That Little Man In The Eye

“The gates of hell opened wide on January 27, 1945”. This was the opening statement of Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin. He spoke yesterday during the main event held at Yad VaShem museum in commemoration of International Holocaust Memorial Day. Rivlin referred to the liberation of the Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

This event is commemorated world wide since 2006. In previous years, dignitaries and diplomats visiting Israel have been invited to this annual ceremony. This year, however, and to our utter amazement, the heads of almost 50 countries accepted the invitation. Main traffic routes from the airport to Jerusalem have been blocked, as an airlift of dozens of aircraft carried presidents, prime ministers, princes and kings from all over the world into our Capital, and the police and Shin-Bet (Secret Service) were on high alert to ensure the safety of the event.

דגלי המדינות על חומות ירושלים // צילום: יהודה פרץ

Images of the flags of all these countries projected on the walls of the Old City (Photo credit: Yehudah Perez)

When Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukranian president, found out that due to the large number of dignitaries there was hardly any room left for holocaust survivors to attend, he moved hearts by relinquishing most of the seating spots allotted for his delegation.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president, surprised the audience when he opened his speech in Hebrew and pronounced the “SheHecheyanu” (the blessing recited upon a noteworthy achievement, commencement of a feast, high holiday, etc.) []. He stated that he wished his nation has learned its lesson, but in light of the rapidly growing hatred towards Jews in Germany, he is not able to do so.

At Sacher Park in Jerusalem a monument was built to commemorate the heroism of the victims of the Leningrad siege during WWII. President Putin arrived to take part in the event – that was the formal reason.

בנימין נתניהו עפ נשיא רוסיה ולדימיר פוטין טקס חניכה אנדרטה גן סאקר ירושלים (צילום: עמית שאבי)

Netanyahu and Putin unveiling the new monument yesterday morning
(photo credit: Amit Shabi)

אנדרטה המצור על לנינגראד (צילום: הקונגרס היהודי האירו-אסייתי (EAJC))

The Memorial Candle Monument (photo credit: EAJC)

Around 1 pm, all the dignitaries had already arrived at the special tent built for the occasion. President Rivlin took the stage and gave his moving speech. As he was closing, Putin entered the room. Some commentators suggested that his late arrival was strategically planned, carrying a message that says: “I am the top leader here, the strong man”. Some even say that Putin was involved from the get go in all the details of the ceremony, and that every details was well planned and thought by him.

Each year Israel chooses a different theme to focus on during this event, a theme related of course to the Holocaust and WWII. The main goal this year was to raise international awareness to the new wave of antisemitism across the world. Judging by the speeches and the responses of the audience present, this goal was achieved. The event received much media coverage and will continue to do so in many countries. But will the movies presented and the statements made turn back the wheel of antisemitism that is already rolling with much force? Too soon to tell.

The Little Man in the Eye

The Hebrew word for the pupil of the eye is “Ishon”. It means a tiny or little man. Scripture calls Israel the apple of God’s eye (Zec. 2:8; Deut 32:10). The Hebrew words used here refer to the most precious thing, to the pupil of the eye. Israel is that little, tiny precious man, sitting right in the middle of God’s eye.

Try to reach out and touch your pupil with your finger. It’s impossible! Your eyelids will close in an immediate response. And if somehow you are able to touch it, it will immediately cause tears to flow.

Think of touching the pupil of God’s eye. The truth is it is possible. Apparently, many people and nations have done so throughout history. They did not just touch it, they have trampled it. And to their own end, they have caused him to shed many tears and bring judgement on themselves (e.g. Isa. 10:5-16; Amos 1-2; Zec. 1:15).

When one draws near to God and learns to think His thoughts, they must see Israel in His eyes. You can’t draw near to Him without seeing what is reflected in the apple of His eye. And you can’t understand the signs of the times without seeing Israel there.

As I was praying yesterday with my intercessors, one of my “Ruths” on the team explained that the pupil of the eye serves as a gate. Light enters the eye through it, so it can be focused on the retina and begin the process of sight. Israel’s calling involves seeing through the prophetic eye of God’s pupil. Only with Israel in sight can a nation fine-focus its spiritual pupil and position.

In the past few weeks, as the Israeli media started talking about yesterday’s event, it mostly focused on the many expected traffic jams. I was wondering: why are all these important people coming? This is not the first time International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated. What is behind this Mega-event? Is it a front for something entirely different?

Is there a conspiracy taking place? Maybe. This is always a fascinating possibility, even when it is unlikely. Maybe it’s another opportunity (perhaps the last one?) for all these big wigs to see Israel commemorating one of its horrors, and to choose (again, for the last time maybe?) whether they will rise against God, or look Him in the eye and see us through Him, and Him through us?

Have mercy, O God, on all the Cyruses and Nebuchadnezzars you have elected from before the foundation of the earth. You know which of them is a vessel of honor, and which is of disgrace; who among them will harden their hearts, and who will allow Your strong and mighty Arm to soften their necks. And still we ask, Father, have mercy. The same grace and mercy you have granted your people Israel, when we were so unworthy, please grant to the nations of the world who walk in darkness; who think they look You in the eye, not realizing they either look down at You, or into an eye that only pretends to be You.

I also ask you, Lord, to help Israel lift our eyes to You. In the face of more antisemitism on one hand, and a growing approval of nations on the other, keep us from being deceived and numb. In the name of what Yeshua had accomplished for us I ask: keep us from relying on a modern version of “a staff of bruised reed” that will lead us astray from our calling: to reflect your Heart and your eye. 

Between Jerusalem and Athens

The Greeks

Zionism has had a long love story with Hannukah. It gladly adopted the holiday’s narrative. Up until the first waves of Aliyah to Israel begun (towards the end of the 19th century), Jews celebrated mostly the religious aspect of this feast, as the focus was the miracle of the cruse of oil that held for 8 days. The modern Zionist movements were those who inserted the aspects of heroism, victory of the few against the many, and that of the sons of light over the spawns of darkness. These all fit like an elegant glove to the Zionist hand. In many ways, modern Israel was perceived as a modern version of the Maccabees.

Back then, for 400 years the kingdom of Judah was enslaved by the Greeks, until the Hasmonean revolt broke in 167 BC, in reaction to the bitter decrees handed down by the Greek ruler Antioch Epiphanes. He massacred Jews, forbade them from keeping the Shabbat, executed women who circumcised their sons (a fascinating study in and of itself – the fact that the women were those who circumcised the newborn males at the time, not the men), and desecrated the Temple by erecting a statue of a Greek deity inside it. At some point, a Hasmonean priest, named Matthathias, proclaimed: “Let everyone who has zeal for the Law and who stands by the covenant follow me!” and with that had lit the match that started the great revolt.

But Then, Things Took On a Wrong Turn

Matthathias reacted to the ongoing process of Hellenization and assimilation that the nation was going through, not only to the abominable statue that was placed in the Temple. However, what began as a fight for religious freedom led to a religious enslavement by choice. Matthathias’ descendants, the Maccabees, gradually took over the priesthood by means of corruption. The Bible makes it clear that the high priest must come only from the house of Zadok, a descendant of Aaron. The Maccabees bought their way into that unique position through bribing the Greek rulers. Gradually, they accepted the Hellenistic culture as well, with its idolatry and polytheism that their forefather fought against.

Wanted: A Heroic Story

The Talmud says very little about Hannukah. Many historians believe that was done on purpose, since for centuries the story of the Maccabees was considered to be as soured wine. But then the Zionists thinkers brought Judah the Maccabee into the forefront of the collective Jewish recognition. From the feast of Latkes and the miracle of the cruse of oil, Hannukah turned into a celebration of heroism. The Jewish papers from that time report of Hannukah banquets, celebrating the spirit of heroism, calling for a modern version of a renewed independence in the land.

The artist Boris Schatz established in 1906 the Bezalel academy of arts in Jerusalem. Several years earlier he created his most famous sculpture – “Mattathias the Hasmonean”.

Boris Schatz (sitting, bottom left, 1867-1932)
and his most famous work – Mattathias the Hasmonean

The head of the statue, a draft made of plaster

Sadly, this is the only part that survived,
stands today at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (picture taken by Yair Talmor)

For Schatz, Mattathias symbolized the warrior Zionist. In 1907 Schatz held a Hannukkah party at the academy, and set this sculpture in the court yard. No one could have predicted the debate that erupted the following day in the local newspapers. Schatz’s supporters claimed that the Zionists are the Hasmonean’s modern heirs. After all, they too were the cream of the crop of the nation! Well, at least before they became corrupt.

Schatz opponents, however, claimed that the sculpture is an abomination, for Mattathias’ revolt started because of a statue that was placed in the Temple. And here, he himself was turned into a statue? Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who was scheduled to give a speech at the party, was unable to do so. The following day he described it well in his newspaper: “I refrained from speaking facing the statue…. for the eyes [of Mattathias] bore at me with rage, for he fought with conviction against those who erected abominable images, and here you erect a likeness of him?”

The Sons of Zion Against the Sons of Greece

Hannukah represents the friction between Athens and Jerusalem, between the worldly wisdom of Greece and the Biblical perspective of God. The pagan chooses the idols he wishes to serve and makes them in his own image. The God of the Bible, however, created man in His own image and likeness, and it is He who chooses those who worship Him (see Is. 43:10), not the other way around. The Jewish Sages taught at first that Greece was the Evil Kingdom, and so forbade from assimilating into their Hellenistic lifestyle. But somehow, in a gradual process that goes against all reason, they adopted many aspects of that philosophy.

Today, the Rabbinical perspective is in many ways much like that of the mindset of Greece. Gematria, for example, that is so closely associated with Judaism – has its roots in the Greek culture. The images and idols the Torah forbids making, adorn almost every orthodox Jewish home (especially pictures of various rabbis). And the study of Torah, that was originally given to the people in order to draw them closer to God and teach us His ways, has become the highest value, more important than anything else (the study and debate of each word, structure and commentary, not even of what God is actually saying). Even the Rabbinic Yeshiva is in many ways built upon Hellenistic infrastructure. How has Athens managed to infiltrate into the foundations of Jerusalem?

A Menorah and Olive Branches

Three weeks following the establishment of modern Israel in May 1948, the citizens were invited to send their ideas for a national emblem. Approximately 450 suggestions were sent in. Here are some of these interesting suggestions:

Two designers, the Shamir brothers, sent their suggestion as well. As they methodically studied the various symbols of other nations, they discovered that none uses a Menorah in their emblem (yep, it turns out there are others who use the Star of David – such as Burundi; Nigeria’s flag while it was a British colony until 1957; and the flag of the Morrocan Caliphate prior to 1945).

The Shamir Brothers, Circa 1970

A few changes were inserted, and their suggestion was accepted:

A final draft of the National Emblem
approved and signed by David Ben Gurion, 1949

The critics of the emblem stated that this Menorah is seen on Titus gate; that it does not stand in one accord with the one described in the OT. But that was precisely the reason that Menorah was chosen: it brings together the motifs of destruction and restoration. It states: “we were exiled with much shame, but we are being restored to our original identity and are fulfilling ancient prophecies”.

Seven or Nine?

The Menorah in the emblem contains 7 arms, yet at Hannukah we light the one with 9 arms. For those who are not familiar with the Hannukah story, the Greeks plundered the Temple Menorah, the one with 7 arms. How did the Menorah become a Hannukiah then? It has to do with the shift of the national authority from the house of Zadok as the high priest to the house of Hashmonai, and later into the hands of the the Pharisees and rabbis.

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you are familiar with my theme of the Hiddennes of God. This Athens versus Jerusalem, that is the core story of Hannukah, is one more expression of that. Even in this feast of light, God’s true values, Faces and symbols are hidden from our nation.

After the disastrous Bar Kochba revolt (135 AD), the rabbis were determined to restore the nation as far as possible from Jerusalem. The city was anyway destroyed and ruined, and the rabbis wanted to gain back the favor of the Roman regime. The alternate location chosen was Jamnia. The system they came up with had purposefully detached itself from Temple rituals, from the written Word of God, even from God Himself. The changing of the Menorah is a part of this process. The rabbis forbade the creation of any vessel that looks like those that were used in the Temple (Avoda Zara 43a), so the solution was a Menorah with more arms than the original one had.

Growing up in the Israeli education system, I was always told that the Hanukiyah has 8 arms because of that miracle of the little cruse of oil. It should have sufficed for one day, yet lasted 8. However, there is no mention of that in the books of Maccabees. This is apparently a tradition that developed later on, as it is mentioned only in later writings. The book of Maccabees tells that the celebrations lasted 8 days since during the war, the nation could not celebrate properly the feast of Tabernacles. After they won the war, they could do it, and did it for 8 days.

I am personally delighted to see the emblem of modern Israel. It is based on motifs found in the Bible – a Menorah and Olive Branches – not on myths or a distorted version of God’s Word. In my opinion, there’s no small victory here for “Jerusalem”.

So What Have We Got Here?

A Menorah flanked with olive branches, and a nation miraculously renewed in its homeland, yet still so desires to be like other nations, to assimilate in their wisdom and cultures. We forget, we don’t even realize, that we were chosen to be “Sons of Zion”, not of “Greece”. These two kingdoms have very little in common, and can hardly exist side by side, if at all. So far, sad to say, Greece has held the upper hand for a “mere moment” (Isa. 54:7). But the story does not end here. The prophet Zechariah saw the day in which God will stir the Sons of Zion against the Sons of Greece. He then will be revealed, accompanied with lightning, thunder and the blowing of the shofar (9:13-17).

The widow Israel, which is turning into a mother, and a bride, is seeking along the way its identity. It was lost for that mere moment, but it is being restored with great mercies, to the point that soon, we will not even remember the reproach of our widowhood anymore (Isa. 54:4). In part our identity is based on Scripture, but too often it is laced with Hellenistic motifs, that nullify God.


Yesterday we had lit the last candle on the last day of the feast. On my balcony, in the heart of Jerusalem, I had put up this year a huge Menorah for Hannukah. When the weather allowed, I lit it, and found myself answering the questions of passers by, who wondered where are the missing two arms. This iron Menorah is a draft someone made for the Tabernacle model I use in my seminars, but there is also a statement here – let’s go back to the original Word, with all its meanings and symbolism. Let’s not hide God’s truth. Let it shine!


The synagogues in my neighborhood have been filled with dance and singing this past week. The celebration culminates tonight and tomorrow. Women, children and passers by gather outside the entrances of the tiny synagogues all over this area. I find myself astonished: such joy! The men dance around with Torah scrolls in their arms, but they don’t even realize they are carrying the true manna, the living Word. Yet I, that believe wholeheartedly that the Word had put on flesh and came to dwell within me, that when I call to Him He answers – how joyous do I become whenever I hold the Word of God in my hands?

Rejoicing over the Torah scroll. This is what synagogues throughout Israel and the world will look like tonight and tomorrow as the cycle of reading through the Torah comes to an end, and a new reading cycle begins. Taken from the Ramat Gan Yeshiva youtube page.

While the Temple still stood in Jerusalem, a special ceremony was conducted: wine was poured on the brazen altar regularly, alongside the sacrifices. But during the feast of Sukkot, water was added to the wine. This was carried with much joy and celebration, and was called Simchat Beit Hashoeva (lit. “Rejoicing over Water-Drawing”). The celebration lasted throughout the night and ended with drawing of water from the pool of Siloam (Briechat Hashiloach).

This tradition has much to do with the rain season at hand. Therefore a unique blessing, uttered only during this feast, is declared in synagogues all over the world, called “He makes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”. Rain, after all, is the main source of water for our desert-like land. Here is one of the versions of this prayer:

You, O Lord, are mighty forever, You quicken the dead back to life; You are mighty to save. You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall. You sustain the living with lovingkindess, quicken the dead with great mercy, support the falling, heal the sick, loose the bound, and keep Your faithfulness to them that sleep in the dust.

Who is like You, Lord of mighty acts, and who resembles You, O King, who kills and raises from the dead, and causes salvation to spring forth? Who is like You, Father of mercy, who in mercy remember Your creatures unto life? Yea, faithful are You to quicken the dead. Blessed are You, O Lord, who quickens the dead. 

So in the synagogues today, Torah scrolls were taken out of the Torah Ark and passed from one man to another. The crowd circled it and danced with much joy for the fact that a cycle of the reading of the Torah has come to its end, and a new one is now beginning. Along side this cyclic reading, the people of Israel ask their Maker to bless them with the blessed cycle of rain and water.

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What Is In the Water?

From the first verses of Genesis, it almost seems like water were always there. Even in our mothers’ wombs we grow in a sac of water. All in all, every living cell needs a certain amount of water in order to exist. Without which, it will wither and die.

Yesterday I was introduced to a term I’ve never heard before: “the anomaly of water”. Almost all substance in nature shrinks in cold temperatures and thus subside in volume. Not so with water. Turns out that water, when frozen and turn into ice, actually grow in volume and girth. This has to do with the special structure of its molecules. That is why ice, which is lighter, floats upon water and does not sink. If it were to sink, the upper layer would also freeze, leading to the freezing of the entire water reservoir, and thus life would cease to exist in the deeper layers.

Paul, Peter, James… and Water

Peter has something quite interesting to say about water. “…by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Pet. 3:5). The second part of this verse can be much fodder for evolutionists, but one must not ignore how it begins. The verse sets out clearly creating a correlation between water and the Word of God.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that Yeshua cleanses and purifies His Body by washing with water through His Word, thus presenting it without stain or wrinkle or any blemish (Eph. 5:26-27). And James describes the Word of God as a mirror (1:23).

If we want to look like Him, we must check ourselves with in mirror on a regular basis, and whenever we recognize a stain, blemish or defect, we are to wash it with His Word.

I find it interesting that the Laver in the Tabernacle combines exactly these two things together. It was made of the bronze mirrors the women brought to the gate of the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 38:8), and of course – contained water. The priests approached it after ministering to the people at the gate and by the altar, and examined to see if a piece of meet, or a splatter of blood, or the dust of the wilderness had clung to them – all symbolizing the things that cling to us when we use the gifts God has gifted us with, as we serve Him and others.

How can we go through the veil and enter the Holy Place, the most intimate place within us where we can commune with God, unless we first wash all that has clung to us? How can we exist and grow in holiness without water – weather natural or spiritual? Obviously we cannot.

Our Abba in heaven, the people of Israel celebrates Your Word today and prays for water. Stir within them a hunger and thirst to your true Word. Bring them to the point in which the regulations and wisdom of men will not satisfy them any more. Lead them to the only Well that can provide them with living water, and cause rivers of living water to flow from within them.


Betrayal, Shame, and Forgiving Both Fathers

In my previous post (Selichot) I promised some more testimonies to the power of forgiveness. Here are a few more:

Tess’s Walk Through the Tabernacle

In her quest for freedom from emotional pain, Tess studied through the years various models of inner healing. At some point she realized that in order to walk in this desired freedom, she must identify the lies she believes in. She knew that the Tabernacle is the pattern God gave us in order to maintain a close relationship with Him. So, she figured there had to be more to it than the symbolism of the materials. While talking to a friend about the Tabernacle pattern being the way to God, she discovered my website. Tess tells: “I was touched to find an Israeli Messianic believer who had a revelation on the pattern from heaven, and who combined it with the journey of the human heart from the Outer Court to the Holiest Place. I wanted to learn more.”

By the time she registered for the Seminar, she was very angry about a series of recent betrayals. But once we started, Tess realized that God had a plan behind this betrayal. That He wanted to use the very “thorns” she had been carrying in her heart from her own “Egypt” to in order build inside her a place full of His glory, a Tabernacle. So, she started inviting Yeshua to be Lord over the details: over her struggle to forgive those involved and over her shame that her vulnerabilities were exposed.

There, at the Bronze Altar, she tasted the relief that comes with forgiveness. She realized that tormenting thoughts stem from unforgiveness, and that whenever something does not feel comfortable inside her, there is someone she first needs to forgive. Tess was relieved to find out that she does not need to figure things out. Rather, she can invite Yeshua into the situation, into each feeling, each thought and each reaction attached to it, and that He will sort it out.


Tess at the Bronze Altar, inviting Yeshua into the details

All of a sudden, she was surprised to learn that God is not moody. “It may sound silly”, she says, “but I always felt like I did not know which face of God I would find when I met with Him.  Tess had a big “wow” moment, when she realized that God is not unstable or inconsistent. Rather, He is so large and deep and consistent that He holds all these emotions simultaneously in perfect unity. That Holiness and love and justice are all wholly and thoroughly true and thoroughly Him all the time. Until then, she somehow perceived God as compartmentalized or fragmented. Tess repented of the mindset that kept her from drawing near to Him, and no longer wonders or worries which face she will encounter!

At the Basin Tess washed her understanding by studying what the Scriptures teach about shame. First, she gave her own definition, so that she could later compare it to God’s definition. Up to that point she defined shame as “being pervasively flawed, helpless to do anything about it; therefore the flaws must be covered up”. At the Basin, she found the Hebrew word that corresponds to shame in English. By looking it up in its context, she realized how far her understanding of the term was from what God says about it. She learned that it is others who put shame on us. She also learned that exposing someone’s “nakedness”, meaning their vulnerabilities, brings shame on the exposer. And that shame intends to destroy. It enters our hearts when someone exposes our vulnerability, it confuses us, scatters, breaks boundaries and ruins people’s safe places.


Tess washing at the Basin

As Tess was putting together these various pieces of “polished mirrors” (Ex. 38:8) from the Word, she eventually encountered a core lie she believed, and perceived to be truth up to that point. This lie says: “Shame is true. Shame speaks truth. The harshness of shame is to be expected. It is normal.”

This is when she passed through a mental Screen inside herself, into a Holier Place, as God’s light was exposing this dark lie. This was her Lampstand moment.

Once the lie of unnecessary harshness was exposed, Tess longed for tender mercy. The tenderness of the Hebrew word Ra-Ham spoke to her. It means mercy, a tender womb, compassion. She approached the Table and looked up some of the verses that contain this root. The trustworthiness of Isaiah 54:4-8 ministered to her, especially in light of its current literal fulfillment for Israel. She wrote verses 7 & 8 on cards and started chewing on them, feeding her hungry innermost being:

“For a small moment have I forsaken you, but with great mercies will I gather you… I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you.”

After a while, when these verses settled well inside her, she started eating Ps. 103:13: “As a father has compassion on His children…”

And then Lamentations 3:22: “…His compassions never cease.”

And again, Nehemiah 9:19: “Yet You in Your many mercies forsook them not…”

And after a while, Isaiah 49:10: “…for He who has compassion on them will lead them and guide them to springs of water…”

Tess ate these verses regularly, but especially when she felt the harshness of shame towards herself (“…with great mercies…”), when she felt scattered (“…I will gather you…”), when she needed compassion but not indulgence (“…his compassions never cease…”), and when she needed tenderness. Prior to building this Tabernacle, she would be filled with anger when these feelings popped up. But gradually, these specific Truths started corresponding with her painful feelings, becoming a part of her immediate reaction. A part of His Word became a part of who she is, and God’s glory took over her shame. What a wonderful Tabernacle, what a glorious testimony to who He is.

As a result, the friendship which was destroyed is now restored and healed. This is a Holiest Place situation, where God’s glory dwells on what used to be a source of pain. Since then Tess has built several more Tabernacles. Each time she found Him faithful to manifest His glory in her life in various ways. She knows He is always with her, that He is trustworthy, firm and reliable; that He instructs her; that He holds on to her without slackening or letting go, and strengthens her; that she can hold on to Him; that His glory is in how He stoops down to us in kindness, without falseness, and with dignity.

She now says, along with the Queen of Sheba: “The report was true that I heard in my own country about You, but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. Behold, the half was not told me… you have far exceeded the report I heard.”

Ben’s Story – the Impact of Forgiving Both Fathers

I met Ben a couple of years ago, in Norway, and was impressed with his honesty and thirst for healing. Here is his story: 

One late evening, my wife decided it was time to tell me something she had been waiting to say for a while. She felt I was finally ready to hear it. It had to do with forgiving my father.

I had recently come to know that the father figure in one’s life is extremely important, as it impacts how we see ourselves, as well as God. There was something I had longed to hear from my father since I was a child – comforting and encouraging words that would confirm who I am and how he sees me. Words that would tell me that I am valuable and good.

I grew up in a good and healthy Christian home. My father has always been very loving and kind, but did not express it so much in words. Since my love language is good words, I really needed to hear it from him, especially growing up.

In my youth I played soccer. The way my teammates and team leaders had been speaking during the games had a tremendous impact on the way I saw myself. I have always been very scared of making any mistakes. And since I was an extremely sensitive boy, I didn’t have the self-confidence to withstand what they were saying to me. That is where I would have needed my fathers words.

So that night I started talking with Jesus about what I had been longing for. I heard Orna’s teaching, and found it very natural. It flows with how we feel and think and react. That evening I felt the unforgiveness in my heart or in my solar plexus – I don’t quite remember, and I think I felt a lot of anger. But when I said: “In Jesus’ name, I forgive my father!” I could slowly feel the tension loosening, and in came a deep breath of fresh air.

Later I read in Orna’s book that when we forgive, Jesus’ blood comes into the painful area, into the prison cells, where we hold captive the person who had hurt us, and cleanses them.

The following day my wife and I went to my parents for dinner. I did not say anything about the night before, but I was thinking about it the whole meal. And then… after dinner, my father suddenly said the most encouraging words he ever told me, without him even knowing I had forgiven him.

He simply said: “What me and your mother have always longed for is for you to really be who you are”.

This may sound simple, but that was the most beautiful thing he could ever have said, and it meant so much! He acknowledged who I am. I truly believe that circumstances change after we forgive, just as Orna taught me. I gave my father a big hug, and both of us moved to the living room. It created such a natural opportunity to tell him that I had forgiven him. We had an open and honest conversation, knowing that this is a milestone for me.

Now, when I recall some of my past memories, I can sense that Jesus is Lord in and over them. It is so very special. Thank you Jesus!

The last four years I have gone through a gradual but radical recovery from mental illness, where Jesus has slowly healed me from a long line of problems: clinical depression, psychoses, suicidal thoughts and attempts, obsessive thoughts and emotions, massively lost memories, deep rooted anxieties and fears, unhealthy beliefs and views on God and his Word. I was so ill, I don’t even remember how it was. When I hit rock bottom, I went into a mental hospital and really got saved by Jesus, the same day.

It has now been two years since I came out of the hospital. I got married and we moved into our own house. Jesus is now saying that I am ready to finish the chapter of illness in my life, that it has been a triumphant one, and that I am ready to continue into work and ministry, taking the lead in my marriage, and making true my dream to help, comfort and counsel people who struggle with similar issues.

Orna and Dana visited our small town and taught the Tabernacle and forgiveness. Towards the end Orna started talking about blaming God and carrying unforgiveness towards Him. I felt strongly that it was speaking to me.

I realized I had been angry with God for having to go through all this. When the session was over, I didn’t even say goodbye, just walked home quickly to be with God.

I laid in bed, and began to invite Jesus in as Lord. I started speaking to God about everything I had to go through, and how angry I was with Him. It was a precious time, and I kind of felt there was a good answer, a solution, right around the corner. I forgave God with all my heart, after I acknowledged all the feelings and thoughts I carried against Him. The answer I got was surprising, yet extremely comforting. When I had forgiven God, it was like I could hear a voice saying: “It was not Me”.

All of a sudden I saw Him only as the Helper. In everything. The Supporter, the One who has enabled me to go through all this. Only good. Only comforting.

I also recalled something my therapist has told me: “All the phases of the illness have been necessary stages of the recovery”. That changed my perception of God immediately, and in the weeks after I saw more areas where I had blamed God.

And once I had “forgiven” God, I was able to hear Him say: “I forgive you”. It was really Him forgiving me for carrying that unforgiveness towards Him – after all, God never sins against us. This has healed my perception of God, and made me understand a verse from 1st John more deeply: “God is light, and there is no darkness in him!


A Sepharadic Orchard

It’s 3 am in the morning. The Shamash (acting manager) of the synagogue walks around the neighborhood, knocking on the tin windows of various homes with his cane, waking up the sleeping residents to rush them to the tiny synagogue, so they can say their “Selichot”.

“Selichot! Selichot!”, he exclaims with a heavy accent, as he calls them to these special prayers, said each morning throughout the month of Elul.

These are the opening words of an amusing act of the Israeli musical “Bustan Sepharadi”.* The play shows the life in a Sephardic neighborhood in Jerusalem, during the 1930s. This is the same neighborhood I moved to just a few weeks ago (more on that – maybe – in a future series of posts about life in this colorful neighborhood).

O, Mordechai, rise up and come to the synagogue, come on now. Man, his stomach must still be bloated from the food he ate last night… Rabi Surnaga, wake up, rise up as a lion to do your Maker’s will.

“Selichot! Senior Yehoshua! Open your eye, for all it takes is one moment and you can be gone. For we are all but vapor, with a noose over our head! Rabi Kastel, respectfully I ask you to rise, Selichot!”

The old version of the musical, for those of you who can enjoy the Hebrew.
The Selichot act is from 11:25 to 16:46

The tradition has not ceased. Even today, in the early morning hours, the observant residents of this neighborhood arrive to either of the old synagogues scattered all around, place their prayer books on the little stands, and make ready their Shofars.


The daily view from my window this month, as men gather
at the synagogue right next door to pray and sing their “Selichot”

“Selichot” is a general name for the liturgy that focuses on the goodness of God, who forgives His creation for their sins. Thousands of poems and odes have been written over the centuries, with the intent of awakening hearts unto repentance. Many of the poems have long been forgotten. Others have been granted more modern compositions, and time and again invoke sacred solemnity in the listener, stirring a longing to our original destiny as a nation, perhaps even a regret for our spiritual poverty.

Ben Adam

One of these poems is called, Ben Adam:

Son of Man! Why do you slumber?
Arise and call out in supplication; 
Pour out words of prayer;
Seek forgiveness from the Master of Masters. 
Wash and purify yourself;
Do not delay before the days depart.

The poem is designed to address the sinner whose conscience slumbers, and remind him or her of the story of Jonah. In the midst of the storm, the captain of the ship found the prophet soundly asleep below deck, and cried out to him in what combines complaint with deep disappointment, born out of Jonah’s ability to ignore the great disaster that has come upon the ship (Jonah 1:6).

Adon Hasselichot

The most famous of these liturgical prayer is “Adon Haselichot” (Master of forgiveness).

Master of Forgiveness, Examiner of hearts,
Revealer of depths, Speaker of justice…
We have sinned before You; have mercy upon us!

You perform salvations, You see future events,
You call the future generations,
You ride in the highest heavens.
You hear our prayers, perfect in knowledge…
We have sinned before You; have mercy upon us!

Chanting “Adon Hasselichot” at the Kotel, September 2, 2019

“Master of forgiveness – we have sinned before you, have mercy upon us” – the prayer rises up from the open windows, and at times wakes me up. At the culmination of the prayer, the Shofar is blown loudly.

But not only in this neighborhood. Everywhere in the world, observant Jews cry out wholeheartedly this month, seeking God’s pardon of their sins. The common belief is that the gates of heaven, that are locked during the year, cannot stay indifferent to an entire nation asking permission to enter in.

My Prayer

Master and Lord, the Lord who forgives, we know that You see and hear and know. Multitudes are asking this month that you forgive and atone their sins, not realizing You have already answered this prayer. Hundreds of years ago. So sad.

Abba, we also know that You desire to reveal to them this aspect of your face, the face of Your Son who paid the full price for each sin they lay before you with a tortured conscience. Draw them after you please, lead them into the banquet hall, and cover them with Yeshua’s banner of love and blood.

Forgiving, not just being forgiven

Judaism in general is not very strong when it comes to forgiveness. We lack the understanding that the New Testament carries. Yeshua taught forgiveness in a way that was uncommon to the culture back then, and today as well. He taught that forgiveness is not only something God does, but that we need to do it ourselves, or else God will be angry with us and even go as far as handing us over to the hands of tormentors (Matt. 18: 32-34).

I want to share with you some examples of the power that forgiveness carries. Stories I witnessed myself. These are testimonies of some of the participants of our Tabernacle Seminars for English speakers. Here is on of them.

Ieva’s Walk Through the Tabernacle

Ieva, a beautiful Latvian girl who lives in Paris, joined our February 2019 Seminar, planning to work on her fears.


She was so ready to do what we call “Spring Cleaning” of her heart, and to invite Yeshua to be the master of specific areas of her life. Later she shared that even though she has been a follower of Yeshua for many years, she never fully submitted various parts of her soul to Him. So at the beginning of the Seminar she invited Him into her ambitions, expectations, plans, dreams, her past, various relationships, her feelings – especially the feeling that she is not good enough, and of course into her fears and anxiety attacks.

As she was doing it in details, she was surprised to realize the depth of the unforgiveness she carried in her heart. When we taught the five practical steps of forgiveness and the liberation it brings, she embraced it. Ieva describes it as “the best part of the Seminar”, mostly because she realized that no matter what will happen or what will hurt her, she can always apply these steps and handle it. “For me this was life changing”, she explains.


Ieva washing her hands at the Laver, as a symbol of her
agreement with what she just learned about fear in the Word of God

After focusing on this for a few days at the Bronze Altar, Ieva was ready for the Laver. There she studied what the Bible teaches regarding fear. As she was doing that, she was practically washing her understanding. At one point in this process she broke down, realizing how big is the gap between her own perception and what God says about fear. But this was also a Holy Spirit moment for her, as God used it to move her from the Outer Court behind the Curtain, and into the Holy Place.

Ieva stood by the Lampstand and allowed the Holy Spirit to shed His light into her darkness and expose a major lie. She realized that deep inside, she believed that “God is good to others, but not to me”. That was a sobering moment, a painful one, yet a good one, as it led her to repent and to move on to the Table of Shewbread, where she looked for a specific verse that will overthrow that lie.

Psalm 23:6 turned into her nourishing loaf: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Ieva’s innermost being was so hungry for this truth, to own it, to let it be her sword when fears pop up again.

When the Seminar ended, all these steps became a part of her daily routine. “I love the simplicity of it and the fact that I don’t need to find the time or be in a good place spiritually to apply it. I can apply it wherever I find myself or however I feel – I just invite Yeshua into the details of the situation and declare Him the Lord. And He immediately takes care of it”, she says.

The change in Ieva is evident enough for people around her to comment on the peace and joy she carries, and that were not there before.

I will share a few more stories in my next post. In the meantime, I wish you all a Good Jewish New Year, and a clear conscious before the Master of Selichot.

* Bustan Sepharadi means a “Sepharadic Orchard”. The musical was written by Yizhak Navon, the fifth president of Israel. 


Will You Let Him Tabernacle Within You?

What is causing you so much pain, tormenting you and pushing your buttons, so to speak? We all have our battlegrounds – problems, sins or bad habits we seem to never get rid of. For a while we may manage to defeat or control them, but then they rear up their ugly heads all over again. The root is still there.

Over the years we have developed a special and powerful course, designed to help the believer live life in a manner in which God’s glory replaces the shame, the guilt and the fear – a tool that is designed exactly for this purpose of gaining victory over these battlegrounds. This course is based on the pattern of the Tabernacle built by Moses.

For years this teaching was only available fully in Hebrew, but these past couple of years we have developed an English program, taught over a span of 10 intensive, yet liberating days. Our next course will be held in March of 2020 (the 22nd-31st). Registration is now open. If you are interested in more details, please contact us at

To read more about our previous course offered last year and some of the testimonies, click here.

The half scaled model of the Tabernacle we use as we teach about each of the furnishings and tools found in it and how they apply to us today. 

Tisha B’Av and the Aaronic Blessing

Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av) will be marked this weekend, August 10th. This is the annual commemoration of the destruction of the first Temple by Babylon, and that of the second Temple by Rome (more about it in my post: One Day She Will Remember Her Shame No More).

The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC was a critical step in hiding God’s Faces from His people. From that point on we started perceiving our relationship with Him, for the most part, as that of a nation subject to punishment: destruction, exile and the severing of direct communication with our Father. During Tisha B’Av, prayers of lamentation and mourning are carried throughout synagogues worldwide. In most of them, people will sit on the floor and read the book of Lamentation, which describes the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction.

The Aaronic Blessing 

The common perception is that salvation and redemption will only come fully to Israel with the coming of the Messiah, and for that to happen the Temple has to be rebuilt, the renewed and the ministry of the priests restored.

The Aaronic Blessing is the most ancient Biblical text found so far. Silver plates dated to the end of first Temple period, which apparently served as amulets, were found in a burial cave in Jerusalem. One of them is adorned with the verses of the blessing, in a format much like that one found in Numbers 6.

The plates are kept today at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Every morning, the Blessing is pronounced in synagogues. And since 1970, twice a year (during Pesach and Sukkot) it turns into a mass event. Hundreds of kohanim (priests), who can trace their lineage back to Aaron’s family, arrive at the Western Wall, raise their hands in worship and proclaim the prayer in front of thousands of Jews who wish to receive the blessing.

Multitudes at the Wall during the annual proclamation of the Aaronic Blessing

The blessing is proclaimed while the priest stretches up his hands, spreading his fingers in a unique gesture. Some claim that only Aaron’s descendants can spread their fingers in such fashion. I’m not sure there is scientific ground for this claim, but various rules and prohibitions have developed throughout history surrounding this arm raising and finger spreading.

During the filming of Star Trek, the producer wanted Dr. Spock to accompany his Vulcan blessing of “live long and prosper” with some hand gesture. Leonard Nimoy, the Jewish actor playing Spock, grew up in an orthodox family and was familiar with the priestly finger spreading. He suggested it to the producer, who gladly accepted the idea and turned it into the “Vulcan Salute”, which have become one of the symbols most identified with the series.


“Koolulam” is a social-musical initiative, centered around mass singing events. Large groups of non-professionals come together to form a powerful musical creation. The first Orthodox song recorded in such fashion is that of the Aaronic Blessing (Koolulam – Aaronic Blessing. You may need to wait a few minutes until the add is over).

What Does the Blessing Actually Say?

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His Faces shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His Faces (not ‘countenance’) towards you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

In the various translations, for some reason, the same Hebrew word that appears in both verse 25 and 26 is translated in different ways. The Hebrew speaks about Faces (yes, in the plural), not about countenance or presence. The original Hebrew text does not use the word presence”, not even once. When the root of this word does appear, it is never in the sense of presence. Those verses that we all quote when we speak about being in His presence, always speak about God’s Faces in the original Hebrew.

Does It Matter?

O, yes! There is a difference between presence and face. I can be in someone’s presence, yet with my back turned towards him. Being in someone’s presence does not require looking up to his face, or into his eyes. Moses wasn’t just in God’s presence, he saw Him Faces to faces.

What are God’s Faces? Or better yet, who is His Faces? And why is it that such a significant part of it is hidden from the Jewish people, from the whole world in fact, so much so that even the word itself is mistranslated? (I elaborate about it in my book “His Faces” and my post Faces or a Mask?).

This coming weekend, many in our nation will lament, but will they remember why that punishment came upon us? Will they truly seek His Faces? We can pray that as they daily proclaim the Aaronic Blessing, something ancient will stir deep down in their dull spirit, and wake up. That we will desire to see His Jewish Faces, until this fast of the ninth of Av will turn into joy and gladness and a cheerful feast for the house of Judah, because we will love truth and peace (Zec. 8:19).

I would like to conclude with paraphrasing the following two verses of Zecaraiah, so you can see the original meaning:

“The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us continue to go and seek the Faces of YHWA Lord of hosts. I myself will go also. Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the YHWA of hosts in Jerusalem and to seek the Faces of YHWA” (v. 21-22).