. In it he relates the mixed feelings that the Israeli soldiers had after the great victory of 1967 and quotes Yitzhak Rabin, the Chief of Staff during the war.

“We find more and more a strange phenomenon among our fighters. Their joy is incomplete, and more than a small portion of sorrow and shock prevails in their festivities, and there are those who abstain from celebration. The warriors in the front lines saw with their own eyes not only the glory of victory but the price of victory: their comrades who fell beside them bleeding, and I know that even the terrible price which our enemies paid touched the hearts of many of our men. It may be that the Jewish people has never learned or accustomed itself to feel the triumph of conquest and victory, and therefore we receive it with mixed feelings.”

 Sacks goes on to state: “A people capable of feeling distress, even in victory, is one that knows the tragic complexity of the moral life. Sometimes it is not enough to make the right choice. One must also fight to create a world in which such choices do not arise because we have sought and found non-violent ways of resolving conflict.”

What very wise words, but what a huge challenge, that today, after the UN vote to recognize the ‘State of Palestine’, seems even more challenging and further from resolution.

I recommend reading the whole of Rabbi Sack’s article on Aish –  http://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/180748221.html

For some insightful commentary on the UN vote I recommend these articles:

‘Into the Fray: Israel’s infuriating impotence’ By Martin Sherman

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=294033

‘Accomplices in a campaign to annihilate a UN member’ By Shlomo Slonim

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=293826

and ‘I Stand Ashamed that My Country Voted for the New Nazis’ by Giulio Meotti

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12511#.ULimw46ZQsk

Leaving and Returning: Climbing the Mountain and Returning to Repair the World

This weeks Torah Portion is Parshah Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3). It contains the stories of Jacob’s leaving his family to live in the land of Laban and then returning to the land of Canaan to fulfil his destiny and continue the process of creating the Jewish People, a people called to be a Light to the Gentiles.

Rabbi Moshe Avraham Kempinksi has written an excellent article on this Torah Portion this week. In this article is states that “ There will be many times, that the people of Israel will need to leave the comfort of their spiritual existence and venture into the dangers of coping with a world that is both dangerous and menacing”. How true is this statement in this day and age!

This also reminded me of an article by Rabbi Ari Kahn which I quoted last month in my blog ‘Abraham, the Father of the faithful’:

Similarly, for the Jewish People to have an impact on the world, we must first disengage, separate ourselves, and fully explore our unique relationship with God.

There will be times when we must wrest ourselves away from our deep involvement, even our responsibility for the world. We must climb lofty mountains, even engage in divinely-mandated, though seemingly paradoxical, behavior. But we must always remember that eventually we must come down from the mountain, re-engage, return to the people that we left at the foot of the mountain. We must find the language and establish the relationship that will allow us to share with them what we learned at the summit.

The way we can accomplish our universal responsibility is by first becoming separate, different – as holy as we can possibly become. Only this will enable us to fulfill our mission of tikkun olam, to enlighten, to educate, to heal and repair the world.”

– See https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/10/25/abraham-the-father-of-the-faithful/

I think this rings true for all of us. We all need to take time out, to recharge our batteries, to re-connect with the Almighty, so that we can return to the fray, to the challenges of engaging with the world and trying to positively impact it.

Clearly our Maker knew this and so He created a special Day, the Sabbath for this very purpose. What a thoughtful and loving Father, Creator and King we have!

Moshe’s article is so good that I would really encourage you to read it in full. I have copied it below to make this easy for you:

Vayetze: Going Out (Israel National News – Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012 4:48 PM)

“And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.”The Torah portion of VaYeitze begins with Jacob leaving one place ands with him leaving another. Yet the two words used to describe each “leaving” are vastly different.

When Jacob is leaving the land of Canaan,he is fleeing from his house. He was escaping from a brother who was set to kill him. He was running from a father who may have lost some measure of faith and confidence in his son. He was leaving without knowing when he was to return. And he was leaving into a land of the unknown, and into a future filled with challenges and doubt.

The verse tells us ” And Jacob left Beer sheba, and he went ( VaYeitzeh) to Haran.”( Genesis 28:10) In the midst of Jacob’s running away from Esau he sees the vision of the ladder to the heavens in a dream. In this vision he is promised by G-d , great things.

And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.”( ibid :15)

When he returns from the land of Laban we read; “. So Jacob rose (vaYakam) , and he lifted up his sons and his wives upon the camels.” (ibid 31:17) This too occurs connected to a dream. Yet in Haran, it was a very different sort of dream.

And it came to pass at the time the animals came into heat, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the he goats that mounted the animals were ringed, speckled, and striped.”( ibid 31:10) As opposed to the spiritual dream of angels that he dreamt while still in the land, here Jacob dreams about physical goats and material acquisitions. The materialistic seduction of Chutz LeAretz- Exile – seems to have begun to affect Jacob as well. He understands that he needs to leave.

What is to be learned from those two differing words, Vayeitzeh ( and he went out) and Vayakam( and he arose) ?

When we read in the book of Deuteronomy, of G-d’s instructions regarding the going out to war .The verse reads: “Ki Teitzei LaMilchamah – If you shall go out to wage war against your enemy.” (Deuteronomy 21:10) The verse could have simply been, “If you shall wage war?”

The Torah wants us to remember that warfare is not harmonious with our inner essence. In order to go to war you must exit your oasis of spiritual and holy comfort. Yet his must be done only with the purpose of achieving goals of spiritual and national importance.

We see his again with Noah when G-d commands him the following;” ‘Go forth( Tzeh) from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. … be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.’ ( Genesis 8:16-17).

We see it as well with Jacob’s leaving of the land of his forefathers. Jacob was destined to begin the creation of the Jewish people in the land of Haran. That necessarily involved the spiritual pain of VaYeitzeh.

That is not the case when Jacob leaves Haran. When he leaves the land of Lavan , he is escaping the quagmire of materialism, falsehood and idolatry. In order to do this he must rise up (VaKam) . He must gather his spiritual strength and courage in order to be able to continue to fulfill his destiny in the land of his forefathers.

There will be many times, that the people of Israel will need to leave the comfort of their spiritual existence and venture into the dangers of coping with a world that is both dangerous and menacing. That is what we learn from Jacob’s leaving and his returning. That is what going out to war- ki teitze el hamilchama teaches us. If one’s purpose and goal remains clear ,then the continuation of the verse becomes a promise “. If you go out to war against your enemies,… and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hands...”( Deuteronomy 21:10)

When this piece was being written, it was still unclear if the Israeli defense forces were compelled to enter gaza or not. Yet the courage of going out from their homes and the courage of entering battles that need to be fought will hopefully bring about the Divine promise of protection. And either way, it is only a matter of time before they do.

It is just as Hashem promised Jacob in his personal “going out”.

“And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.” – see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12477#.UK8rNY6ZQsm

For more on the last scripture quoted and the restoration of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel I recommend the article ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’ at circumcisedheart.info.