A Great Opportunity Missed

God had set plenty of special opportunities for us in the Biblical calendar to meet with Him. They are called Mo’ed or Mo’adim in Hebrew, meaning a specific Date. Each one with its unique rituals and significance.

Had we kept them according to His original design, they would have pointed towards the Messiah, and each one would have revealed a different aspect of His work on our behalf. But soon after our nation entered the Promised Land and settled it, most of these special dates have been distorted. Even when we celebrate them today, it is so far removed from the original plan. And thus, more opportunities to see Him are missed again and again.

Passover (Pessach) is certainly one of these. God’s invitation to meet with Him this season included three separate Mo’adim (Pesach, The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Waving of the First Fruits). Within time we lost all distinction between these three, and now, their hints of a hidden Angel who brought us out of Egypt (e.g. Ex. 14:19), of the sinless Messiah or of the waving of the first born Son towards heaven, have been completely drowned in some man made traditions.

In the mind of the average Jew, Passover is mostly a splendid meal for a multitude of participants and reading of the Haggadah – a booklet that was written centuries ago by rabbis, and is centered around their arguments. Haggadah means telling. Indeed, the Bible instructs us to tell our children the story of exodus. However, the traditional Haggadah has hardly anything to do with the Biblical account. Moses is not even mentioned in it.

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Passover marks the beginning of spring.
Just couldn’t resist posting these pictures of the blossoming fields in the park near my house

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Yes, spring is certainly here

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During Israel’s exile in Babylon, the entire Biblical calendar was thwarted. The names of the months have been changed, and we went as far as ascribing a few of them names of Babylonian idols (e.g. Tamuz). Today, the Jewish year no longer starts on the month of Nisan (cir. April), but on Tishrei (September-October) instead.

A complex and brilliant rabbinical calculation, done on the 2nd century, ensured that the new moon would NEVER fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. This shift affects the entire year. Consequently, Passover will never fall on the same day that Christians celebrate the risen Messiah. This was intended to prevent a possible situation where a Jew, who may be waving the sheaf of First Fruits on the accurate appointed time, will never do it on the same day his Christian neighbor acknowledges the risen Messiah from the dead (and thus perceive a possible connection worth looking into). The official explanation has to do with the Fall Feasts, but the main reason is hiding any Jewishness of Yeshua.

I know this sounds complicated and somewhat unreasonable. The longer and more detailed explanation can be found in my book His Faces. For more information click on “His Faces” – new book now available

My point in this blog is to recruit prayer. As the nation of Israel is preparing for the coming feast, you can pray that somehow, behind all the well hidden hints and forgotten original commandments, we will seek the God that can truly deliver, the hidden Angel that brought us out of slavery, the First Fruit that rose from the dead. The time for the Jewish nation to look into the eyes of the One whom we have pierced is drawing near.

There not quite there faces seemed to flicker with every menacing movement

Have mercy on us, Lord. Forgive us for going so far in an attempt to hide you. Reveal the Jewish Face of your Son to us. Open our eyes and our ears, and melt the fat around our hearts, so that we will know and see and understand, and be finally restored (Isa. 6:9-10). 

Your Blood Upon Us and Our Sons

In between all the events that I have shared with you in the last couple of weeks, one more thing happened – a historical one. I am so glad I attended it. 

Reuven and Benjamin Berger are two brothers, who pastor a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem. For nearly a decade they prayed about the need of the messianic body to repent on behalf of our nation, and especially for rejecting Yeshua. Finally, this year, they called a special meeting during the fast of Esther.

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Repentance in small groups

We are so used to nations asking our forgiveness for their part in hiding His Jewishness from us. But the time has come for us to own our part and repent of the choices we made ourselves.

Pastors and believers gathered at the beautiful Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. As worship began, my tears started flowing. The first song was “Aveenu, Malkenu” – Our Father, our King. It begs for the remission of sins, confessing that we have no deeds we can pride with. This song has been sung in synagogues for centuries. It echoed within me as if something ancient was waking up, like this prayer-song was calling up something that has been dormant for ages and is now paving its way out. I can’t really explain it in any other way.

The beautiful stained glass windows of Christ Church in Jerusalem,
the first Protestant church built in the Middle East in modern days

It was so different than the usual worship – it was some kind of a combination between synagogue music and something else. A cry, a lamentation, a plea for forgiveness.

Reuven than stood and explained how he sees our sins towards Yeshua. He spoke about some points I never thought of before: about the covenant we have made with death when we rejected the Way, the Truth and the Life. About how we drove the Son outside the vineyard (Mat. 21:38-39). In a way, nothing new, but something in the language of all these verses was highlighted to me. And we were all so ready to mourn.

Than the pastors attending were called up front. One by one they approached the mike and repented, each one for whatever was on his heart. Some wept, and some confessed, “Lord, our nation is rebellious and we have acted very wickedly towards You”. One pastor sounded like his heart would burst. Another buried his face and asked forgiveness for our pride.

Then a few women were invited to repent as well. One lady from an orthodox background shared how her mouth was rinsed with soap when she was a child, whenever she dared to say the J-word. She asked forgiveness for the way Yeshua’s name has become a curse in our nation. I repented on behalf of the widow who refuses to see her Husband for who He really is, for not thinking He understands our needs, for not wanting to see His Jewish Face.

A humble Arab pastor from Abu Gosh was then invited to the front. He sobbed in identification with his Jewish brothers, affirming that the land belongs to us and thanking God for us allowing them (the Arabs) to live in Israel. Can you believe that?

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Pastor Yaser from Abu Gosh

Benjamin led us all in communion. As we were chewing on the round flat loaf and drinking the sweet wine, one leader commented that we should reverse the curse we brought upon ourselves centuries ago, when we cried in Pilate’s court: “His blood on our heads and on our sons’ ”, and thus bringing a horrible curse upon our nation. This leader stated that it is time to welcome His blood on our heads and on our future generations, not as a curse, but as the only thing that can cleanse us from that ancient curse and its ramifications. “Aveenu, Malkenu, wash the curse away, we beg You! And let it become a blessing”.

A fine common line in between recent events

I look at the events I shared with you recently, and I find a thread that runs through all of them all the way back to the Battle Cries that were heard on October 31 [Cooo-eee! In Those Days, At This Time]

100 years ago, on October 31, the ANZAC soldiers paved the way for General Alenby to march all the way to Jerusalem. Where did he enter Jerusalem? On Jaffa Gate. A few months ago the same battle cry was heard in the same location, inviting Yeshua to come back to His people. Two weeks ago leaders gathered to repent for rejecting Him for centuries. Where did the repentance take place? At Jaffa Gate.

Interesting, to say the least!

 

 

Lifting Up the Cross – A Report From Magdala’s Encounter

Just a quick update, to thank all of you who were standing with me prayerfully, and for all the others, who would love to know the outcome.

In preparation to the Encounter we felt that we must be aware of the need to lift up the cross. That there is a risk that forgiveness – the topic for the day – would be lifted up above it. After all, forgiveness is only a tool. A mighty one, but no more than that. I was really glad that the majority of my teaching was taking place in front of a huge cross, over looking the sea of Galilee.

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Why? Because some of the attendants held a mixture of religious and philosophical views, that could have easily taken over the entire environment and discussions. Intercessory prayer has been going on ceaselessly, targeting this. I could literally see some of the prayer taking place behind the glass doors. So what could have led to a lot of tension and confusion, ended up with the cross becoming the focal point.

Each time I taught another principle, Dana stood up and shared how she applied it in her own life. Her testimony starts with much brokenness, but everyone attending could see that this is past history, that she is so different than what she was describing. When they understood that the main reason for that transformation is non other than forgiveness, it inspired them to give it a try.

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Approximately 30% of the attendants were Arabs. We felt that something important was sown into these hearts yesterday. Once you realize that no matter how much you suffer, there is always something you can do; that you do not have to remain a victim of someone else’s ignorance, cruelty or policy; that holding on to the pain is your choice but not a must, that forgiveness works, it breathes so much hope.

Yes, seeds of hope have been sown in abundance yesterday. With some of the participants you could literally see the change on their faces.

One participant told of a deep sadness that has been filling her for a long time. Though she has forgiven in the past, she is still not joyous. I teach that forgiveness starts with repentance, with inviting God into the wound and asking Hi, to forgive us for holding the pain for so long. When she invited Yeshua into her sadness, she realized that until that moment she was only forcing herself to forgive, but that she did not really want to. Which is why she was still not free from the pain. But once she invited Him into it, her will was easily submitted to His and for the first time she could make a free choice. The difference was evident. Her facial expression changed, her eyes began to shine and some of her friends even commented about it.

Another woman shared about the abuse she suffered since the tender age of 9. The moment she invited Yeshua into that memory, she felt like she was able to handle that trauma and deal with it through forgiveness.

Those of you who felt led to support me in prayer on Sunday – thank you. It was felt down there, by the sea of Gallilee. This was just one event in a chain of mighty things God is doing as He restores His widow and turns her into a Bride. I feel so privileged to be a part of it, and blessed that you see its importance and take the time to be there for me.

I am Challenged

International Women Day is celebrating women’s achievements and call for equality. It’s roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched in NY, demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours. As of 1913, the IWD has been celebrated every year on March 8th.

A few years ago, the Catholic Church sought to establish a retreat center for pilgrims on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. When they begun digging for the foundations, remains of a Second Temple period Synagogue were exposed. Bit by bit the ancient village of Magdala, where Mary Magdalene lived, was unearthed. Volunteers were recruited world wide, who devoted themselves to dig up the site. And so, a market square was exposed, alongside some streets and living quarters of the little, lively, village.

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The Magdala Stone was found in the synagogue
and bears one of the earliest images of the seven-branched menorah.
Photo: Yael Yulowich, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

Father Juan Solana, the founder of Magdala, decided to dedicate the site – among other things – to the healing of women, seeing it is connected with the story of Mary Magdalene.

One of the chapels is called “The Encounter Chapel”. Its rough stone floor dates back to the first century port, and it features a beautiful mural-sized painting of Yeshua’s encounter with the woman who had a blood issue. Visitors today can simply stand in the marketplace where Yeshua walked and have a personal encounter.

The gorgeous Encounter mural, painted by the Chilean professor of art Daniel Cariola

Magdala started holding a symposium every year, on International Women’s Day. Various speakers are usually invited from Jewish, Arab and Christian sectors. This year I have been asked to teach about forgiveness, and to my delight – have been given the whole day, so that the attendance will be able to not only hear stories and principles, but also apply. Crucial when it comes to such a powerful mental and spiritual tool.

Forgiveness has become one of the key topics I teach about, the first tool I seek to equip with anyone coming to me for help. Without it, I find there is hardly any use in counseling, team building or training. Once forgiveness becomes a part of the vocabulary of those I train or minister to, things seem to flow in an enjoyable fashion, simply because everyone involved knows that even when tension or misunderstandings occur, they will be able to deal with it. O, how I wished this would have become the main tool teams use, congregations, families, communities. Can you imagine how our world would look like if we would not hold eachother in debt?

Anyway, tomorrow, March 4, I will teach forgiveness at Magdala. However, unlike usual, this time I will be facing an audience that does not necessarily speak the spiritual language I am accustomed to. Some of the participants are Catholics, some, it seems to me, are secular Jews.

Quite a few Arab women will also attend the event. Some of them, or their relatives, may have suffered from the complicated geopolitical state of affairs in Israel. They may have relatives or friends who have been killed or wounded by IDF soldiers. And here is an Israeli Jew, who served in that army, telling them they need to forgive. It is not a simple task for me. And definitely, not an easy one for them.

Much prayer and intercession has been invested towards this event. I feel that I need to focus the stories and some of the points that I will teach, on the resentment women hold towards men. It has been confirmed through the intercessors.

I would love to know you join us in prayer. I am still going back and forth in my mind and heart, trying to figure out how God wants me to start, continue and end. My friend Dana will join me and will share parts of her powerful testimony, and how forgiveness had transformed her life. Both of us need to hear God clearly. Only He knows what the hearts that will be there need to hear, so that their blood issue will cease from flowing and for them to have their personal encounter.

And as always, I am looking for the Israel-widow point in it all. Israel has been abused, trampled over, ignored by. As a widow, she holds so much against God. So as you pray for me, and maybe for yourselves as well, don’t forget to take your position as a Ruth alongside a bitter widow, who does not want to have anything, as of now, with her Redeemer.

Thank you for standing with us.

 

 

 

 

Rejoicing Hearts

Humbled. Overjoyed. So grateful! These are just some of the words I can use to sum up this day.

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All set up, ready to receive our special guests.
Some of the youth in our congregation practicing their music

This afternoon we had our Purim party for the holocaust survivors. It far exceeded all my expectations. Only 9 out of the 15 on our list were able to make it, and they sat there, heard parts of Yeshua’s story – and seemed to enjoy every moment of it.

Normally, our parties last about two hours, at the end of which they are worn out and ready to head home. Today, they sat there for over two and a half hours. I was ready to start packing, but you could tell they wanted to stay.

A while ago we visited M, who told us that she never leaves her home, especially not in order to attend happy events. Her daughter died nearly 20 years ago, and she is still mourning over her. Well, there she was, beautifully dressed up, jewelry around her neck and wrist, her nails made, smiling at us and enjoying the party.

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Stewart Vinograd sharing God’s love

Stewart has been serving Holocaust survivors for years. It is through his organization that my initial contact with this group was made. Stewart boldly shared with them about Yeshua, about Messianic Jews and about the price many of us have to pay for our faith. I was surprised. I never imagined that we will have a chance to share the Gospel with them so soon, and so explicitly. It seems as if his words were received with open hearts, and that he even opened the door for further discussions.

Tony, my pastor, stood up next and invited them to see HaMaayan congregation as a home, with doors wide open, to which they can come with any need they may have. They clapped their hands. They were touched.

In between food and greetings, the youth of our congregation sang some songs. This was not exactly a traditional Purim party – but it was oh, so heartwarming!

Y, one of  the survivors, shared how in Purim, not only was Haman hanged. Apparently, in 1953, Stalin (a modern-day Haman), suffered a stroke and died, after issuing a decree to gather all of Russia’s Jews and send them to their death in Siberia. So as Russian Jews, this group had one more reason to celebrate.

Next was Bracha, a dear friend from Holland. Bracha, who worked as a guide at the Ten Boom Museum in Harlem, Holland shared the story of Corrie’s family. It all began over 100 years ago, when the grandfather read Ps. 126 and realized he is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. He turned to his pastor and asked why don’t they do that. The pastor’s responded that there is no need to pray for Jerusalem anymore, for this was just a part of history and not relevant to the present. Corrie’s grandfather realized it was up to him, and so started inviting people to his home to gather for weekly prayer meetings for Jerusalem.

When WWII broke, the Ten Booms were so full of love for the Jewish people, that they were not afraid of hiding them. They were able to save more than 600 Jews, some of which stayed in their home for long duration of time. Click here for more about the Ten Boom family.

 

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Corrie Ten Boom. A Righteous Gentile

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The Ten Boom family prior to the war

Albert, Bracha’s husband, shared next, about the work they have been doing for years with a Dutch team, restoring Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe. Accompanied by a beautiful presentation he shared about the sacred, aesthetic and delicate work the team did, as they were taking care of each gravestone. The survivors listened in awe, so touched by the caring these gentiles – who are supposed to be on the persecuting side – were showing Jews. Hearing Bracha and Albert, the love they have for the Jewish people and their desire to do something to comfort and restore, was like balm poured on these precious hearts.

 

Working on the restoration of graves in Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe

God opened doors today, that extend far beyond my plans. I am so grateful for that! And looking back, I know there is no way this could have happened without some of you backing us in prayer. There were just too many open doors, too much peace, to explain it in human terms.

On a different note. Please stand with us in prayer for R., one of the survivors. We have not been able to get in touch with her, and this week found out that she is not allowed to be in touch with anyone. Apparently, her relatives are abusing her, taking over her home and forbidding her to have any contact. We need wisdom in how to involve the authorities in a way that can be helpful and not cause more harm than good. We plan to visit her again early next week, when she will be most likely on her own. So PLEASE remember her in your prayers.