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PARASHAH: Lekh L'kha (Get yourself out)
ADDRESS: B'resheet (Genesis) 12:1-17:27
READING DATE: Shabbat
AUTHOR: Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
 

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)

Let's begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-O'lam,

asher bachar banu m'kol ha-amim,

v'natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O' LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and have given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

Welcome to Parashat Lekh L'kha. This commentary will address the following topics: 1) Anti-Judaism: Avram and His Progeny, 2) Repairing the Breach, and 3) Malki-Tzedek (Melchizedek).

Before we get started, I want to say at the onset that some of the commentary that I will be providing today just may appear to be slightly reproving and correcting to some of you. Correction at times can be unpleasant, I realize. But that's okay, because the Torah has been given to us for reproof and correction when we need it (read 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is not my intent to openly offend, or belittle anyone. Please allow the Ruach HaKodesh to have his way in you, as you study the pages of HaShem's wonderful Word this hour!

We have finally come to a place in the Torah where the narrative will begin to slow down a bit. By way of retrospect, the Torah has spent the last eleven chapters covering everything from the creation account, to the fall of man, the birth of the first offspring, the first death, the first atonement, a series of lengthy genealogical lists, the world deluge, the Tower of Bavel, and the first official, biblical covenant between man and HaShem. All of this information covers a time period of about 2000 years! Yet in comparison, the story we are about to embark on centers around one man and his journey to become the father of HaShem's chosen heritage of people, the Jewish Nation. His story unfolds before us, and the Torah uses the next 13 chapter to do so, while the time period covered is approximately one twentieth of that of the previously mentioned material!

What is HaShem trying to convey to us here? Are the details surrounding the beginnings of humanity less important to him, than one man from Ur? Of course not. What I believe our God is teaching us is that sometimes his Word "majors on the majors, and minors on the minors". In other words, while at times we would hope for more information on certain aspects of the Torah, HaShem has graciously provided us with exactly the right amount needed to live our lives according to his instructions, and remain pleasing to him.

Having said all of that, interestingly enough, by using a computer assisted word search, I have discovered that the name "Abram", whom I'll call "Avram" from this time forward, is found 46 times in the whole Bible! Using the same resources, the name "Abraham", whom I'll call "Avraham" from this time forward, is found 216 times in the Bible! These numbers do reflect the possibility of another man, other than the main character of our parashah, bearing the same name. I didn't factor that possibility out. Yet surely, most (if not all; someone else may do the math for me) surely refer to our very own Avraham! So let's read about this "Father of many nations". Our portion gets its name from the opening statement from HaShem.

Anti-Judaism: Avram and His Progeny

The Torah says in chapter 12, verses 1-3,

"Vayomer ADONAI el-Avram "Lekh l'kha me'artsecha u'mimo-ladetecha umibeyt avicha el-ha'arets asher ar'eka. Ve'e'escha legoy-gadol va'avarechecha va'agadelah shemecha veheyeh berachah. Va'avarechah mevarachecha umekalelecha a'or venivrechu vecha kol mishpechot ha'adamah."

(Now ADONAI said to Avram, "Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.")

The opening monologue from HaShem, containing both directives and promises, is packed with some very important facts, which affect every man, woman, and child who will be born form here on out! To be sure, it still affects everyone today! How so? Allow me to conduct a word study.

We have been taught many times over (hopefully), that verse three is referring to the ultimate blessing that Avram would be, once his ultimate righteous heir was born. The Torah makes it perfectly clear that this righteous heir is non other than Yeshua (ben-Yosef) ben-Dahvid, ben-Avraham (see Matthew chapter one)! But our usual sermons focus on the latter part of that verse. I want to call our attention to the first part of verse three.

"I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Here HaShem promises to "bless" those who "bless" Avram. The Hebrew wording used both times for "bless" is "the root word "barakh", and it literally means to bow the knee. This promise is understood to be extending to his offspring as well, the Jewish People. Moreover, we have seen that many peoples of the world, symbolically and physically, have blessed Avram. To be sure, we don't hear of many individuals actually "cursing" Avram or his offspring, the Jews (a few unmentioned exceptions do exist). From HaShem's perspective, he has set up a divine sort of "cause and effect" here: if you (a non-Jew) bless Avram, or his offspring, then in return, I will bless you.

But the really interesting fact is found in the Hebrew word translated as "curse". In the first instance, the word translated "curse" (in our above translation of the CJB by David H. Stern) comes from the root Hebrew word "arar". Here is what Strong's Lexicon and Concordance have to say about this word:

0779 ‘arar {aw-rar'}: a primitive root - curse 62, bitterly 1; (total usage: 63)

to curse…. cursed be he (participle used as in curses)…. to be cursed, cursed…. lay under a curse, put a curse on…. to be made a curse, be cursed (adaptation mine)

This is some heavy language! Especially when we realize that this is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe speaking this promise here! But the second word translated as "curse" is surprisingly not the same as the first! The original word this time is taken from the root word "kalal". In fact, in our current parashah (portion), chapter 16:4 translates this word as "contempt", when referring to the attitude that Sarai (Avram's wife) had towards her handmaid Hagar. Here is what Strong's Lexicon and Concordance have to say about that word:

07043 ‘qalal {kaw-lal'}: a primitive root - curse 39, swifter 5, light thing 5, vile 4, lighter 4, despise 3, abated 2, ease 2, light 2, lighten 2, slightly 2, misc 12; (total usage: 82)

be slight, be swift, be trifling, be of little account, be light…. be abated (of water)…. to be trifling, to be swift, show oneself swift…. to appear trifling, be too trifling, be insignificant…. to be lightly esteemed…. to make despicable…. to curse…. to be cursed…. to make light, lighten…. to treat with contempt, bring contempt or dishonour…. to shake…. to whet…. to shake oneself, be moved to and fro" (adaptation mine)

I hope that this list is a shocker. We usually find ourselves thinking, "As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, I would never meaningfully curse Avram or his offspring, the Jews! I understand that my spiritual heritage is forever bound up in their lineage!" I, as a rabbi, hope that this is similar to what every well-meaning Christian might say. But the shocker is that according to the word used for "curse", many well-meaning believers are unknowingly "cursing" Avram and his offspring! If I were to translate this verse using our newfound definitions of the word curse, it would read something like this:

"I will [bless] those who [bless] you, but I will [curse] anyone who [despises, makes of little account, lightly esteems, thinks insignificant of] you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Wow! That seems to explain the verse in a whole different light! And so it should! For that is what I really believe the verse is alluding to. Allow me to elaborate.

In the fourth century, when the organized Church decided to divorce herself from her spiritual mother, Judaism, she unwittingly planted the seeds of anti-Judaism. Anti-Judaism is not to be confused with Anti-Semitism. The former is the dislike or disinterest of Jewishness and Judaism specifically; the latter is the dislike or disinterest in the Semitic race altogether. By the way, both falls into the category of violating the verse in examination and both are disrespectful to Father Avram and displeasing to HaShem! Over the centuries, this seedbed has blossomed into a full-grown weed called Replacement Theology. This heretical belief fosters the mistaken idea that "HaShem gave up on the Jews when they corporately rejected his Son Yeshua, and instead, adopted the newborn Gentile Church as his chosen people. The unfortunate Jews were left to face the curses of the Torah, and the Wrath of an angry Father, while the Church inherited (spiritually of course) most of the blessings and promises to the Jews, as pronounced in the Torah." Fortunately, this theological framework is neither blatantly taught to Christians, openly favored by the same, nor even endorsed by HaShem!

But the damage has been done. Bad habits are hard to change. Our Christian community today is lacking of real spiritual depth, many so-called believers have a superficial relationship with Yeshua, and we owe a significant part of all of this to the teachings that have been passed down from one anti-Jewish generation to the next. Consequently, many Christians are either, passive and ignorant, when it comes to the Jewish people and communal support, or they are outright opposed to it! The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (TaNaKH) have been relegated to the status of "Old Testament", while the Gospel enjoys the status of "New Testament". This has a way of causing the Jews to appear to be "old", "outdated", and "replaced", while the Church is defined as "new", "fresh", and "current". Is this not the prevalent attitude of many non-Jews within the Body today? "Your people prove difficult to positively influence, with regards to the Good News and Jesus", many quip. As a result, Jewish evangelism is weak, understaffed, or (in the few cases where churches have tried) eventually abandoned. Even if not intentional, this type of spiritual ignorance still feeds the Replacement Theological bias, in that, no one is made aware enough to put an end to it. In other words, this ignorance has gone on for far too long.

Repairing the Breach

What can be done to undo some of the damage, and help repair the split between Avram's offspring and the Church? Well, more information than I can post in this format is available to anyone who is serious in answering this timely and important question. I will only provide you with some groundwork: begin to pray about getting actively involved in the current move of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), to bring about a genuine, heartfelt love for Avram's offspring, from the Church. Ask HaShem to reveal to you your heart, and to forgive you if you have unknowingly harbored these types of thoughts towards Avram's offspring. God is still in the business of forgiveness! What my brothers according to the flesh need is to experience the mercy of HaShem, displayed through your honest concern and support! Ask HaShem to begin to reveal to you your spiritual heritage traced through faithful Avram and continuing through to his offspring, the Jewish People. You will find that according to Romans chapter 11 (just to name a good starting point), you also have some obligations to the "root that supports you".

I realize that some of what I said above is going to be hard to swallow. I also imagine that I have stepped on some toes. But I want to thank you for allowing me to take the time to address this very serious issue facing the Church and the synagogue. Even after this genuine call for restoration, some people will yet refuse to change their conventional way of thinking. To be sure, I don't expect Gentiles to begin flooding my e-mail with letters asking me to forgive them for "lightly esteeming my people, the Jews". No, this type of heartfelt change is not accomplished overnight, and it can only make a difference if the Ruach HaKodesh is genuinely involved. As a rabbi, I expect that it will take some time for human nature to readjust its mindset, and line up with what HaShem wants us to be. After all, which one of us is perfect? Only the man Yeshua from Natzeret was. Please feel free to drop me a line, in care of this web site, if you still have questions or comments in this area. You may also e-mail me personally, my address is always provided at the end of this teaching.

I do want to say this, however: because of the example that the Torah records Avram to have been, all of mankind can become one of his heirs! Because of his trusting faithfulness to HaShem's command, he subsequently became the Father of the many righteous followers that would come after him. And last, but certainly not least, because of Avram's trusting faithfulness, a single righteous man was born into his lineage. From this single righteous man, came the power to join the physical and/or spiritual family of the Creator of all men!

This man's name is Yeshua!

God's chosen family consists of those physically born into Avram's lineage, who's praise comes not from men, but from God, as well as those spiritually born into Avram's lineage, who's praise comes not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28, 29).

"Are you part of the family?"

Malki-Tzedek The name Mel-chiz-ed-ek (KJV) or Malki-Tzedek as it is written in the Hebrew, means, my king is righteousness, or king of righteousness. He is first mentioned in the Torah in the book of Genesis, in a meeting with the patriarch Avram. Chapter 14 verses 18-20 reads,

"Malki-Tzedek king of Shalem brought out bread and wine. He was cohen [priest] of El Elyon [God Most High], so he blessed him with these words: Blessed be Avram by El Elyon, maker of heaven of earth; and blessed be El Elyon, who handed your enemies over to you."

He is again mentioned in the highly messianic Psalm 110 at verse 4. Finally he figures in the New Covenant book of Hebrews at Chapter 5:6,10,20; and is the subject of Chapter 7. Although the Torah mentions him receiving the tithe from Our Father Avraham, no record of his official lineage (i.e. to king and to priest) is given in the immediate text. This absence has caused no small speculation on the part of the rabbis of antiquity. Especially since in Judaism the roles of king and priest are separate roles! Normally (excluding the first king, Saul of Kish), the kingly line runs through David. Accordingly, the priestly lineage is traced through Aharon the brother of Moshe. But Malki-Tzedek was both king (of Shalem) and priest (of HaShem the Most High). How is this possible?

I believe, initially HaShem alluded to the answer in the prophecy stated about the Messiah in Psalm 110. This should have tipped the rabbis off about HaShems provision of a future ruler who would belong to both the priestly and kingly lines. If the rabbis could have only read Hebrews, they could have seen that only one person in history ever fulfilled both of these roles and his name is Yeshua! If the rabbis of today would do the same, I believe the same conclusion would be reached! But the book of Hebrews says something else about this man Malki-Tzedek that is very peculiar indeed. In Chapter 7:3-8, it is stated that There is no record of his father, mother, ancestry, birth or death. It does not state that he never had any of these, nor that he is alive forever more. It says he is testified to be still alive, which means midrashically (for teaching purposes only), not literally. Even the Babylonian Talmud has him identified as the son of Shem, Noachs son (Talmud Bavli, Ndarim 32b). The Torah only leads us to that seeming conclusion without explicitly stating it. We need to be careful when interpreting the text here. Do not make it say something it does not. But by seeing in Malki-Tzedek our Messiah Yeshua, the connection is strengthened as to his (Yeshuas) role as both king and priest! To be sure, I believe thats exactly what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) had in mind when he inspired King David to make the messianic prophecy about his future ancestor.

Further Notes

1. The only other reference to Malki-Tzedek in the Old Testament occurs in Psalm 110:4 (LXX 109). This psalm is said to be of David, so that the reader should understand the first person, singular pronoun as referring to him. David says that Yahweh said to his lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" (110:1; LXX 109:1). In the next two verses, David continues to address this unidentified individual, whom in verse one he called his "lord." (There are many problems with the interpretation of 110:2-3.) In Ps 110:4, David says to this individual: "Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind: `You are a priest forever in the order of Malki-Tzedek'." This kingly figure described in 110:1-3 is also a priest, not from Aaron and Zadok's line, but in the order of Malki-Tzedek.

2. Malki-Tzedek in the Second-Temple Period

2.1. Philo and Josephus

Philo and Josephus both make reference to Malki-Tzedek, but only reiterate what the two biblical texts say about him. Philo allegorizes the Genesis account of Abram's meeting with Malki-Tzedek. In so doing, he writes, "Melchizedek also has God made both king of peace, for that is the meaning of Salem, and his own priest...a king peaceable and worthy of his [God's] own priesthood. For he is entitled `the righteous king', and a king is at enmity with a despot, the one being the author of laws, the other of lawlessness" (Leg. All. 3. 25-26 33 79-82). Josephus explains why it was appropriate that Malki-Tzedek should be a king and a priest. He says that Abram "was received by the king of Solyma [Salem], Melchizedek; the name means 'righteous king', and such he was by common consent, inasmuch for this reason he was moreover made priest of God; Solyma was in fact the place afterward called Hierosolyma [Jerusalem]" (Ant. 1.10.2 3 180).

2.2. 11QMalki-Tzedek (11Q13)

Found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is a sectarian text in which Malki-Tzedek is understood as an angel, probably identical to Michael and the Prince of Light. This theological reflection is based exegetically on Lev 25, the legislation on the year of jubilee, which is then interpreted in light of Deut 15:2 and Isa 61:1. (Twice is Lev 25 cited in 11QMelch: Lev 25:13 9 in line 2 and Lev 25:13 in line 25. Both are introduced by "And concerning that which he said," the same phrase used in 1QpHab to cite a portion of a biblical text given in full earlier. Based on this observation it is probable that at least Leviticus 25:8-13 was cited earlier in a part of the text that is no longer extant.) The text began with the citation of Leviticus 25:13 to which the parallel legislation in Deut 15:2 is brought alongside in typically midrashic fashion. The point established is that the Torah requires the release of all debts in the year of jubilee.

In his pesher on Leviticus 25 (a ‘pesher' is an interpretation characterized by finding a second, eschatological [including messianic] meaning for an Old Testament text that is not originally eschatological [or messianic] in meaning), the author then proceeds to uncover an eschatological meaning of the institution of the year of jubilee: "Its interpretation for the last days concerns the captives about whom it is said, ‘To proclaim liberty to the captives (Isa 61:1)'." The year of jubilee is interpreted eschatologically, so that final salvation is understood as the ultimate year of release; this is the fulfillment of the prediction of the release of the captives foretold in Isa 61:1. The captives no doubt refer to the members of the community who are oppressed by their compatriots and by Belial and the angels of his lot. Moreover, Malki-Tzedek, assumed to be an angel (and probably identical to Michael and the Prince of Light), is given a role in the eschatological salvation of the righteous and judgment of the wicked. The members of the community are called the "inheritance of Melchizedek" and it is said that Malki-Tzedek will be the one who will "proclaim liberty to them and will release them from the [debt] of their iniquities." At the completion of the ninth Jubilee, in the first week of the tenth jubilee, on the Day of Atonement, atonement will be made for "all the sons of light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek" (2.8; see 2.6), possibly connected somehow to Malki-Tzedek's eschatological appearance. Presumably, these men are not perfect, but God as merciful will provide them with a means of eschatological atonement. It is said that this is "the time of the year of grace for Melchizedek," meaning that this is time of eschatological salvation to be mediated by Malki-Tzedek.

The one who proclaims good news referred to in Isa 52:7 is also identified as Malki-Tzedek and brought into relation to Isaiah 61:2-3, in which the "anointed one" is said to "comfort the afflicted" and so forth. (There is also a reference to the one about whom Daniel spoke who is also identified as Malki-Tzedek; which passage the author has in mind, however, is now lost.) The various clauses in Isaiah 52:7 and 61:2-3 are interpreted atomistically, as is typical in Qumran exegesis, but because of lacunae it is difficult to understand what is meant: "The mountains are the prophets and the messenger is the anointed of the spirit about whom Daniel spoke" (2.17-18) and "'To comfort the afflicted.' Its interpretation: to instruct the ages of the world" (2.20). The passage cited from Daniel as coming to fulfillment in tandem with Isa 52:7 and 61:2-3 is Dan 9:25, which implies that the author sees the completion of Daniel's seventy weeks (Dan 9:24-25) as identical to the beginning of the ten jubilee; whether the anointed one of Dan 9:25 is interpreted of Malki-Tzedek, however, is unclear.

At this time Malki-Tzedek will also execute judgment on Satan and the spirits of his lot. In this context, Psalm 82:1-2 is interpreted eschatologically of Malki-Tzedek's judgment of the fallen angels: the "god" (elohim) who takes his stand in the assembly of God (el) is the heavenly being Malki-Tzedek; he will judge in the midst of the other "gods" (elohim) (2.9-14). The fact that in line 11 it is said that it is God (el) who will judge the peoples, citing Psalm 7:8, indicates that the angel Malki-Tzedek is the instrument of God's eschatological judgment. Along the same lines, the reference "Your God (elohim) reigns" in Isa 52:7 is interpreted to be the reign of Malki-Tzedek, who is a god in the sense of being an angel. Psalm 82:2 "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked" is interpreted as follows: "Its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot, who rebelled by turning away from the precepts of God" (2.12). Apparently, Psalm 82:2 is assumed to speak of the unjust reign of Belial and the spirits of his lot, which will come to an end with the appearance of Malki-Tzedek as eschatological judge. (This interpretation is suggested by the fact that Psalm 82:1 says that God presides over the assembly of God and judges among the gods (elohim). These "gods" are interpreted as angels rather than as human judges. Those addressed in Psalm 82:1-2 are again called "gods" and are also called sons of God in Psalm 82:6.) 11QMelch 2.13 seems to mean that Malki-Tzedek will become judge on that day and will remove the right to judge (or to rule) from Belial and the spirits of his lot.

2.3. Other Qumran Writings

In other of the Qumran Sectarian writings, Malki-Tzedek is probably to be identified with the archangel Michael, for he assumes the role of eschatological savior and judgment in the War Scroll (see 1QM 13.10; 16.6-8; 17.7). Other probable names for Michael/Malki-Tzedek are Prince of Light (1QM 13.10-11; 1QS 2.20-22; CD 5.17-19) and Prince of His [God's] Truth (1QS 3.24). In 4QVisions of Amram (4Q544 [4Q Amram ar]) there are references to two angels--one good and one evil--who have been empowered to rule over human beings. The evil angel goes by three names: Belial, Prince of Darkness and King of Evil (Melchi-resha). The good angel also is known by three names, but unfortunately the text is corrupt at this point. It is almost certain, however, that one of the names was Melchi-zedek, corresponding to Melchi-resha. The other two names likely were Michael and Prince of Light. The biblical figure of Malki-Tzedek became identified for the Qumran community with God's ruling angel.

2.4. Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice

In another text, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, copies of which were found at Qumran and Masada, there is reference to angels who functioned as heavenly priests in the heavenly Temple; these were, in other words, angelic priests. In the first Sabbath song, the angelic priests are also said to bring about the possibility of forgiveness for those who turn from sin. The text in which this idea appears, however, offers some translation difficulties (4Q400 1 i 15b-16b). Should the Hebrew word translatable as "His favor or good will" be taken as the result of the atonement offered on behalf of those who repent or as the object of the atonement, so that "to atone" has more the meaning of propitiate? If the former then the translation would be: "They atone for all those who turn from sin, resulting in God's favor to them." But if this were the meaning it would be better expressed with the definite article, to indicate the idea of purpose. If the latter, it would mean: "They propitiate God's good will for the benefit of those who repent of sin." On this interpretation "His good will" is a substitute for God (see Gen 32:21). In either case, however, it is clear that a role of the angelic priests is to bring about atonement for those who repent by means of the heavenly cult. This is probably the context in which the phrase in 4400 1 i 18 should be understood,: "[..] His lovingkindness for an eternal compassionate forgiveness." The lamed clause may express the result of the preceding clause, which, unfortunately, has too many lacunae to be able to recover its meaning. Probably, the "eternal compassionate forgiveness" (see parallels in Dan 9:9; 1QH 6.9; 4Q286 1 ii. 8) results from some cultic function of the angelic priesthood. The means by which the angelic priests provide atonement or propitiation for the sins of the penitent is sacrifice. In what may be classified as part of the thirteenth Sabbath Song, there are references to the "sacrifices of the holy one" (11QShirShabb 8-7. 2), as well as "the odor of their offerings" (11QShirShabb 8-7. 2) and "the odor of their drink offerings" (11QShirShabb 8-7. 3). In other words, whatever human priests do in the earthly Temple has its counter in heaven, performed by angelic priests.

In Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, there are probable references to a single angel who presides over the angelic priestly hierarchy (Prince 401 23.1; Leader 4Q401 20.2; the Prince 4Q403 1. 2. 23); Chief of the priests of the inner sanctum 4Q403 1. 2. 24). There are also two probable references to Malki-Tzedek as one of these heavenly priests (4Q401 11.3; 22.3). Given Malki-Tzedek's identification with Michael/Prince of Light, there is a good chance that Malki-Tzedek would have been understood as this presiding priestly angel, which would make him the heavenly high priest.

The closing blessing is as follows:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-O'lam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v'chay-yeh o'lam nata-b'tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O' LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and have planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

"Shabbat Shalom!"

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

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