Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayechi December 29, 2017

Torah reading:  Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

Haftorah reading: I Kings 2: 1-12

Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed. Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”  Genesis 48:1-5


Reuben and Simeon were Jacob’s first-born sons. They were the ones who by right and by custom should have received a double portion of Jacob’s estate, twice as much as any of their brothers. But now, Jacob adopts Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, as his own first-born sons. They will replace Reuben and Simeon as first-born sons and receive their inheritance. This elevates Joseph’s position, as the 11th born son, to an even greater position than the 1st born son. That’s because he, through his first two children, now receives four portions of his father’s estate. Usually, the first-born son receives two portions of the estate and the rest of the children only one, but Joseph gets four portions! Jacob elevates Joseph through this adoption, then he continues.

Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem). Gen. 48:6-7

The elevation of Joseph to the status of 1st born, reminds Jacob of Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He still feels the pain of her loss even after all those years; but in the midst of the pain and in the midst of his own terminal condition, he looks to the future with confidence. He adopts two boys as his own and promises them a double portion of his estate even though he has nothing to give them at this time. Jacob is living in a strange land. In fact, he has no land of his own except a small burial plot hundreds of miles away.

Yet he speaks with all the confidence of a promising future for his family.

Why? Because Jacob has found his hope in the promises of God, and that’s where we find our hope as well. If we feel as though we have nothing, if we are dealing with physical or emotional pain, if this year of 2017 has been a struggle, nevertheless, as we face the onset of a new year, we can utterly depend on the promises of God, just as Jacob did. We can look forward to the coming year with an absolute assurance that God will keep His Word. We can face the future with joy in anticipation of all that God has for us in the days ahead.

Jacob spoke to Joseph not out of what he presently possessed but out of the promise of God to him, and to his father, Isaac and to his grandfather, Abraham.

A story is told about a man at the age of 75 who planted a number of very small fruit trees.  His family wondered why he did so as he would likely never live to see the trees mature.  Some years later, after the old man had passed away, his son realized that when he visits the family farm, he has an option: he can either go to the nearby cemetery to mourn over his father’s grave or he can go pick fruit from the trees his father planted and think about the legacy of hope and faith his father left to the family.’

The Bible commands us to teach our children and our grandchildren about our God and the reliability of His promises.

In Tune with Torah this week = we need to ask ourselves: are we ‘planting fruit trees’ or are we complaining about our circumstances? Are we using the days allotted to us to build a spiritual legacy for those to follow or are we wasting time moaning about the present?

Jacob teaches us that the promises of God are irrevocable, unchangeable and more sure than the sun rising in the morning.  Our confidence and faith as we enter 2018 is founded on HIS integrity, not on world conditions.  Therefore we can pray with David, the sweet psalmist of Israel: ‘Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.’ Psalm 51:12

May this new year bring each of us closer to the LORD of Glory than ever before.




Weekly Torah Commentary – Va’eira January 27, 2017

Torah reading:  Exodus 6:2-9:35

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21

On the first day of the first month of the 27th year during our exile, the LORD spoke to me. ‘Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army fight hard against Tyre. They struggled until they all had bald heads and sore shoulders. But he and his army gained nothing from the fight with Tyre. Therefore, the LORD your King says: I will give the country called Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He will ruin it and he will rob it. He will carry away all its wealth. With this, he will pay wages to his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward. In what he has done, he worked hard for me. This is what the LORD your King says. At that time, I will make Israel to become strong again. You will speak to them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’  Ezek. 29: 17-21

In the first sixteen verses of Ezekiel 29, the LORD spoke to Ezekiel to prophesy against Egypt.  He describes the king of Egypt as being like ‘a great crocodile in the river’, warns him that another nation (Babylon) will attack and conquer them and He (God) will ruin the country.  For forty years Egyptians will be banished and scattered from their country but after that time, they will return and this shall be a sign to the Israelites that they, too, will return to their native land.  More importantly, it will be a sign to Israel that the LORD’s promise to them is sure and will indeed come to pass.  For when they see this prophecy of Ezekiel’s against Egypt come to pass, they will know that his prophecy that Israel will be restored will also come to pass. Notice the last words: At that time, I will make Israel to become strong again.  You will speak to them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

There is the key: …that they will KNOW that I am the LORD.

Throughout biblical history, we are confronted with the issue of faith vs. fear.   Though the Israelites knew about God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the covenant at Mt. Sinai, along with all the miracles the children of Israel experienced through the centuries, nevertheless in Ezekiel’s day, they still doubted Israel’s restoration.  Every visible indication was that Israel as a sovereign nation on the land promised to Abraham was finished, thrown into the dustbin of history…that is, if you only looked at what was visible.

However, the promises of God are not dependent on what is visible, but on His eternal and intrinsic integrity.  God cannot lie.  When Israel was exiled because of her sinfulness, He nevertheless had promised they would eventually return, that the God of heaven would keep His Word to Abraham and his descendants.

But given the conditions around them, the people of Ezekiel’s day doubted.

Aren’t we too often so much like them? On the one hand, we declare that we believe the Scriptures to be the eternal, inviolable Word of God but when visible situations or our earthly circumstances seem to contradict what we believe how easily are we prone to doubt.  In times like that, we may even say things like ‘I know God can help me but I’m not sure He will in this instance.’  May God forgive us!

Sometimes we are simply impatient.  We want an answer and we want it now.  We want to see a situation change and we want it yesterday!  It is precisely in times like these that it is vital to remember all the blessings God has already provided us in our lifetime.

One of the most powerful deterrents to doubt is an attitude of gratitude.  Giving thanks to our heavenly Father on a daily basis is to the soul like Vitamin C to the body – it strengthens your immunity against the ‘dis-ease’ of doubt!

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth, we read in Psalm 34:1.

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Psalm 106:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1

John Henry Howett wrote: Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.  How true!


To train ourselves that our first thought on waking up will be ‘Thank you, my God, for another day to live and serve You’ is a worthy pursuit. Beginning our day with thanksgiving sets an atmosphere, a positive outlook that makes the new day an adventure instead of a drudgery.

In Tune with Torah this week = check out your ‘gratitude attitude’.  How is it doing?  On a scale of 1 – 10, how grateful were you this week for God’s daily blessings in your life?  We too often focus on the ‘big’ things and forget to thank Him for the multitude of so-called ‘little’ things He does for us continually.  He deserves our thanks for EVERYTHING!

Shabbat Shalom


Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayechi January 13, 2016

Torah reading:  Genesis 47:28-50:26

Haftorah reading: I Kings 2:1-12

Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ ”  I Kings 2: 1-4


David, son of Jesse – Israel’s greatest king, apart from the Messiah – recognized that he was but a man and shared the common destiny of all men. Knowing he would soon pass from this life, David gave a final charge to his son, Solomon.

Perhaps David sensed some weakness in Solomon. Perhaps he knew Solomon would be tested in far greater ways than he was. Whatever the exact reason was, David knew Solomon needed strength and courage. Great responsibilities require great strength and courage.

David also knew that Solomon could not be strong or courageous without obedient fellowship with God. In this place of obedient fellowship, Solomon would prosper in all that he did.

David had a general reason to exhort Solomon to obedience, but he also had a specific reason, a specific promise of God. God promised David that as long as his sons walked in obedience, they would keep the throne of Israel. This was an amazing promise. No matter what the Assyrians or the Egyptians or the Babylonians did, as long as David’s sons were obedient and followed God with their heart and with all their soul, God would establish and protect their kingdom.

We love to read about the promises of God but sometimes overlook the condition tied to those promises.  The book of Deuteronomy is filled with the repetition of the words:  “If you will….I will…”  If WE will love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength, than HE will dispense blessing, protection and prosperity of soul and body to us in proportion to our obedience to Him.  This is an uncompromising principle in God’s Word.

Here are some examples of this principle:

Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all the nations you will be My treasured possession.  Exodus 19:5

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of love with you, as He swore to your forefathers.  Deut. 7:12

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from the way that I command you today by following other gods which you have not known.   Deut. 11:26-28

If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   Psalm 91:9-10

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land… Isaiah 1:18-19

The promises of God can be likened to a spiritual bank account.  He has placed those promises on deposit, not because of anything we have done but because of His own eternal covenantal integrity.  Our means of accessing those promises is obedient faith; i.e., to believe what God has said and to walk according to His ways.  That is what ‘takes us to the bank to make a withdrawal’.  To attempt a withdrawal without the ‘access code’ will get you nowhere!  Our ‘access code’ is obedience to the conditions.

God wants us to benefit from His promises.  If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have made them!


This Shabbat would be a great time to take the scriptures quoted above and in quiet reflection, examine our own hearts to see if there are conditions we have overlooked, dismissed or ignored.  Repentance is the way back.  May we all live in such a way that the blessings of the promises of God can flow freely into our lives.

Shabbat Shalom