Jacob’s Sukkah

Jacob spent more than twenty years in Aram, a place in Mesopotamia. Jacob’s sojourn in Aram symbolizes the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel. His return to Canaan symbolizes the return of the Jewish people from exile.
As Jacob and his family returned to the holy land, they descended the Jabbok Canyon and arrived at a location east of the Jordan called Succoth. Biblical geographers tentatively identify the site with a high mound called Tell Deir Alla on the plain north of the stream of the Jabbok:

Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth. (Genesis 33:17)

The Torah offers a brief story to explain the name Sukkoth: “Jacob built for himself a house and made booths (sukkot, סוכות) for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth (i.e., ‘Booths’).” The Hebrew word sukkah (סוכה) means temporary shelter, stable, or hut. The name for the biblical festival of Sukkot (Feast of Booths) employs the plural form.
Although Jacob did not build his booths to keep the festival by the same name, the LORD commanded his descendents to imitate him by building sukkot annually as a reminder of their journey to the Promised Land, during which they lived in huts and booths:

You shall live in sukkot for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:42-43)

Just as God led Jacob out of exile and brought him safely into the land of Canaan, so too He led Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and safely to the Promised Land. The construction of booths during the festival of Sukkot commemorates the journey.
The festival of Sukkot also foreshadows the future kingdom of heaven when Israel will dwell under the shade of the Almighty. Then the LORD will establish Messianic Jerusalem and spread a canopy over the city: “There will be a sukkah to give shade from the heat of day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain” (Isaiah 4:1). In the Messianic Era, all nations will ascend to Jerusalem to hear the Torah and to worship the LORD at the festival of Sukkot. Then David’s fallen sukkah will be restored, and the kingdom of Esau will become the inheritance of the children of Jacob:

“In that day I will raise up the fallen sukkah of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,” declares the LORD who does this. (Amos 9:11-12)

Likewise, Jacob built sukkot and a house, foreshadowing the final redemption when the exiles of Israel will return to the Promised Land and the Messianic Era will commence. In that day, the nations will say, “Come let us go up … to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3), as it says, “Jacob journeyed to Sukkot, and built for himself a house and made sukkot.”
Vayishlach – וישלח : “And he sent” Torah : Genesis 32:4-36:43 Haftarah : Hosea 11:7-12:12 Gospel : John 1:19-2:12

Anointing from Heaven

The LORD revealed the vision of the ladder to Jacob as he slept. In his sleep angels ascended and descended upon him. God confirmed the covenant with him while he slumbered with his head upon a stone. In the morning he erected the same stone as a monument and anointed it with oil.
Sleep represents death. Just as Jacob slept at Bethel, Messiah slept the sleep of death and rested upon the stone. Through the “slumber” of the Messiah, the LORD revealed the ladder to heaven, which is Messiah’s atoning suffering and death (the descent) and His triumphant resurrection (the ascent). Angels ascended and descended upon Him, and when He rose up, He moved the stone from before His tomb.
The stone on which Jacob’s dreaming head rested became the token of the promises bestowed in the dream. Jacob set up the stone to mark the spot where his encounter with God had occurred. To consecrate the stone as a sacred site, Jacob poured out a libation of oil over the top. He intended to return there and worship God in the future. Later in the Torah, Moses consecrated every implement and furnishing of the Tabernacle through anointing: “And you shall anoint it, to consecrate it” (Exodus 29:36).
This is the first anointing ceremony in the Torah, and it alludes to Messiah, the Anointed One. The Midrash says Jacob anointed the stone with oil to indicate that in the future his descendants would be anointed to priesthood and kingship.
Where did Jacob procure this anointing oil? According to his own testimony, when he left the land of Canaan he had nothing with him except the staff in his hand (Genesis 32:10). The Midrash Rabbah explains that he received the anointing oil directly from heaven:
The oil was supplied to him from heaven in abundance, as though from a cruse full to the very top. (Genesis Rabbah 69:8)
Vayetze – ויצא : “And he went out” Torah : Genesis 28:10-32:3 Haftarah : Hosea 12:12-14:10 Gospel : Matthew 3:13-4:11

Abraham’s Wells

Isaac returned to his semi-nomadic mode of life and brought his flocks into the valley of Gerar on the edge of the Negev. As he went, he reopened the wells of his father Abraham. The Philistines had filled in Abraham’s wells as an exercise of their sovereignty, perhaps to discourage semi-nomadic shepherds and herdsman like Isaac from grazing on their territory.
Isaac reopened the wells. The Torah uses four short etiologies to describe how Isaac named four wells. He named one well “Contention” because after he dug it, the herdsmen of Gerar came out and contended with his shepherds. They said, “The water is ours!” He dug a second well and named it “Hostility” because of a dispute with the same herdsmen. He moved further into the Negev, away from Gerar, and dug a third well. He named it “Broad Places” because he had finally escaped the Philistines and had ample space.
It seems as if Isaac named the wells without any thought as to what they had been called in his father’s day, but the Torah says, “He gave them the same names which his father had given them.” This becomes clear in the story about the well of Shibah (Beersheba). He camped at Beersheba (Well of the Oath); he swore a covenantal oath (shevu’ah, שבעה) with the Philistine King. That same day his servants reported a well they had dug. He named it Beersheba, Well of the Oath—the same name Abraham had given it a generation earlier when he made a treaty with the previous Abimelech and Phicol.
The story of Isaac reopening Abraham’s wells indicates that Isaac is the legitimate heir to the Abrahamic legacy. Like Abraham, Isaac sojourned as a stranger in a strange land, without land and water rights.
On another level, the story illustrates the value of returning to the original sources. Isaac could have dug new wells. Instead he chose to restore Abraham’s wells. He could have chosen new names. Instead he chose to use the same names that Abraham had given them.
In a similar way, the biblical path of faith is not one of innovation and novelty. Instead, we find our spirits satisfied drinking from the wells of faith from which our fathers drank. When the Master offered the woman at the well the living water of salvation, he spoke not of literal water, but of salvation—yet He offered that living water to her at Jacob’s well.
The journey into Messianic Judaism is much like Isaac’s journey back to the wells of his father Abraham. These original sources have been filled in and concealed by time and hostile Philistines. The Sabbath has been lost. The holy days have been forgotten. The Torah itself has been, as it were, filled in with earth. We need not dig new wells or create new names. If we will only make the effort to open these original wells up again, we will find that they are as deep and filled with living water as when our fathers first drank from them.
Toldot – תולדות :”Generations” Torah : Genesis 25:19-28:9 Haftarah : Malachi 1:1-2:7 Gospel : Matthew 13-14

Good Things of His Master’s Hand

Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. The name Eliezer (אֱלִיעֶזֶר‎) literally means “God of Help.” As Eliezer went forth to procure a bride for Isaac, he relied on the God of Help to assist him. An angel went before him.
When we set out to do the work of God, we need to rely on Him for help, especially in the matter of evangelism. After all, we are not trying to make converts to a religious creed; we are trying to change hearts. This is an impossible task for a human being. Even the greatest psychiatrists cannot change the human heart. Therefore, like Eliezer, we rely utterly on the God of Help.

Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. (Genesis 24:10)

As we go forth to proclaim the good news, we bring the good things from the household of God. In the midst of a lost and hurting world, we have the goods that people need. What are these good things of our Master’s house? They are acts of loving-kindness, forgiveness, wholeness, peace, and that most precious of all commodities: hope. Many people have never experienced unconditional love. They have never known real kindness, real friendship, real compassion. Many people have lived most of their lives without even modest hopes. These are things we have received in abundance through Messiah, and we can pass them on to others, but only if we bring them with us.
Eliezer brought the gifts from his master’s household with him in order to establish his credibility. If he had simply appeared in Aram, claiming to be looking for an attractive young girl to bring back to some faraway prince, the men of that place would have driven him away as a scoundrel and kidnapper.
Is it any different with us? If we start to speak into people’s lives about God and faith without first having provided them with evidence of the fruit of our faith, they will drive us away as religious fanatics. The world has plenty of religions and ideologies for sale, each one clamoring for attention like obnoxious salesmen.
The good things of our Master’s house establish credibility: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of the Spirit is irresistible to the thirsty soul. A person of genuine faith and conviction who lives out his faith and manifests his convictions in godliness and real kindness, without phoniness or pretense, naturally attracts others.
Chayei Sarah – ×—×™×™ שרה : “Life of Sarah” Torah : Genesis 23:1-25:18 Haftarah : I Kings 1:1-31 Gospel : Matthew 11-12

All Things Created for Him

The rabbis say that God chose Abraham before the creation of the world. He looked for a single righteous man for whom He could justify creating the world. As He looked into the future, scanning over the generations of human beings to come, His eyes fell upon the righteous Abraham. On Abraham’s merit He chose to create the world:

A parable: Once there was a king who was sought to build a palace. He began to dig, going further down, to lay a foundation, but he found only swampy soil. And so it was in many places. He was not able to build until he dug in one place, and there he found bedrock (petra). Thus he said, “I am building and placing foundations here,” and he built. So too, the Holy One, blessed be He, sought to create the world. He was sitting and scrutinizing the generation of Enosh and the generation of the flood, and He said, “Why should I create the world and let those wicked men arise and vex me?” But when the Holy One, blessed be He, saw Abraham arise in the future, he said, “Behold, I have found a rock (petra) to build upon and to lay the foundation of the world.” Thus he called Abraham “Rock,” as it says [in Isaiah 51:1-2], “Look to the rock from which you were hewn.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar, 23:766)

Did God really create the entire world only for the sake of Abraham? For the sake of Abraham’s Seed, the Messiah, He brought the whole world into being. During the Talmudic Era, the great academies in Babylon agreed that God created the world only on the merit of one righteous man, but they argued over which righteous man that was. Rav claimed that God created the world for the sake of David. Shmu’el countered that God created the world for the sake of Moses. But Rabbi Yochanon contradicted both and said, “The world was created only for the sake of the Messiah.”
Rabbi Yochanon’s opinion prevailed. The sages agree that God created the world only for the sake of Messiah—Abraham’s Seed. Paul of Tarsus taught the same concept. He believed that all things were created only for Messiah: “All things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
God chose Abraham out of the sea of humanity two thousand years before the birth of Yeshua. He chose Him to be the father of the Jewish people and the father of the line of Messiah. This explains why the Messiah is called the “Son of Abraham,” i.e., Ben Avraham, at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. According to Paul’s teachings, the Messiah is the “Seed of Abraham.” God chose a childless man married to a barren woman to become the father of the Messiah, the father of the Jewish people, and the father of many nations.
Lech Lecha – לך לך : “Go out” Torah : Genesis 12:1-17:27 Haftarah : Isaiah 40:27-41:16 Gospel : Matthew 1-19

Fixing a Broken World

Human evil grieves God's heart. God is not peering down on the planet making observations like a dispassionate astronaut. Neither is He watching us like a man sitting on a sofa watching a football game. Rather, He is like a Father who observes the behavior of His children. He is like a king taking note of how events unfold in his kingdom.
When a father sees his children involved in self-destructive behaviors, it grieves him. When a king sees his subjects living in open rebellion against him, it angers him. As God observed humanity in the days of Noah, He was saddened to see the rampant wickedness of His creations. He saw that every human heart harbored evil. “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).
Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
The Bible says that the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). Sin affects the world around us. It affects others around us. For example, an alcoholic might suppose that his drinking problem is his own business. But when he abuses his wife and children, it is their problem. When he can't perform at work, it is his employer's problem. When he loses his job, it is his creditors' problem. When he can no longer afford to take care of his family, it is the community's problem. Our sins touch the lives of everyone around us. They pollute the spiritual environment of our world.
Human beings are naturally selfish creatures. We rarely consider the consequences that our choices have on others. In the days of Noah, the violent man never stopped to say to himself, “My violence is making this world worse. My sins are hurting the whole of humanity.” Each time we sin, no matter how private and personal we imagine the sin to be, we contribute to the destruction of the world.
God punishes sin. For Him to leave sin unpunished would be unjust.
Think of it this way. Suppose there was a murder trial. The defendant was proven guilty. The jury returned a guilty verdict, but the judge, being a kindly fellow, dismissed the verdict, saying, “Well, the poor bloke is probably sorry. I don't think we need to punish him.” Everyone would be outraged at the travesty of justice.
Yet people want to imagine God like that. We don't like to think of God as a punisher of sin. We want Him to just look the other way, like a kindly old grandfather who winks at the misdeeds of his grandchildren. The Bible says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of [God's] throne” (Psalm 89:14). In other words, God's kingdom is founded upon justice. Since God is the very standard of justice, He cannot be unjust.
This is the problem with sin. It begets judgment. In the days of Noah, the sin of humanity was so great that justice demanded God take action against it. The easiest thing for God to do would have been to simply will the universe out of existence. He could have just shut the entire thing down and started over with a new creation. Instead, He chose to try to fix the world.
In Judaism, “fixing the world” (tikkun olam, תיקון עולם) is an important concept. The world is broken, and it needs to be fixed. Whenever we apply our efforts to doing good by alleviating human suffering, standing up for justice, making peace in the midst of strife, and choosing to do right instead of wrong, we are fixing the world. As we make the world a better, more godly place, we are restoring it to God's original intent.
Noach – × ×— : “Noah” Torah : Genesis 6:9-11:32 Haftarah : Isaiah 54:1-55:5 Gospel : Luke 1:5-80
Adapted from Torah Club Volume One : Unrolling the Scroll

Never Will I Leave You

Moses encouraged the Israelites not to falter on the edge of the Promised Land, as the previous generation had done. He told them to “be strong and courageous,” and he comforted them by telling them that God would not fail or forsake them.
Jewish tradition teaches that a person's income for the year is predetermined at Rosh Hashanah. The writer to the book of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 to encourage His readers to rely on God to provide for all their needs. He tells them to avoid greed and avarice because God has already promised not to forsake us:

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said [in Deuteronomy 31:6], ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say [what is written in Psalm 118:6], ‘The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

“Be strong and courageous. … He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are primarily about our relationship with God as individuals and as a common people. These are appointed times for reconciling with one another and with our Father in Heaven. If we take the opportunity to turn to God in sincere repentance in the name of His Son, He will receive us.
People who have been abandoned or abused by a parent or spouse sometimes suffer with anxiety about their relationship with God. They might project their hurts and fears from human relationships onto their relationship with God. They fear that He will withdraw His love from them. Such a view of God makes a true faith relationship almost impossible. God wants His people to know that He will not fail us, nor will He abandon us.
Even in times when God punished Israel for disobedience, it was not as if He had abandoned them or cast them off. He punishes Israel as a father disciplines a beloved son. God is faithful to His people. Even when He sent the children of Israel into exile, He did not send them out alone. The rabbis teach that God's Dwelling Presence went with the people of Israel when they were driven from their land, and that He will return with them when they are gathered back into the land.
We can trust our Father in Heaven. He travels with us even in the lonely places of pain and exile. He will not fail us or forsake us.
Nitzavim/Vayelech – × ×¦×‘×™×/וילך Torah : Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 Haftarah : Isaiah 61:10-63:9 Gospel : Luke 24:1-12/Luke 24:13-43

A Heart to Know

Moses lamented that even though the nation of Israel had experienced God’s great salvation and seen His miracles and wondrous provision in the wilderness, they still did not have “a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”
Moses reminded them of the things they had seen: the plagues in Egypt, the deliverance at the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud, the theophany at Mount Sinai, the bountiful provision in the wilderness. He reminded them that, miraculously, their clothes and sandals had lasted forty years.
Without bread, wine, or beer, they had somehow survived well-fed and nourished through the whole journey. When they faced the powerful Amorite armies of Sihon and Og, they defeated them and took their land. After seeing the miracles in Egypt, the revelation at Sinai, the wonders of the wilderness, and the constant provision on the journey—after experiencing God in such a tangible and intimate way, why would Israel be in need of reproof or warning at all?
Moses knew that despite the great revelations they had received, the people were still human beings with wayward hearts. He urged them not to drift away or fall into apostasy. He said, “Keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deuteronomy 29:9). He knew that they would not. Moses knew the weakness of the human heart. He knew that the thing they needed was a new heart.
Years later, as the terrible curses began to fall upon the people, the prophet Ezekiel looked ahead to a brighter future when God would heal the sickness of the human soul: “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
These words correspond to the promise of the new covenant when God will put His Torah within us and write it upon our hearts. In that day, the LORD says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
Ki Tavo – ×›×™ תבוא : “When you come” Torah : Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 Haftarah : Isaiah 60:1-22 Gospel : Luke 23:26-56

Accursed of God

Within Judaism, Yeshua of Nazareth has been often known by the name Talui, or haTalui, which literally translated means “the Hanged One,” or contextually, “the Crucified One.” As the Jewish people struggled under the polemics and persecutions of the church, the Talui moniker provided an inside joke. Who is Yeshua? He is Talui, the Crucified One. And what does the Torah say? “Talui is accursed of God.”
Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “He who is hanged is accursed of God.” This passage explains why the name Talui, the Hung One, became a common title for Yeshua among the Jewish people. In old anti-Christian writings, the pejorative is sometimes combined with other unflattering descriptions, but in general, Talui, refers to Yeshua, the crucified one. The title comes from the Torah: “He who is hanged (talui) is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
Anti-missionaries still invoke the passage today. This joke goes all the way back to the earliest years of the Yeshua movement. As the apostles proclaimed “Christ crucified” within the Jewish community, the early detractors who resisted their message probably responded with this passage: “Talui is accursed of God. The Crucified One is accursed of God.”
Opponents of the early believers used the passage to argue that Yeshua could not be the Messiah, just as anti-missionaries do today. They probably said, “You see, He could not be Messiah because He was hung on a tree, and everyone hung on a tree is accursed of God. Surely the real Messiah is not accursed of God.”
The most learned and most vicious anti-missionary the believers ever faced was Paul of Tarsus. Paul knew this passage. He used it in his debates against the early believers, in contempt of Yeshua haTalui, the Crucified One.
Reflecting on this matter, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). He also brought it up in the book of Galatians.
In Galatians 3, Paul returned to his old anti-Yeshua, Talui-polemic and cited Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in reference to Yeshua again. That passage was always popular with the anti-Yeshua crowd, but in Galatians 3, Paul put a new spin on it:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, [in Deuteronomy 21:23] “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Ki Tetze – ×›×™ תצא : “When you go” Torah : Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 Haftarah : Isaiah 54:1-10 Gospel : Acts 13-15

Clear Boundaries

An English maxim has it that fences make good neighbors. In biblical times, territorial borders were marked off with boundary stones. Typically, a boundary-stone landmark might be one stone set up on end, indicating the border between a man's field and his neighbor's.
You shall not move your neighbor's boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess. (Deuteronomy 19:14)
During the settlement of American territories, a similar method was used. Settlers would set up rocks or drive in stakes to indicate parcels of land that they were claiming. Hence the idiom “staking a claim.” Often it happened that in their absence unscrupulous neighbors or other settlers would remove these landmarks to their own advantage.
Boundary markers worked the same way in the biblical era. An unscrupulous neighbor might move a boundary stone and steal a hundred feet of your field. According to the prophet Hosea, God pours out His wrath like water on those who move boundary stones (Hosea 5:10).
The Torah places a special curse on someone who moved a boundary stone, saying, “Cursed is he who moves his neighbor's boundary mark” (Deuteronomy 27:17). The Proverbs warn against moving boundaries and especially against encroaching on the boundaries of widows and orphans:
Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set. Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you. But He will establish the boundary of the widow. (Proverbs 22:28, 23:10-11, 15:25)
The prohibition against moving a boundary stone can be applied to many situations in life. It reminds us that God deems it healthy and appropriate to maintain proper boundaries and distinctions. For example, boundaries that maintain a distinction between genders are important.
A person should always be careful to protect the boundaries between private life and public life, between family and friends, between parent and child, between husband and wife, and so on. When boundary lines become fuzzy, confusion and conflict ensue. The godly person is careful to maintain a sense of where another person's property and privacy ends and begins.
There are four types of people. The one who says, “What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours.” This is the normal type of person, but some say this is the type of person who lived in Sodom. The one who says, “What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine.” This type of person is an ignoramus. The one who says, “What's mine is yours and what's yours is yours.” This is a righteous person. The one who says, “What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine.” This is a wicked person. (m.Avot 5:10)
Shoftim – שפטים : “Judges” Torah : Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 Haftarah : Isaiah 51:12-52:12 Gospel : Matthew 26:47-27:10

The Mitzvah of Charity

Ironically, anti-Semites depict Jewish people as greedy, stingy money-lovers. The opposite is true. Charity is a central pillar of Jewish identity and the Torah-life. It reflects God’s own nature as an act of grace. When it comes to giving generously, Jewish people excel because Jewish culture has internalized the Torah’s principles of giving.
The Gospels and the Epistles constantly encourage us to give to those in need and to give generously. The Master quotes Deuteronomy 17:11 saying, “You always have the poor with you” (John 12:8), and He expects us to give generously to them. A majority of the Master’s directives have to do with the subject of giving charity. He assumes that we will give charity, saying, “When you give to the poor” (Matthew 6:2), not, “If you give to the poor.” He points out that even the hypocrites give charity.
Our Father in Heaven asks us to “freely open our hand to our brother, to the needy and the poor” (Deuteronomy 15:11). The Talmud states it this way: “Everybody is obliged to give charity; even one who himself depends upon charity should give to those less fortunate than himself.” You can always find someone less fortunate.
In Jewish terminology, charity and righteousness are almost synonymous. The Hebrew word tzedakah (צדקה) literally means “righteousness,” but people use it idiomatically as a synonym for charity and alms.
When we give charity, we should do so without fanfare or accolades. Yeshua tells us that when we give, we are not to announce it with trumpets, which is to say, we are not to make a show out of it. He says our giving should be in secret. Reb Yannai once saw somebody giving a zuz to a poor man in the market place. He said, “It were better not to have given him anything rather than to have given him and shamed him.” According to Talmud, “It is permitted to deceive a poor man who out of pride refuses to accept charity, and to allow him to think that it is a loan you are giving him.” Our giving should be in secret, but of course, it is better to give in whatever manner we can than not to give at all.
Maimonides listed eight ascending levels of charity.
One who gives sadly and reluctantly.One who gives less than is fitting, but in good humor.One who gives only after being asked to give.One who gives before being asked.One who gives in such a way that he does not know who is receiving it.One who gives in such a manner that the recipient does not know who the donor is.One who gives in total anonymity, so that he does not know who will receive it and the receiver does not know who gave it.One who helps the poor to rehabilitate themselves by lending them money, taking them into partnerships, employing them, or giving them work, for in this way the end is achieved without any loss of self-respect at all.
The sages say, “The poor man does more for the giver than the giver does for the poor man.” Why? Because the poor man gives the giver the opportunity to perform a mitzvah. When we come across those in need, our hearts should leap with joy because they provide us with the opportunity to do a mitzvah. Suddenly we have the opportunity to return to God some of the wealth he has bestowed upon us.
How much should we give? The true disciple asks “How much more can I give? How can I find a way to give more?”
Re’eh – ראה : “Behold” Torah : Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 Haftarah : Isaiah 54:11-55:5 Gospels : Acts 8-9

Self Righteousness

Moses assured the Israelites that God will give them the conquest of Canaan. He warned them three times lest they presume that their righteousness provided sufficient merit for their success. Moses had already told them that their future success would be guaranteed “because” of their obedience to the commandments. The people of Israel might naturally assume, then, that success was an indication of their own righteousness.
We might be prone to make a similar mistake. A pastor with a successful, growing congregation might assume that he is in God’s favor because of the numbers. A businessman who lands a lucrative contract may suppose that he is being rewarded for his godliness. In both cases, the assumptions may be correct, but there might be other factors at work not at all related to one’s personal righteousness.
Moses stressed three times that “it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people” (Deuteronomy 9:6). He went on to rehearse the sin of the golden calf and the incidents in the wilderness that provoked God to anger. He recounted how he fasted on their behalf and pleaded for their forgiveness. He retold the story of how God, in His mercy, relented, and did not punish them as their deeds deserved. If not for Moses’ intercession and atonement on their behalf, Israel would not have even survived the journey from Egypt. They had Moses to thank for their deliverance thus far. There could be no talk of their merit and righteousness. Their observance of the Torah was not sufficient to merit the conquest of the land.
If the children of Israel did not deserve to take possession of the land, why did God give it to them? Moses gave two reasons: The sin of the Canaanites and the covenant promises to the patriarchs.

It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13)

Ekev – עקב : “Because” Torah : Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 Haftarah : Isaiah 49:14-51:3 Gospels : John 13:31-15:27

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