WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING
Torah Portion: Parashat Vayigash (“and he drew near”)
Shabbat: Dec. 31, 2022 / Telvet 7, 5783
Torah: Gen. 44:18 – 47:27
Prophets: Ezek. 37:15-28
New Covenant: Matt. 1:18-25 ; Luke 2:1-21 ; Phil 2:5-11
TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”. Deut. 6:4-5
In this week's Torah portion (i.e., Vayigash) we read about Joseph's dramatic revelation of his identity to his long lost brothers. Recall that Benjamin had been falsely accused of stealing the Viceroy's chalice and was arrested and brought before Joseph for immediate judgment. Judah then "drew near" (vayigash) and offered to bear the penalty for his brother, pleading with Joseph to spare his aged father the loss of yet another son. Joseph was so moved by Judah's act of mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice) that he decided the time had finally come for him to reveal his identity to his brothers. After clearing the room, he began speaking in Hebrew and said, אֲנִי יוֹסֵף הַעוֹד אָבִי חָי / ani Yosef, ha'od avi chai / "I am Joseph; is my father alive?" When the brothers drew back in dismay, Joseph said, "Draw near to me, please" (from the same verb nagash) and explained how God providentially brought him to Egypt to save the family's life....
The revelation of Joseph and his reconciliation with his brothers is a prophetic picture of the acharit hayamim (end of days) when the Jewish people will come to understand that Yeshua is indeed the One seated at the right hand of the majesty on high as Israel's Deliverer. At that time Yeshua will speak comforting words to His long lost brothers and restore their place of blessing upon the earth. Indeed, the entire story of Joseph is rich in prophetic insight regarding our Lord and Savior. Vayigash (וַיִּגַּשׁ) means "and he drew near," referring first to Judah's intercession for the sins of his brothers, and then to Joseph's reciprocal desire for the brothers to draw near to him (Gen. 44:18, 45:4). Joseph initiated the reconciliation by saying, גְּשׁוּ־נָא אֵלַי / g'shu na elai - "Please draw near to me," and indeed there is a play on the verb nagash (נָגַשׁ), "draw near," throughout this story. Yeshua is depicted both in Judah's intercession (as the greater Son of Judah who interceded on behalf of the sins of Israel) and in Joseph's role as the exalted Savior of the Jewish people in time of tribulation. When Joseph disclosed himself and asked, "Is my father alive," we hear Yeshua evoking the confession of faith from the Jewish people: "I am Yeshua: do you now understand that My Father is alive?" Upon His coming revelation, all Israel will confess that indeed God the Father is "alive" and has vindicated the glory of His beloved Son our Savior. Amen, maran ata.
About the Secular New Year...
In most countries of the world, "New Year's Day" is usually celebrated on January 1st, though this date comes from the arbitrary decree of the consuls of ancient (and pagan) Rome -- certainly not from anything taught in the Torah and the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, some Christian churches plan their own celebrations, offering a religious service to make resolutions and to offer up special prayers. (Because it falls eight days after December 25th, some Roman-influenced churches observe this date as the "Festival of Christ's Circumcision.") Many mainline churches plan "midnight" communion services so that the sacraments could be taken just before the start of the "new year." Now while all this might be encouraging and helpful on some level, it needs to be stressed that the civil New Year that the world celebrates is not a Biblical holiday at all, and in fact is contrary to the Biblical Calendar that was revealed in the Torah and Scriptures.
According to Torah, there are two mirroring "New Years" observed during the year (see diagram above). The first occurs two weeks before Passover (Nisan 1) and the second occurs ten days before Yom Kippur (Tishri 1). The first is called Rosh Chodashim (see Exod. 12:2), which commemorates the month of the redemption of the Jewish people (i.e., the month Yeshua was sacrificed for our sins), whereas the second is called Yom Teru'ah that is associated with the "Feast of Ingathering" at the "end of the year" (Exod. 23:16, 34:22). Later Yom Terua'h became known as Rosh Hashanah ("the head of the year") which began a ten-day "trial" of humanity climaxing on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Note: The two "new years" of the Jewish calendar mirror each other and reveal the two advents of Messiah. For more on the secular New Year and its relationship to the calendar of Torah, see the page, "The Gregorian Calendar and Pagan Assumptions."
The Fast of Tevet...
Tuesday, January 3rd at sunrise is Asarah B'Tevet ("the Tenth of Tevet"), traditionally recognized as day of mourning for the loss of the Jewish Temple (Bet Ha-mikdash). Orthodox Jews will fast from sunrise to sunset to commemorate the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon (in 587 BC) -- an event that eventually led to the destruction of the First Temple and the 70-year Babylonian Exile of the Jewish people. In Israel, Asarah B'Tevet also marks the day Kaddish (memorial prayer) is recited for people whose date or place of death is unknown. This has resulted in a day of mourning for the many Jews who perished during the Holocaust (in addition to the formal commemoration of Yom HaShoah). Synagogue services normally include prayers of repentance (selichot) and the Torah portion recalls the story of the idolatry of the Golden Calf (i.e., Exod. 32:11-34:10).