I know that many of those who read my articles each week are not Jewish and may not be familiar with Jewish customs and synagogue services. With that in mind, and to lay the foundation for what will come later in this article, let me begin this article by explaining one Parsha (portion) of a traditional synagogue service.
The Torah (the first five books of the Bible) is divided into weekly portions. Each individual portion has a title or name and one portion is read each week of the year so that the entire Torah is read in a continuous cycle year after year. We actually have a celebration called Simchat Torah (The Joy of the Torah) that is celebrated each fall at the end of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
On this day, the last Parsha of the Torah is read, and immediately the scroll is rolled back to the beginning, and the first Parsha is started again. In this way, we never finish reading the Torah; we always continue to read.
One of the last Parshot (portions) read in the cycle is Parsha Shoftim (Judges). This section is read during the month of Elul, which precedes the month Tishri, which includes Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets), more popularly referred to today as Rosh HaShanah (New Year's) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It is during this month that those who observe Judaism spend time in reflection and repentance in preparation for the annual times of judgment.
I urge you to please keep reading despite all the detail because if you continue, you will be blessed by how amazing G-D's plan really is and how His message was preserved in many ways so that people who look can find Him.
So, in continuing to lay the groundwork, the month before Elul is the month of Av and during the month of Av are the first of seven Parashot of consolation. The first Parsha in this group of seven Parshot is Vaetchanan, which means a "plea for an undeserved gift," or grace. The second Parsha, Eikev ("heel"—think of feeling like a heel) speaks of Israel feeling "forsaken and forgotten" because they have fallen away from G-D.
The third is Parsha Re'eh. The word re'eh means "see," and this Parsha takes Israel from feeling forsaken and forgotten to having their eyes opened to see that even though they have strayed from Him, He has never forsaken or forgotten them.
The fourth Parsha, Parsha Shoftim, is the one I want to focus on in this article because it is central to understanding the seven Parshot of consolation. It is one of the strongest reasons in the Torah that Jewish people should believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah of Israel. Throughout Scripture, G-D uses the pattern of the numeral 7 to show us His perfection and perfect plan.
One example is the very first sentence of the Bible in Hebrew. It consists of seven words. The fourth, the middle word, is made up of two letters, the Aleph and Tav. These two letters happen to be the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, or the beginning and the ending. When Yeshua said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," it was a reference to this fourth word in the book of Genesis. This understanding is also expressed in John 1:1 and 1:14:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
"And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14, TLV).
This fourth of seven, or middle concept, is also shown in the seven branch menorah that we read about in Isaiah and Revelation.
The narrative laid out in the three preceding Parshot is that Israel pled for grace because they felt forsaken and forgotten, and then G-D let them see. So, what were they supposed to see?
This is what we come to in Parsha Shoftim, found in Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. Parsha Shoftim begins with the establishment of unbiased judges and as it sets priests in the role of advisers, it establishes a plan for the time when Israel would demand a king and sets up cities of refuge. All of these are established within this one Parsha. Each one is important as Israel becomes a nation, but none of these civil constructs continues on the theme of consolation.
However, within this list of laws establishing governmental and judicial organization, we come to Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18:18:
""Adonai your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your midst—from your brothers. To him you must listen" (Deut. 18:15).
"I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him" (Deut. 18:18).
Right in the middle of establishing the role of judges, priests, kings and places of refuge, G-D makes this amazing prophetic promise. He would fulfill all of these roles in one person, Yeshua the Messiah—our judge, our King, our priest and our refuge.
So, we find Israel desiring grace, feeling forsaken and forgotten; G-D opening their eyes to see; and within the next Parsha, for those who have eyes to see it, the promise of Yeshua. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him.
This is the message G-D is still speaking to the Jewish people today. I know you need grace. I know you feel forsaken and forgotten. Open your eyes and see my Yeshua (which in Hebrew means salvation)!
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer, Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians and Galatians in Context.
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