You turned my mourning into dancing

עם ישראל חי

“The nation of Israel lives” –
this is what the script says. But the image says it all

We are now in the midst of a week of commemoration days, telling well the history of modern Zionism. The first of these was Holocaust Memorial Day, and tomorrow we will remember the fallen among our soldiers and terror victims. Once this commemoration day is over (Monday at sun down), Israel’s 69th Independence Day events will commence. During the day, various ceremonies will be held throughout the land, especially in military cemeteries, in memory of those young lives that were cut down in their prime. Monday morning a siren will be heard throughout the country, and we will all stand at attention in their honor, and as darkness dawns, Independence Day celebrations will begin.

In human perspective this seems like something inconceivable. How can you switch, from one moment to another, from an entire array of difficult feelings, painful ones, so powerful, to joy, dancing and fireworks?

There is something spiritual in it, as only God can breathe this upon a human being. He is the one that can turn our “mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:11). Striped robes are never the end of the story. They testify to the deep pit we are in right now, but it is only a temporary suffering, that will eventually turn us into valiant heroes who fulfil ancient prophecies.

Rivka and Bracha singing together

Rivka W. is another holocaust survivor God brought to my life. Bracha, a friend from Holland, joined me during my last visit to see her. Bracha has a special tender spot for Holocaust survivors. She dedicates much of her time and resources to comfort them.

At a certain point during our conversation, Bracha held Rivka’s hand and began to sing a peaceful song to her. The change that took place in Rivka’s face touched me deeply, and it reminded me how God can turn any mourning into dancing.

Rivka and Bracha singing “Oseh Shalom Bi’Mromav”

[“He who establishes peace in the heavenlies, He will establish peace upon us, and upon all of Israel, and let us all say Amen. Let Him establish peace, let Him establish peace, peace upon us and upon all of Israel”]

What caused this immediate change in Rivka’s facial expression? A house visit, a listening ear, a hand holding on to her weary and wrinkled hand, and a chat with a “Ruth” whose heart is full of love to holocaust survivors, a Ruth that came to tell her: “I am with you. We are with you. We are so sorry for what our people inflicted upon you, and we remember”. We cannot undo the horrors these wounded souls have been through, but sometimes seeing their bitterness turn into joy is just as simple as that!

Hidden children

The fate of children who survived the holocaust as a result of being hidden in the homes of Christian families or in monasteries is a gloomy issue in Jewish history. The Catholic church did not provide much help after the holocaust to provide a solution to this problem, neither did the person at its helm, pope Pius XII.

Thousands of Jewish children were hidden during the holocaust in monasteries, with Catholic families, schools and so forth. Many were baptized, leading the church to prevent their return to their families and former religion. Others were adopted during the war by Polish families, and thus were lost to Israel forever. It is estimated that over 3,000 Jewish children were hid in monasteries in Poland after the holocaust.

Jewish girls of the Soeurs de Sainte Marie
convent school in a Belgian village (Wesembeek-Oppem)

Among the requests of Jewish leaders to save the “monastery children” after the holocaust, one of the most well known is that of the Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog in 1946, while he was Israel’s chief Rabbi. Immediately after the Holocaust, Herzog traveled for six month among the destructed and desolate Jewish communities of Europe. His visit began at the Vatican, in an attempt to assist Jews and locate the many Jewish children that were hidden in Catholic convents.

Rabbi Herzog pled with the pope stating that “The Jewish people can not accept that these youngsters will remain completely and utterly detached from their heritage. As of today, each Jewish child is to us like a thousand children.” He beseeched the pope’s assistance in their return, and demanded that priests in every county be told that they are to reveal the monasteries where these children were hidden so that they can be returned to their own people. The pope refused with various excuses, but did Herzog a permission to visit the monasteries himself, and look for the kids. If he could prove that any of them was of Jewish descent, he was allowed to take them with him.

Today in Jewish History: Moshe ascended Har Sinai a second time.     Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1889-1959), Chief Rabbi of Israel. His son, Chaim Herzog, was later president of Israel. Born in Poland, Rabbi Herzog moved to the UK with his family in 1898. He served as Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1922-1936, then succeeded Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as Chief Rabbi of Israel. He served as Chief Rabbi until his death. Rabbi Herzog authored a book of talmudic discourses, Divrei Yitzhak.

As there was no way to locate the children, Rabbi Herzog would enter a Monastery boarding school at night, stand in the middle of the room and yell. “Sh’ma Israel, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad” (Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one). All of a sudden, some children would rise from their bed, and half asleep would cry out: “Mamme, Mamme!” Others had their little right hand rise to cover their eyes, which obviously testified to their Jewishness. The Catholic priests who witnessed it did not protest, and allowed Herzog to take these kids with him to Israel. In such an uncommon way he was able to bring back approximately 1,000 children to our people.

I am so touched by the memory that was burned in these children’s minds. They were mere infants when their parents, who were murdered in the Nazi camps, handed them to the monks. These kids were raised as Catholics and knew nothing of their Jewish heritage. But when they heard that cry in the middle of the night, something deep inside them was stirred to life, something that led them back home.

This amazing story illustrates what is happening to the people of Israel in these last days. God is walking in our midst, often times through Gentiles who love us, and contrary to all we have perceived for two thousand years, contrary to the mindset which says that belief in Yeshua means belief in foreign gods, they teach us that He is our Messiah. The cry “Sh’ma Israel, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad” is heard, and is stirring something within us, waking us up from centuries of slumber.

“Tatte, Tatte!” we start to cry out. “Father, Father.” And He reveals His faces to us, and leads us to the climax of the story, to the day in which all His children will return from various monasteries and from far away places, back to their homeland, where He will hide His faces from us no more (Ezk. 39:22-29).

 

Yizkor the forgotten

158,000 Holocaust Survivors live in Israel today. About 1,000 die each month. Their average age is 85.

A report published this week, as Holocaust Memorial Day is fast approaching, calls the Israeli authorities to act immediately in order to correct the injustice inflicted upon them: “Time is running out. The state should continue to make improvements and strive to solve the existential distress of all the needy elderly in the country, including Holocaust survivors. The survivors who experienced the events of the Holocaust are entitled to live the rest of their lives with dignity and to receive the recognition they deserve.” This is what Israel’s state comptroller writes in his special report.

It is shameful. We are called to remember these people, and this is the meaning of the word “Yizkor”. I am constantly amazed at the way these survivors chose life, although at times, death could have been a much easier solution. I try to put myself in their place. If I was being shut behind fences, starved and abused, I think I would have chosen to put an end to it as soon as possible. I may not have taken my life by my own hands, but I probably would have tried to escape, knowing that most likely someone will shoot me and end my life. Anything to make that suffering end. But something burned in the hearts of these survivors, and they chose life. Sanctity of life, knowing that life is a gift only given to us once, was stronger than all the unfathomable suffering they had experienced.

We need to remember them, and we even hold an annual commemoration day in their honor, but throughout the year, not enough is done to improve their state. 40 million Israeli Shekels were allocated for the benefit of holocaust survivors in 2016, but only 4.3 million were used. Red tape. Part of their needs are not met in any government office, while others are handled by several authorities simultaneously. This inefficiency, apathy and irritating waste should summon us all to pray and intercede for them.

So please, as Holocaust Memorial Day will be commemorated this coming Sunday and Monday, and regardless of the timing, let us lift the widowhood of Israel in this area before the Throne of Grace. Let this embarrassing realm be adorned with the glory of God. Pray for the various authorities that are supposed to make life easier and better for these precious souls. Pray that the hearts of the officials serving them will soften, and that treatment of their needs will rise to the top of the list of priorities, so that they can live the few years they still have with dignity.

We, at Ot OoMofet, are doing our little part to improve the state of those we can through personally assisting one widow at a time, one family here and there, as God leads us to them. Here are a few pictures that I hope will warm your heart and birth hope in all of us.

rivka's evening

Rivka is telling about one of the horrific journeys in a Nazzi train

Rivka Shechman is an 87 year old Holocaust survivor, and a talented and artistic woman. Her book of poems and artwork was finally published by us in both Hebrew and English. We invited a few friends, and held a special night celebrating this publishing. Rivka read from her works, and was touched to tears as people she never met before, people who did not know her, took the time to listen to her and even purchase a copy of her book. (For your very own copy, please go to He is Always With Me).

Makombo, a loyal partner of Ot Oo’Mofet from Kenya, fell in love with Rivka’s story. She ordered several copies of her book, and taught the children under her care to recite her poems. She is using Rivka’s book of poems as a textbook to teach the kids about the Holocaust, in a culture that has no idea about the existence of that atrocity in the history of the world.

Makombo’s class citing one of Rivka’s poems.

I wish you could all see the look on Rivka’s face when she realized her life story has become a testimony to others. It gave so much meaning to her suffering, and brought a huge smile to her face.

A group of friends from Georgia and Florida boarded a plane and arrived in Israel for a week of hands-on ministry, among else painting Rivka’s home, that desperately needed some fixings and cleaning. She was beside herself in excitement and joy!

These are just a few of the ways God is using to soften Jewish broken hearts who have hardened towards Him. They find it hard to address Him directly, just as Naomi found it difficult to address Boaz directly. She needed a mediator, and God is supplying nowadays this mediator, this go between, through Ruths such as you, who give of their time or resources, or come to Israel in person to say: “Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be your God; Your pain is my pain, and as much as I possible can – I will take some of that pain away from you and show you the love of our Heavenly Father.”

Rivka’s sons, who are used to a life of sparseness, are amazed to see the change in their mother’s spirit and attitude. She is happy, excited, full of joy. Her home is being changed right in front of their eyes, and needs they were unable to help her meet in years are being met. They seek to understand what is going on, and why, and so they too get to hear about the God of Israel who bestows His love for his people through the Gentiles.

Picture1

Kirby, one of the women in the group, showed Rivka her Bible,
which is accompanied by illustration done by Michael Washer.
She got comfy on her couch while the team worked on her walls,
and for the first time since I met her a few years ago,
looked through a Bible and was vastly impressed.

 

Sleeping awake

Image via We Heart It https://weheartit.com/entry/162258264 #baby #child #cute…:

Many traditions developed around Passover. One of them is the reading of Song of Songs throughout the week of the Feast.

One can read this short book in many ways: as a love letter that God sent you personally, or His bride, or the nation of Israel. This week I started reading a little each day, proclaiming it over Israel. Try it. It will enrich your prayer language with beautiful phrases.

Here are some examples:

Kiss Israel with the kisses of your mouth. As they read this portion of your Word, sow seeds of truth in their hearts and inspire them to seek your Word directly, not through teachings and disputes of the Sages (1:1).

Draw them away from dead works and dead insights and bring them into your inner chambers (1:4).

Develop in us a desire to sit in your shade and eat the fruit of your Word; to take it in so that it will be a delight to our taste buds (2:3).

Leap upon the mountains that stand between us and your Voice, Lord. Skip over those hills. Teach us to seek your Voice and dare to hear it directly, not through traditions and the lens of interpreters (2:8-14).

And here is my favorite for today:

Come to your garden, Lord. Weave your myrrh, your shedded blood, with the spices of our prayers (5:1). The prayers of many in our nation ignore the necessity of myrrh (that symbolizes death in this book). Please hear our prayers, reveal to us that blood was shed so that our prayers can be answered and intimacy with you can become a reality. Awaken us from our way tooooooo long beauty sleep.

Our hearts are awaken towards you (5:2). We have read and thought this week about the mighty story of Exodus (even though it was blurred by many rabbinical stories), and our hearts are somewhat awake a little more than usual. But our entire being is still asleep when it comes to your existence and love. Please wake us up, Lord. Help us hear your knocks on various doors in our lives and routine, so we can hear how much you love us, how long you have waited (5:3).

deepsoulfury: “Lioness relaxing more than usual…Wildlife ”:

The lion of Judah is certainly
up and roaring, but not His cub. Not yet…

You can carry on and on with these images. Let God lead you, so while many in our nation read this book, your voice can echo with theirs as you bring the sleeping beauty – His beloved widow Israel – before her Lover, whom she is still too numb to recognize.

Who passed over?

Who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, all the way to the promised land?

Moses? Sure. But he had no idea if they’re to turn left or right when they hit a junction. Whom did he follow?

God? Right, that would be the common answer.

But can you please be a bit more specific?

A mysterious being led the children of Israel out of Egypt, stood between them and the Egyptians at the shore of the Red Sea, manifested Himself in a pillar of smoke and fire, and brought them into the promised land.

#clouds, no I think it's oceanic volcanic activity and that's the steam coming up from  the water:

At times the Bible calls this being an “Angel” (e.g. Ex. 14:19; 23:20-23; 33:2-3), sometimes the “Angel of YHWA” (Jud. 2:1-4), and elsewhere He is called “His Faces” (Ex. 33:14; Deut. 4:37 and others) or the “Angel of His Faces”“ (Isa. 63:9). His Faces, not His presence or His countenance, as the English translations wrongly say at times. These two terms do not even exist in the original Hebrew text. It is always about Faces.

This Angel is the Messiah, who revealed Himself to the nation through an abundance of symbols and clues. Many of them are found in the various Feasts that God appointed in the OT. Each Feast (in Hebrew, Mo-Ed, meaning an appointed time) reveals a bit more about this fascinating being, that never stepped forward and testified clearly to His identity. He was always covered with either smoke, fire, night, symbols, parables, etc.

Jews all over the world set at the Passover table earlier this week, telling the story of the Exodus. History and Rabbinical purposeful plan have distorted God’s original design. Passover was meant to point towards the Lamb that was slain, the unleavened Bread, the necessity of Blood on our doorposts so that death passes over. But these clues are hidden from our nation, as now this Feast is mostly about food, family, and disputes of Rabbis from centuries ago, who compiled a booklet that most families read that evening, but sadly is so remote from God’s original commandment.

Why are we focusing on the wrong things, year in and year out? Why do we work so hard, sometimes with fear and trembling, to prepare for a celebration that is so deviated from the original design? The answer can be summed up in the term “Hidden Faces.” The true identity of the Messiah is hidden from us on purpose, as a part of God’s brilliant plan to save the whole world. As long as He is hidden from us Jews, Gentiles can see Him for who He is.

400 Years of Beautiful, Historical, and Powerful Globes | This ridiculously awesome moon globe was made by the artist John Russell in 1797.  British Library  | WIRED.com:

The globe keeps turning. Half sees His Faces
for who He is, but He is still hidden from the other half

However, this era is coming to a closure. Soon our nation will go through a sobering experience. We will realize that He is not our enemy, but the Lover of our soul. And we will mourn deeply that day, as one mourns for the loss of a first born son (for more on this subject, click here Ruth and Naomi).

Dear friends, here is another opportunity for you to step alongside our nation, who is, for the most part, blind to the meaning of this Feast. Most Jews hardly even think about God or His miraculous deliverance during this sacred time. Here is another opportunity for you to stand between us and God and pray…

♦  that God will open blind eyes.

♦  that while we look at some of the signs and symbols that are woven into this Feast, we will reach beyond the fun and tradition and ask deep questions.

♦  that God will use this opportunity to reveal to us more aspects of the Angel of His Faces.

Traditions are beautiful, but they can be killers of truth, because our tendency is not to seek beyond them. We are so used to do the same thing, that we don’t even try to understand it.

♦  Let’s pray that our nation will seek to understand the meaning of blood, of unleavened bread and of true deliverance.

“Don’t leave before you say these three”

“Wait! Stay in your chair!” my friend rebuked both his sons, who were sitting at the Passover table. The two wanted to get up and sit elsewhere with their phones as they got tired of reading the Haggadah (the story of the exodus out of Egypt, compiled by rabbis centuries ago, depicting their arguments concerning the customs to be kept during this feast). Growing up in a non-Jewish surrounding in the US, they did not miss the songs we were about to sing, or the edible symbols the long annual meal was pointing to on and off (this special meal, called “Seder”, can last anywhere between 2-4 hours).

But their father was truly concerned. There was one sentence he needed them to quote that night from the Haggadah before he could let them go: “Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his duty: Pesach (the Pesach-sacrifice); Matzah (unleavened bread); and Maror (bitter herbs).”

The two young men cited it with dull voices, and went on with their business. The rest of us continued to read the Haggadah for a long hour, than stopped to eat an abundance of traditional dishes, and than went back to reading and singing the last parts of it.

passover5

The children of Israel passing through the dry land
in the midst of the dead sea – a great design for the Passover table

Why was it so important for my friend? Because Rabban Gamliel (10BC-70AD) said so. Gamliel meant that fathers must teach their parents about each of these symbols, so that we will never forget how we were brought out of Egypt, that there was a sacrifice that paid the price, and that life were bitter in slavery. But through centuries, the only MUST that survived in many Jewish homes is saying these three words. In Hebrew of course. Doesn’t matter if you don’t understand their meaning. Just say them, so your papa can regain his peace, knowing he did his part.

I was watching this little episode, amused, but also deeply touched and surprised. This was the first time I attended a non-Messianic Passover meal in years. I usually celebrate it with my family. We developed our own version that takes the best from the Jewish tradition and brings God and His Lamb into it. I forgot all these must dos and mustn’t dos around this feast.

What must we do?

Here is the list, according to the Torah:

“The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (Lev. 23:5-8).

We are told on what date to celebrate it, what sacrifice to bring, what to eat and read, and what to abstain of (work).

Nowadays the celebration peaks at the eve of the holiday, called the Seder. At the center of it there is this fancy family meal, with many guests, sitting around the table and reading the Haggadah. This booklet, by the way, does not even mention Moses’ name!

Passover is supposed to remind us that we were delivered from slavery, but any bystander looking at the particular and meticulous preparations Jewish women go through to get ready for it, turning every piece of furniture and every drawer in the house searching for leaven, can clearly see that delivery from slavery is not exactly one of the values set before us during this feast.

We have deviated from God’s original command, and instead of meeting Him during this feast and learning more about Him, we turned it mostly into a social event. Why have we deviated so far from God’s original plan for this feast?

The reason is interesting, historical and significant. I will explain it in my next post. In the meantime, will you please pray for our nation, as we prepare for the big celebration tomorrow night?

You can pray that as we clean and search for leaven in our belongings, we will be as diligent to look for it mostly in our hearts.

That somehow the powerful symbols we will have on our tables will make us search for their meaning; that our nation will not just say the words in order to fulfill our duty and calm our papas, but that the words will seep deep into our being. That we will desire to understand the need of a Passover Lamb in order to preserve our lives from death.

You can also pray concerning our bitterness towards God. This is our general attitude towards Him, even among atheists. Just like Naomi, who identified herself as bitter upon returning home from Diaspora, and needed a gentile relative to communicate with her the kindness and provision of the Redeemer, so do we need you, our Gentile brothers and sisters, to come alongside us and melt our bitterness towards Him.

If you have personal contacts with Jews, take this opportunity to wish them Hag Sameach and share with them a short testimony of how God has delivered you out of a specific slavery.