Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#1 B’resheit (Genesis) 1:1-6:8
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 42:5-43:10
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 1:1-17
This week we begin a new cycle of reading and learning more of G-d’s Torah. What a gift from G-d! We just concluded with learning of Moshe’s death and the peace of G-d demonstrated throughout the narrative, and now we are returned to “the beginning.” This year we will concentrate on Genesis chapter 4:1-16. This is the account of the first brothers to merit the Torah’s attention, and for good reason. The narrative of Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel) is extremely succinct, seemingly lacking many details. We know nothing of their upbringing or their formative experiences. But as we will learn, those details are not important in the overall scheme of G-d’s lessons for us in sharing this narrative. As we hopefully realize by this time, G-d often hides the details found in his Torah to stimulate our inquiry through careful study and prayer for what He wants us to learn. Let us begin.
Chava (Eve) became pregnant and gave birth to the first naturally born human, Kayin (Acquisition). The Torah makes a point to say Chava declared “ I have acquired a man from Adonai.” (Gen. 4:1). Almost as a sideline, the next verse reads “ In addition she gave birth to his brother Hevel” (Emptiness; nothingness).Abel was a shepherd over flocks while Cain was a worker of the land. Note in verse 3 we read that Cain “brought an offering to Adonai from the produce of the soil; and Abel too brought from the firstborn of his sheep, including their fat.” G-d was attentive to Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering. Cain becomes angry and downcast. G-d provided the first example of constructive criticism but Cain did not take it as a point of learning. G-d said in verse 7 “Why are you angry and downcast? If you improve your ways, then you will be uplifted, but if you do not improve, the iniquity crouches at the door. Its desire is towards you, but you can rule over it.” As Messianic believers, we can understand this statement is a major theme in G-d’s Torah; although the Adversary seeks our souls, we can overcome temptation and succeed in our testings, winning the race and prize through our belief/trust in Yahshua’s faithfulness (Rom. 3:25-6) and our obedience to G-d’s Torah /instructions found in the seven-fold witness in Revelation.
The above passage provides the backdrop for the cold-blooded murder of one brother by another. Innocent blood shed because of the other’s rebellion against G-d’s instructions. This is another major theme replayed throughout G-d’s Torah. To better understand this passage, we must grab our lights and shovels, and start digging into the Hebrew.
We begin by defining the true meaning or essence of the names. We know G-d attaches great significance to names. He assigned named to day and night, dry land and the seas. (Gen. 1:5,8). Adam was given the privlege of assigning names to all of the animals, birds of the sky, and beasts of the field (Gen. 2:20). Adam also named the first woman as “Chava, the mother of all human life” (Gen 3:20). Subsequently, Chava carefully chose the name of her firstborn to indicate a partnership between humans and G-d in the miraculous nature of human birth. However, there is no mention of the essence of Abel’s name or why Chava (Eve) chose it. The Hebrew root of the name Hevel is Heh Vav Lamed that signifies “futility” or emptiness”, such as in the recurring refrain in the Book of Ecclesiastes that “all is vanity” (HaVeL HaVaLim). In Rabbinic usage, the root is extended to mean “breath” or “vapor” concerning the continued existence of the world being dependent on “the breath (HeVel) which is true in the context of the “breath” of G-d (Metatron/Yahshua). However, the Rabbis assign this “breath” to that of children engaged in Torah study. Messianic Jews understand that continuation of the world is dependent on the first application of HeVel” and not the second. In retrospect, these explanations of the meanings of Hevel’s name certainly constitute apt descriptions of his short and unrealized life in human perspective, but we must explore additional implications to understand the deeper meaning of the narrative.
The other introductory piece of information concerns the brothers’ vocations and their particular gifts. Here we have the most promising piece of information for unraveling the mystery of this narrative. Hevel was a shepherd; one who focused on caring for “others,” in this case, sheep. Kayin was a farmer. This distinction is required to explain the difference in their offerings. Kayin presents G-d with some of the fruits of his labor. The Torah does not say “the best” or “the first.” However, the Torah clearly states “Hevel too, brought from the firstborn of his sheep, including their fat.” (Gen. 4:4). Hevel knew there was significance to the firstborn and the fat as sacrificial offerings that we learn in later parashot.
The Torah intentionally indicates that Hevel brings his firstborn and fat of his sheep, indicating a deliberate selection of his best among the flocks. Later, in the book of B’Midbar (Numbers) (18:17), the firstborn of the flock will be designated as particularly suitable for the Cohanim, who minister before G-d at his sanctuary. The fat of the sheep sacrifice, according to the sacrificial service spelled out in the Book of Leviticus, is to be consumed on the altar as one of the components of the offering that secures G-d’s favor (3:9-11). Thus, the Torah’s emphasis on the specifics of Hevel’s offering not only implies it was precious and prized, but also indicates Kayin’s offering was mediocre before the eyes of G-d. In other words, though Kayin went through the motions of sacrificing some of his produce to G-d, it did not involve the desire to please G-d and establish a close connection with Him. Kayin’s sacrifice may be paralleled to that of legalistic, ritualistic observance of G-d’s Torah staunchly rejected by YHVH as seen in this passage, and in Isaiah, and Yahshua as G-d incarnate described in the B’rit Chadashah. Sha’ul’s teachings in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) echo those of YHVH/Yahshua on this issue. There is NEVER any question that YHVH/Yahshua expects humans to follow His Torah.
In the aftermath of G-d’s rejection of Kayin’s sacrifice, G-d offers him loving instruction in order to improve and realign his motives with G-d’s will for a close relationship with mankind. Kayin’s battle was not with Hevel; rather it was with his own evil inclination (yetzer hara). The gift of free choice/will, carries with it an enormous responsibility. We are and will be held accountable for what we know and our heart response to learning challenges. Chosen ignorance is not an excuse before G-d. Our narrative bears this out. Although G-d did not accept Kayin’s sacrifice, He points out the correct way to address/approach G-d with loving sacrifices in obedience to G-d’s instructions. G-d understands the constant battle between the good and evil inclinations that are part of every human and must be addressed through individual expression of free-will. Unfortunately, Kayin did not overcome his evil inclination, subsequently killing his brother. Worse yet, he rejects any involvement in it when confronted by G-d. Consistent with G-d’s Being, Kayin is cursed, exiled, and condemned to wander. However, G-d spares his life promising that no one would be able to find him and kill him (Gen. 4:15-16). An interesting side note is that Kayin marries and has a son named “Chanoch” who builds a city in his own name. Chanoch has children and grandchildren and other descendants over many generations. However, all of his descendants are swept away by the flood as described in next week’s parashah. This obliteration of these individuals did not eliminate the evil inclination although Kayin’s seed was no longer to be spread throughout the earth.
The story of Kayin and Hevel stresses the fundamental idea of G-d granting humans unhindered and autonomous free-will and the enormous responsibility attached to our daily choices. G-d could have stayed Kayin’s hand against Hevel, but He didn’t. At the same time, Kayin’s attempts to escape G-d’s scrutiny are revealed as futile, introducing the truth that G-d sees everything and holds man accountable for every deed. To commit murder that includes ruining one’s character in addition to premeditated murder means sure exile, infamy, and the threat of imminent death if the guilty individual does not truly repent. Even then as we learn of King David among others, we are not excused from earthly punishment even if G-d grants us mercy and forgives the sin. Man can resist even his most potent urges as G-d emphasizes in Deuteronomy 30:10-13, but if he fails, there is a way back to G-d’s presence through Yahshua. Although Yahshua is not mentioned by the Name “Yahshua” in the Old Testament, He existed from the beginning (Gen1:1). As part of the complex unity of G-d, his mercy was expressed even in the time of Kayin and Hevel. The lives of Adam, Chava, and these two brothers present a microcosm of the trials, challenges, and failures that have and will confront mankind until the end of this age. Furthermore, this narrative illustrates the hope we may take in knowing G-d wants the best for us and goes to great lengths to bring us close to His Light.
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
The haftorah opens with a statement by “the Almighty G-d, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who laid out the earth and made grow from it.” This echoes the Torah portion’s recounting of the creation of the world in six days.
G‑d speaks to the prophet Isaiah, reminding him of his life’s purpose and duty, namely that of arousing the Jewish people to return to being a light unto the nations, “To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon; those who sit in darkness out of a prison.”
The prophecy continues with a discussion regarding the Final Redemption, and the song that all of creation will sing to G-d on that day. G-d promises to punish all the nations that have persecuted Israel while they were exiled. The prophet also rebukes Israel for their errant ways, but assures them that they will return to the correct path and will be redeemed. We must remember that Israel in this context are those who are deemed to be true believers according to the seven-fold witness in the Book of Revelation. Those simply living in geographical Israel have no promise of redemption by “default.”
This narrative echoes the lesson for this week. Our purpose on this earth is to glorify G-d by being a light unto the nations. Kayin lost his opportunity because he succumbed to the evil inclinations despite G-d’s loving rebuke for Kayin’s substandard offering.
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 1:1-17; 19:3-9
Verses 1-17 provide us a wonderful precise genealogy of Yahshua HaMashiach beginning with Avraham. We know Yahshua existed with YHVH as part of the complex Echad” of G-d (Gen. 1:1), and these verses provide the earthly record of Yahshua’s ancestry as G-d incarnate. A wonderful learning exercise is to look up the names listed in these verses. Understanding the essence of the names provides those who take the time a blessed and enhanced learning experience that those who passively read them cannot enjoy.
Verses 3-9 in Chapter 19 echo G-d’s desire for man. “… the Creator made them male and female, and that he said, ‘For this reason a man should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two are to become one flesh.” On the P’shat level of exegetic study, it is clear that G-d intended the union of a man and a woman (not two men or two women). However, this statement does not say a man “will” or a man “shall” as in a command. As a side note, we can know that homosexuality is an abomination regardless of what religious leaders may say (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom, 1:26; 1 Cor. 9). However, this is not the focus of the lesson today.
On the level of Kabbalistic understanding, we see how Yahshua fulfilled this passage. We know that YHVH includes male and female attributes and that Yahshua is G-d. Accordingly, Yahshua left his “father and mother” and will be united with Israel (all true believers) who will become one flesh at the end of this age.
Verses 7-9 echo G-d’s behavior towards Israel (the nation) when they committed idolatrous acts also considered sexual immorality. G-d divorced Israel but not Judah (Is. 50:1: Jer. 3:8). According to G-d’s law, a divorced man may not remarry his ex-wife (Deut. 24:3-4). Judah remains the “wife” of G-d. Israel (all true believers) will repent by the very definition of a true believer and partaker of the covenants of Israel (Ezek. 27:27-37) and will be taken as the bride of Yahshua that does not violate any of G-d’s laws on marriage (Rev. 19:7; 21:1-9; 22:17).
Rabbi Tamah Davis