In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: A New Beginning [2022]

There are very few things in life that we, the human race can claim a new beginning. For the Jewish communities around the world, every year around this season, there is a new beginning.

We finish the cycle of reading the Torah (The Law of Moses) from beginning to end. We read a portion that is decided by a long tradition that precedes the time of Yeshua and the apostles.

Here are some examples from the New Testament:

“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’” — Acts 13:14,15 [NKJV]

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” — Acts 15:21 [NKJV]

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” — Luke 4:16-21 [NKJV]

This last Sabbath all around the world the Jews in the synagogues read the last portion of the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapters 33-34, Vezot HaBracha (“this is the blessing”). Just as soon the last reading of the scroll of the Five Books of Moses was finished, it was rolled back to the beginning of the Torah — to the book of Genesis.

And the first Torah portion of Genesis will be read this Shabbat, October 22, 2022. We have a new beginning every year where we read the last words of the Torah from Deuteronomy and immediately start over from the beginning in Genesis.

There are few things that fascinate me over and over again: how is it that the majority of Christians have developed such a negative attitude against the Torah? When we in Netivyah purchased a Torah scroll and started to read from it every Shabbat, the so-called Messianic congregations in Israel went ballistic.

There was an article written by one of the missionaries in Jerusalem that we, the members of Netivyah and the Ro’eh Israel (“Shepherd of Israel”) congregation in Jerusalem have started to worship an idol, and are guilty of idolatry, because some people kiss the Torah scroll. There was total defamation against us in Netivyah and against the Torah. Statements like “The have gone under the Torah”, “They believe that the Torah will save them!”

It was said almost unanimously against us, that we have lost the grace of God, and that we are Judiazing. These missionaries and some so-called Messianic Jews didn’t know that you can’t Judiaze a Jew.

Things got even worse when we started to keep and celebrate other biblical seasons like the Feast of Sukkot, and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). I praise the Lord that things have changed, and that now there are several Messianic congregations that have Torah scrolls, and read on Shabbat the Torah portions, and from the prophets and the New Testament, just like we have been doing for 30 years or longer.

The reading of the Torah in the congregations is so very important for the following reasons:

  1. There is an ignorance of the Torah and the Old Testament among Christians, and even among many pastors and missionaries.
  2. Very few believers in the world, including pastors, have actually read the Old Testament from the beginning to the end. When you attend a synagogue every Shabbat, you will hear the reading of the Torah and from the prophets, and connect the two readings to see the bigger picture of God’s revelation.
  3. We are Jews, the apostles were all Jews, Yeshua is the King of the Jews. Why should we worship like strangers to the Torah, the prophets, and the writings? What should we reject the very same tradition and practice of Yeshua Himself and the apostles themselves, and adopt an allergic reaction of an attitude that wants to alienate us from the very source of our faith, the Torah, and the prophets, and the writings — the Tanach!
    Yes, many of our Christian brothers in Europe and around the world have understood, repented, and are changing. There is teaching going out of Israel to the ends of the world both in person and by Zoom, and so many Christians in all seven continents are hungry to know more about the biblical traditions that were practiced by the early disciples of Yeshua in the land of Israel. Some are adopting the reading of the Torah and the practices of the early church as we read about it from the Word of God in the Gospels and epistles of the apostles.
  4. It is important for the Jewish disciples of Yeshua in Israel and around the world to show that they didn’t stop being Jewish, and that faith in Yeshua is also faith in Moses and the prophets of God in Israel, and not a rejection of the Torah and the prophets.

Now about the Torah portion of Genesis 1:1-6:8. This portion is one of the most important and fundamental texts for all believers in God and the Bible. Here are some of the key points that we all ought to adopt and understand, that the most fundamental truths on which we base our faith in God come from this first Torah portion that will be read in every synagogue around the world.

Here are the highlights that I consider fundamental for our faith in God and in Yeshua:

  1. God is above and outside of the world that He created. Just like any artist that creates a great work of art, or not-so-great work of art. The artist is the creator, and although his fingerprints are on his work, he, the artist, is outside his art, and he can create more art and more paintings. Each will have his fingerprints. He owns his work, but can exist outside of his work. He is reflected in his work, but his work will never be the totality of his existence.
  2. Like the work of every artist, God’s creation of man is unique and different from the rest of the living creatures in the world that God created. The human being has the image and the nature (characteristics) of the Creator. The human being was created with memory, imagination, and the ability to create and invent.
  3. The human has a soul and a spirit. The human soul is eternal and will be judged on the day of judgment for eternity.
  4. Like all mammals, human being have babies and procreate and have families that have responsibilities for the future preservations of their families.
  5. The human being can sin and rebel against his creator, and make decisions that are fundamentally based on the freedom to obey or disobey his Heavenly Father.

The first chapters of Genesis have in them embedded all the wonderful and all the horrible things that human history has demonstrated to be true, and all the challenges that humans face from the dawn of history to the end of this world and the creation of the New Earth and the New Heaven.

The reading of the first chapters of Genesis also has the basic Messianic principles:

  1. The victory of the Son of Man over the primeval snake:

    “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” — Genesis 3:15 [NKJV]

  2. The prediction that God can and did create a human being without a father and mother, and Adam has a genealogy:

    “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.” — Genesis 5:1,2 [NKJV]

  3. The reading of Genesis 1-6 is also a demonstration of the ability and possibility of the Creator to create and destroy the world that He created. The story of the flood is a living demonstration of that ability of the Creator to save and rebuild the world of His creation, and the destiny and future of God’s creation, of this world, is in the righteousness of God. And in the relationship of God and His creation, mankind’s righteousness or sin will decide the future of God’s creation and of this Earth.
  4. The first chapters of Genesis also reveal to all the generations of mankind that a man and a woman are the essential molecules of the survival and future of humanity. This is how God created this star called Earth, that surrounds the sun, and waits for its redemption.

The Torah portion of Genesis 1:1-6:8 has all the essential information of God’s love and God’s judgment of the world that He created. Genesis has the fall and the redemption of mankind and this Earth.

Yehuda Bachana: Who is the Servant of God? [2022]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

Today we start a new series, called “Once Upon a Week”, where we will study together the weekly Torah portion. In this series, we will dive together into the Word of God, seeking for God’s great treasures and knowledge.

Our Torah portion begins with the story of creation. In the beginning, God created… The first thing we learn about God – He is a Creator. He created the heavens and earth. There is only one Creator, who made everything – good and bad.

The text which is close to our Haftara, from Isaiah 45:7, says that God created everything, and there is no other God besides Him. He created light and darkness, good and evil.

Bible translators to different languages didn’t like the idea that it is God who created evil, so they often substitute the word “evil” with less provocative synonyms, like darkness or calamity.

However, our Bible says, that there is only one force in the universe, one force that rules over everything, and everything obeys Him. There is no war between good and evil, no additional entity that made all things bad, like evil, pain, darkness, war, or deceit.m

Everything obeys God. He is the only creative power, and there is no one else besides Him.

God created everything, He made:

“…lights in… the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years…” — Genesis 1:14

Our Torah portion also tells us that God’s power goes beyond the “present”, beyond the “now”. God is the one who created the laws of time and space, He controls these laws and is not limited by them.

The book of Joshua tells us about the miracle that happened during the battle of Joshua against the Canaanite kings of the South, during the conquest of the promised land. In the heat of the battle, Joshua asked God to make a miracle and to stop the sun:

“O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon…” — Joshua 10:13

And this is exactly what happened. The sun stopped and didn’t move an inch until Israel’s victory over its enemies.

Some commentators say, that when God stopped the sun and the moon, He stopped all other celestial bodies, so that the cosmic order would remain unchanged. Other commentators claim that the sun didn’t really stop, but rather God shined “another light” upon the children of Israel.

This is a very interesting commentary, because light was created on the first day, while the sun, the moon, and the stars were made only on the fourth day. The light of God existed before the sun and the moon.

As the book of Genesis begins with the light, the Bible ends with the light of God, shining upon the New Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Heaven. There will be no need for the sun and the moon in this kingdom, and there will be no more night, because God is Light, and He Himself will be the Light in His kingdom.

If God really shined “another light” upon the people of Israel during the miracle of the “sun over Gibeon”, then it clearly points to the Messiah, who is also light. And we will talk about the light of the Messiah later.

Let’s go back to the book of Genesis and to the story of creation. One very important word that appears many times is the word “good”. It teaches us that the entire creation of God is good and even as it is written: “very good”:

“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” — Genesis 1:31

In the first chapter we read about light that casts out darkness, we read about flowers and trees, about animals in the fields… Creation began with good, with optimism, with attraction to light.

The creation takes six days, and is completed by the end of the first chapter. Chapter 2 starts with the sanctification of the seventh day – the Sabbath. Today the meaning of the Sabbath is a source of disagreement, a controversial topic, between Jews and Christians.

Which day is holy – is it the Sabbath or Sunday? And what does the Sabbath mean for us, as Jewish believers?

Here I want to point out, that since we are Jewish, the Sabbath is important and meaningful for us. Through the Bible, keeping the Sabbath is an important commandment.

It is also mentioned several times in the New Testament. For example, in Luke 23:

“Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” — Luke 23:56

From the beginning of the creation, from the beginning of this world, Saturday (Sabbath) was a special day, a day of rest, a day that elevates our souls. It exists to remind us about the future — the “eternal sabbath” in the world to come.

In Genesis 2 we read:

“And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” — Genesis 2:3

Today, Saturday (the Sabbath) is the holy day of Israel, but God gave the Sabbath to all mankind, to the entire creation long before Abraham and Judaism. He actually gave the Sabbath to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall, before sin.

Moving on to the middle of chapter 2, there hides a small verse, verse 15, that is essential to our understanding of who we are. It deals with the most important questions of human existence: who am I, why did I come to be, what is my purpose in life?

“And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” — Genesis 2:15

God placed us in the center of His creation, to keep and to maintain it. Our purpose in this world is to be “servants” and “gardeners” — maintenance workers, who take care of God’s creation.

That’s why God made us in His own image. From this we learn that God created us with tremendous abilities. Abilities to adapt, to invent, to calculate and even create. God created us in such a way, that we can be worthy servants of His amazing creation.

As we continue to read, we get to the prohibition to eat from the tree of knowledge, to the fall and the sin of the first man.

We fell from the grace of God, we were cast out from the Garden of Eden, from the kingdom of God. And we as people, as mankind, continue to fall away, continue to drift apart from God. And as we drift away, we develop hard feelings of hate, fear, and disappointment.

We often feel jealous, insignificant or helpless, but all of it is based on our selfishness, on our inner fears, on “me” always being in the center of things, we often think: “what will it do for me, why not me, or where am I in the picture?”

Our actions today are still controlled by the same selfish attitude and jealousy, that led to the first murder, when Cain killed his brother Abel.

The Torah portion ends in a harsh tone, as human abilities, talents, and creativity turn towards evil.

Here I want to make a pause and look into our Haftara – Isaiah 42, although the traditional reading starts from verse 5, I would like to look at the beginning of chapter 42 — the song of the “Servant of God”. The motif of “the Servant of God” is very central in the Bible and many commentators have written about it.

Judaism and Christianity disagree about the identity of this Servant. According to the Christian point of view – the Servant of God is Yeshua the Messiah, which is especially clear in Isaiah 53. In the Gospel of Mathew, chapter 12, Yeshua the Messiah is called the Servant of God as a quotation from Isaiah.

Judaism, on the other side, sees mostly the anonymous descriptions of the “Servant of God” as speaking about Israel as a collective, as some texts call Israel and Jacob “God’s Servant”, like in Isaiah 49 and chapter 44. But it doesn’t always fit the text grammatically, so it is more likely that sometimes the “Servant of the Lord” is Israel, and sometimes — the Messiah.

The Haftara connects to our Torah portion, as both speak about God as the Creator of everything. He created this world, mankind, and the nation of Israel, and the purpose of the “Servant of the Lord” is to be the light to the nations and to bring humanity closer to God.

The Haftara ends (according to Sephardic tradition) with verse 21:

“It pleased the Lord, for the sake of his righteousness, to make his law great and glorious.” — Isaiah 42:21

The world has to learn about God. The traditional understanding is that Israel, the Servant of the Lord, is called to teach the Word of God to the entire world.

As Messianic Jews, we see Yeshua in these verses, because Yeshua fulfilled this calling. The Bible is translated into every language and is spread to all the countries in the world, all of it is in the name of Yeshua the Messiah. It is because of Yeshua our world knows God and knows His Word and His Will.

The connection between the Torah portion and the New Testament is especially clear in John chapter 1: “In the beginning was the Word”. The wording of this passage reminds us of the dramatic opening of the Bible. We believe that God created the world through His word – He spoke and it came to be.

In the beginning light was created by the first word, and the main focus of the first chapter of John is light, the light that defeats the darkness. The same way as the light brings order into the world and ends the chaos, John also speaks about the light that can’t be defeated by darkness.

Light is the symbol of good, light represents wisdom, happiness, spirituality and holiness. Isaiah, In his famous prophesy about the last days (chapter 2), prophesied that nations from all over the world will come up to Jerusalem to hear and to learn about God:

“For the Torah will come out of Zion, the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem…” — Isaiah 2:3

And immediately after that, the house of Jacob is asked to walk in the light of God:

“Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord” — Isaiah 2:5

Who is this Light of the World? Yeshua said:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” — John 8:12

This text connects us to the Haftara from Isaiah 42:6:

“I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles”. — Isaiah 42:6

In the first chapter John witnesses that Yeshua is that light. He is God’s answer of redemption.

He is that light, promised to us all through the Scriptures, for example in Psalms 56:14:

“For you rescued me from death, you kept my feet from stumbling, so that I can walk in God’s presence, in the light of life.” — Psalms 56:14

Yeshua is the “Light of Life”.

Shabbat Shalom.

Joseph Shulam: The Foundational Text of the Bible [2021]

There are very few nations and cultures and religious groups that have a real new beginning, every year. Jews that observe tradition have a true new beginning every year.

No, I am not talking about New Year, nor Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish traditional new year. I am talking about starting over reading the Bible in public in every synagogue!

On the last day of the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles), all around the world in every Jewish (or Messianic Jewish) synagogue, we read the last chapters of the book of Deuteronomy and roll the scroll back to the beginning and read the first chapter of Genesis.

This Shabbat we return to read the portion of Genesis in the Torah, and Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10, and the Gospel of John 1:1-15.

This practice we can find in the New Testament several times. Yeshua comes to his hometown Nazareth and He is honored by the community to read from the prophets from Isaiah chapter 61:

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:16 [NKJV]

This honor is given to respected members of the community and usually to someone who has a birthday on that week. The apostles recommend for our non-Jewish brothers in the community to go to the synagogues every Shabbat in order to hear “Moses being read”:

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 15:21 [NKJV]

People didn’t have bibles in their pockets or on their phones like today. Even a part of the Bible, like the five books of Moses, the Torah, was rare to have, even in normal synagogues. We read about the apostle Paul who traveled through Asia Minor and Greece, and every Shabbat went to a synagogue, and often was invited to read from the Torah and to preach.

This phenomenon is totally ignored by most Christians. One of the most serious problems with my Christian brothers and sisters is that they are not being taught by their churches to ask intelligent questions from the scriptures.

Intelligent and difficult questions from the Bible are not encouraged. How is it that the apostle Paul, for whom it didn’t take long after arriving in a town to go on Shabbat to the local synagogue, immediately get invited to read from the Torah and to preach?

If Paul were a typical 20th Century Christian, a stranger in town, and he walked into the local synagogue wearing a small golden cross on his chest, and having the smell of bacon from his breakfast, do you think that those Jews would invite him to come up and read from the Torah and to teach?

And after the reading of the Law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying,

“Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” – Acts 13:15 [NKJV]

We find a specially interesting story in Acts 17:10-15,

“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.” – Acts 17:10–15 [NKJV]

This Shabbat we are going to start again reading from Genesis. The most important and foundational text of the whole Bible is Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning Elohim (God) created the Heavens and the Earth!”

In Hebrew this verse has seven words! I don’t think that the Bible starts with seven words accidentally and these seven words are the most important word of God in the whole Bible.

Just think about it! In the Hebrew Bible the phrase: “God of Israel” appears 203 times.

This God, who has chosen Abraham and his seed to be the instrument that will eradicate idolatry from the world, that will spread the knowledge of God to the ends of the Earth, they will teach mankind to love one another, to respect the blind, and deaf, just the same as the powerful and rich – it is the God who created the heavens and the Earth!

Here some of the implications that Genesis chapter 1:1 teaches and confirms:

  1. This world was created by a God that is a spirit and truth. He has no image, nor does He need temples and monuments and statues to represent Him.
  2. Everything in our world, from the smallest to the greatest, was created and exists because the Creator designed it and planned it and wanted it and needed to have it exist in His world.
  3. The Creator created not only our small planet Earth, but our whole universe (solar system). This means that our God is much much bigger than we, small humans, can even imagine! The creation of our world and of us, as human beings, children of Adam and Eve, are created of one blood!

    “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings…” – Acts 17:26 [NKJV]

    There is no end to the importance of this text for our world. If Christians would have believed this word of the Holy Spirit – there would have been no racism, no anti-Semitism, no abuse of one race against another, and above all, our life in this world would be so much more pleasant and brotherly.

  4. If God didn’t create our world and everything in it, there must be another creator, or our world, and we ourselves, are nothing more than a cosmic accident. If we are only a cosmic accident, all morality, civility, justice, right and wrong, civil rights, become totally irrelevant! We are worse than a jungle. The jungle has rules and principles, and even the animal kingdom has respect and wisdom among the animals.

Genesis 1:1 is the most important and foundational text in the whole Bible! The most important thing that this text teaches us is that God is not a part of nature like all the idolaters hold, but above and outside of nature!

Just like any creator or artist the artist made the picture. He is the owner and creator of the picture, but he is outside of the picture, although His signature and finger prints are on His creation.

The entire Bible would be totally meaningless without Genesis 1:1, and even until now it is the most difficult verse to really understand and digest. Keep meditating on this verse it will help you pass this life with faith and special strength. Start reading your Bible from Genesis 1:1 all the way to the end.

Joseph Shulam: The Most Important Torah Reading of All [2020]

The reading this Shabbat is probably the most important Torah reading of all! We will be restarting the Torah portions from Genesis. Genesis is the most important part of the Bible.

You might say, “Joe, why are you saying that the first chapters of Genesis are the most important chapters of the whole, Bible? The reason is simple: Everything that we know and everything that we have in this ball floating in the vast expanse of endless space called the Universe – is based on Genesis.

Now, in the last few years one of the most disturbing things about Christian Universities in the USA and in Europe is that Bible departments and Bible professors are casting a shadow on the veracity of the account of Genesis as truth.

It makes me very sad! The reason that it makes me very sad is that I know what these wonderful and good men have studied in the best universities in the West! I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the early 1960’s and in the 1970’s and in the 1980’s.

In those years some of the top Jewish Bible scholars at least in the Jewish world, were my teachers and I don’t remember any of my teachers as doubting the stories of the creation and the story of the flood having true historical or para-historical roots.

The reason why some of the scholars in the “wild West” doubt the story of Genesis is because there are several Mesopotamian “myths” of creation that pre-date Abraham and Moses. The claim is that the writer (writers) of Genesis was deeply influenced by those older Mesopotamian myths of creation.

It is interesting that my teachers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem used this same argument to prove the exact opposite. Because of the existence of:

  • Enûma Eliš the Babylonian creation myth, discovered by the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849 in the ruins of the Ashurbanipal library at Nineveh (Mosul, Kurdistan).
  • The Sumerian creation myth, called The Eridu Genesis by historian Thorkild Jacobsen, is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur by the Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. The date of this Sumerian myth is estimated to date to around the 17th century BC. The first part of the story is lost, but the flood story is there with many connections with the Genesis flood story.
  • The Ancient Korean shamanic creation narrative. With the following order of creation:
    • Splitting of heaven and earth
    • Giant creator
    • Nature of the early universe
    • Flower contest and the root of evil
    • Doubled sun and moon
  • Kumulipo. The Hawaiian creation myth in the form of chants, and poetry. First discovered by western scholars in the 18th Century. Please note the connecting points with both the Babylonian and the Sumerian and the Genesis account:
    • At the time that turned the heat of the earth,
    • At the time when the heavens turned and changed,
    • At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
    • To cause light to break forth,
    • At the time of the night of Makaliʻi (winter)
    • Then began the slime which established the earth,
    • The source of deepest darkness, of the depth of darkness,
    • The source of night, of the depth of night
    • Of the depth of darkness,
    • Of the darkness of the sun in the depth of night,
    • Night is come,
    • Born is Night

Kalevala is a 19th-century Finnish epic poem compiled from Finnish oral folklore and mythology, telling the story about the creation of the Earth, describing the wars and the voyages of the heroes from Kalevala and Pohjola.

First Väinämöinen Cycle

Verse 1–2, The poem begins with an introduction by the singers. The Earth is created from the shards of the egg of a goldeneye and the first man Väinämöinen is born to the goddess Ilmatar. Väinämöinen brings trees and life to the barren world.

Verse 3–5, Väinämöinen encounters the jealous Joukahainen and they engage in a battle of song. Joukahainen loses and pledges his sister’s hand in return for his life; the sister Aino soon drowns herself in the sea.

Verse 6–10: Väinämöinen heads to Pohjola to propose to a maiden of the north, a daughter of the mistress of the north, Louhi. Joukahainen attacks Väinämöinen again, and Väinämöinen floats for days on the sea until he is carried by an eagle to Pohjola. He makes a deal with Louhi to get Ilmarinen the smith to create the Sampo. Ilmarinen refuses to go to Pohjola so Väinämöinen forces him against his will. The Sampo is forged. Ilmarinen returns without a bride.

I could bring at least another dozen creation myths from the North American Indians, and the South American Indians and from India and Africa and ancient Egypt…

The interesting thing about all these myths is that they all have some common elements.

  1. The Earth was created.
  2. Nature was created.
  3. Man was created.
  4. Man looks for a woman companion.
  5. There is war between the land and the ocean, between earth and water.

The connections and elements vary, who created this earth differs, from many gods to two gods that war with each other, but one wins in the end.

What does this variety of creation stories prove! Does it prove that the Earth doesn’t exist? Does it prove that the Earth is a myth? Does it prove that the Earth is a cosmic accident that just happened to happen? Does it prove that there is no God who created and planned and engineered every aspect of this Earth and the Universe?

No! The multiplicity of creation stories that span the whole earth, from the islands in the Pacific Ocean to the frozen North Pole above Finland, and the Maori culture of New Zealand, only proves the following points:

  1. Humans need to know and be reassured that they are not a cosmic accident. That human existence is a planned and organized event that has reason and purpose far above our basic animal nature that we hold in common with all mammals. This is a very important point. All mammals have most of their nature in common.
    • We human beings, along with lions, tigers, dogs, rats, elephants, and even the dolphins in the ocean, who are mammals, share the fingerprints of the same artist that designed us all.
    • We human beings, although different in the color of our skin and the kind of hair we have, all have the same capacity and imaginative faculty, the ability to imagine and invent and produce and fabricate new elements, art, music, and now even AI.
    • We as humans have from the dawn of history the faith and knowledge that our lives don’t end with our death. This is a very important point. The earliest archaeological finds from the dawn of history indicate that those who buried their dead, believed in an afterlife. They buried their dead in ossuaries shaped like their homes. They placed articles of food with their burials, they laid down the weapons of the dead next to their dead bodies etc.
    • Worship of what was considered divine powers or what was considered “super-natural” was as early as the invention of fire.

I could go on and on, on this issue, but it is time to draw conclusions:

  1. The Bible is true and it will stand any scrutiny of logic and reason and evidence to prove that it reflects the assertion that this world is an intelligent creation of an intelligent creator.
  2. The idea that this world is millions of years old does not negate the biblical story. The biblical narrative does not give or attempt to inform us of the age of this world. What some Christians and some Jews believe about the age of this world is pure human assumption, and vain calculation. If the word of God clearly stated the date for the beginning of this world, I would embrace it fully without question, but since it does not state a date only a process that the Creator and His Son followed in the creation of Heaven and Earth, I have no argument regarding the age of this star that we live on called by we humans “Earth.”
  3. The one father and creator of this Earth so loved His creation that He sent His Son, the only begotten by the Father of all mankind, as redeemer and savior of the world, and by His death He bequeathed us life eternal.

I will have to continue this discussion at a later occasion, but for now let us all celebrate the beginning of our planet and our God who loves us and all His creation, and prepare for the end. Because it is an axiomatic truth that everything that has a beginning also has an end. Since we believe that there was a time when this Earth didn’t exist and that it has a beginning, we also must believe that with every day that passes we are approaching the end of our universe.

This is the story of the whole Bible – it has a beginning and it has an end. Everything is pre-planned and complete – We all hope for the best and prepare for the worst! Spread the seed of life today so that you might inherit the fruit of an eternal life tomorrow.

Joseph Shulam: The Lord Can Use Those Who Seek to Walk With Him [2019]

We are starting all over from the very beginning. The reading this next Shabbat is from Genesis 1:1 – 6:8. This is the most glorious story of the entire Bible, and also the saddest of all biblical stories, of all human history.

Everything starts good, every day the Almighty God creates something new, and every day He, the Lord of all, gives Himself a grade: It was morning, and it was evening, and it is all good. Even on the day when He created the creeping and crawling varmints and snakes, the Lord saw His creation and declared that it is good.

The crown of the Lord’s creation was the human being. It was the last thing that God created. Man and woman He created them! The human species was in the highest state above all the animal kingdom.

God gave the humans the right to rule the earth and take care of it. If you ask me how do I know that, my answer would be very simple. Whoever gives the name, whoever attributes the identity of any thing, is the master of the thing or the being that He names. The control of the identity is also the control of the person or thing that he named.

So, when God appointed the human being to give the names of the animals, God gave the human being the right to catalogue and to rule over the animal kingdom, over nature. The most important phrase of the story of Genesis is from 2:15.

The man is not indigenous to the garden. He is fashioned elsewhere, and finds himself in the garden only by the grace of God. It is very important for us to realize that the human being is not like the trees or flowers of the garden, and not like the animals. He is put there by God’s grace to work, to till, and to guard God’s creation and give the names, that is, to rule over God’s creation.

Yes, his needs are easily taken care of in the garden, but his life in the garden is not to be one lazy lifestyle. He has duties to perform. It is his responsibility to nurture and conserve the perfection of the garden.

This he must do by the labor of his hands. This is before man and woman sinned and disobeyed the Lord’s command. The design of the Lord was for man to administer and protect God’s creation. He was not to exert power over the creation, but he was to respond to nature’s needs with intelligent and wise guidance, so that it will be preserved and develop according to the original design of the Creator Himself. The Hebrew phrase in that verse of Genesis is “la’avda v’leshmara”, “to work (or serve) it and protect it”.

The end of this parasha of Genesis is verse 6:8. From that great divine appointment of the beginning of mankind’s design, and the close relationship of the men of flesh and blood in God’s domain, mankind has deteriorated and fallen to the point that God repents that He created man!

One of the saddest verses in the whole Bible is from Genesis 6:5,6:

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” – Genesis 6:5,6 [NKJV]

The Hebrew word for “sorry” is “nacham”, which actually means “repent”. I have heard of parents that regretted giving birth to their child, and saying that it would have been better if they would have aborted this child before he was born. This is a sad state of a family. When a father or a mother rejects their child and wishes he was not born is bad enough, but when God, who created all things and crowned man above all of His creation, “repents” that He created man, that is much more than sad.

Here is the great love and grace of the Creator for His creation, and above all, for the man and woman that He created. Even though God was sorry that He created the humans, He found one man, who was not perfect, who had weaknesses and had problems, but relative to his generation, he was a righteous man – Noah!

Notice the small word between verses 7 and 8, and pay attention to the importance of one man in the way that the Lord of the universe makes His decisions. Don’t underestimate yourself and allow your meekness and weakness to block you from doing God’s will:

“So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” – Genesis 6:7,8 [NKJV]

Verse 9 is also of great importance to me:

“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” – Genesis 6:9 [NKJV]

The “just” here is also “righteous” in Hebrew. The rabbis say that if Noah had lived in a different time (generation), he might have not been considered just or righteous, but in that evil generation he was relatively just and righteous.

Noah Building the Ark (Dalziels' Bible Gallery) | Parashat Bereshit
Noah Building the Ark (Dalziels’ Bible Gallery) 1881

How comforting and how wonderful is our Lord, who judges us on the bell curve, and relative to the time and place and the world we live in. This does not give us permission to do wrong, but it does say to us, and especially to me, that as long as I walk with the Lord, even in my weakness, and even if I fall, I can get up and keep on walking, holding on to the Lord’s gentle hand.

The Lord can use me, and you, and us, and all our brothers and sisters who seek to walk with the Lord and do it!

Joseph Shulam: A Comparison Between Divine and Pagan Creation Stories  [2016]

This next Shabbat, all the synagogues in the world will start reading the Torah from Genesis 1:1. They will read the story of creation. In some Christian circles, the story of creation is under attack. It is not considered “historical”, it is considered as an ancient epic poem not to be taken literally.

One of the reasons that some scholars have this opinion is that there are two ancient epic poems that precede Moses, and both of them have creation narratives. I would like to share a short comparison of the Genesis text with the Enuma Elish (Enûma Eliš), a Babylonian narrative of the creation story, and give you my analysis:

Enuma ElishGenesis
Divine spirit and cosmic matter are coexistent and coeternal.Divine One creates cosmic matter and exists independently of it.
Primeval chaos; Tiʾamat (the goddess of the abyss) enveloped in darkness.The earth a desolate waste, with darkness covering the deep (tĕhōm).
Light emanating from the gods.Light created.
The creation of the firmament.The creation of the firmament.
The creation of dry land.The creation of dry land.
The creation of luminaries.The creation of luminaries.
The creation of man.The creation of man.
The gods rest and celebrate.God rests and sanctifies the seventh day.

The Genesis text is dependent on (or has taken or learned from) the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian story of creation).First of all, we clearly see the similarity between these two texts. Second, we also see the differences. In the Genesis account we see that there is One creator divine Spirit. Because of the similarities, we have at least three possible explanations:

  1. The Enuma Elish and the Genesis texts are dependent on a third source that we don’t know and don’t have. Both of the stories are dependent on a common source that does not exist today.
  2. Each one has developed the narrative of creation by observance and analysis independently.

In this puzzle, all the possibilities are open. The most significant part of these texts is that both of them consider that the luminaries, the sun and the moon and the stars, were not created in the initial stage, but first there was a light from God, in Genesis, and from “the gods” in the Enuma Elish.

In other words, there is information here that is beyond the scope of natural observance. There is an element that is beyond the common knowledge and understanding that speaks of an undefined source of light that is divine, either by one God or by multiple gods of the idolatrous world.

Now let us remember, that in the book of Genesis, there were no idols and no nations in existence before chapter 11, and all of humanity spoke the same language. Among the nations (“goyim”) there must be a latent memory and information that is carried over as an epic of creation, that preserves ancient elements and reinterprets these elements in light of their present circumstance, that is idolatrous.

What we have here, in my opinion, is collaborative information from an ancient historical memory, transmitted in the pagan context of the nations, and reinterpreted in the idolatrous context of their history. What we have in Genesis is not a part of that historical ancient memory, because Israel was not a nation and did not exist before the Tower of Babel.

Abraham is called out by the Almighty God in chapter 12, after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the establishment of the nations. Therefore the story of Genesis is a divine revelation and not an epic poem based on a copy of the ancient Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, or the ancient Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, that also has some common elements of historical memory.

The most significant difference is that the Divine One is independent of His creation. He created the world, and all that is in it, and He is still outside of the creation and above it. In the pagan view, the gods are a part of creation, and a part of matter, and coexistent with creation. This difference is of the greatest importance, because we have a wonderful creation that the Almighty God made for us as human beings, and He is above and beyond the physical creation.

I remember the words of the Apostle Paul that actually says it all:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23 [NKJV]