Luther, the Pope and the Jewish Aspect

A week ago I was in Wittenberg, Germany. I joined a conference which I found to be absolutely intriguing. Nearly 499 years ago, Martin Luther set out from this picturesque town on what in time will be known as the Reformation. Next October will mark 500 years to the event, and this conference was a part of the preparation towards this event.

The streets were adorned with memorabilia, all related to Luther. He is the number one brand sold here – from aprons sporting his image to tennis racquets. I even found Luther spaghetti…

The conference focused on repentance for the initial split from the Catholic church, a split which led to countless more afterwards. There were key figures from the Catholic, Lutheran and Protestant churches. Nuns, together with European royalty, all agreed to do something (as symbolic as it may be) regarding the initial split.

On the positive side…

…Luther’s reformation completely changed Christian history. He was the one who made clear that we are saved and justified by grace, and do not need to pay penance to obtain our forgiveness. Prior to his reformation, there was an entire industry of indulgences – forgiveness purchased by price from the priests. Luther put an end to that.

On the negative side…

…Luther was extremely anti-Semite. He wrote a myriad of writings against us, and some were even used later by Hitler and his cronies.

On one of the walls of the church Luther preached from is found an obscene embossment showing a sow, with her piglets suckling. Among them there is a Jew nursing on her as well. Behind her stands a Rabbi, lifting the sow′s tail sand digging inside her. Underneath he is attempting to read a page from the Gmara. The message: This is your origin, Jews! Above it reads an inscription: “Rabini Shem hamphoras,” gibberish which presumably is a word play on the explicit name of God.

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Strange that with all the political correctness around us, this embossment still hasn’t been removed.

One afternoon, during the conference, we all marched there and prayed right under the embossment. Marianna, my Israeli colleague, chose to forgive in specific details: to the artist that created the embossment, the original priest who had put it up, and the current priest that maintains and keeps it on.

IMG-20160617-WA0015Some of the gentiles in the group got on their knees, and expressed a sincere remorse.

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I was emotionally numb at that point. I did not expect the Jewish point to become so prominent in a conference that was meant to focus on Lutherans and Catholics. The truth is I wasn’t even sure I should be there, but something struck my curiosity when I first heard about it. It made me wonder if down the road, the repentance will not stop only at the division from Rome, but will go further to the original division from Jerusalem. With the widowhood of Israel capturing my heart in such intensity, I wanted to be there and taste what real reconciliation feels and tastes like. And it was real.

Anyway, while everyone was repenting and forgiving under that horrific image, I stood by the wayside and tried to think of a Jewess, my age, that lived in that town about 500 years ago, and was passing this obscenity every day.

How would she have felt? What thoughts would have gone through her mind? I wondered how long would it take for someone to believe in what people say about him or her. And so I forgave as well!

A German nobleman who attended the conference asked a Messianic Jew from England, “What can be done to compensate for this abhorring embossment? What would be the right thing to do?”

I was deeply impressed. Here is someone with obvious influence and the ability to change things, not only asking for forgiveness, but also wishing to know what can be done about it. Sometimes, activism can be a good thing!

 

 

Will you be an Orpah or a Ruth?

On Saturday we celebrated the eve of Shavuot (Pentecost). Traditionally, the Jewish people world wide read the book of Ruth during this feast, as the story described there takes place during this season.

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Teaching about Shavuot at my congregation

The book of Ruth is my favorite one in the Bible. I believe we are living in the prophetic fulfillment of this story. I have been digging into it for a couple of years now, and I keep gleaning more and more truths each time I teach it. The one that touches me the most is the relevance it has to the modern history of Israel.

You see, just like Naomi, who comes back to the “House of Bread” (Beth Lehem) from a few decades of living in the diaspora of Moab, so is Israel coming back now from a few millenniums of living in the diaspora world wide.

The Jewish people could not have done it on their own. We needed various Ruths along the way in order to make it. I love the way Isaiah describes parts of it:

Thus saith the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people. And they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isa. 49:22-23).

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This picture of Ruth and Naomi was painted by Michael Washer,
and sent to me by a modern “Ruth” from GA

Throughout the entire book of Ruth, the redeemer knows Naomi is back in town. She also knows he is there. But there is no direct communication between them. When he wants to send her something, he does it through the Gentile. When she needs something from him, she sends the gentile to him. Why is the significance of it? Read more about it in my article titled Ruth and Naomi.

There is another widow in the story – Orpah. While Ruth means Friendship, Orpah means a Neck. Orpah also loves Naomi, but is willing to walk with her only a certain distance. She than gets tired and walks back to her comfort zone, and out of the narrative.

What will you choose when it comes to Israel? Will you be a faithful Ruth, or a neck turning Orpah?

My Jerusalem

This week we celebrated the 49th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, the number one achievement of the Six Days’ war in 1967. There is probably no other subject that divides the people of Israel as this one. Many Israelis believe that the return of Jerusalem and of the mountains of Samaria to Israeli hands is the core for most of our problems. And so do many nations. They all say that if we give away a part of Jerusalem, we shall reap peace with our neighbors. Is that so?

Celebrations launched on Sunday in Jerusalem, and will continue throughout this whole year, as this is the 50th year, the Jubilee. Yes, on June 6 next year Jerusalem will celebrate 50 years of being back under a Jewish sovereignty, after nearly 2,000 years of being trampled under the feet of many nations.

A few months ago I took a short vacation in Jerusalem, with a dear friend. So in this post I would like to share with you a little of my Jerusalem. The way I experienced it recently, with much joy.

At the entrance to Jaffa gate we came upon this harpist. If you toured Jerusalem, you might have seen her there too, playing beautiful hymns, based on Old Testament scriptures, to the delight of those who pass by.

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So many cultural events are taking place in Jerusalem. Constantly. There is always a parade or a festival or a good show to see. Even a car race. Look at this whimsical display of umbrellas in one of the old alleys. It can get so hot in Jerusalem during the summer, so why not create a little shade for the pedestrians?

Shoshi and I are bibliophiles. Give us a book, as old as you can find, one that has that special aroma and is written in old Hebrew, and we are on cloud nine. We walked up and down the streets, and all of a sudden found this refreshing sight: a bus station turned into a neighborhood library. People bring the books they don’t use, and take what others left. No need to control it. No fees. And it is well kept and maintained.

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Some street art: huge billboards, promoting a new national project (called 929), that deserves its own post. These posters refer to Gen. 2:18 at the top – “It is not good for man to be alone”; and at the bottom – Ex. 32:4: “He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf”) in a comical way (the art criticizes using cellular phones excessively).

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We were looking for a nice coffee shop for a much needed rest, and found ourselves in the midst of a wedding. “Thus says the Lord, yet again there will be heard in this place… in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem… the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride…” (Jer. 33:10-11). So many years this voice was not allowed to be heard in Jerusalem.

Did you know that under the Huppah (the canopy), every groom says during the ceremony: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Ps. 137:5-6)? No matter how joyful you are in the most exciting day of your life, Jerusalem should be above it. Does any other religion put Jerusalem above all joy?

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Derek Prince is burried in a small Christian cemetery in the midst of the German colony in Jerusalem. Whenever I pass by and the gate is open, I enter in. I have my little “Derek” story, as he was one of the main people God used to instill into me the calling to establish Ot OoMofet.

I met him in Jerusalem, a few years before he died, in order to discuss the publishing of his books in Hebrew (back than I had a publishing business). But we ended up talking about God’s heart towards the needy, and especially widows and orphans. He was so passionate about it. We continued to meet on a regular basis, and this was always the main topic he wanted to discuss.

The walls of that cemetery are decorated with fabulous art, of huge scenes taken from the Bible.

Mount Zion hotel overlooks the Judean desert and the old city. Its garden is a masterpiece, and provided us many spots to pose a little.

She is alive

You may be hearing a lot about terror in Jerusalem and how dangerous it is to be there. But Jerusalem is alive, alive and kicking, and creative, and searching for its trues identity. And the most important thing – she is being restored (though as of now, it is mostly in the physical realm).

Centuries have passed since Jerusalem has been in Jewish hands. All this time she was neglected, filthy, stricken with diseases and poverty. She was not special at all to those who ruled her, so they didn’t care to invest in her development or even worship their gods there. That issue rose up only after Israel started investing in this city and restoring it.

So typical to all of us. Don’t we all tend to overlook the broken and needy? Well, maybe we do have compassion and are extending some humanitarian help, but how much hope do we have that they can deeply be transformed? And restored? Do we see them through God’s eyes? Do we know what He promises to do with them and for them, and how much glory He ascribes to them? Read for instance 1 Cor. 12:22-24. But when someone rises up, full of hope and faith for a broken heart, and starts investing in him or her, at some point we are all amazed and attracted to it, and even desire to have a part in his or her life. This is human nature, but when it comes to the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, it is also prophetic.