There

“I will come down and speak with you there…” (Num. 11:17)

The Great Escape. Photo credit Brian Oldham, on flickr

Moses was getting ready for an event every leader longs for: recruiting helpers that will carry with him the burden God has placed on his shoulders. God commanded him to appoint 70 elders for that purpose. Not a small number, but not that many either, considering the magnitude of the flock they had to oversee.

In verse 16 God tells him to gather those whom he – Moses – knows to be Israel’s leaders and officials, and bring them to the Tabernacle. How could Moses know who these leaders and officers are? Didn’t he have` his plate full as it was from dusk till dawn? And why does he have to bring them to the Tabernacle, to the Tent of Meeting, of all places?

Because that is exactly where they were about to be tested. The Tabernacle is where we are all tested, where our real stand with God is expressed. I assume Moses could recognize the candidates for the job only because they have been faithful and diligent to come to him, while he was sitting at the gate of the Tent and judging the people. From there he could see who brought their sacrifices as required; how they treated others; how they approached the priests and in what regards; how they ministered even before they were appointed.

Where Is There?

Earlier God made it clear to Moses where He will speak to him. The “there” verse 17 refers to is described in details in Exodus 25.

“There I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the Mercy Seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the Ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (Ex. 25:22; also see Ex. 29:43, Num. 7:89 and elsewhere).

Our half scaled model of the Tabernacle

Such a specific location. This is not just some unidentified spot within the Holy of Holies, or across the Mercy Seat. It was specifically within the triangular space created between the two cherubs placed upon the Mercy Seat.

How Does One Get There?

How could Moses get there? For only the high priest was allowed to enter that specific spot, and that, only once a year – on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, which starts today).

Back then, these were indeed the restrictions. But Moses, being Moses, symbolizes a path that Yeshua, the Prophet-like-Moses, was about to open wide for all of us. Today the path that leads there is wide open and the entrance fee fully paid for anyone who trusts in the Blood (Heb. 12:9-11). Only these people can get there, and clearly hear what God says to them about us, Himself and others.

One Important Point

We can’t just hop our way over there, skipping what is in our path. Yes, the Gate is open and the path is sprinkled with Blood that has prepared the way for us, but we still must enter in through the only Gate, that narrow one, and then do that which the priests did by each of the Tabernacle’s furnishings.

Otherwise, we won’t truly know if it is God speaking to us when we hear something, or maybe our flesh or, God forbid, some other voices.

The Process

What did the priest do by each piece in the Tabernacle in order to get “there”? And how are we to do that today?

This is a lifelong process for any disciple, who desires to always hear Him there. You constantly have to wash your heart and understanding with the blood of repentance and forgiveness (Bronze Altar), with the living water of the Word (Basin), allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to all truth (Lampstand), digest fresh Manna (Table), burn incense that is deeply connected to the process you have just been through (Golden Altar), etc.

Ot OoMofet’s Tabernacle workshops focus on this process (a discipleship program that lasts several months, or can be taught in an intensive format over the span of 10 days).

For the theoretical part, you are welcome to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zcAIbA7a1s (part 1) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLYXMqUgh8I (part 2).

Taken at one of our intense ten day workshops.

Up and Down

How many times did Moses climb up the mountain to get there? For years I thought he did so twice. Once to receive the tablets upon which God inscribed His commandments, the second time to write them himself. But one day I marked each reference and realized there were many more times.

Eight instances in which Moses went up the mountain are mentioned in that Torah portion. God, have mercy, I thought. The guy’s already upwards of 80 years old! But then I got it: turns out we are always called to climb higher, and then a little more, in our intimacy with God. It may seem tedious to us, even redundant, until we get to that place where He is “there”. A place in which no questions are left unanswered, ascending and descending is as natural and easy as it is for a gazelle, our needs are so fully taken care of, that even eating and drinking are not an issue, and there’s nothing left for us to do – besides being!

A Crown and a Diadem

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:4).

This verse kept popping in my mind last week, as I called upon several women who support getting the vaccine, to join hands with a few who object it. Together we met for a unique zoom meeting. I wanted us to somehow stay in our different opinions and the pain each side inflicts on the other, take these differences into account, and yet together enter into a joint place at the feet of the cross. I did not want us to ignore each side’s woundedness, just not to focus on it, and altogether remember that there is a Deeper Wound that we must lift our eyes up to.

The guideline was: His Blood was poured and His Body broken for both camps just the same. And who am I to judge someone else’s servant? (I know this is a wild paraphrase of Romans 14:4; yet it’s interesting to read that chapter in the context of vaccines).

We started the meeting with breaking bread together. Then – while we were still facing God and acknowledging the price He paid – we shared with each other what the Blood of Yehua means for each of us. Some asked forgiveness or chose to forgive. Since we started taking communion but had not finished it until the very end, the entire meeting was held with each of us acutely aware that we are found within His wound. And so, instead of focusing on what the other side is doing and the damage it causes the other camp, we were able to focus for awhile on what He has done for both sides together.

Only after about an hour we ended the meeting by taking the wine together as well and sealing what we started.

A Dividing Factor

We are now on the first day of Rosh Hashana. In Modern Judaism, it is one of the two most important familial events of the year. Families gather together around a well prepared table, pronounce blessings, give gifts, enjoy one another. Yet, I know of a few families that are divided this year by the issue of vaccines, and I am sure there are many more.

The medical treatment that was designed to ensure the safety of those at risk and put an end to a pandemic, has become a point of contention and possible division. The entire issue of vaccine has an aspect that we can easily ignore. We are all so concerned with its medical and physical aspect, that we don’t realize it has become a vehicle of division, that undermines people’s sense of safety with one another! It divides congregations, even families. And so, that which is meant to keep, protect and heal – turns into a deep wound instead.

Are You Facing Something Similar?

Does the issue of vaccine undermine significant relationships in your life? Does it cause you to lose some that are near and dear to your heart?

If so, please remember that there is a choice you can make. Cooperating with the dividing flow is not the only option! It is so easy to get offended, isolate ourselves, and sever ties with those who think differently, who even disagree with us strongly. But if we go that route, that would mean we have succumbed to fear, instead of extending the only kind of love that can deal with any level of that fear.

If your relatives and loved ones that oppose you are followers of Yeshua, would you please decide to stop focusing on yours, and invite them into His wound? It’s a safe place to meet at.

If they do not know Him yet, look for ways to wash their feet. Use this unique opportunity to remove your outer garment and any inch of pride or rejection that might be motivating you, and look for a lower path to reach out. Don’t let this plague rob you even more. Yeshua did it on the very night He was about to be betrayed (John 13). His way of preparing Himself for the ultimate betrayal did not go through alienation, arguing, pulling away, staying safe. On the contrary, He humbled Himself even more (v. 4-5), removed any outer layer, and dealt with the dust and stench of His loved ones’ feet.

Alpha, Beta… Delta… Omega

Yeshua, I am not sure I can go that low when it feels that people might be even willing to betray one another in the name of safety and health. I don’t have it in me at all. So in the midst of this chaos, I choose to place my feet, my dusty and smelly and earthly feet, on You – solid Rock, my firm foundation.

The enemy uses new tactics each time he tries to assault us humans. But the fear, sickness and dissention he had spread with the beta, gamma and now delta variants of Covid, do not change anything for You. You have no variants. You do not evolve, nor retreat. You are always and forever both Alfa and Omega – and everything in between.

You are the one who began everything, and You are also the one who will bring it unto completion. You know all the variations along the way, and You have provided all that is needed to treat each one. You don’t assemble Your Health Committee to start developing a new solution each time a new disease comes upon us. Your once-and-for-all solution has been manufactured in Your “lab” from before the foundation of the world, and it is still available to everyone – over the counter. And for free!

 “From altar to throne”
By SigneSandelin, DevianArt

I choose to lift my eyes off the numbers that the media broadcasts. I lift it higher and even higher, and look at Your head. It does not display spikes that must be eliminated. Just the opposite! Your head is adorned at times with a crown of thorns, and at times with a royal diadem. I am lifting my eyes to what the crown of thorns has achieved, and to the Kingdom You are establishing here on earth. And I am asking on behalf of all Your Body members worldwide: help us set our gaze on these two crowns – on what You have begun, and what You have already finished.

One More Wound

Can a person change his skin color? Can a leopard its spots? Can The Jewish widow transform into a Hebrew mother-nation?

Can That Happen?

Only if the heart is vacated of its wounds. Only then there’s room to hear someone else’s cry, and nurture them without feeling threatened.

In my personal life, I have learned this lesson the hard way and have seen it in the lives of many people I have ministered to. So long as my heart is broken, I focus mostly on myself. All conversations somehow revolve around me, and there is no room for anyone else. But when chambers of my heart (in which I have held captive people and memories that caused me pain) cease to serve as jail cells and return to be living, breathing body parts, there is room for others and their needs.

Birthday Wishes

My dear Israel, I love you with all my heart. You flow in my blood, in my soul. You are a part of my identity – of who I am. Your history and whereabouts are one of the main ways by which God reveals Himself to me. By looking at you I constantly learn who He is. You have battled with Him through many passageways, yet have prevailed (Gen. 32:28). However, in some realms you still act like a widow (Isa. 54:4), as if you do not have a Husband. 

In honor of your upcoming birthday, I bless you with yet another crossing over from widowhood to motherhood. With the ability to forgive, though it doesn’t mean you need to forget. To the contrary, beloved, once you forgive – you will be able to remember the facts just as they were, only without the sting attached to it. And when you speak these facts, others will truly listen. It will not be your painful emotions and your victim mentality that will take the front stage. It will be about what actually had happened, and about God’s strong and outstretched Arm that had pulled the strings behind the scenes in order to bring about a most wonderful plan.

I bless you with the ability to repent from the bottom of your being. To remove your sackcloth and mourning garments, and with ceasing to struggle against the Lover of your soul, whom you perceive as your greatest enemy. And I bless you with the ability to behold the Jewish Face of the Jewish Messiah. You believe He died and is still buried, so you have covered His true identity with heavy burial stones. But He is alive, and I bless you with this revelation.

And I bless you with many more candles on the bitter-sweet cake that I enjoy eating every year, on the 5th day of the month of Eyar.

Holocaust Vs. Holocaust

One of the wounds in our national soul is our official stance concerning the Armenian genocide. It was initiated by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 and continued through 1918. More than one million Armenians were killed in ways that have set up the stage for the Nazi extermination machine a few decades later. Already then they used death marches, concentration camps, mass murders and fires, and more [you can learn more about the Armenian holocaust at Armenian Genocide].

Armenian refugees in Malatya, who were eventually massacred

Six years ago, as the 100 year anniversary of that massacre approached, Armenia needed Israel’s vote in the UN in support of recognizing these events as genocide. Sadly, our government chose not to stand with them, and by the end of that year, this historical window of opportunity has closed forever.

Our reasons were mostly political, but also had to do with the concern that recognition in their holocaust will cast a shadow on the one we went through. So as we approach one more birthday tomorrow, Israel, I bless you with a mature realization that their holocaust does not make ours null and void. Our lack of recognition in their wound only deepens our identity as a broken nation. If we will take a just and righteous stand alongside the Armenian wound, it will sow into our own healing as well.

Jerusalem Armenians protest outside the Knesset, demanding that Israel recognize the Armenian genocide (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

I would love to see our politicians wisely choose Armenia as an alley, and recognize the many similarities between these two nations. Both are widely spread in diaspora all over the world, fought many years for their independence, are surrounded by Moslem countries (Armenia is a Christian nation), and of course – both are still dealing with the trauma of the mass killing of their people. I also pray that God will reveal to the Armenian church His heart for Israel, and His end-time plan for them as well. They need it! We need it!

Bereans-Like

At the time that vote was taking place in the UN, I was ministering in Armenia. The locals I talked to about it did express their hurt, but somehow it did not evolve into bitterness. Surprisingly, they were stretching out open arms towards us.

I was quite impressed with the depth and love for Scripture that I found among Christian Armenians. They reminded me of the people of the Berean church. In a balanced way, they combine the gifts of the Spirit with its fruits, and they serve God and others well. It would be every leader’s hope to have some Armenians by his side, for they are faithful, they love to pray and are good at encouraging others. Yet they walk around with a wound that has to do with us, O Israel.

Three Days of Remembrance 

Once Passover is over, Israeli flags are flown throughout the land. On balconies, on the streets, on cars. In the span of two weeks we commemorate three special occasions found on the Zionist calendar, not the Biblical one. Well, that’s not exactly right. The Bible does prophecy these days, in which dry bones will join one another and take upon them flesh and skin (Ezk. 37).

Holocaust Memorial Day (April 7th this  year) is followed exactly a week later by Soldiers and Terror victims’ Memorial Day (April 13th), and then Independence Day. 

Yes, He has hidden the Face of the Jewish Messiah from us from the moment we chose to worship idols and turned our backs on Him, and has punished us with exile, captivity, and the desolation of the land, but this was not the end of the story. Not even the climax of the plot. He promised that the day will come in which He will bring us back to the Land (Ezk. 36:24; Deut. 30:5) and restore its ruins (Deut. 30:3), Jerusalem will be once again inhabited by elderly and children who will play in her streets (Zech. 8:4-5), and then He will also bring us back unto Himself.

The ancient widow is indeed being restored back to her land, and gradually back to her God. The name of Yeshua, whom for generations was distorted and uttered as a curse by Hebrew speakers, is becoming more common and starts receiving some of the honor it is due. Yes, there are still significant pockets of resistance to the Gospel, but as I look back 37 years, to the beginning of my personal journey with God, and compare it to what I see today, I am moved and thankful.

A mother-nation is not focusing on self preservation. She has the required courage and confidence to handle any enemy that will come her way, and enough room in her heart to look at others, identify their God-ordained identity, and sow her part into its fulfillment.

Photo credit: Alan Hinchliffe on flickr

Lion of Judah, echo your roar inside our national soul. Awaken in us that roar on behalf of righteousness, both that of ourselves, but also on behalf of other nations.

The Lessons of History

The Biblical focal point of Passover is the slaughtered lamb and God’s mighty Arm. Rabbinical Judaism ignores that almost completely. Instead it focuses on passing the story on to the younger generation – “Ve’higadeta Le’bincha”, based on Exodus 13:8.

In this post I am not ignoring the Biblical focus, but would like to make a little room for history and the importance of remembering. There is something in the common saying about its tendency to repeat itself. So I’m taking a short break from the series about Hearing God’s voice, to recall some historic funny or impressive moments, captured for us through the lens of a camera.

Celebrating Passover

The following pictures have all been taken from the archives of the JDC (the Jewish Joint Distribution Center – the largest Jewish humanitarian agency in the world).

This picture was taken at the end of WWII in the Berlin Displaced Persons Camp, during Passover. The Jewish girl is holding a round shmurah matzo. To her right: an American Chaplain.

Photographer: Alois Bankhardt

For thousands years, the Jews have been careful to celebrate Passover. Even today, in secular Israel, the estimate is that nearly 98% of the Jews celebrated the feast last night.

In this picture, Yemenite Jews celebrate the Seder at an absorption camp, upon their arrival in Israel in 1960.

Bellow – Orphaned refugees from France celebrating Passover at the end of WWII.

1917. Jewish Prisoners of War celebrating Passover in a camp in Germany.

Below is a silent footage of the Joint’s extensive efforts to create a memorable Passover for Jews in postwar Vienna. The video shows the arrival and distribution of supplies for the Jewish community, Seders for Holocaust survivors at the Rothschild Transit Center, and a Viennese community gathering.

The Spanish Flu

While Passover is carved upon the Jewish memory for generations, this year we have a global memory, that will stay carved on everyone’s heart for who knows how long. Nothing to commemorate, but still worth learning from the history of global plagues.

These images were taken in various places over the world, during the pandemic that broke out in 1918 (the Spanish Flu).

Bellow – Air filtration device (though contagion was eventually proved as mainly through touch and not airborne).

Disinfecting a bus in England with an improvised sprayer. Check out the signs on the back of the seats.

Workers in New Jersey gurgling salt water – treatment that proved itself to be effective.

A military doctor spraying a soldier’s throat with disinfecting solution as part of an experiment, lately proven as a total bust.

And the icing on the cake: a medical pamphlet explaining the dangers of sneezing.

I wish us all a true, lasting redemption. The kind that enables us to sneeze and hug freely, that focuses on God’s values and not on man’s made wisdom. The one that lifts up the Lamb, whose blood is worthy of commemorating and is able to do more than we ever imagine.

Hag Sameach!

Testing Voices (2)

(Modern Bringers     |     Part 2)

[To read Part 1 in this series, go to Words Falling to the Ground (1)]

More than 30 years ago I was in one of those junctions, where I really needed a clear direction from God. I took the time to seek Him, cleanse my heart from my own desires, and discuss my options with others I trusted so they could hold me accountable. I kept the Word open in front of my eyes, and waited. When I got my answer, it was so clear. So I stepped forward in that direction (sorry for the foggy facts. This story involves other people, which is why I can’t divulge more details).

A little while later, reality hit me in the face. What I thought will follow, did not happen. Yet I had a promise, so I held on to it and kept declaring, believing, waiting for the facts to change. It took nearly two years before I realized that what I thought God told me, was never going to happen.

I was in a crisis. So many foundations within me were shaken. “Why should I bother to hear Him on other issues? I argued. I did not question the fact He still speaks, but I lost any trust in my own ability to hear Him correctly. Fearing I will end up wasting more time by walking a path that would again be proven wrong, I just stopped asking.

No, I did not turn my back on God, but I did turn a deaf ear, and relied mostly on my own wisdom and logic. Alas, that turned out to be an even worse wasting of time since this time, the lesson did not just end with a broken heart, but with serious ramifications and a high price to pay.

So Many Voices

A couple of weeks ago I cuddled in my bed on a freezing and wet Saturday morning. Since this is our third lockdown in Israel, everything was supposed to be quiet, especially in the part of Jerusalem where I live. Yet a myriad of voices infiltrated through the closed windows and into my ear.

The narrow alley outside turned into a wind tunnel and intensified the sound of the wind. A handful of men were chanting ancient prayers in the next door synagogue. Above their hushed voices I heard the high pitch of a young lad who must have recently celebrated his Bar-Mitzva (therefore allowed to join the men in praying), but since his voice has not yet changed, it was stronger and clearer than the others’. And there were also the sounds of cheerful little children who were playing in the nearby playground.

A mayhem of voices demanding our attention constantly
(Editorial illustration for Mako Magazine by Pierre Kleinhouse)

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world”, a verse popped up in my mind (1 Cor. 14:10-11). The original context is of the sounds we make when we speak in tongues, but I wondered: God, how well do Your children recognize Your voice in the current mayhem of noises?

Testing Is Noble

The mixture of prophetic voices whirling around the world has grown exponentially since the pandemic broke out, especially since November (when the results of the elections in the US were announced). Seems like millions of Christians went through a severe blow since Biden’s inauguration last week, as their last bit of hope was stifled.

This rather grim picture made me think: Lord, so many of Your children do not clearly recognize Your voice. Maybe we even fear the very possibility of hearing You clearly. Maybe we have a “good” explanation behind this fear, just like I had for many years.

Some have gone through a disillusioning experience at least once, and want to prevent it from ever happening again. Others would rather have someone else bring us Your message, just as the Israelites did at Sinai. As they saw the voices (interesting: they saw the voices, not heard them) and the sound of the shofar, they were filled with fear and cried to Moses: “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). Moses tried to reassure them, but the people preferred to stand afar. He then approached the thick fog, to hear what God wanted to put in his mouth (V. 20-21).

Here is the problem: when we hear a message from someone else, that comes to us wrapped up as a prophecy, we still need to go back to Scripture and to God, and do that which the Jews of Berea did (Acts 17:11), right? If we must test the words others bring to us either way, then we cannot “save” ourselves the need to listen and discern. So why not just try to hear straight from Him to begin with?

Just wondering: if two great apostles would have come to a service and bring a message from God (as happened when Paul and Silas came to Berea), would us examining their sermons in light of Scripture have shown doubt on our part, or rather nobility and wisdom?

Training Others to Recognize His Voice

We teach the Body how to recognize the voice of God’s Word. That is excellent and extremely important. We also teach how to respect the voice of reason, and even the voice of science to some extent. What about the voice of God? Many times He speaks through all these means, but there is so much more to it.

I used to see various crossroads along my path, those situations in which we have to make a decision on something Scripture is not clear about, as an invitation to put together a once in a lifetime puzzle that God has prepared for me. A puzzle I was meant to decipher. According to this wrong method, various clues were hidden to some extent in the Bible, or in my circumstances, or in nature, in a word someone else says, in dreams and visions or in images I would see in my minds’ eye. If I was attentive to these clues, if I put them together carefully, making sure one confirms another and hopefully my hearts’ desire, I could hope that the final outcome be in accordance with God’s perfect will on the matter.

Gathering of clues

This approach is problematic because it turned the answer I was seeking into the end goal, and made my relationship with God secondary. It ignored something highly important: my ability to hear Him is a result of the depth and honesty that exists between us. It requires investment, trying and erring, getting to know His personality, studying the unique language by which He addresses me, receiving proper correction when it is needed, and above all – good will and enjoying one another.

Faces Vs. Presence

“The Holy Spirit’s presence at service today was so strong”; “God, I want to enter into Your presence”; “Bring me to Your presence” – we say it often, we sing it, we pray along these lines.

But… the word “presence” does not appear even once in the OT Hebrew. All these references to His presence or countenance speak in Hebrew about His Face. Or more accurately, His Faces (it is a plural noun in Hebrew). Similarly, in the NT, the Greek word for face (προσώπου – prosópon) is translated at times as “countenance”, “presence”, or yes, even “face” (see for example Lk 1:19; Acts 2:28, Mt. 6:16; 2 Cor. 3:7).

The result is a somewhat misleading understanding of the term “God’s presence”. The Bible calls us to seek God’s Face, not His presence. There is a difference between the two.

I can be in someone’s presence with my back turned to him,
not even aware he is in the same room

But things are different if it is his or her face that I encounter

Hearing His voice is not an experience I “enter” into whenever I want to know how to handle something, but a natural outcome of the time I spend with Him.

What If We Have Gotten it Wrong?

The way in which God spoke to His people in the OT is somewhat different than the way it happens today. In OT days, though He did speak directly to individuals, He mostly brought His word through designated prophets, regardless of their relationship with Him. In the NT era, the Holy Spirit resides within us. We can all hear God and read His Word, even bring it to others. But unlike OT days, nowadays – the prophetic voice must correlate to the relationship that person has with God.

One of the most detailed OT descriptions of the ability to hear God is attributed to someone who did not even bother to obey Him. This person had his eyes wide open; he could see visions of the Almighty; he would fall into some kind of a trance while seeing it; his accuracy was phenomenal, thus even in other countries people knew that whomever he blesses will indeed be blessed, and when he curses someone – this curse will hit the mark .

Numbers 22-24 tell this story of Balaam the sorcerer. The guy had a unique ability, yet his relationship with God was pretty problematic. He totally misunderstood the place Israel plays in God’s plan, did not recognize an angel even when he stood in front of him, and employed manipulation to bring about his own will.

The Path is Open

Since Yeshua’s crucifixion and the ripping of the veil, the way to the Holy of Holies is potentially open to each one of us. Once we enter through the narrow Gate, we can boldly approach the Throne of Mercy (Heb. 10:19-20). But the accuracy of what we bring depends on the level of intimacy we enjoy with the One whose glory dwells there, in the Holy of Holies.

I cannot just jump right into that spot, skipping the process that leads there. I can approach the Holy of Holies only by following the path that the priests did before they could enter that place. The words “getting closer” in Hebrew are derived from the same root of “sacrifice”. So in order to come near to God and look at His Face, a sacrifice is a must. I need to cleanse myself with blood (Bronze Altar), wash by the Laver with the water of the Word (v. 22) and so on.

Only when I get to the final destination will God show me what He wants me to bring to others, as he stated to Moses (Ex. 25:22). Yes, even Moses, who saw God face to face and heard Him so well on a regular basis, had to go through this process in order to bring what God had put in his mouth.

1… 2… 3… Testing

I am not belittling or mocking the fact that God sometimes brings His message through others. I want to be careful to not despise prophecies (Thess. 5:20), but I am also careful to test them (v. 21). Not just the messages – but the bringers as well.

Therefore there are a few things I need to know about the bringer before I complete my test. I am looking to taste some of the fruit of his (or her) relationship with God: how soft is their heart towards Him, how willing are they to receive correction, are they teachable or mostly hold monologues, are they aware of their weaknesses and are transparent about them, and what do they do if it turns out they were wrong?

I do take into account that people make mistakes. I don’t believe that prophets in our days are to be stoned and declared false ones, unless they insist on going forward in the same direction and refuse to own their mistakes. But I do want to see that they submit to some frame of leadership that helps them take off more of the old man that spoke a little too loud when they thought it was the voice of God they were hearing.

Oh, and one more thing: I also would like their apology to be at least equal in volume to that in which their prophecies were delivered. Otherwise, I’m not sure it really counts.

To be continued…

Words Falling to the Ground (1)

(Modern Bringers | Part 1)

Nearly two million people had already taken the Covid vaccine in this small country. Within the next couple of weeks, almost the entire nation will be vaccinated, in what seems to be “the biggest experiment on humans”. Due to the uniqueness of Israel – small nation, clear borders, health system that enables a quick access to doctors and nurses – “Pfeizer” had chosen us to be the first nation that will receive as many vaccine doses as we need, to show the whole world how it works.

When the first shots were given less than a month ago, I was surprised to find out how many believers in Yeshua were among them, and how excited they were to take it. I trust they took the time to consider all the ramifications beforehand, and I would love to know that their decision is proven as wise. But as of now, I count myself among those not taking it.

Is It Or Is It Not?

I have all these contradicting thoughts running through my mind: Some say this is the beginning of the age of the mark of the beast. Is it, or is it not? If it is, how is it possible that so many great people of God still take it? Is it safe health wise, or extremely not? Boatloads of data flood us, that amazingly contradicts itself. And since I have no scientific tools to fully examine any of these options in their fulness, I end up having to rely on others. So as of now – I prefer to watch and wait.

The vaccine debate exemplifies what happens when these two camps start to parade their disagreements on social media: “If you take the vaccine, you will become part of the ‘beast’ and no longer can be trusted”, warns one side. “If you do not take the vaccine, steer clear from me and my family”, proclaim some who stand for it.

I am most likely over reacting, but for the first time I can see how – given just certain circumstances – brothers and sisters in the Lord might consider giving away one another out of love, believing that that is what will keep the other side safe.

But How Can We Know What’s Right?

God, we need to hear Your voice clearly. Not only on this issue, but on every aspect. Experts on both sides declare their opinion loudly, and contribute from their own experience to the heated debate. But what do You say?

One sunny day Moses gathered 70 of Israel’s elders and presented them around the Tabernacle. Numbers 11 explains why: God was about to impart of His Spirit upon them, so that they may assist Moses and ease his heavy load (V. 17).

They all began to prophesy, and then ceased. All but two – Eldad and Medad, who were not even in the right location, at the Tent of Meeting. These two stayed in the camp (vs. 25-26).

At that point, the resident informant showed up. Wishing to keep the status quo he told Moses that someone is doing what they’re not supposed to do. When Joshua heard it, he quickly pronounced the proper treatment: “Moses, my lord, arrest them (put them in jail)!” (v. 28).

What? Why? What was it that bothered Joshua and the informant, to the point they had no doubt: what’s happening is wrong and must be put to an end, even if it means arresting Eldad and Medad?

Are You Jealous For My Sake?

Most likely, Joshua and the informer reacted out of zeal for the leader and for the existing order. Moses’ response is precious. Both in terms of its humility, as well as the wisdom it holds. “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (v. 29).

What Happened to the Spirit of Prophecy?

Ever since the Israelites entered the Land under Joshua’s leadership, Israel has been under a severe punishment called “the Hidden Faces”. Messiah’s true Faces – his full identity – has been hidden from us as a nation. To this day, even when we hear or see God’s hand at work, we don’t get it and we do not understand (Is. 6:9). (see Faces or a Mask? (A Midrash for Shavu’ot) ).

The Rabbis teach that since the passing of the last prophet of the Old Testament (Malachi), the voice of God is no longer heard from heaven, and that God himself does not interfere anymore in the affairs of men (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma, 9). Through a brilliant yet terrifying process they silenced the voice of prophecy, and took upon themselves the responsibility to serve as God’s mouthpiece and lead the nation in how they should worship Him.

A Fantastic Tale – the Oven of Akhnai

Listen to this 1st century Rabbinical debate. Hard to believe, but it became one of the founding blocks upon which Rabbinic Judaism bases its authority to this day.

A new type of oven was brought before the Sanhedrin. The owner, called Akhnai, asked them to rule whether this is a Kosher one (susceptible to ritual impurity) that he can use, or should it be destroyed and thrown away. Rabbi Eliezer ruled that the oven is ritually pure, while the others argued the opposite. When none of Rabbi Eliezer’s arguments convinced his colleagues, he cried out, “If the oral law (ruling Halacha) agrees with my ruling, this nearby carob tree will prove it”.

And indeed, the tree leaped from the ground and moved far away. The other rabbis were not impressed. Their explanation: a carob tree offers no proof in a debate like that.

Rabbi Eliezer then cried out, “If the oral law is in accordance with my ruling, the stream of water will prove it”.  The stream nearby began to flow backwards against the laws of nature, yet all the other rabbis declared that one cannot cite a stream as proof in such matters.

Rabbi Eliezer then said, “If the oral law is in accordance with my ruling, the walls of this hall will prove it”. And indeed, the walls began to fall. Rabbi Joshua intervened and reprimanded the walls for interfering in a scholarly debate. So out of respect for Rabbi Joshua, the stones ceased to fall, but out of respect for Rabbi Eliezer, they did not return to their original place either.

In frustration, Rabbi Eliezer finally cried out, “If the oral law is in accordance with my ruling, Heaven will prove it.”  At that moment a voice was heard from heaven, “Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer? The law is in accordance with his ruling…” To which Rabbi Joshua responded quickly, “It [the ruling] is not in heaven [anymore]” (quoting Deut. 30:12 completely out of context).

The Talmud then then tells how God responded. Upon hearing Rabbi Joshua’s declaration, God apparently smiled and stated twice, “My children have triumphed over me” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 59a-b).

Deaf Ears Everywhere

Amazing, I know. Yet, this proves how deaf is the Jewish ear to the voice that comes from Heaven. Apparently, God’s children had won the debate, and a majority of rabbis can now rule even against His authority.

The arguments regarding vaccinations, or the political mayhem in the US, or in Israel, clarify that not only those who do not believe in Yeshua are turning a deaf ear to His voice. Many streams in the Body, many believers, are so tired of the prophetic voice.

To a certain degree, I can understand why. Too often this voice is inaccurate, wrapped in frills that are far from what Scriptures themselves say, use a symbolic and artistic language that blurs a specific meaning and can fit just about anything, in any time and place.

Too often modern prophets have not been accurate, to say the least, but only few have repented and asked for correction and discipline. Instead of humbling themselves, submitting to correction and accountability to other leaders, and learning from their mistakes, and yes, even apologizing publicly, in most cases we hear weak excuses or blurry explanations. This is so dangerous.  

Prophecy is a God given gift to the Body. If it were not so, why should He command us to test prophecies (1 Thes. 5:20)? Or why should  Peter confirm Joel’s words about God speaking these days through prophecy, dreams and visions? 

“Na-Vee”, the One Who Brings

The voice of God is certainly heard from Heaven. He speaks in many ways of course, first and foremost of which being His Word, but He also brings forth specific message through human mouths.

The most basic meaning of the word “prophet” in Hebrew is one who brings – that is a message from God.

The OT prophets brought moral instructions and rebukes to the people. O, by the way, women could also bring messages from God and prophesy, even in the OT (see Ex. 15:20; Jud. 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14 and more). I just had to say that…

Samuel’s example is outstanding. He had to go through a learning curve until he could recognize God’s voice clearly and not confuse it with other voices (1 Sam. 3:4-10). Once he matured, God brought His messages through him to such an extent, that none of the words coming out of Samuel’s mouth fell to the ground (v. 19). Such a level of dignity and accuracy. Each word materialized and made a difference. None was wasted. 

And Today?

Is God speaking to us today through His Word only? How do we know what is right or wrong in matters that the Word is not clear bout? Can we rely on logic? Or perhaps we should listen to the scientific one? Or maybe let circumstances show us the right path? Each of these options has its own voice. How can we know if it aligns with God’s, especially those voices that are brought to us through other humans?

Father, please turn us, Your children, into those who can clearly hear what Your Spirit is saying, who see clear sights, who are not acting out of the fear of men, yet are so full with awe of You. Train us so we can stand at the town’s gate or the city square, and bring Your word with clarity, assurance and love.

Using Moses’ words, Abba, I ask that You make all your people prophets, but that it will be Your words we bring forward. Without adding anything, so that none of them will have to fall to the ground.

Lord, forgive us for that arrogance or whatever it is, that causes us to speak in Your name without being fully convinced it was Your voice we have heard, or that the visions we saw were solely from You. Or that anything that is about to come out of our mouths, came first out of Yours. Many of us want to comfort those around us, to bring some clarity into this bewildering reality, not realizing that we are only sowing more confusion, and causing more ears to turn deaf to You. Lord, have mercy!

Also forgive us for the contempt with which we treat the gift of prophecy. Instead of testing it, we either embrace it as it is and turn it into an idol, or mock it. 

God of Israel, forgive this nation for disrespecting Your voice. For ignoring it. For sealing our ears and our eyes and wrapping our hearts with fat, so much so that even when we do hear and see, we do not understand that this is our Husband who whispers in our ears.

We are confused, Abba. When a word of prophecy is spoken over us, we tend to respond with sarcasm and criticism. Help us lift our eyes above those in place of authority and knowledge, in whom we tend to trust; Above our hiccups and disappointment due to unfulfilled prophetic words that we have heard before.

Father, the sound of Your voice is precious. Make it clear and real, so much so that we will never diminish it, nor add to it (see 2 Cor. 2:1-5, 10-12).

The prophet Amos declared that You do nothing without revealing it first to Your servants the prophets (3:7). May it be that all Your people would be agents of Your word, carrying it with caution, bringing it – prophets!


[For Part 2 in this series, Testing Voices (2)]

Against All Odds

Kiel, Germany, 1932 – The local Rabbi’s windowsill is facing the Nazi headquarters.
On the back of the photo the Rabbi’s wife wrote later:
“That flag wants to see Judahs death, but Judah will always prevail,
and our light will last longer than that flag” (from Beit Hatfutsot Museum collection)

Miracles is one of Hanukkahs main themes. It begun back in the days of the Maccabees, who against all odds managed to establish a sovereign Jewish state in the midst of the Greek-Roman conflict between these two empires. Here is another wonderful story, from our more recent history.

Hanukkah in Bergen Belsen

For many days Rabbi Shraga Shmuel Shnitzler (1888-1979, known also as Rabbi Shmelke) asked the residents of the barracks if anyone can find some oil. He wondered if either of them knew someone working at the camps kitchen.

But the answer was always a resounding “no”.

Rabbi Shmelke (Shraga Shmuel Snitzler)

As Hanukkah (of 1944) was approaching, he was looking for some thin thread of hope that may encourage his comrades. Something that might keep some of them alive, so he hoped.

Shmelke had a “respected” job in the hellish camp: removing the dead bodies from the barracks. A day before the Feast, while clearing corpses into the open field, he stumbled over a tiny hole in the frozen ground. He pulled his foot out and realized something was buried underneath. Shmelke gingerly looked left and right, ensuring no one was paying attention. To his utter surprise, he pulled a tiny jar out of the ground, filled with congealed liquid.

“Oil”, he whispered.

He then noticed there were other treasures buried alongside the oil. In a carefully wrapped, frozen parcel, he found eight tiny glasses and eight thin cotton wicks (another version of this story tells that the treasure was not found in the field, but inside a pillowcase that was hidden in one of the shacks. Yep, thats the nature of miracle stories. As if the miracle in and of itself is not enough, we attempt to make it even more grandiose. But regardless, a wonderful, heartwarming miracle happened that week).

Rabbi Shmelke wanted so badly to take the treasure and share the news with his “roommates”. But he was not sure if the Jew that hid it was still in the camp, still alive even. “Perhaps hell come back looking for it”, he thought and quickly buried it back. That day he asked everyone that crossed his path: “I happened upon a small Hanukkiah and a bit of oil. Is it yours? Was it you who hid them?”

Al Hanisim Ve’al Haniflaot

The prisoners looked at him with sad eyes, convinced that the horrors the rabbi had seen in his line of work had claimed his sanity. They all sobered up the following night. When they returned to their shack after that night’s roll call, they saw a small hanukkiah on one of the bunks, and one little vat filled with oil!

Shmelke chanted the “Al Hanisim” prayer (“He who has performed miracles and wonders on our ancestors’ behalf, in times past, as in these days”), and the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (“blessed are You, God, King of the universe, who kept us alive and brought us to this day”). He then lit the first candle. His neighboring prisoners watched with eyes wide open as the tiny flame struggled to burn in the darkness surrounding. Some burst in tears. All were filled with a spark of hope.

Lighting Hanukkah candles at the Westerbork camp in Holland (Yad VaShem archives.
Though this picture is not from Bergen Belsen,

nevertheless it helps in understanding the overall setup of the story.)

There was enough oil in that treasure to lit all the wicks night after night throughout the Feast.

Who Burried the Treasure?

A few months later, on April 1945, a much greater miracle occurred. Germany surrendered and the war was over.

After the liberation of Bergen Belsen Rabbi Shmelke returned to Hungary and became a spiritual leader of many holocaust survivors in his homeland. Several years later he met the Rabbi of Satmar during a visit to the US. As they were reminiscing, the Satmar Rabbi mentioned he too was in Bergen Belsen.

“Four days before Hanukkah of 1944 I was smuggled out of the camp”, he told Shmelke. “I didn’t know I will not be there for the holiday, so I bribed some of the guards and scored some oil, glasses and wicks. I even managed to bury it in the field. But I always felt bad that my little hanukkiah was never used.”

Shmelke grinned, “your hanukkiah shone its light in the darkness for many Jews and helped at least some of us survive the war”, he exclaimed as he told him the rest of the story.

My Prayer

As hanukkiahs are lit this week all over the world, adding one more candle each day, I ask, Abba, that You turn this ritual into a prayer in the hearts of those who observe it.

I ask that Your light will grow in the hearts of the elderly, specifically the holocaust survivors. For many of them this could be the last Hanukkah they will celebrate in this life. So as they stare at the tiny flickers, remind them that You are light, and that no darkness resides in you. Fill them with hope.

I think of Manya and Yafim, Esther and Yosef, Arcadi and Miriam – all the survivors I know personally, as well as the thousands of others still with us today. Cause them to lift their eyes to a greater Source of Light and remember that as in past days, still just the same today, You are alive, You exist, You are involved and invested in the minute details of their lives, and You still perform miracles and wonders.

A Jelly-Filled Doughnut for Dessert

One of the hardest things for many elderly during this season is to endure the loneliness and isolation. Many of them struggle with fear and anxiety. They are detached from their loved ones, and unable to engage in their favorite activities. The song bellow was recorded as a fund raiser to recruit assistance to the elderly. Notice the guest singer…

“Yesh Bi Ahava” is its name (lit. there is much love within me.) The song declares that in these days of darkness, we can show love to those around us, especially those who suffer the isolation the most.

Yes, it is PM Netanyahu that joined one of our famous singers
(Eden Ben Zaken) in this special Hanukkah production

A Paper Crown

The unfolding drama of the US elections reminds me of fairy tales. So I have to start with…

Once Upon a Time…

…when the ruling king was on his death bad, one of the claimants to the throne rushed to declare himself as the successor. He recruited some of the major voices of his days, that agreed it was high time for change, and they came alongside him. They didn’t wait for the proper process of coronation and ordination to come to its culmination, and thus brought great embarrassment upon themselves.

Sounds familiar? Contemporary, even? I’m not referring to Trump vs. Biden, however, but to king David’s heir. Back than, new kings were crowned by true prophets. The coronation included a clear instruction from God, followed by an act of anointing (see 1 Sam 10:1; 16:12-13; 1 Kings 11:26-39; 2 Kings 9:1-4). It was not public opinion, certainly not the media, that proclaimed who the new ruler is.

At Your Service » Children’s Recycling Fashion Contest July 12

For what it’s worth – newspapers and media material crowns
[taken from atyourservice.seattle.gov/2014/06/30/childrens-recycling-fashion-contest-july-12-2/]

Adonijah, David’s son, thought it was his time to sit on the throne, and hurried to feast (1 Kings 1:5, 25). Alas, he ignored two important ingredients: a recognition from God, and anointing by one of His true prophets. The result: Nathan (the true prophet) and Bat Sheba (the queen-bride) devised a plan in order to intervene.

History seems to repeat itself with the results of the US elections. The seemingly obvious heir rises and says: “I will be king” (see v. 5). He even has supporters who proclaim: “indeed, long live the new king”.

ES Redmond author illustrator thepapercrowncompany

How long do these crowns last, even if they are covered with gems?
[taken from esredmond.com/#!(sold)/zoom/c1ox8/imageoq1]

Is it God who chose Biden for such a time as this, or is Trump supposed to keep sitting on the throne for another term? Truth is I don’t have a clue. I do know, however, that modern media has not proven itself to be a true prophet or Shofar (v. 39).

A Strategy

This ancient chapter (1 Kings 1) gives us the strategy: it may look like the eleventh hour has passed; that a new reality has been established; that everything is lost for those who support Trump. But it is actually the best time for the true prophets and the Bride to intervene, and come before the King in order to align reality with His design. They have His ear, and that is all that matters.

King David said: “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon.  There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’  Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.”

 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted: “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound (v. 32-40).

The Anointment Horn The tradition of anointing the king originated in the Middle East. Based on Old Testament writings, the ceremony symbolised that the king was God’s chosen representative on earth.

Horn of anointing oil
[taken from royalcourt.no]

Both stories have all the necessary ingredients that lead to a fatal fall: pride and self exaltation, aids running ahead of the heir (v. 5), connections with the highest and most powerful ranks (v. 7), and even the premature coronation by the crowds / media (v. 9). But apparently that is not enough. In Adonijah’s case, the anointing was missing. These two cannot be faked. Yet, these are the two voices that really count.

Antique Santos and Saints Rosaries and Jeweled Crowns

What a relief to know that above every high official, there is a higher official who watches over him and her (Ecc. 5:8), and that even they are subject to the Most High. His crown cannot be recycled. It stands on a solid foundation.

Good Sealing, Imprint and a Scarlet Thread

Chatima Tova (may you have a good final sealing)”, said someone passing under my window to another passerby.

Tikatevu Ve’Techatemu (may you and yours be inscribed in the Book of Life and sealed in it forever)”, came the reply.

These blessings are common sayings among Jews in this season. You hear them everywhere. You leave a store, and the proprietor exclaims “Chatima Tova”.

It is based on a Rabbinical concept, according to which during the Ten Days of Awe (between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) God judges the entire world and decrees what would be each person’s lot for the coming year. He then writes the decree down in a book and seals it. Thus, Chatima Tova – may your name be sealed in the Book of Life.

Imprint – “Hachtama”

There’s an interesting phenomenon in the animal kingdom. It is called imprint (in Hebrew, the term is Hachtama – derived from the same root used for Chatima – sealing, and Chotam – seal). It happens immediately upon a gosling hatching out of its egg. This is a swift and powerful moment during which the gosling develops an attachment to the first object that moves before its eyes. The imprint is designed to establish a deep bond between the gosling and its parents, in order to protect the gosling and nourish it.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), an Australian scientist, was the first one who discovered this phenomenon when he noticed that geese goslings treated him as if he was their mother goose. They followed him around, tried to court him when they reached adultescence, and preferred his company to that of their own kind. He also discovered that there is a very short window of time from hatching that affects the imprinting, for the moment the gosling is fixated on some form, that will forever be its mother figure. https://youtu.be/JGyfcBfSj4M

The goslings following Lorenz around

He even observed that the goslings can be imprinted by inanimate objects.

Goslings who developed an imprint to a white ball

The imprint can also be to another animal

What Does One Have to Do With the Other?

It’s been over 36 years since I started following Yeshua, and I am still learning how to recognize His voice and footprints. At times I wish I was able to follow Him blindly, automatically, like goslings after the first thing they lay their eyes on; there are times I wish I didn’t have to put so much effort into it, with no hesitation of whether I should turn to the right or the left. But the sinful nature within me speaks loudly, too loud, and if I allow inanimate objects or some idols to move in front of my eyes for too long, they rapidly turn into the loudest voice in my ears. They absolutely imprint me.

But then I remind myself that I have been signed and sealed through and through, that I am written in both the Book of Life (Rev. 13:8) and the Scroll of Remembrance (Mal. 3:16).

Scarlet Thread

On Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) God commanded the High Priest to take two goats, offer one as a sin offering and the other send as a scapegoat into the wilderness of Azazel (Lev. 16:8). A man appointed to the task was to take the scapegoat to the wilderness and there push it off the edge of a cliff to its death.

The Scapegoat – a realistic oil painting by William Holman Hunt, 1854-1856

The Sages added commandments to those found in the Torah. The Talmud tells us that the appointed man would tie a scarlet thread between the horns of the goat. Another scarlet thread was tied inside the Temple. And while the scapegoat was pushed to his death, the goat offered as sin offering was sacrificed at the Temple simultaneously. If God accepted both sacrifices, the scarlet (red) threads would turn white, as a sign that He has indeed forgiven the sins of the people and sealed them in the Book of Life.

Now… here is a fascinating story also found in the Talmud (Yoma 39:2). It turns out that about 40 years prior to the destruction of the Temple, strange signs started occurring in it: a candle that was supposed to stay lit all night long, died down; the doors of the Temple opened on their own; and most important in relation to the issue at hand – the scarlet thread ceased turning white. As if to say: God no longer accepts the sacrifices on Yom Kippur and the sins of the nation are not forgiven, the people are no longer sealed and signed in the Book of Life.

All these signs appeared around the time of Yeshua’s crucifixion. Sadly, the nation failed to realize that there is another interpretation, another message: the sacrifice of sin offering is no longer required in order for them to be sealed and written in the Book of Life. All that is required is that they lift their eyes and look upon Him who was pierced, and realize that that sin Offering took all of it upon Himself!

My Prayer

In this confusing season, when so many contradicting voices are heard, I bless all of God’s children with a deep ability to recognize His voice and be familiar with His motions. May we live and conduct ourselves with a deep assurance that we are sealed by His blood – to such an extent that no voice and no other footsteps will ever confuse us.

I invite you to pray for those who wish upon each other a blessing they do not even comprehend – “Chatima Tova”. I hear it, and it breaks my heart: they have no confidence, no assurance that they can enter the Gate and approach the Holy of Holies without fearing that they will be pushed off the edge of a cliff.

Since the destruction of the Temple, Rabbinical Judaism has developed a myriad of substitutes for atonement: wearing a Kippa (yarmulke), communal prayers, Kapparot (see https://ornagrinman.com/2017/09/29/atoning-without-blood/). However, as of 2pm today, we have all been sent to our respective homes for an extreme lockdown proposed to last at least two weeks. How will the religious Jew now atone for his sins? What is left for him to do?

Join me in prayer that this state of affairs will cause them to turn their eyes from their well known routine, one they have followed blindly for centuries like imprinted goslings, and look up unto the true Scarlet Thread.

Verses to Meditate On

He has sealed [Chatam] us with His seal [Chotam], and given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30), and we are already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 21:27).

The Fast of the Fifth Month – Tishah B’Av*

WhatsApp Image 2020-07-29 at 7.46.32 AM

Today is the ninth day of the month of Av – Tisha B’Av. The worst date in the Jewish collective thought throughout our history, as some of the most horrific events happened on that day (well, at least according to tradition they happened on this day, though there is no real way of proving it). On this day:

∴  Circa 1312 BC: God declared that the Israelites will wonder in the desert for 40 years, because they chose to believe the report of the 10 spies, and not His promises

∴  586 BC: The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. The book of Lamentation describes how Jerusalem was turned from a thing of beauty into a desolate widow.

∴  70 AD: The Second Temple was destroyed by Titus the Roman

∴  135 AD: The city of Beitar was conquered by the Romans, representing the end of the Bar Kochva revolt; Jerusalem was plowed to the ground, to symbolize its total destruction

∴  1290 AD: Edward, King of England, ordered the killing of many Jews in his kingdom and expelled all the others

∴  1492 AD: The infamous deportation of the Spanish Jews

∴  1942: A mass deportation of the Jews of Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp

∴  2005: The coerced evacuation of Gush Katif, former group of Jewish settlements which bordered the southwestern edge of Gaza

Normally, Orthodox Jews flood today and tomorrow their local synagogues and the Western Wall. They sit on the floor, read Lamentations and fast – this is the fast of the 5th month which Zechariah (8:19) speaks of. However, due to the Corona limitations, they will not do it this year. Nevertheless, we can still pray that as they reflect on all that our nation had suffered over the years, may God stir within them a true desire to know Him.

Boys from Golani Brigade at the Kotel on Tish B'Av

Soldiers from the Golani Brigade
fasting and praying at the Western Wall 

I learned something really interesting about this fast. Apparently, at the end of the fast, orthodox women (mostly Sephardic Jews) return from synagogue, and start cleaning their homes diligently, polishing it, even painting the walls afresh. Why? Because in the face of destruction, the nation is always looking for some hope. And these women hope for the “Coming of the Messiah,” they say. They clean their homes in preparation for Him, in case He will show up. There is even a Talmudic tradition (tractate Berachot) that speaks about the Messiah being born on that day.

Multitudes of Jews mourn the widowhood of our nation (though they don’t use this term to describe the desolation and destruction we have suffered, Israel is a widow, as described by Lam. 1:1 and Isa. 54:4), and end it with a ray of hope for the coming of Messiah, not realizing He is already in our midst.

They mourn, but I am not sure they fully connect it to the reason that brought that punishment upon us. And I am not sure if they truly seek His Faces. But I pray that something ancient will stir deep down in our national dull spirit, and wake it up. That we will desire to see His Jewish Faces, until this fast of the ninth of Av indeed will turn into joy and gladness.

If Israel is on your heart, and you are looking to enrich your prayers on her behalf, you are welcome to join us as we pray:

∴  That the widow will desire to see her Husband.

∴  That our nation will pursue righteousness, and worship Him alone. The disasters that came upon us were not a coincidence. God made it very clear that this will happen if we neglect to act justly and righteously, and worship others besides Him. We turned a deaf ear, so He turned His Faces and His protective Hand away from us.

∴  That the physical restoration of the widow Israel will lead to her spiritual restoration, that we will realize we do have a Husband, and that we can lean on Him for provision and safety.

∴  That the nation will forget the shame of our youth and not remember the reproach of our widowhood anymore, but call on the name of our Husband and Maker – the Lord of Hosts, her Redeemer (Isa. 54: 4-8).


* Much of this post was originally published on August 2016, with a few additions.