Tag Archive | Adam

Fox Byte 5775 #42-43: Mattot (Tribes); Massei (Stages)

מַּטּוֹת / מַסְעֵי

The Princes in the Tower. John Everett Millais, depicts the young King Edward V of England and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, two royal sons allegedly murdered by order of their uncle, King Richard III, who sought to deprive them of their rightful inheritance and claim the throne of England for himself.

The Princes in the Tower. by John Everett Millais, depicts the young King Edward V of England and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, two royal sons allegedly murdered by order of their uncle, King Richard III, who sought to deprive them of their rightful inheritance and claim the throne of England for himself.

William Shakespeare has such as way with murder.  With so many characters meeting violent death in his plays it would seem that he regarded murder as an essential part of good drama.  Richard III is an excellent example.  When my daughter studied the play in school, she and her fellow students kept a “body count” of the many characters who died over the course of Richard’s rise to power.  Shakespeare’s preoccupation with murder may have been the product of the violent world in which he lived, and indeed England in the 16th century was a violent place, yet we need only look at the headlines of events in our own cities to realize that our world is no less violent than Shakespeare’s.  If the Bard had no qualms about employing murder as a plot device, it was because his art imitated life.  Richard III was a historical play based on events that shook the British Isles just one hundred years earlier.  The play’s popularity derived in part from the horrendous nature of Richard’s quest for power, extending even to allegations that in 1483 he ordered the deaths of his two nephews, the 12-year-old King Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York.  Their uncles’ guilt has never been proven, but it is plausible that he removed them so they would not stand in the way of his quest to seize the throne of their father, the late Edward IV.

Richard III is not the only Shakespearian villain to usurp a throne and seize the inheritance of a rightful heir.  Two others that come to mind are MacBeth of Scotland and Claudius of Denmark.  Although not historical plays, MacBeth and Hamlet have roots in actual events.  The central action of MacBeth occurs when the warrior of that name murders King Duncan of Scotland.  Duncan’s sons, fearing they will be blamed for the murder, flee the country, allowing Macbeth to take the throne.  In Hamlet, we do not see the murder of Denmark’s king; when the play opens his brother Claudius has already seized the throne by killing him and marrying his queen.  The plot follows Prince Hamlet as he learns the truth of his father’s death and his uncle’s guilt. 

As was necessary for Richard III, MacBeth and Claudius must deal with the heirs to the murdered kings.  MacBeth prepares to defend Scotland against the exiled princes Malcolm and Donalbain, and Claudius concocts a plot to have Hamlet killed in a duel by an opponent wielding a poisoned blade.  In the end all three villains meet violent deaths.  Richard and MacBeth fall in battle as their own countrymen rise in revolt against them, and Claudius is slain by Hamlet himself just before the young prince dies.

Shakespeare’s works have remained popular for over 400 years because they really do imitate life, even to a disturbing degree.  In these plays we see that an inheritance is not secure even if there are sons ready to claim their fathers’ legacy.  What worse things might the villains have done had there been no sons and heirs?  Who would ensure that the bereaved family retained their place in the nation?  That very question prompted the tribe of Manasseh to ask Moses for guarantees not only for their brethren who had no sons, but for the entire tribe’s legacy in the Promised Land.

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Fox Byte 5775 #40: Balak

בָּלָק

General George S. Patton, Jr., one of America's greatest - and most flawed - military leaders.  (Photo:  US National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons)

General George S. Patton, Jr., one of America’s greatest – and most flawed – military leaders. (Photo: US National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons)

The great military leaders of World War II include nine who attained the highest rank awarded by the United States of America.  Those five-star leaders are Generals of the Army George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley; Fleet Admirals William D. Leahy, Ernest King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William Halsey, Jr.; and General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold.  Each man accomplished great things for his nation, and all deserved the honors bestowed on them, yet some students of history would say there is a name missing from the list.  Where is George S. Patton, Jr.?

Patton died too soon, losing his life as the result of an automobile accident in December 1945.  Had he lived he might eventually have become a five-star general.  Might, that is, had he been able to refrain from the controversy that followed him throughout his very public military career.  By the time World War II erupted he had proven his worth at home and abroad, including combat operations in Mexico and France.  Less than a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Patton commanded the only all-American force in Operation Torch, the Allied landings on North Africa in November 1942.  His Western Task Force conducted the longest amphibious operation in history, sailing from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to the shores of French Morocco.  From there he went on to a stunning series of battlefield successes in Tunisia, Sicily, France, and Germany.

Along with Patton’s skilled leadership came his shortcomings:  a volatile temper, and a tendency to speak indiscreetly.  Twice in Sicily he encountered soldiers suffering from battle fatigue; both times he slapped them and accused them of cowardice.  For that he was reprimanded and kept from a field command for nearly a year.  When he returned to combat in command of the Third Army, he engineered the breakout from the Normandy beachhead and raced across France at astonishing speed.  December 1944 witnessed his greatest battlefield accomplishment:  the relief of Bastogne at the height of the Battle of the Bulge.  Patton’s troops remained on the offensive thereafter, advancing across Germany and into Czechoslovakia.  After the war, as an occupation commander, he continued to generate controversy by retaining former Nazi Party members in positions of authority in the belief that they were best qualified to restore and run Germany’s shattered infrastructure.  While he had good reason, Patton chose to defend his decision by saying that membership in the Nazi Party in Germany was no different than membership in the Democratic or Republican parties in the United States.  His remarks came at the time when the heinous crimes of the Third Reich were becoming public knowledge.  As a result, he was relieved of command of Third Army and assigned to the less prestigious post he occupied at the time of his death.

As with all people it is impossible to separate Patton’s strengths from his weaknesses.  Patton could “read” an enemy, understanding not only his opponent’s capabilities, but also his state of mind.  That ability made him one of the greatest battlefield commanders of modern warfare.  What kept him from true greatness was his inability to control himself – or, more accurately, what came out of his mouth.  In that sense George Patton was very much like Balaam, a man who aspired to greatness, but whose inability to match his words with his deeds ensured that he would never attain it.

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Fox Byte 5775 #39: Chukat (Decree Of)

חֻקַּת

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid.  (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid. (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Is it possible to be a hero without paying a price?  A hero is one who does something worthy of esteem on behalf of someone else, and that requires sacrifice.  Sometimes it requires the sacrifice of a life, and sometimes merely the sacrifice of time and attention.  Sometimes heroes save nations, and sometimes they save little children from tears of embarrassment, pain, or grief.  Every act of salvation, no matter how small, entails a sacrifice that someone offers willingly.  And that is what makes a hero.

We learn about heroes in The Karate Kid, a 1984 film starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso, a fatherless teenager very much in need of a hero.  Daniel suffers a vicious beating by boys from a local martial arts school.  He is saved by a humble janitor, Mr. Miyagi (played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), who drives off the attackers with a masterful display of karate skills.  Before long Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach karate to Daniel.  The instruction begins when Miyagi assigns Daniel a number of hard tasks.  First he must wash and wax Miyagi’s antique automobiles, using special hand motions to “wax on” and “wax off”.  Then he must sand the walkway around Miyagi’s house, paint the fence around the property, and finally paint the house itself.  Each task features a specific set of hand motions.  After days of arduous labor, Daniel complains that he has learned nothing about karate while working like a slave.  Miyagi responds by having Daniel perform the hand motions for each task.  He then throws punches and kicks at Daniel, demonstrating that “wax on, wax off”, “sand the floor”, “paint the fence”, and “paint the house” have trained the boy to defend against attacks from many angles.  As he blocks Miyagi’s attacks, Daniel realizes the truth:  his faithfulness in seemingly unconnected menial tasks has made him ready for further instruction and greater responsibility in the art of karate.

In time Daniel becomes competent at karate and confident in himself as Miyagi’s training transforms him from a self-absorbed braggart into a self-controlled warrior.  In the concluding scenes he enters a martial arts tournament where he faces the boys who first attacked him.  Each is a formidable opponent, yet while Daniel learned karate as a means of disciplining himself in service of others, they had learned it as a means to exalt themselves over the weak.  They do not realize that the humble attitude Miyagi cultivated in Daniel has made him stronger and better able to withstand pain and suffering.  Their combined efforts at wounding and weakening Daniel only help him discover deeper wells of strength which in the end bring him victory.

This is a life lesson few are willing to learn.  Either we walk humbly in the confidence of our King, or we get eaten by our adversary.  As the Apostle Peter says:

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (I Peter 5:5-8 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #22-23: Vayakhel (And He Assembled) / Pekudei (Accounts Of)

וַיַּקְהֵל / פְקוּדֵיּ

The Traveler (Eric Menyuk) and Wesley (Wil Wheaton) discuss the connection of Space and Time and Thought in "Where No One Has Gone Before" (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode 5.  Photo from The Viewscreen.)

The Traveler (Eric Menyuk) and Wesley (Wil Wheaton) discuss the connection of Space and Time and Thought in “Where No One Has Gone Before” (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode 5. Photo from The Viewscreen.)

What is the secret of the success of Star Trek?  Since 1966 three generations of science fiction fans have followed the adventures of four separate crews on the starship Enterprise, as well as other heroes of Gene Roddenberry’s creation through six TV series and 12 movies.  There must be something more to the Star Trek universe than adventure stories, special visual effects, and outlandish aliens.  Perhaps it is that Star Trek provides us with an opportunity to imagine, to push the boundaries of what is “real”, at least according to what we encounter in our everyday lives.

Certainly that was a key ingredient in the original series, the popularity of which has long outlived the three short seasons it was on the air.  In 1987, Star Trek:  The Next Generation picked up the mantle and carried on that boundary-pushing tradition.  In “Where No One Has Gone Before”, the fifth episode of its first season, a propulsion expert named Kosinski (Stanley Kamel) comes aboard the USS Enterprise to make modifications to the ship’s engines that will enhance their performance.  What we soon learn is that Mr. Kosinski’s equations are meaningless by themselves; the real power behind the modifications is the presence of Kosinski’s assistant, an alien known only as the Traveler (Eric Menyuk).  In the first test, the Enterprise moves faster than ever thought possible into a region of space far beyond our galaxy, a result which astonishes not only the ship’s officers, but Kosinski as well.  Only young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) notices the Traveler’s role in the proceedings.  As the officers argue among themselves, he draws near to the Traveler to learn the truth.  Their conversation includes a very interesting bit of dialogue:

Wesley:  Is Mister Kosinski like he sounds?  A joke?

Traveler:  No, that’s too cruel.  He has sensed some small part of it.

Wesley:  That space and time and thought aren’t the separate things they appear to be?  I just thought the formula you were using said something like that.

Later in the episode, the Traveler explains, “You do understand, don’t you that thought is the basis of all reality?  The energy of thought, to put it in your terms, is very powerful.”  And with that we have an articulation from a fantastic science fiction television show of a profound truth first explained by Moses 3,500 years ago.

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Fox Byte 5775 #19: Terumah (Offerings)

תְּרִוּמָה

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lord Ark.  ("‘Iron Man 3’ Star Ty Simpkins’ Five Cool Movies" at Yahoo! Movies.  © Paramount; courtesy Everett Collection.)

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lord Ark. (“‘Iron Man 3’ Star Ty Simpkins’ Five Cool Movies” at Yahoo! Movies. © Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark did not launch the film career of Harrison Ford, but it did bring him his first top billing as an actor.  His role as Indiana Jones, the eccentric archaeologist with a nose for adventure, built on his previous starring role in the Star Wars film series in which he played the swashbuckling interstellar smuggler Han Solo.  A major difference between the two roles, however, is that Solo’s universe existed entirely in the mind of the Star Wars creator George Lucas, while the adventures of Indiana Jones had some basis in historical fact.  Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example, followed Jones in his quest to find the Ark of the Covenant, the physical symbol of the Presence of the Lord God among the people of Israel.  No doubt the Jewish heritage of director Steven Spielberg, writer Lawrence Kasdan, and Harrison Ford himself influenced the story line.  They would have grown up learning about the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, the construction of the Ark and the Tabernacle at Mount Sinai, and the loss of the Ark at some point in Israel’s ancient history.  They would also have been keenly aware of the heinous crimes against the Jewish people committed by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, and of Hitler’s alleged fascination with the occult and mystical knowledge.  Those elements factored into the story of the Nazi attempt to recover the Ark from its long-hidden resting place in Egypt and use it as a supernatural enhancement of Hitler’s war machine.

As the movie unfolds, the audience sees Indiana Jones race from one adventure to another in his attempt to thwart the Nazi agents and their accomplice, the French archaeologist René Belloq (played by Paul Freeman).  In the end, though, it is not Jones, but God Himself Who brings an end to this unholy use of His holy things.  In the climactic scene, Belloq dons the clothing of Israel’s High Priest to preside over a ceremony of consecration for the Ark.  As the ceremony proceeds, the Lord strikes down Belloq and the assembled Nazi soldiers in a graphic depiction of the judgment prophesied by Zechariah:

Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth.  (Zechariah 14:12 NASB)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is an exciting story, although with an anticlimactic end as the lost Ark ends up locked away among thousands of crated artifacts in a United States Government warehouse.  Yet even with the anticlimax, something very Jewish comes through in the larger message of the film:  the sense of the holiness of Almighty God.

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Fox Byte 5775 #1: Beresheet (In The Beginning)

בְרֵאשִׁת

This is the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of a new Torah cycle.  Each year, Jews and Messianic believers in Yeshua go through the Torah (the Books of Moses) and the Haftorah (selected passages from the other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament)) in weekly portions.  The portion for this week is Beresheet, “In the Beginning”.

After losing the French and Indian War, France chose to trade all of Canada and Louisiana for the small island of Guadeloupe.

After losing the French and Indian War, France chose to trade all of Canada and Louisiana for the small island of Guadeloupe.

The world’s first truly global conflict, known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War and in America as the French and Indian War, was a disaster for France.  By the war’s end in 1763, France had ceded the vast territories of Canada and Louisiana to England and Spain.  And yet it was not a complete disaster; the Treaty of Paris which ended the war left France with its most prized possession:  the Caribbean sugar island of Guadeloupe.  Great Britain had won control over both Guadeloupe and Canada during the war, and in the peace negotiations the British deemed Canada more strategically valuable to their empire.  But Guadeloupe had proven more valuable economically, producing more income for France than all the fur collected by trappers and traders in Canada, and all the sugar produced by Britain’s own island colonies.  King Louis XV, therefore, was quite willing to trade a vast empire for this small island.

A similar transaction appears in Scripture, when the Lord explains what He is ready to do to redeem a people He deems more valuable than all the nations of the earth:

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Fox Byte #10: Avoiding Unpleasant Places

The work God does for us is to make us able to be around Him again.  Remember what that incident in the Garden of Eden was all about:  God gave our ancestors the choice to keep Him as God, or to eat that super-smart fruit and make little gods out of themselves.  They chose to be their own little gods, and we have suffered the consequences ever since.

What are the consequences?  Death, of course (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23).  It means just what you think – the end of your life.  It also means something worse – your separation from God forever.  You see, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He had no choice but to throw them out of His Garden.  There can never be any more than one God anywhere, but they had decided to set themselves up as rival gods.  To keep from destroying them, He had to get them out of His presence (away from Him).

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Fox Byte #9: The Works of Grace

One of the big things people miss about grace is its connection with good works.  God made us for good works, but because each of us wants to be our own little gods in our own little cocoons we have a big problem doing those good works.  It’s actually worse than that.  Because we all inherited this tendency toward rebellion against God, we usually end up doing exactly the things that God doesn’t want.  In other words, like Satan we tend to kill, steal, and destroy rather than help God provide life to His Creation (John 10:10; Luke 11:23).

And that’s why God has this dilemma:  does He let us survive and continue destroying His Creation, or destroy us and start all over?  What is an All-Powerful Deity to do?  Either way His Creation gets irreparably harmed because we are the greatest part of His Creation (Genesis 1:27Psalm 8:1-9).

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Fox Byte #5: Momentary Right vs. Eternal Good

Cain and Abel

“Cain and Abel”
Josep Vergera

Fox Byte #4 examined how our ancestors in the Garden of Eden chose to educate themselves on the knowledge of good and evil rather than get that knowledge in the way God intended.  How big of a problem was it that Adam and Eve decided to cut short God’s training program and grab the “godlike” status of knowing good and evil?  Even if they were not quite ready to handle all the truth at the moment they acquired it, would they have grown into it eventually?

Well, maybe not.

Here’s the problem:  knowing the difference between good and evil is not just an intellectual exercise.  Once you have that knowledge, you are responsible for it.  That means not only that you must recognize what is good and what is evil, but you also must make a judgment on which to choose. Please click here to continue reading

Fox Byte #4: Not Ready To Drive

BFB140207 Cars in TrafficContinuing from Fox Byte #3, what did our ancestors gain from eating fruit that made them super smart?

If Adam and Eve were made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), then God made them super smart in the first place.  After all, God made them to be in charge of the whole earth and keep it in order.  They would have to be really smart to do that.  But if they were so smart, what was the point of that tree in the garden? Please click here to continue reading

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