The Ten Happiness Principles: #1

Finding Happiness and Finding God: 

One of the greatest minds of this era, and one of the greatest thinkers in Judaism is, in my opinion, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (the very recently retired, Chief Rabbi of London). He gives what he believes are the top ten most important things we can do to find happiness. I wish to give his top ten and expand a little on each one through the next 10 short blog posts.

Some research studies have shown the Westerners, despite years of improving economic conditions, are generally no more happy than they were, and continue to seek the answers to their lack of happiness, through the masses of pop psychology offerings.

Research does appear to suggest that the wealthier people are, the happier they are (to some degree at least) and yet, research also seems to suggest that when adults have children they end up being less happy!!?

Given all the significant challenges of trying to quantify such as elusive emotion, or state of being, as happiness, perhaps we shouldn’t rely to heavily on such research!

At the same time, we all can reflect on our own personal experiences and on anecdotal evidence from the life experiences of our closest family members and friends, and how their happiness has changed through various significant life events.

For example, I saw first-hand how someone, very close to me, overcame a life-time of severe depression by taking on a job which involved taking significant responsibility for the welfare of vulnerable members of society.

I believe that these 10 Happiness Principles are 10 action steps which are foundational to a good and happy life. elizah1

Happiness Principle #1:  Give thanks:

Being appreciate for what we have is always a good approach that demonstrates a good attitude. There seems no question that those who are appreciative for whatever good, no matter how small or great, that comes their way, are generally much more content with their lives, and hence less jealous of others and consequently happier.

Part of this appreciation is the recognition that we normally have no control over the circumstances, or country, or economic state we are born and grow up in, but as adults, we do have control over how we respond to our personal circumstances.

As Rabbi Sacks states it: “For it is not what happens to us on which our happiness depends.  It depends on how we respond to what happens to us.” 

Of-course, that’s easy for him to say!  In reality, the practice of a good attitude is never easy!

To awake and start the day by being thankful that you have the day, that you are alive is a great start. Even being thankful that your normal bodily functions are working helps to engender a sense of calm and serenity.

The first waking prayer of Judaism fits this mold. It states: “I thank You, living and eternal King, who has restored my soul in mercy. Thank You, God, for giving me back my life.”

Giving thanks to the Almighty is a very common refrain in the Psalms. Just a few examples are Ps 7:17. 9:1.18:49, 30:4, 33:2, 35:18. 44:8, 45:17, 53:9, 54:6. 57:9. 75:1, 79:13 and so on.

The wording of Psalm 107:1 is often repeated: Give thanks to YHVH, for he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever.”

This attitude or thankfulness is also quite common in the Apostle Paul’s writings. For example see 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you.

If  you take the time to read through just some of the many Psalms that speak of giving thanks you will also see what Happiness Principle #2 is.

Next: Happiness Principle #2

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

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.

The Fiats of God – Genesis Re-punctuated

In the last post on this weeks Torah Portion I shared how the world was created by the very words of the Almighty. His words made things!

In fact the Hebrew word ‘Davar’ that has been translated as “word” here also means “thing”!  What an awesome synergy!  By words things were created. ‘Davar’ = word = thing

Words are the creative energy of the world. God spoke, and through words brought the universe into being!

I want to develop this concept a little more deeply now though. To do so it is important to appreciate that the writers of the Tanakh and even the NT, were much given to the use of parentheses. That is, they would often insert a secondary thought into the middle of their primary message. Here is an example from the Messianic Writings (New Testament):

“In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, ‘Brethren …’” (Acts 1.15)

Observe how the main sentence makes perfect sense if we read it on its own, ignoring the bit in brackets. Afterwards we can usefully go back and read the words in the brackets, as a separate but related thought.

As Bullinger said of the first edition of the KJV: “The Edition of 1611 abounded in parentheses. In the subsequent editions there has been an increasing tendency to discard them; and to supply their place by commas; or to ignore them altogether.”

In the original texts of the Bible there were apparently a great many parentheses. Some are marked as such in many modern translations, but many others are not. These parentheses go right back to the creation narrative.

The earliest one marked in the RSV is in Genesis , where a pair of dashes encloses a lengthy parenthesis:
“In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground -then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.4-7)

The NIV also has a parenthesis in Genesis 2:
“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided; it had four headstreams. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.” (Genesis 2.10-13.)

Genesis 1 Repunctuated:

Using this approach it is possible to re-punctuate Genesis 1 and perhaps gain a new perspective:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1.1.)

The next verse tells us to imagine the curtain rising on an already created planet, but a shapeless and empty one. God’s spirit is about to start fashioning it and then populating it:

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1.2)

So here is a repunctuated version of the whole passage up to Genesis 2.3, with the parentheses printed in brackets:

And God said, ‘Let there be light.’

(And there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.)

And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 

And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’

(And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’

(And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. )

And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.’

(And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’

(And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’

(So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”)

So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”;

(and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth,’

(So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them, And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘ Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘ Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit,’ you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food,’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.) 

An there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. – Genesis 1.3 -2.3

Now just go back and try re-reading the above verses and ignoring the sections in brackets. Does it read well; does it flow logically and effectively?

Another way of presenting this re-punctuation is as below:

God said: “Let there be light”:
Narrator said: ” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Narrator said: “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:”
Narrator said “and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
Narrator said, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.”
[Note that the narrator talks of God in the 3rd person]
God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Narrator said, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day
[1].

Hopefully, a careful read and reflection on these verses with this approach should see that there is a proclamation or fiat announced by God, followed by a commentary on its impact and fulfilment.

With this approach the fulfilment need not be instant and certainly need not be on the same ‘day’ as the announcement.

If this approach and understanding is valid then who were the Fiats uttered to? Perhaps the Host of Heaven, that is the angels. Many passages such as Genesis 1:26 where the Creator speaks to those assembled before Him, ‘let us make man in our image’[2].

It would certainly appear from Job 38: 4-7 that it was the angels[3] (called ‘morning stars’ and ‘sons of God’) were present at the creation of the universe.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[4] (Job 38:4-7)

This ‘fiat’ or ‘proclamation’ approach then is consistent with both the Hebraic principles (Hebraisms) of foreordaining and parenthesis. With this approach the ‘days’ of creation can be viewed as consecutive literal days (where their length is actually unimportant but could conceivably be 24 hour days).

This approach also then pre-shadows and even foreordains the ‘divine’ week of 7 days with every 7th day (Shabbat/Sabbath) being a day of ‘rest’ or ‘ceasing’.

The Hebrew Bible is also very poetic and intended to be sung or at least spoken out loud in a rhythmic manner (i.e. chanted).

Again, this is also consistent with God speaking his proclamations out loud and using some form of melody in the process. The table below may help visualise the poetic structure contained in Genesis 1:

Day 1  Light appears

Day 2                                     Waters are divided

Day 3                                                      Land appears, with vegetation

Day 4                  Lights appear

Day 5                                    Waters bring forth living creatures,

Day 6                                                      Land is populated

This structure also makes use of Hebraic parallelism, that is, repetition at measured intervals. For example, consider Psalm 38:22 Don’t forsake me, Yahweh. My God, don’t be far from me. (WEB). This repetition or parallelism is extremely common and is evident in many ways such as in the Shema (Deut 6:4. 11:13-21) where we are called to love God with all (1) our heart, (2) our soul and (3) our might.

This is Hebrew parallelism as the Hebrew understand man to be a single entity and therefore the words heart, soul and might here are just a way to emphasise, by repeating three times, the call to love call with all of your being.

Like all theories that attempt to reconcile the Biblical creation accounts with our modern understanding it does still leave some questions unanswered but overall seems to satisfactorily answer the greatest number and to fit so well with the Hebraic mindset, approach and understanding of God’s ‘modus operandi’.

Given this repetition then, coupled with the prospect that this ‘days’ were all prior to the actual creation itself, we can view the creation of the sun on Day 4 as a reiteration but with more detail of the creation of light on Day 1. This repetition with further detail is used for all three days.

In the next post I will look at some of the issues with the more traditional interpretations and how this approach and Dr Schroeder’s approach address these issues.

[I am indebted to Physicists Alan Hayward and Hill Roberts for this understanding and re-punctuation]


[1] This arrangement courtesy of G.R. Morton –  http://home.entouch.net/dmd/daysofproclamation.htm

[2] The best commentary of the ‘us’ texts such as in Gen 1:26 that I have ever heard is a talk given by Sean Finnegan. The Podcast is available from Christianmonothesism.com and a pdf version at http://www.christianmonotheism.com/media/text/Let%20Us%20make%20man.pdf
Update: May 2015:  Uriel Ben Mordechai in his book ‘If: The End of a Messianic Lie’ gives, what I now believe to be, the best answer, and that is in summary, that the ‘us’ is the actual Creation which has a physical component (the Earth, etc.) and a spiritual component (the Heavens, etc.). I think, you really need to read his complete commentary on Gen 1:26 to appreciate this perspective though.

“In Breishit [Genesis] 1:26, the US, the OUR, and the OURSELVES refer to none other than the Heavens and Earth, for from both realms (His own and that of the Earth) did HaShem take, in order to create man. Man’s flesh He created from the dust of the earth, the “Adamah” and for man’s soul, HaShem took the elements found only in the realm of the Heavens of G-d, even from the breath of the Almighty. For this reason, HaShem says, “Let US, in the respective image and likeness of all of US present, the celestial and the terrestrial, each of them separately give their portion, so that in combination, the creation of man emerges from the image of both, and from the likeness of both.” For this is what sets man apart from the rest of creation. If he were to have been created with only the celestial elements, he would have lived forever, and would not have died – forever locked into a condition of impurity. If he were to have been created with only terrestrial elements, he would have been unable to inherit eternal live, for eventually this Earth is destined to pass away.”
Also see Deut 4:26, 30:19, 31:28 where God calls upon the Heavens and the Earth as witnesses as well.

[3] FF Bruce, New International Bible Commentary p546.

[4] When God or man lays the cornerstone to a ‘building’ of God there is always great rejoicing. For example see Ezra 3:10-11

Ecclesiastes – Days of Joy

Moshe Kempinski – from Shorashim Shop (in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem

“Introspection on the High Holydays reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy on Sukkot enables the healing and the growth.

We have entered into and experienced the month of Tishrei as a period of great soul searching and introspection. We have hopefully sensed how the purifying fire of the Day of Atonement has cleansed the very vessels of our souls.

The vessels are pure but nevertheless are broken from the experience. Only spiritual joy can rejuvenate and repair the broken in spirit.

Introspection reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy enables the healing and the growth.

“Seven days shall you keep a feast unto HaShem your God in the place which HaShem shall choose; because HaShem your G-d shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful [VeHayitem Ach Sameach].”

How can one be commanded to be joyful? How can one walk out from under the burden of a renewed awareness of our limitations and be joyful? How can one attain joy when, as a people, our history is so replete with events that are the antitheses of joy?

 Clearly being given the opportunity to fulfill the will of our Divine beloved is a source of great joy. We are not being commanded to be joyful as much as we are being told a fact. We will be joyful.

 That is clear as one wanders through the streets and watch the people of this land buying the four species of the holiday. They are joyful because they have been given the opportunity to bring a gift to their beloved Creator.

 Yet it is during this holiday we will read the cynical book of Kohelet or Ecclesiastes. What must we learn from that.

 Each of the Jewish festivals is characterized by the reading of one of the Biblical scrolls. On Pesach(Passover), we read Shir Hashirim/Song Of Songs. During Shavuot, the book of Ruth is read. On Sukkot, we read Kohelet/Ecclesiastes.

 The latter is clearly a book characterized by great sobriety and skepticism. The first words of Kohelet, “havel havelim ha-kol hevel, futility of futilities, everything is futile,” imply that no matter what Man does, his efforts will always prove to be in vain.

 The word hevel/futile appears 37 times throughout the book.

 There are those who teach that since this period of Sukkot falls during the time of the great harvest, a time of great joy, the book of Kohelet is seen as a tool for tempering and moderation.

There are others who see the book of Kohelet as a work infused with optimism and happiness. In the Yalkut Shimoni we read: “R. Yonathan said, first Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) was composed, followed by Mishlei (Proverbs) and then Kohelet. Shir Hashirim represents youthful optimism and rejoicing. Mishlei, written later in King Solomon’s life, represents the acquired experience of middle age. The book of Kohelet expresses the acquired wisdom of old age.”

This helps to understand a verse which seems to epitomize cynical futility:

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of joy.” ( Ecclesiastes 7:4

Both the medieval commentators, Rashi and Ibn-Ezra, explain the verse is teaching us that the truly wise are always aware of the fact that they are mortal and that their time is finite.

Fools dance through life as if they have been gifted with immortality. The wise understand, even in the midst of joy, there is finiteness to life.This makes their joy more profound than fools.

In his book, Mei HaShiloach, the Izhbitzer Rebbe (1800-1854) relates that, in his wiser years, King Solomon, speaks of the futility of some of life’s pursuits and mortality as a tool to help individuals find the true source of joy in this world.

“The end of the matter, when all has been heard, is fear G-d and keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of man.”

When all is said and done, we are bidden to connect to the infinite purpose of creation and rise above the trivial. Therein lies the true joy of this festival and of life in its entirety.

The sukkah itself is built for a mere seven days, yet no effort is neglected in order to decorate it and beautify it. Life is similar to the sukkah.

Our time is limited, so spare no effort to fill it with beauty and holiness.”

( excerpted from Moshe Kempinski’s new book “ Accessing Inner Joy, the biblical Festivals)

or see at http://www.facebook.com/notes/shorashim-shop/ecclesiastes-days-of-joy/10152152639985603 

Material comfort can be dangerous

When we know where our blessings come from, it can help give us a proper and sober perspective that helps us remained grounded.

Nothing can turn the heart of man from loving his Father and maintaining his awesome and reverent relationship with Him more than luxury and physical indulgence.

Material comfort can be dangerous. It can make us believe that we are legends in our own lunch-boxes, that we all the bee’s–knees, the best thing since sliced bread, and that it is all because of our own brilliance! It then becomes far too easy to forget that everything in life is a present.

Sukkot is a time of joy, of rejoicing where we can acknowledge where our blessings came from, Who is really responsible for giving us our talent and blessing the work of our hands. Sukkot while a great party, can at the same time help keep us grounded and appreciative of the ‘present’ and the Giver of the present!

If you haven’t listened to our Podcast on Sukkot yet, now might be a good time.

The Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot

In this podcast we finish our series on the ‘fall’ (autumn in Israel) festivals; that is Yom Teruah; Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

We look at the significance of this festival; how it is celebrated; and how it will be in the future.

Some references in the Podcast are:

‘A Crash Course in Jewish History’ by Rabbi Ken Spiro

The Miracles of the Land – see short blog post:

http://luke443.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/seven-wonders-of-jewish-history.html

Hope you enjoy this look at a time of rejoicing!