Faces or a Mask? (A Midrash for Shavu’ot)

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I Want to See Your Faces

I would like to present a different reading, somewhat unusual, to the the most important command in Scripture. After all, according to a somewhat twisted Jewish tradition, Shavu’ot (Pentecost) is when this command was first given.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, God commands in Exodus 20:3. The linguistic and thematic depth of “before me” in Hebrew, does not translate well into other languages. The Hebrew original speaks of “Faces” – in itself a highly important concept we need to understand. And yes, it’s in the plural. The literal translation would be, “Thou shalt have no other gods over my Faces” – do not cover who I really am with a false or a partial image of Me.

The “Faces” of God are not just a part of Him, they are Someone. And this Someone is gradually told of in the OT, than hidden and finally revealed in the NT. The common terms “presence” or “countenance” do not appear even once in the OT in the sense we so often ascribe to them. David never longed to be in the presence of God and Moses never asked for God’s presence to guide him in the wilderness. It was always God’s Faces that were mentioned and sought, and there are dozens of references to it throughout the OT. We all say and sing of how much we would love to be in His presence, but it would be much more accurate and Biblical to pray, “O, I long to see Your Faces.”

What Do God’s Faces Look Like?

Scripture does not give us enough details, so I have no idea. I do know that whoever dares to draw near to God so much so that they can look straight into His eyes and see His pupils, must also see Israel there (Zec. 2:8; Deut. 32:10). That is one of the criteria to measure the level of intimacy a believer has with God. Of course, that is not the only proof of intimacy and maturity of one’s walk with God, but it is an essential component.

Each of our senses, other than touch, has something to do with our face. Through our face we taste and smell and hear and see. And so much can be learned from someone’s face, just by glancing at it, even before they utter a single word.

God’s Faces have been hidden from us by faulty translations to such an extent, that they have turned into other terms (in most cases it has been translated as “presence”, but there are other terms as well). It’s part of a punishment proclaimed as early as exodus, but I won’t get into it here. I wrote about it in earlier posts.

“You Shall Not Make Any Statue”

In that same commandment God is instructing us to not erect any image or likeness, or more accurately: no picture and no statue. It means of course that we should never worship anything other than Him, but I dare to add another layer to this prohibition: we should not cover or capture just one aspect of God’s multi faces and fixate on it alone. This commandment is an expressive invitation to a living, dynamic, growing relationship with God. “Look at Me, draw near, taste and see how good I Am, lift your eyes up to Me, not just to what my hands can do for you. Look far above and into my eyes.”

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A Mask

Then, as Moses climbs up that mountain again (have you ever counted how many times he did that?), to behold God face to face once more, the nation demanded Aaron to produce a god for them. The result is what we call “the Golden Calf”, but the OT calls it a “mask of a calf” or a “calf mask” (Ex. 32:4). A mask maybe because it was created by fire (it makes sense in Hebrew), but also because it attempts to freeze God into one form and image, an emotionless, thoughtless object.

The Angel of His Faces

So many are the Faces of God. At some, even angels dare not look. The Seraphs in Isaiah 6 cover their eyes when they encounter His holiness, and the Cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant look down and raise their wings in light of His glory. Moses too, who beheld God face to face, was not able to see all the sides and aspects of His character, all of His Faces. Throughout history, only One was able to proclaim amazing statements such as, “He who sees me sees Him who sent me” (Jn. 12:45), or “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (Jn. 6:46; 1:18).

Chapter 63 in Isaiah describes the Savior and Redeemer, and names Him “the Angel of His Faces” (v. 9). He is the One who carried us from before the days of old and has bestowed love and compassion upon us. Yet we have done exactly what God forbade us of doing in Exodus 23:20-23. We rebelled and grieved Him. And as a result He has become our enemy.

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Woe to us! He who was supposed to reveal God’s Faces to our nation is hiding from us. His true face has been blurred in so many ways and have become an image and a form, a frozen mask made of wood or plastic, etched into our national consciousness as our worst enemy, instead of the Lover of our souls. How bitter we are towards Him. We have rebelled (in Hebrew, the root is MRR) against Him and are now filled with bitterness (derived from the same root) towards Him.

Pleasant Turning Into Bitter and Vice Versa

I want to use this short and bitter key word to bring us into the story of Naomi, also known as Marah (MRR again – bitter), as for the next two days the book of Ruth will be read, well into the night, in all synagogues worldwide during the coming feast.

For years I have been digging deeper and deeper into the book of Ruth, finding more gems that surprise me time and again. How much depth can be found in four short chapters, written in such a simple and clear language?

Naomi, to me, represents modern Israel. Like Israel, she too went into exile, where she lost all that was dear to her, and now she is returning to her homeland, to Beth Lehem – the House of Bread. When the town’s people see pleasant Naomi (this is the meaning of her name) from afar, and wonder if it is really her, Naomi refuses to be called by that name anymore. By that point, after loosing both her sons who were literally called Sickness and Annihilation, she already learned a lesson or two about the power of first names. So she makes it clear, “Pleasant I am not.”

She adds, “I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:21).

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“Call me Marah – the Bitter one. That is the essence of who I am right now, and therefore, that is what from here on my name will also be.”

The Hidden Redeemer

Throughout the entire book, Boaz (who symbolizes the redeemer) knows Naomi is back in town. She also knows he is there. But there is no direct communication between them. When he wants to send her something, he does it through the gentile. When she needs something from him, she also sends Ruth.

Why? I wonder. Naomi could have gone directly to him, and ask him to attend to her affairs. Moreover, she didn’t even need his help. She could have approached the elders at the gate and ask them to speak on her behalf to that other relative. Why didn’t she do that? What is it in Boaz’s character that was hidden from Naomi? What was withholding the process of her redemption from coming to completion?

Only when she saw Ruth going and coming back well and whole with her hands full of sustenance, her bitterness began to soften and dissipate, until she was able to see Boaz for who he truly was.

Why can’t the nation of Israel see the Redeemer for who He really is? Why is it that so many aspects of His character, so many of His Faces, are hidden from us? Why have we frozen His true character and prefer to worship only a partial picture and image of He fully is? Now that we are back in the land, we go through a similar process, just like Naomi did. When we see gentiles drawing near to the Redeemer, speaking to Him, receiving clear answers, gleaning provision in His fields, lay at His feet even in the wee hours of the night and come out healthy and whole, only then does some of our bitterness towards Him begins to dissipate. We dare to tear down the mask that is hiding the true Faces of the Jewish Messiah, and bit by bit start to understand what is hidden behind it.

How shocked I was 36 years ago when I met gentiles who told me they have a relationship with the God of Israel. That they ask, and He answers. Full of cynical suspicion I watched them, and was touched to find it was truly so. My “Ruths” gradually melted the “Marah” inside me and brought me eventually to the arms of the Redeemer.

The Icing On the Cake

I find it quite amusing that the neighboring women were the ones to name Obed. Can you see them, sitting there in the yard, doing their laundry or fishing tiny, barely seen stones from a pile of grains resting on gigantic brass platters, and prattle about the upcoming birth of Ruth’s child?

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“What are we to do?” they ask. “You know that this child will be born to Naomi (Ruth 4:17). Boaz will not be the one to name him, but her. And we all know that this is one area she cannot be trusted with.”

“We’ll name him!” another one offers.

And so, contrary to what was accustomed at the time and in that culture, these neighbors were the ones who proclaimed the destiny of the child. He will be Obed – a worshiper, the one who serves God.

As Shavuot starts, I reach out to each of the “Ruths” who read this post. Thank you that you no longer try to turn us into a Ruth and insist that we assimilate; Thank you that you are faithful to your part in this unfolding story, and for not trying to become a Naomi; And thank you for partnering with us. This cooperation is what makes us into one new man that can dwell in the house of the Redeemer, as each side contributes its unique part to His return. It happened in the days of Ruth and Naomi in the physical realm. It is happening now, right before our eyes, in the spiritual realm.

Ha Sameach!

The Answer to Terror

Grief. A short word, that goes a long way. You are instantaneously flooded with feelings, thoughts, memories, attempting to take over the coastline you somehow created within yourself – your inner boundaries, even your sanity. A smell that brings back a memory from the past, then another sweet thought, followed by a painful one. “We were here together, played in this playground, he pulled my hair, and then we wrestled on the ground. Mom was upset at the sight of mud on our clothes, but dad just smiled and wrapped his arms around us.”

ARTFINDER: Sea Tide by Alison Johnson - Oil on canvas

And then the wave washes back to the sea. Surprisingly. Just like it showed up.

A Day Of Mourning

Memorial Day of the Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims starts tonight. At 8 pm Israel time, a siren will be heard throughout the country for a full minute, and we will all stand at attention in their memory and honor, keeping our minds set on those we know: the neighbor that was killed in one of the wars; the childhood friend whose plane was shot down in another battle; the officer from our home town who was captured by Hamas and whose parents mourn over a grave that only holds his dog tags.

Solidarity

Tomorrow morning, ceremonies will be held in all the military cemeteries, and many of us will wear black, carry wreaths and share in our collective pain.

Does national solidarity help a mourning family? Does it ease the pain? I don’t fully understand its mechanism. Though Israel has suffered many battles, I, personally have never lost a loved one in war. My insights are second hand, based on what I hear from those who eloquently express with broken words the small moments, the lack, the amazing ability to move on even when a huge part of you is stuck somewhere behind.

Yoram Tahar Lev, a popular Israeli songwriter, expressed it well in two short lines:

“You are a land lost to me forever,
But your roots are already so deep inside me.”

This year I also find myself wondering: What is going on on the other side, across the border? How do bereaved families deal with it there? Again I am reminded of the image I saw (exactly a year ago), of the broken rift between us and our neighbors.

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An image I saw about the Jordan Valley Rift, being a wound in God’s heart.
For more see Crossing Over – A Hebrewism (1)

New streams of blood were added this week to this rift, following the rockets barrage from Gaza and the Israeli strike in response. I remind myself that this bleeding rift is inside God’s heart, not outside of it. And that we are called to heal, not to deepen the wound, or scratch it so it bleeds even more.

How Can That Be Done?

By lifting our eyes above the sights flowing through the media, beyond what one side says and the other does in response. By lifting our eyes to Him. And listening to His heart on the matter.

What does He say? Scripture is full of great and precious promises in regard to our region. For every rocket shot, every missile launched on both sides, we can shoot with our own mouths arrows of precious promises, that will not return void and that no weapon can intercept.

The Root Issue

Following our recent elections in early April, I started praying mostly for justice and righteousness among our leaders. I pray that the priority of the Israeli authorities will be justice and righteousness. The unsettling conditions in our borders are not Israel’s root problem. They are simply one way in which God is drawing our attention to Him.

The warnings Isaiah sounded to the rulers and legislators of his time are still valid today:

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” (Is. 10:1-3).

God has warned us time and again that disasters will be the result of neglecting to act justly and righteously, and of worshiping others besides Him. We continue to turn a deaf ear, so He turns His face and His protective Hand away from us.

What do you think?

But He also promises that if we act justly, that if our measuring lines will be based on justice, the fruit will be peace, and quietness and confidence forever. That we will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes and in undisturbed places of rest (see Is. 32:17-18). O, how we long for that.

The Rock of Israel

When David Ben Gurion, our first prime minister, foresaw the state of Israel (prior to 1948), he said that our fate depends on two main things: our strength and our righteousness. Being an atheist, God’s plan and promises were not a part of his vision. Which makes even more interesting his strong conviction that our existence depends on building a just nation and society. Not knowing The Rock of Israel, he still preached our destiny as a light to the nations, by building on that solid moral rock.

Dear Israel, it is time to forget the reproach of your widowhood, to let go of the garments of mourning and the shame of your youth, and to align your standards with those of your Husband and Redeemer, who bestows everlasting mercies upon you (see Is. 54:4-5, 8). As you prepare for your 71st birthday tomorrow, my blessing to you is that you will become a leader of the nations, that the light shining from us, from you, will spread righteousness throughout the globe, and will provoke jealousy in other nations, as they see the fruit we harvest due to these standards.

Abba, we long for the day in which all our sons will be taught of the Lord, and their peace will be great (v. 13). We declare by faith that as a part of the wonderful restoration of our people, your desire is to establish us on the foundation of justice and righteousness. You promise that if we steer away from injustice, we will not fear or be terrorized, and that tyranny and terror will not come near us (v. 13-14).

Moreover, Abba, I pray that by this foundation, the nations of the world will know us; let this be one of the strongest characteristics of Israel’s identity, something that the nations of the world will look up to and envy. Open the eyes of our leaders at all levels, and especially the new government, and stir a hunger and thirst in their hearts for justice, righteousness and truth to be the basis of each and every decision about to be made.

Table Vs. Stage

I have no idea when exactly it happened. Somehow, our worship of God at the Table was pushed to the sidelines, and the stage (or platform) have become the central focus. Strange, for a stage, or BI-MA (the Hebrew word that describes a high place) is exactly where God forbids us to worship Him!

Yes, I know, the stages at our modern congregations and churches are nothing more than equipment, designed to enable the hundreds or thousands present to better see what’s going on, but for a while now I have a deep longing to go back to the Biblical setting.

The Original Pattern

The original framework of worship is based on the pattern of the Tabernacle. When God commanded Moses to erect it, He not only provided him with a list of materials, sizes and colors, but literally showed him something.

“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Ex. 25:9. See also v. 40; 26:30; 27:8; Heb. 8:5; 9:11, 23-24 etc.).

Importing Materials Vs. Using What We Have Available to Us

Later on, David set out to build a temple, much fancier and grandiose than the original format. In the Temple, everything was multiplied 10 times; in the Tabernacle –  each piece is a work of genius, but very simple, all established according to a human scale.

The Tabernacle is not just a historical structure, made obsolete. It is still valid today. Yeshua himself passed through a structure not created by man, and both the Book of Hebrews and Revelation include multiple mentions of some of the articles found in that heavenly Tabernacle (see Heb. 8:2).

The Temple was built of Cedar trees, that were not indigenous to Israel. They had to be imported from Lebanon. The Tabernacle, on the other hand, was built of Acacia wood, found in the wilderness, right where the Israelites were at that time. Cedar wood is every carpenter’s dream material: thick, straight, large logs. Acacia trunks are every carpenter’s nightmare: twisted, crooked, thin, prickly. But that’s what they had on hand, and that is what God eventually filled with His glory.

God never expects us to bring from without the materials from which we will build a tabernacle full of His glory in our hearts. To the contrary, He wants us to bring the thorns, the twists and crookedness, our brokenness. He will do the rest. It’s not a simple concept for us to digest. We prefer Cedar trees, high places, power, might. But then it is our glory that can be seen, not necessarily His.

A Tale of Three Tables

In the original Tabernacle there is a table. On it was the showbread, The bread that saw, observed, God’s faces. The priests ate it once a week, after replacing it with fresh loaves. There were also KSA-VOT on the table – a unique and archaic term, which researches are not clear as to its exact meaning. Some think these were vats or pitchers of wine. I like that. Here is the earliest ever version of the Lord’s supper. There, in the holy place, and not in sight of the whole crowd, the priest faced God and dined with Him. It could happen only after he cleansed himself with blood (Bronze Altar), washed himself with water (Laver) and examined the intentions of his heart in front of the Lampstand. Only then he was ready for a moment of deep intimacy with his Maker.

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Judaism has developed the beautiful tradition of the Shabbat table. On it too we find bread and wine, but here – the intimacy is more horizontal – between us and our loved ones, our family and friends. Around this table our eyes delight in the views and aesthetic colors, while our bellies are filled with delectable food. A feast for all senses. This is the time to stop the weekly race, catch up with everyone, read from the OT portion designed for the week, and even discuss its ramifications for all those seated at the table. Around the Shabbat table each one has the opportunity to express their voice, to have their views and opinions heard. Yes, someone is guiding the conversation, but he is not standing on a raised platform, requiring all eyes to be set on him alone. What a profoundly more natural way to worship God.

IMG-20190417-WA0000“Last Form” – painted in pencil and gold leaf
by a young Israeli secular artist, Yifat Bezalel

This week we will set yet another special table, the Seder table. There too we will fill our bellies, while we remember that our forefathers have been slaves in Egypt. We will remember that Someone set a crown of thorns upon His head and payed a hefty price so that we no longer have to carry the thorns and thistles in our lives. Yet another wonderful way to worship God, and tell about His ways to our children and loved ones who do not know Him as of yet.

IMG-20190418-WA0018The Seder table at my sister’s house,
all set in preparation for tomorrow’s Passover meal

Can We Go Back to the Table?

A deep longing, a yearning I have never known before, has awakened within me lately: to step down from the platform somewhat and bring worship and service of God back to the table, in its various forms.

IMG-20190417-WA0002Combining the table of Shabbat with the Table of Showbread

Last week, at the end of a special gathering of Arab and Jewish women,
I combined a Shabbat table with a half scaled model of the Table of showbread
and invited both people groups to become intimate with one another around these two.

I, personally, long to see the descendants of Ishmael, Esau and the other children of Abraham, sit with us at each of these tables.


Coming Up – Our Next Tabernacle Seminar for English Speakers

I invite you to join our next Tabernacle Seminar for English speakers that will take place in Israel, in November 2019. For more info: Tabernacle Seminar – Brochure (1)

“I Want an Honest Answer…”

“I must ask something, and I want an honest answer”, Y’ exclaimed in a decisive tone, as he stood up to ensure we were all paying attention. It was during the Purim party we held for the holocaust survivors in our area. Y’ slightly slapped the table, and went on to say, “how is it that all these evangelical missionaries believe in our God? The Jews await the Messiah, and the Gentiles believe he came and will come back again, so is there a difference? And what are Messianic Jews anyway?”

There were quite a few tourists that joined the party, but I could sense that Y’ was not referring only to them. He was honestly curious about the Jews among us, who believe in Yeshua. Earlier, when the party just started, I held a (plastic) scepter in one hand, and a colorful fan in the other, and briefly explained the book of Esther to them. For the Jew, the word “missionary” carries a negative connotation with it. It is ascribed to all the Israel-hating gentiles who throughout history, as if in the name of God, were willing to force Jews to convert and even annihilate them.

A Special Tune inside God’s Heart

Among our guests was the violinist Ruth Fazal, who played several of her compositions for them. If you are not familiar with her, here’s a peek at her heartfelt creations (also, check out her website at Ruth Fazal). The Lord has given Ruth such an anointing through her violin, especially with Jewish people, and most specifically holocaust survivors.

At some point, Ruth realized they were not really paying attention to her playing. She drew near, and explained that God is giving her a special tune, never played before, for each one of them. She looked each of them in turn straight in the eye, and begun playing. They all got quiet and very attentive, as they realized they are experiencing something unique. That God has composed a special tune for each one of them individually, and sent it to them through this lady.

Ruth playing HaTikvah at A’s request

It was when Ruth was done that Y’ stood up and asked his surprising question that I shared about above. The believers among us sat with eyes wide open, and mouths gaping. We looked at each other and wondered, “Is he really asking what we think he’s asking? Did he just open the door for us to share the Gospel with them?”

Then he added, “and now I will sit down and I want to hear an honest answer!”

And so he heard (and all the rest of them with him)! I shared about the connection between the book of Esther and the hidden Messiah, so much so that we perceive him as our enemy, and how God has warned us ahead of time that if we do not heed His voice, exile and even horrible disaster (the word in Hebrew is actually Shoah = holocaust) will come upon our nation. But He also promised to eventually bring us back to our land and more importantly, unto Him, upon which He will reveal to us the true identity of the hidden One.

I shared about the special place God has in his heart for each one of them, for that is where this personal tune came from, and that we are all praying that they will foster a special place in their own hearts for Him. For that is where the healing, help, prosperity and salvation they each long for will come.

God Hidden in an Entire Book

The book of Esther provides a comic explanation of the hiding of God’s faces. In Hebrew, the name of the book is Megilat (to scroll; to unveil) Esther (something hidden). It is the only book of the Bible that does not mention the name of God, not even once. So much so, that some actually refer to the book of Esther as  “The Scroll of Hiddeness.”

This is not some minor issue. The hiddeness is the core essence of this book. Esther’s relationship with the king is one of alienation and disaffection. She doesn’t even dare to approach him without an explicit invitation. And despite their official relation, she was in no hurry to expose her true identity to him.

The OT explains the importance of the feast of Purim:

“These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews – nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants” (Esther 9:28).

This explicit declaration was not spoken in regards to any other feast mentioned in the Torah, not even Passover, which is considered to be the most feast. Why is that so? Perhaps because all the other feasts represent something that has already happened in the history of Israel, while Purim hints to the complete redemption we are still awaiting for. A redemption by the God whose identity, and even name, are hidden in the story and from our eyes, even today.

The rabbis understood this, and so ordered:

“In the future, all of the feats will be nullified… but the days of Purim will never be nullified” (Yalkut Shimoni, Proverbs, Remez 944).

How Did the Survivors Respond? How Can You Respond?

E’ said, after listening carefully to my explanations, “Yes! That’s right.” And Y’ said, “Thank you for taking the time to explain it all. I now understand it.” And we all mumbled a deep “goodness gracious” under our breaths.

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E’ and D’ listening to the song God gave Ruth for her

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Y listening to God’s song for him

So how can you pray? This blog, in its essence, was created to equip the readers with a vocabulary that will enrich their prayers concerning God’s purpose and plan through Israel.

You can pray that the Messiah who is hidden from the eyes of our nation will be revealed to them;

That He will expose his Jewish Face to them, and His Jewish identity.

That He will no longer be as a sealed book hidden inside an ancient scroll, but will become a written epistle accessible to them.

Pray for their willingness to create a special place in their hearts for God, and for more open doors and opportunities to share His truth as we do our best to make these widows and widowers’ hearts rejoice.

A Red Heifer and an Eternal Lamb

A red heifer!?

My jaw dropped as I stumbled upon an article in one of the Israeli religious newspapers. Apparently, someone managed to breed a red heifer. Indeed, the preparations for establishing a fourth temple (we forget the one Nehemiah had built in our common count of Jewish Temples) are speeding up, some of which look almost like a hallucination. But they are not.

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem and the new Sanhedrin (yes, this council is also already set up) has been working for years on the preparation of the various instruments and tools necessary for the service of the priests.

Vineyards have been planted for the purpose of producing the wine and oil necessary for Temple worship. Special wheat is being grown in specialized fields, and so are all the other crops needed in order to produce the perfumes and anointing oil.

But until now all was done within the walls of the institute itself. For the first time, during this last Hanukka (last month), a temporary altar was erected outside the walls of Jerusalem, not far from Jaffa Gate. While the audience was watching, the future priests practiced the ceremony of offering sacrifices to God.

The white banner says: Dedication of a kosher altar,
ready and set for service in the Temple

The man with the mike explains to passerby what the priests are doing, the various regulations, the names of the utensils, the blessings and phrases that are to be cited. Lots of Hebrew talking in this 30 min. video, but it is worth watching.

What About the Red Heifer? 

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In August this year, a reddish-colored heifer was born in Israel. Why does it really matter?

Because it is crucial to the Temple worship. Its ashes are the only way to complete the ritual of purification. Without it, the priests will not be able to minister, even if the temple is rebuilt.

Throughout history there have only been a handful of red heifers(some say 7, some 9). To meet Biblical requirements, the heifer has to be born at a natural birth and be entirely red, with no more than two non-red hairs on its entire body. It is also mandatory that it has never been used for any labor or have been impregnated.

Once such a heifer is spotted, they burn it and use its ashes for the rituals. One heifer can suffice for centuries. The rabbis have been trying to produce such a heifer for decades, even going as far as cloning, but it never worked. So this is a BIG deal.

“This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke… the heifer is to be burned – its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer… A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin” (Numbers 19:2-9).

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:13-14).

Blasting of trumpets and the Aaronic Blessing at the temporary altar
(Photo credit: Adam Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)

Many in our nation seem to realize something is missing. Zionism brought us back to the land of our fathers, but did not provide redemption to the tormented soul or any relief to a guilty conscience. Synagogues provide a sense of community, prayer, ceremonial frame. But not atonement.

Will there be another Temple? And if so, where? Interesting questions. But as fascinating as all of these things are, they are not my main point in this post. Watching these developments makes it clear: Israel is hungry for another dimension in the worship of God.

How sad! They seek the atonement, redemption and purification of blood. They seek to erect a building to honor God, while completely missing The Point: He desires to dwell within them. Not just dwell or abide, but to tabernacle within them. To erect within each one a structure that is according to the pattern found in heaven [see more about it in I Will Tabernacle Inside You].

Have mercy, Lord! Have mercy!
I lift up prayers on behalf of my nation.
My heart is like water
within my inner most being
and in my my mouth
there is a plea for mercy.


In two days I will launch our second entirely English Tabernacle Seminar, designed primarily for tourists. Eight participants from various countries will arrive with the purpose of building a tabernacle full of glory in their hearts. For 8 intensive days they will learn what the priests did by each one of the instruments and furnishings in the Tabernacle in OT days, and how we are to apply it today within our hearts.

Four others will join them – alumni of our previous Seminar, who graduated last year and are already teaching it in their home countries in various capacities.

The goal – healing, victory, glory – are all ready for each one of us only in the Holy of Holies. For that is where the cloud of glory filled the tent.

The Red Heifer has already been slain, from before the foundation of the earth. The altar already exists, and the blood that was poured upon it never dries. God, our people is attempting to draw near to you, not realizing that all they are doing is raising making the wall between us and You higher still.

Reveal your Faces to us, Yeshua. Reveal to us the Jewish Face of the Jewish Messiah.

The Love Revolution

 

 

“Seriously? Roses? Don’t you think it would be a waste? They will throw them away a minute later.” This was my brimming-with-faith response to Rania, who just shared with me something she believed God had put on her heart.

She was in the middle of a 40-day fast when God reminded her of a dream she had years ago. It was about a love revolution, where Jews and Arabs hand out roses instead of hatred, war, bullets and guns. Roses as a symbol of love for one another. “What will happen,” she wondered over the phone, “if in each city in Israel people were to do this act of kindness and love?”

Thank God, my bucket of cold water did not go too far. Rania took this reminder from God seriously, and moved fast. She had a logo made, hats and stickers printed, and 300 gorgeous red roses filling up her small car. 

IMG-20181224-WA0006On December 13th, nine women – both Jewish and Arab – carried these roses up the stairs to Jaffa gate in Jerusalem.

Strong Reactions

I was not prepared for the strong reactions. At times I thought: “Come on, this is just a rose. Take it and throw it away, if you don’t want it. Why make such an issue out of it?” The passers by reacted to it so strongly. It was as if each rose opened a door into their hearts, and pulled out something that usually would take a good 30 minutes of talking to get to. Those roses were prayed over, and they carried with them a message from God.

That Thursday ended a bloody week altogether, with some severe terror attacks across the land. So our message – “We are in this together, there is another way!” – had an even deeper significance.

Later we moved to the Salah e-Din neighborhood in the city, which is populated mostly by Arabs. We walked around in pairs – one Jewish woman and one Arab woman, and felt safe, excited, on a mission.

Most roses were received with joy! On Salah e-Din street we even caused a traffic jam as cars pulled aside to take a rose. 

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We handed out 300 roses, and I can share with you at least 250 stories that will make you smile or fill your heart with prayer. Don’t worry, I am not gonna do that. But here are a few of the best.

One of the girls shared: “We handed our last rose to an Arab woman and told her in Arabic about the only Love that can bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs. She was so surprised and asked if I really am Jewish. When I said, ‘Yes’, she asked us to repeat everything we previously shared, only this time in Hebrew. She listened carefully and was touched to tears. Apparently, she has been waiting for years to hear this message from an Israeli Jewess. We departed with a hug, and with much hope.”

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I have been waiting for years to hear this message from an Israeli Jew

Another girl on our team, Sarah, shared later: “One of our first encounters was with two Jewish women who were so excited, they immediately said, ‘Oh, we don’t need a rose, keep it for others, we just want to hug you!’ 

“One man said he didn’t want a rose, but he did want to donate towards our revolution! He kept asking where and how he can give. We explained simply that it’s like the love of God, it comes as a free gift and that he just has to receive it.

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A Muslim lady from the old city was so touched by the rose.
Her eyes filled with tears as we explained what is in our hearts towards her  

“One lady lit up at the sight of the roses. ‘You have no idea what this means to me,’ she exclaimed. ‘This must be God speaking! He always speaks to me through roses!’ She is apparently going through the process of conversion to Judaism, and she had a big decision to make, but she was not sure what to do (we wondered if it involved the denial of Yeshua, something they usually ask you to do in that process). I (Sarah) told her, ‘Yes, this is God speaking to you! It’s no coincidence that you came here and received this rose. It’s because He loves you and wants to speak to you.’

“I prayed for her for wisdom and ended with ‘in Yeshua’s name.’ She was so touched, and said that our hearts are in the right place.

“However, the simple step of offering a free rose was instantly opposed by some. One Orthodox couple became angry when they heard our story (we didn’t even make it to the Gospel or to talking about God). They live along the Gaza border, and the wife is a principal of a local high school. She was adamant that it’s impossible to love when there’s so much pain, rockets being fired, children growing up in trauma. So she refused to take the rose. Interestingly, the husband confessed later that if his wife was not with him, he would have taken one.”

“Can I Have One More Please?”

Mohammed (a Muslim) is about 7 years old. Rania was parking her car when he approached her and said: “Auntie, can I please have one rose?”

“Of course!” Rania said. “Take one.”

He then asked for another one, “for my mom.” Rania explained to him why she was handing out roses and that the love of Jesus is the reason behind it. This piqued his interest, so Mohammed wanted to know more about this Jesus and where He lives.

“In heaven,” Rania explained, “and He loves you so much.” Mohammed was intrigued because he thought no one lives in heaven.

“Is he alive?” he asked.

Rania explained how Jesus died and was resurrected, since God never dies. Eman (one of the Arab ladies on our team) asked Mohammed: “What do you need from Jesus today?”

Mohammed explained with a sad face: “We need everything because we have nothing in our home. I don’t even have money to take the bus back to my mom.” 

Everyone’s heart melted and tears started rolling. Rania gave him some money for the bus, and they both laid hands on him and began praying. When they finished, Mohammed said that he has pain in his feet. Rania began to lead him in a prayer of healing, and asked him to repeat after her. Finally she declared over him: “You can walk now.”

Mohammed began to walk and tap his feet on the ground, and then looked at Rania with eyes full of shock. No more pain! You can imagine his excitement!

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Rania with Mohammed, who is holding on to his dear two roses

“Tell your mom what happened today,” Rania said. “Tell her that you met a woman who gave you two roses, and that Jesus Christ can provide every single need in your home. You can pray to Him and he will answer your prayers, just as He did this moment because He loves you.”

She also gave him some homework for that night: “Ask Jesus to come and visit you in the night and show Himself to you.” 


Food For Thought

In November 2003 the world watched with amazement: thousands of soldiers were ordered to aim their guns towards protests, who were marching through the streets of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. They were protesting against a corrupt regime and the invalidation of their human rights.

Everyone expected things to escalate, but no shot was made and the police exercised no force. How come?

The protesters were armed with… yes, roses. The guns lost their power in sight of these roses. And most important: the corrupt regime was replaced. Turns out roses can have real power to change things from the core.

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Georgian women facing heavy armed soldiers with roses. 
Pictures taken from https://theroserevolution.weebly.com/faqs.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace, Dentures and Soccer Balls

 

It was a sunny morning in 1954. Theresa, an elderly nun that served as a nurse at the French Hospital in Jerusalem, decided to open her room window to let the sun in. That window was almost always shut, as directly underneath it, stretching across to the walls of the Old City, lay what was known back then as “No Man’s Land” – a neglected, thorny and wire-fenced area.

How Was It Created in The Heart Of Jerusalem?

During the 1948 War of Independence, Israel and Jordan signed a cease-fire agreement for the area of Jerusalem. Moshe Dayan, the commander of the Israeli forces, and Abdullah A-Tal, his Jordanian counterpart, met in a deserted house in Jerusalem. They took a dusty old map, and hastily marked out their respective positions: Israel’s in green and those of Jordan in red. Thus, two border lines were created, facing each other. They were certain the fighting will soon resume and that this was nothing but a temporary and short-term solution.

שה דיין ,עבדאללה א-תל ועוזריהם בעת חתימתם על הסכם הפסקת האש בירושלים, 30.11.1948, מתוך 'ויקישיתוף' (התצלום עובד לקובץ על-ידי תמר הירדני)

Moshe Dayan and Abdullah A-Tal drawing the map on the floor

Neither imagined that this map will mark the borders between Israel and Jordan for the next 19 years. But this border, which was later named “the Municipal Line”, cut Jerusalem in two: the Old City and its surrounding in the Jordanian hands, while West Jerusalem in Israel’s.

מפה ירושלים המחולקת והקו העירוני, 1958

Jerusalem’s City Line

800px-Split_Jerusalem_map_English

Here you can see both colors, and the dead areas in between 

When they all sought to mark the boundaries with wired fences, it turned out that the thick line marked on the map, covered in reality many homes and even entire streets. But the generals have decided, and their decision could not be changed. Both sides debated: who will own these houses, streets and empty spaces (some of which reached more than 100 meters in width)?

And So the No-Man’s Land Was Created

“No-Man’s Land”, it was finally decided. Everything within the lines will belong to no one, and no one will be allowed to enter it. This was one of those decisions that can easily be made within the walls of an office but in reality are pretty problematic. For, in order to bring it to pass, many people had to evacuate their homes, streets had to be closed for passage, the area had to be filled with wired fences and land mines and large signs were placed, written in Hebrew, English and Arabic, saying: “Stop! Border ahead!”

A Tickle in The Throat

The St. Louis French hospital in Jerusalem was located on the Israeli side, but its eastern walls, the ones closer to the Old City, bordered the No-Man’s Land. That sunny morning in 1954, Theresa opened the window, breathed in the crisp air, and suddenly felt a tickle in her throat. She leaned forward and coughed a bit. Before she could realize what was happening, she discovered her dentures fell out of her mouth straight into… yes, No-Man’s Land.

תוצאת תמונה עבור בית החולים סנט לואי ירושלים

St. Louis hospital

“Oh, no!!!” the nun cried as she looked longingly into the thorns and wired fences, “my teeth!” She sat on the floor and broke into heart wrenching sobs. “What am I going to do? No one can enter into No-Man’s Land. Who will get my teeth back for me?”

These dentures were made by a special order from a specialist outside of Israel. Theresa waited for them for long months, during which she had to eat porridge and nothing but. “And the money”, she wailed, “where will I get such a high sum for a new set of teeth?”

All shaken and stirred, she ran out of her room, and shared the events of the day with the head of the nearby Notre-Dame monastery. “You have to help me!” she begged. The man’s heart broke at the sight of the elderly lady weeping and sobbing. And yet… No-Man’s Land is no man’s land.

“It’s not exactly possible, Theresa”, he tried to gently explain, “you know how hot this border is. The Jordanian snipers are repeatedly shooting Israeli passersby. Every few days, complaints are received in the UN offices of breaches of the cease fire agreement. The No-Man’s Land is a forbidden territory, and as much as I hate it, I fear you will never see your teeth again”.

“But it just can’t be!” she exclaimed, “the teeth are right under my window!” She cried and cried, until he decided to try and convince the proper authorities to act to retrieve her dentures.

That day he addressed one of the Israeli commanders, Uzi Narkis, seeking help for the poor nun. Uzi’s heart went out for the old woman, and he immediately contacted the UN cease fire committee and explained the situation and the complexity of it. “It is inconceivable”, he exclaimed, “that due to borders issues between us and the Jordanians, that poor woman should suffer so”. The committee members were convinced and contacted the Jordanians that very same day. The Jordanians agreed, on one condition: the search team will number only 3 people – a Jordanian representative, an Israeli and the head of the UN committee.

As the sun shone the following day, all the patients at St. Louis French Hospital held their breath as several nuns and three officers cut the wire fences and marched under Theresa’s window. For a long hour they looked through the bushes, calculating the trajectory of the teeth as they fell out the window. The thorns and briers scratched them, their pants were torn from the wired fences, the sun shone mercilessly above their heads, but they were determined to justify the international endeavor.

And then… one of them located Theresa’s teeth behind a small rock, whole and intact. He lifted them up high with excitement. Cheers were heard from all of Notre Dame monastery and the St. Louis hospital.

An Extremely Exciting Historical Event

The event was so exciting and unique, that Life magazine sent a photographer to capture it. You can see the joyous nun holding her dentures in her hand, while standing next to her is the head of the UN committee, holding a white flag.

Photography by David Rubinger for Life magazine

The image spread worldwide, until some observant reader noticed that Theresa was holding her dentures in her hand, while a full set of teeth is clearly evidenced in her mouth. Ahah!

Well, a few years ago the photographer revealed that Theresa refused to have her pictures taken. “She only wanted to get her teeth back and for everyone to leave her alone”, he explained. “But I was sent to photograph a nun with dentures. So I ended up asking another nun to model the day’s event for the camera. I asked her not to smile, but she was so thrilled to be part of it all, and couldn’t help herself…”

Soccer Balls

There were other events during those difficult years of division that had happy endings. One of them is about kids playing soccer in the schoolyard at the Frères school, located close to the Municipal Line, on the Jordanian side.

84_bigThe Frères School, towering above the wall

They often kicked their soccer balls into the No-Man’s Land. In December of 1965 Israel was asked to return some of these balls to the school as a Christmas gift. Israel immediately agreed. UN officials looked on, as an Israeli officer marched through the minefields of the No-Man’s Land, while Jordanian soldiers called “go left” or “go right” to keep him from stepping on a mine.

Two days after Christmas, 28 balls were handed over to the school at a jubilant celebration.

Hannukkah

Last night was the first night of Hannukkah. One of the main motifs we love to point out during this feast is that of the darkness that is cast out before Light. A famous Hannukkah kids’ song states: we are here to chase out darkness, holding light and fire in our hands, though we are each but a small light, still together mighty we stand.

The stories shared in this post are a true testimony to just how a small, tiny light, can indeed become a mighty one. So in light of everything I shared in our Journey to Jordan series, and in light of these heartwarming stories, let us pray that the status quo, life in reality, will not be determined by military commanders, but by little lights coming to chase away any darkness. A little bit of humanity can bring together sworn enemies and blur lines marked hastily upon battle worn maps.

We can each shine such lights by proclaiming over this region the name of the Light of the world, who came to shine His light within the darkness.

As For Me Personally

A new year is about to begin, and as it approaches I ask God: Where do you want me to take these new insights you have given me, the new contacts and relationships woven around and within me, the motherhood that is taking the place of the widowhood? Where do you want me to bring Yeshua’s name and light to? Will you stand in prayer with me?