Russ Resnik encountered Yeshua as Messiah in the early 70s as a young radical in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Later, he was drawn into the Messianic Jewish movement and founded Adat Yeshua, a Messianic congregation in Albuquerque, NM, which he led for nearly 20 years. Today, he serves as executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), an association dedicated to establishing, strengthening, and multiplying congregations for Yeshua within the wider Jewish community. Russ is ordained as a Messianic Rabbi through the UMJC and also maintains credentials as a clinical mental health counselor. He has an international speaking and teaching ministry, contributes regularly to Messianic Jewish publications, and is the author of Gateways to Torah: Joining the Ancient Conversation on the Weekly Portion,Creation to Completion: A Guide to Life’s Journey from the Five Books of Moses, and Divine Reversal: The Transforming Ethics of Jesus. Russ and his wife Jane live in Albuquerque and have four children and seven grandchildren.
I love it that adaptability is included among the middot. If it weren't, we might be tempted to think of mussar as simply a set of rules, and rigid adherence as the way to virtue. We might think of mussar as saying to us, "Just stay within the lines I set and you'll be safe." But, of course, real life provides too many exceptions, dilemmas, and puzzlements to allow for such an approach.
In my work as a professional counselor (my side job) I sometimes help people suffering with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This diagnosis indicates excessive anxiety or worry more days than not for at least six months, which the person finds it difficult to control, accompanied by symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. In short, if equanimity is menuchat hanefesh, rest or calmness of soul, GAD is the opposite, restlessness of soul.
Order begins within, but inevitably shows up on the outside. “External disorder may be a reflection of internal disarray,” as Alan Morinis reminds us.1 Now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting at a rather cluttered desk in a study that’s not the neatest in the world either. So, what does this say about my internal order?
We sometimes think of patience as a passive virtue, similar to endurance; the kind of patience that enables us to perform a repetitive task, to get through setbacks and challenges, or to wait for an answer to prayer without getting irritated or discouraged. Such patience is a virtue, as they say, but patience includes a more active response as well, not just enduring various trials, but maintaining focus and intensity through them all.
“Vayikra—and he called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. . .”
One single, extra small letter in the traditional text of Vayikra (Lev. 1:1-5:26) teaches us a big lesson in humility. In fact, it’s a letter in the first word of the parasha, the word “vayikra” itself, which is written in the Torah scroll with a final aleph that is smaller than the rest of the letters.
The theme of nadiv lev, a generous or noble heart reverberates throughout Parashat Vayakhel, and really throughout the entire account of building the Mishkan [tabernacle] in Exodus 25 through 40.
In Parashat Vayakhel, the Israelites finally begin to build the tabernacle after the disastrous detour of the golden calf. The Lord provides detailed instructions for the tabernacle, telling Moses, “Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—so shall you make it” (Ex. 25:9). The Lord also provides the ability to make this elaborate structure, through giving his Spirit to Betzalel, who oversees all the work (Ex. 35:30ff).
Here's a drash on loving-kindness adapted from my book Creation to Completion, which comments on parashat Ki Tisa (Ex. 30:11-34:35).
Parashat Ki Tisa includes Hashem’s revelation of his glory to Moses, the thirteen attributes of God. This self-revelation opens with the words, “Adonai! Adonai! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, full of chesed v’emet—loving-kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). Earlier, in the Ten Words, Hashem had declared that he would show chesed to “thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:6). Chesed is an aspect of God’s character, an aspect that gets sorely tested in this parasha, when Israel builds the Golden Calf. But this same story also reveals the possibilities of chesed on a human level through the example of Moses.
Parashat Ki Tisa (Ex. 30:11-34:35) includes Hashem’s revelation of his glory to Moses, the thirteen attributes of God, opening with the words, “Adonai! Adonai! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, full of chesed v’emet—loving-kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). Earlier, in the Ten Words, Hashem had declared that he would show chesed to “thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:6). Chesed is an aspect of God’s character, an aspect that gets sorely tested in this parasha, when Israel builds the Golden Calf. But this same story also reveals the possibilities of chesed on a human level in the example of Moses.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels.
And Miriam chanted for them:Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;
Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea. (Exodus 15:20–21)
When Miriam leads the women of Israel at the parting of the sea in praising Hashem with song and dance, she is making her second appearance in the Exodus story. In her first scene, Miriam is instrumental in rescuing the baby Moses after his parents are forced to set him adrift on the waters of the Nile. She has the courage to watch over her brother’s journey in his tiny ark, and the chutzpah to approach the daughter of Pharaoh and suggest a plan that saves his life. Miriam’s act of saving Moses is essential to the entire drama that follows, but throughout this scene she’s just called “his sister” or “the girl” (Ex. 2:4, 7–9).