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Words Falling to the Ground

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

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

Is It Or Is It Not?

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

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

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

But How Can We Know What’s Right?

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Jealous For My Sake?

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

What Happened to the Spirit of Prophecy?

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

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

A Fantastic Tale – the Oven of Akhnai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deaf Ears Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

“Na-Vee”, the One Who Brings

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

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

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

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

And Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Against All Odds

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

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

Hanukkah in Bergen Belsen

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

But the answer was always a resounding “no”.

Rabbi Shmelke (Shraga Shmuel Snitzler)

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

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

“Oil”, he whispered.

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

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

Al Hanisim Ve’al Haniflaot

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

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

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

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

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

Who Burried the Treasure?

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

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

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

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

My Prayer

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

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

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

A Jelly-Filled Doughnut for Dessert

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

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

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

A Paper Crown

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

Once Upon a Time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

ES Redmond author illustrator thepapercrowncompany

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

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

A Strategy

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

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

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

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

Horn of anointing oil
[taken from royalcourt.no]

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

Antique Santos and Saints Rosaries and Jeweled Crowns

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

Good Sealing, Imprint and a Scarlet Thread

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

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

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

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

Imprint – “Hachtama”

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

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

The goslings following Lorenz around

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

Goslings who developed an imprint to a white ball

The imprint can also be to another animal

What Does One Have to Do With the Other?

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

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

Scarlet Thread

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

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

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

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

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

My Prayer

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

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

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

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

Verses to Meditate On

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

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

WhatsApp Image 2020-07-29 at 7.46.32 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

∴  1492 AD: The infamous deportation of the Spanish Jews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

∴  That the widow will desire to see her Husband.

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

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

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


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

No king, No Ephod

A heart wrenching sight caught my attention a few days ago. A young man entered the alley beneath  my window, a helmet on his head, a mask covering his beard, and stopped by the side door to the little synagogue in the alley. He bowed his head, caressed the door with pale fingers, trying to remove some dust, kissed the mezuzah, and than caressed the door yet again.

“My God,” I thought, “such longing. I’m not quite sure what it is he is missing so: praying as a quorum, communal life, perhaps You? Oh, how I hope it is You they are longing for.”

A Sector In Crisis

Corona regulations have caused a unique crisis for the religious Jew. Some of the pillars upon which orthodox Judaism is built have failed in this difficult time. Ever since the destruction of the Second Temple on 70 AD, the Rabbis have devised various rulings to provide an alternative to the blood sacrifices, which atoned for sin and guilt. For hundreds of years they taught that prayer and head covering atone,  keep safe and save those who practice them. So much so that the orthodox Jew believes that if he engulfed himself in the “tents of Torah” (meaning: the writing of the Sages, not the Old Testament), he will actually protect Israel much better than the soldiers serving in the IDF.

They also taught that the writings of the Sages are to be studied together, in a group. Therefore, in the early days of Corona outbreak, they still continued to gather in the yeshivas and crowded synagogues, even after large gatherings were prohibited. But soon it became clear that the rate of mortality among the orthodox Jews far exceeded that among the secular population. The conclusion: the communal studying in groups does not necessarily provide protection. For all intents and purposes it was actually the cause of their death.

On March, images of orthodox coffins in Brooklyn began to stream through the media, and these hastened the wake up call. The Rabbis realized they were endangering their flocks, and reluctantly agreed that staying at home is the way to go. That praying in quorum is not necessary. That one can pray and study on his own.

That, however, led to another question, just as interesting: can the orthodox Jew, so dependent on the rulings of his Rabbi even on minor details, trust those rulings? For years he was taught one thing, and now, all of a sudden, the rulings are almost the opposite.

King and Ephod

The words of Hosea (3:4) well describe the state of the leadership in Israel up to a couple of weeks ago. Israel was “without king or prince (political leadership), without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods (spiritual leadership)”. The Israeli government was paralyzed due to repeated elections. And although an agreement was signed recently between the two largest parties, it is hard to believe how such a government can survive long.

The ephod and household gods symbolize spiritual guidance, some form of priesthood. Hosea says that even these are nowhere to be found. His statement is somehow echoed in our days, as the things that are considered to be pillars of worship for the religious Jew, such as studying Talmud and the prayers in the synagogues, have lost their primary place of activity due to the crisis.

Women and Public Prayer

As the strict instructions begun to soften somewhat about three weeks ago, meetings for prayer were finally allowed. At first a maximum of 9 (later on 19) people could gather in one place, yet even that had to be done outside the synagogue, in the open, while staying 2 meters apart.

אם היו דואגים לדתיים לא היו מאשרים מניינים פתוחים" - מקור ראשון

I heard on the radio one woman tell just how much she will miss their prayers when the crisis is all over. “I will never attend a synagogue”, she made it clear, “but I will definitely miss hearing your prayers outside my window. You have awakened a longing in my heart”.

Women cannot pray with men in orthodox synagogues, but the Rabbis cannot forbid women living above these open spaces, or passing on the street, from hearing the prayers and even taking part in them. Thus, many around the country are exposed to daily prayers that used to take place only inside thick walls, women included. And if they so desire, they can even participate. So long as they keep 2 meters apart. This is some sort of a revolution.

התו הסגול" לבתי הכנסת: "גבאי קורונה" ומתפללים קבועים בלבד

An Open Window

A couple of days later I saw a young man, covered in a prayer shawl, approaching the synagogue next door. The gate was locked. Corona, you know. Two religious men happened by, one of which is that synagogue’s treasurer.

“What time is your meeting?” the lad asked. “I’m looking for a place to pray. I want to become more religious.”

To my astonishment the treasurer turned his back and started walking away, mumbling something along the lines of “doesn’t he know everything is closed right now?”

“Why didn’t he show any interest, draw him closer to religion?” I wondered. And than realized: there is a spiritual vacuum worldwide, as well as among the Jewish people, a vacuum that enables the Body of Yeshua to enter in, not with religion, but with Truth.

Please, Lord, strengthen the Israeli Body, the holy remnant (Is. 6:13). Fill us with the courage and inspiration we need. Show us how to draw with strings of love those who are starting to seek the face of their Messiah, whose fat surrounding their hearts starts to dissolve and ears are opening (v. 10).

A Ruth-Naomi Kind of Prayer

In OT days, the judges and spiritual leaders usually sat at the city gates. I am going to use the language of Ruth and Naomi (whose story is usually read in synagogues during the coming Feast of Shavuot), as I pray for these leaders:

God of Israel, come up to the gate (Ruth 4:1), and change our national mindset, that leads us to believe that there is another path to redemption. We were taught that You are unapproachable, and that we need mediators to plead our cause before You. But now, Abba, for long weeks now, hundreds of thousands of devout Jews were unable to reach the elders at the gates as they were used to.

I am asking for more favor. Yeshua, You are the Redeemer in The Story! Please stand at The Gate and reveal Your true Face to us. Let us see who You truly are. Come and fight on behalf of the bitter widow who has been returning from exile to Beit Lehem, to The House of Bread. She doesn’t really know You, and therefor unable, or perhaps just scared, to enter Your dwelling place on her own.

Thank You, Lord, for the Ruths You have trained for centuries, and who have so faithfully shown us who you really are. That it is safe to glean in your fields, and even lay at your feet at the middle of the night. That you are not going to abuse us or ruin our reputation. That you will provide our needs and send us back with a double portion and dignity. Open our eyes to see how you have woven a precious story, that is about to reach its peak, as both the gentile and the Jew walk into your House and usher in the second coming  of the Son. Pour over Your Body an unprecedented measure of your spirit. We are longing for that, Lord.

A Prayer for Me

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a shofar. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins (Is. 58:1).

For a while now God has been calling me to shout aloud, not hold back, raise my voice like a shofar and declare a message to my people (He also used Hos. 8:1 to get my attention on this matter). A major part of my teaching so far focused on the ears of various “Ruths” – gentiles desiring to see and take their part in the restoration of modern “Naomi”.

I believe He is now calling me to focus more on Hebrew speakers. So I need your prayers. What message exactly does He want me to declare in their ears? How? Who to? What is my part in the current state of affairs of modern “Naomi”, as she turns from a bitter widow into a mother, a teacher and nurturer, destined to lead others unto Him?

Thank you for being there, some of you literally as my very own “Ruths”.

Adom, Dam, Adama, Adam

Red, blood, soil, Adam – the play on word is clear in Hebrew. Since Red is “Adom” and Soil (Dust, Earth) is “Adama”, some scholars believe that in the beginning the color of the earth was red, due to its richness and fertility. Hence “Dam” (blood), and of course “Adam”, who was created from this red earth.

In Leviticus 17:11, Moses makes an interesting declaration:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. (CSB)

Apparently, our very soul is in the blood. What a mystery! After all, blood is tangible, while the soul is abstract. The word “soul” is not always accurately translated in English. For some reason it sometimes appears as “life”, or “a person”. I went through my entire Bible and marked all the verbs attached to this noun: the soul is the part in our being that sins, hurts, loves, being poured out in prayer, grieves, vexes, wills, and much more.

But this mystery, i.e. that the soul is in the blood, actually does make sense. After all, it was perfect blood that had to be shed in order to cover our brokenness, our sins and our hurts. It was not enough to just sacrifice a heart, or kidneys or some other organ that is usually considered to be the seat of the human soul. No, blood had to be poured out.

The Voice of Blood

Let’s go back to the very first sin. Why did God curse the earth, the soil, and not just the sinners? Adam was created from the earth, and was destined to cultivate and maintain it. After the fall, that earth brought up useless plants, and Adam had to invest much work to bring forth enough harvest to sustain his household.

The second sin in human history resulted in an unusual declaration God makes: “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10. NIV), He said to Cain.

The first sin brought a curse upon the earth and the destruction of harmony between it and man. The second sin, that of Cain and Abel, made things even worse, as it contaminated the soil with blood, and uprooted Cain from the soil he was born to cultivate. No more continual dwelling. Cain switched into a lifestyle of a nomad. What a punishment for a farmer, that was now compelled to change his vocation. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but perhaps he became a shepherd, and started keeping the flock of the brother he did not keep? Just a thought. Much like most of this blog; different thoughts about blood, humanity, and land.

Later on Cain builds a city (Gen. 4:17). This was another step furthering the disconnect between man and land, as building a city means surrounding oneself with a wall and structures, instead of nature. The disconnect just deepened  from one generation to the other, to the point that nine generations after Adam, in the days of Lamech, the earth was considered cursed (Gen. 5:28). Then came the Flood, which not only destroyed all of mankind save Noah and his family, but also demolished everything man has built and cultivated upon it.

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A Soil Defiled by Bloodshed

Why is it that God cannot bear blood being shed over soil without covering it? I wonder if its the same with any type of soil around the globe, or only when it comes to the soil of the Promised Land…

He commanded Israel to let its soil rest every seven years. No other nation was commanded to do so with their land. And when we were not careful to observe this commandment, He had uprooted us, so that it can rest (Lev. 26:34-35).

So, why does a soil need to rest anyhow?

Blood Vengeance  

Than there is the whole set of regulations concerning blood vengeance. How does the shedding of more blood, of another soul, cover for blood that was already shed?

Blood vengeance was not designed to remove the violent person from society in order to prevent the next murder, as is done by the modern prison systems. It was designed to take care of the murder that had already taken place, which goes against everything we esteem in our western minds.

The OT provides a solution in case the identity of the murderer was unknown. The closest town to the place where the body was found was to be determined. Then, the elders of that town were to take a heifer that has never been worked, bring it down to a flowing stream and to a field that has never been plowed or planted, and there break its neck (Deut. 21:1-9). Oy vey!

Why was it so important that the heifer’s life be taken in a field that has never been plowed or planted? According to the Mishna, once the heifer’s blood was shed, that soil was forever forbidden to be cultivated and used for agricultural needs.

A Destiny Connected To a Soil 

So why does the earth itself need to be redeemed?

Rejoice, you nations, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants; He will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for His land and people (Deut. 32:43).

What is the connection between the soil of Israel and the destiny of the Israeli people? Could we have realized this destiny and fulfilled it apart from this piece of Land, without living on it? Or can that eternal destiny be awaken in us only when we walk the Land through and through, cultivate and protect it? Is that why God first brought us back here and now He is bringing us back to Him?

Toiling, Worship and Fruition

In Genesis 2, where the word Adama is first mentioned, we are commanded to work and toil it. The Hebrew word used here is the same one used to worship and serve God. The root is AVD – עב”ד.

The Bible uses the same terms to describe fertility of the earth and that of a woman. Both have a belly – a womb. A seed is sown in both of them, sprouts and grows. In Deuteronomy 28:4 and 30:9 the fruit of the earth and the fruit of the womb are mentioned side by side.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks (NIV).

Memorial Days

This week Israel commemorates two major events in our modern history: the Holocaust, and the casualties of wars and terror attacks. All throughout Israel, flags will be lowered to half mast, the siren will be sound and we will all stop what we are doing and focus on our national mourning. So much blood has been shed on this soil, it is saturated in blood.

As Memorial Day will end, the flags will be raised up high. We will all find a technological way to celebrate the birth of the kingdom of Israel for the third time, 72 years ago, through the bloody price of death toll.

Does Israel Have a Soul?

The Bible often refers to Israel as “she” – a woman whom God had found, washed, cleansed, than betrothed and as her dowry gave her a piece of Land for an inheritance. She later betrayed Him, and was punished. And now she is a widow, not because she does not have a Husband, but because she does not recognize Him as such.

God of course promises to restore her from her widowhood (Is. 54:4), not just spiritually but also physically, back in her land (“Adama”). This process requires so much repentance and cleansing.

The Blood of The Innocent

Since the establishment of Israel as a nation, we have killed more babies than Nazi Germany did. Can you believe it? We have so much blood on our hands, and have defiled this land with so much blood. The Corona season has led many in the local body into repentance, especially regarding abortions. For the first time, to the best of my knowledge, Arab and Jewish women met together (via zoom, of course) to address this issue.

"They Just Stood There," 36x36, Acrylic and Combined Media on Stretched Canvas

As we cleanse our hearts and stand in the gap for our people’s groups, we find the faith to see this land open her belly once more, this time not in order to swallow more blood, but to bring forth a harvest that will stem out of purity and will not thirst for more bloodshed.

I like the way my friend Briskilla describes it: “The Lover of our souls had shed His Soul into the soil. His sound echoes through it and starts replacing the cry of the other bloods that were shed. It brings forth from the belly of the soil a completely different kind of harvest – a Bread of love and obedience”.

Hermann Nitsch, 2016 Acrylic on Canvas (with painted Shirt) 78.7 x 118 inches (200 x 300cm) - Marc Straus Gallery


* To find our previous posts on Holocaust and Soldiers and Terror Victims Memorial Days, check out our posts index

 

Orthodox Jews and the Corona Passover

Passover started tonight. Since most Israeli Jews celebrate it with their loved ones, our government decided to block passage on all roads throughout the country, as of last night. The concern is that this will cause another outburst of Corona.

The shut down raises up questions, mostly for the Orthodox community. Due to the new regulations they are not allowed to perform many of their Passover rituals: Hag-Aa-Lah (a process of making utensils and dishes kosher and pure by immersing them in boiling water in the synagogue’s court); Bi-Oor Cha-Metz (the burning of unleavened bread); immersing in the Mikveh; praying at the wailing wall, etc.

Many such rituals have been ruled by the Rabbis since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. With no ability to sacrifice and shed blood, the nation needed a way of cleansing and purification.

On top of that, they cannot meet together, not even the minimal required number of 10 to form the Minyan (quorum), that enables them to say certain prayers.

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(Olivier Fitoussi, HaAretz)

The Rabbis have taught for centuries that prayer and study of the writings of the Sages is what preserves our nation, protects us, cleanses us. Now they find themselves at a strange junction, forced by circumstances. The majority of corona infected patients in Israel are from the Orthodox community, mostly because of their crowded lifestyle and struggle to adhere to the new regulations.

One example: every year, on the morning of Passover eve, they collect the unleavened products they still have at home and burn them in a special community waste bin. Actually, they ensure their homes are rid of any leaven a few days earlier, and they leave a few crumbs in a hidden place in order to perform a ceremony. The crumbs are collected on Passover morning, taken to the bin, and burned by a special man, appointed for the task. But this year it was forbidden, so the Rabbis declared that the crumbs can be flushed down the toilet.

I like this solution, but that raises up new questions. If this solution works, than who needs the complicated and expensive provisions they declared as necessary all these years?

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Burning of the leaven
(Photo credit: JDN)

An exceptional picture caught my eyes last week:

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Spraying and disinfection for Corona at the Western Wall
(Photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS, HaAretz)

They are spraying the Western Wall, The center of Jewish prayers for centuries. If prayer is indeed the mean to achieve cleansing, than no spraying should be needed here. This should be the safest place on earth these days. And yet…

A few decades before the Temple was destroyed God had provided a solution, His ultimate mean of cleansing. But the majority among the Jews could not see it because of a severe punishment Israel was under back than, and is still under. It is called “Hidden Faces” (see Faces or a Mask? (A Midrash for Shavu’ot)

The neighborhood I live in, in the center of Jerusalem, has many community synagogues. They are all shut and inactive. I see some of their regular members walking around, keeping distance from one another, longing to go back to routine. And it stirs up in me a prayer that I never really prayed for them:

Abba, what an amazing plan you got into action when you sent your son as our Passover Lamb. You have granted me such a measure of grace when you chose to reveal Him to me as my Jewish savior; when you softened my heart so that I could bring Him into my heart, into my home. I am praying for the same grace over the Orthodox community.

I am not asking that you will help the observant Jewish community find peace where they are disturbed and restless. On the contrary, I am asking that you will use this unique time to stir within them a deep awareness, a sobering understanding that there must be a different mean of cleansing than those they relied on all these years. If the Western Wall needs to be cleansed and the other rituals can be replaced by simpler actions, than shake some of their foundations, and cause them to lift their eyes higher, above the rulings of their Rabbis, and to seek the God that does not change His mind and does not depend on circumstances. I ask it in the name of The Lamb, who paid the price in full.

Communion and Two Altars (2)

(Altar Series   |   part 2)

Egypt, Second Millennia BC

After more than 400 years, the ability of the Hebrews to control their lives was so limited. Maybe they could choose what their lunch would consist of – be it fish, melons or cucumbers (Num. 11:5), but from sunrise to sunset there were guards whipping them, telling them where to go and what to do. After centuries of enduring this routine – they were slaves not just circumstantially, but mentally as well.

One miraculous day God answers their cries, and leads them to a promised land. These broken hearts, with a limited ability to make decisions, initiate, make any kind of change, turn within a short span of time to a nation, children of God, priests and warriors. How did this transformation transpire?

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The answer is the Tabernacle. God commanded them to erect a structure in their midst, and then set each of its instruments in its destined place. As chaos made room for order, an amazing thing we all long for happened – God filled that structure with His glory.

Here and Now, These End of Days 

In some ways we too are enslaved, longing to put an end to our wanderings. Our menu may include more than fish, melons and cucumbers, and on more sane days we can even choose which restaurant to go to. But there are still these vicious guards within us, who keep a watchful eye, decide how we act and what we do and have an amazingly loud voice within us.

Oh, how we yearn that whoever looks our way will not see our shortfalls and sins, but only the glory of God filling us. Not shame and guilt, but a thick cloud of glory.

For God’s glory to tabernacle in us we have to get to the Holy of Holies. Which means we need to do what the priests did in the Old Testament. They did it externally, on behalf of the nation. We are called to do it internally, as we are all priests unto Him. How do we do that?

“The Pattern Which I Show You”

“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I show you” (Ex. 25:9).

On mount Sinai God provided Moses an explicitly detailed list of materials, shapes, measurements and colors. He also showed him an actual Tabernacle, a large and perfect one that was not created by man, and that exists still today (see Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:11).

The English uses various alternatives when it translates the verb “to tabernacle”. Sometimes it is translated into dwell, make a home, abide. But in Hebrew it is almost always about Tabernacling. For exmple:

“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will tabernacle among you,” declares the Lord.“Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will tabernacle among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you”  (Zec. 2:10-11).

The pattern God used back then is still valid. We first need to present before God the materials we have in our personal wilderness. For the Israelites these were mostly the bent, lean and thorny acacia woods. These are most likely a carpenter’s nightmare, but that was the only building material available where they were. For God that was certainly sufficient. After all, the goal is His glory to be seen, not our abilities.

He does not expect us to produce cedar trees we do not have, or import them from elsewhere. That’s what David did in order to erect a magnificent temple, but this was not God’s original format for worship.

So How Do We Do that?

Communion sums it up well. It did not start when Yeshua commanded His disciples to remember Him. It started millenniums earlier, when God turned these slaves into priests and warriors.

Moses sprinkled blood on everything, even on the priests’ ears and thumbs; So it always starts with blood (even the 10 plagues, interestingly, started with blood). And it ends with a torn flesh, that made a way for His Glory to be seen.

So when we take the Wine and the Bread, we should sprinkle blood on a certain piece of flesh inside us that needs to be torn. That will make a way for the King of Glory to enter in and tabernacle within us.

Let me connect this post to my previous one and say at this point: Communion runs between both altars – the Bronze and the Golden one.

The Brazen Altar of Blood 

Moses’ words are echoed in what Yeshua said to His disciples shortly before Passover (Matt. 26:28):

“Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you” (Ex. 24:8).

Moses said it after taking blood from that Brazen altar, which atoned for those who regretted their sins. That was then. How do we do it today?

Here is a very short explanation of what needs to take place within us as we apply each instrument found in the Tabernacle.

We build an Altar of bronze within us when instead of accusing and isolating ourselves in face of insult and pain, we take responsibility of our reactions to what other people’s actions stir within us. Simply put, we sprinkle His blood on our wounds by choosing to respond with repentance and forgiveness.

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When we take communion, we remind ourselves the price Yeshua paid so that we do not have to repeatedly slaughter and sprinkle blood by the altar; that His blood is readily available.

All we have to do is remember and internalize. All of the Jewish calendar and the various Biblical ceremonies are an appointed opportunity to remember what has already been achieved, or what will be done. Communion is no exception.

The Laver

This is where the Word should wash our understanding (Eph. 5:25-27b), until gradually our thoughts align with His.

The Screen

When we regularly sprinkle Yeshua’s blood over our thorns (by repentance and forgiveness), and wash in the Laver (through study of Scripture), at some point the screen inside us between the court and the Holy Place is pushed aside. This is when we enter into a more intimate place with God.

The Menorah

Every day, at dusk, the priest would light the Menorah, and every morning he replaced burned wicks and cleaned the candlesticks (Ex. 30:7-8). We too must face it regularly and allow the Holy Spirit to shed His light on our hearts. That is when we start recognizing lies and wrong perceptions that make us tick (lies such as: God loves everyone, but not me; He is faithful… but not to His promises to me).

The Table of Showbread

12 loaves of bread were put on the table and replaced once a week (Lev. 24:5-9). The Table also represents the Word, but in the form of bread. At this point we need to replace what was exposed by the Menorah with God’s truth.

However, it is not enough only to recognize what Truth stands in contrast to these lies. We must also consume that Truth, take it in to deep places within us, that are hidden from sight.

“You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Ps. 51:6).

Yes, God wants His truth to reside in the innermost parts. In another psalm David phrases it even better:

I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my intestines (Ps. 40:8).

The Hebrew does not speak here of the heart, but of David’s digestive system. When God’s truth is chewed and swallowed, it becomes an inherent part of us, it changes us from within. Our struggles and pain are the way our loving Father rebukes His children to bring them to repentance (Rev. 3:19). He uses hardships to remind us how hungry our intestines are to the true Bread that comes from heaven.

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When I build a Tabernacle within me (as I deal with one problematic issue or another), I literally set a table at this stage: I prepare a stack of cards with verses that declare the exact opposite of the lie that was exposed by the Menorah.

I love the way Jeremiah phrased it:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (15:16).

The Golden Altar of Sweet Aroma

This is the peak of the process. Here the priests burned incense that ascended as a sweet aroma. Today it happens when we give thanks and intercede, but only if it stems out of a place that was once hidden and sealed, and is now full of Truth. At this point I usually thank God for the way He used some of my thorny areas to expose rotten roots that lied in my innermost being, and for the Truth I found at the Table.

As I chew this Truth, it gradually becomes a part of me. Thus, in a very practical way, a part of God’s Word, the Word that had put on flesh and came to this world to tabernacle among us (Jn. 1:14a), becomes a part of me.

The Veil

An unusual thing happened when Yeshua’s flesh was torn on the cross. The veil in the Temple was torn as well (Mt. 27:51). There was no more use for it, as the path to our destination, to the Holy of Holies, was opened wide at that very moment. From then on, whoever enters the Narrow Gate, can continue the process with full confidence all the way to the Holy of Holies.

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The rituals and the process of worship that took place in the Tabernacle found their culmination on the cross. There – everything happened all at once. The Entrance Gate was provided, blood was shed, flesh was torn, and all the in between became available to us.

Which is why we can now enter boldly the Holiest in a new and living way which Yeshua consecrated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. Yes, we can draw near with a true heart and in full assurance of faith because by our faith in Him our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience at the Brazen Altar and our bodies washed with pure water at the Laver (see Heb. 10:19-20, 22). Hallehu Yah!

Glory

Father of glory, give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know You (Eph. 1:17). What a privilege it is to know that Your glory can fill the very places in our lives that cause us so much shame.

We want to live our lives between the two Altars, with the assurance that Your blood purifies us and Your Word washes our understanding. That your torn body, when it tabernacles within us, gradually fills us with Your Glory, grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).

Blessed are You, our God, King of the universe, for satisfying the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:16), for bringing forth the true Bread of life from the earth, and the true Vine; for setting a banquet Table within us every time we invite You into our innermost being.

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From altar to throne
By SigneSandelin, DevianArt

Lift up your heads, all these locked gates within us, so that the King of Glory will come in. 

Between Two Altars (1)

(Altar Series   |   part 1)

If the present pandemic would have erupted in the days of Exodus, they would have created some kind of a quarantined section outside the camp. The priests would have examined the state of the patients every few days, and when the symptoms would disappear – they would be sent to the Tabernacle with a suitable sacrifice.

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Would the Courtyard be under quarantine restrictions? Hmmmm….

There were two altars in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple). One made of bronze, the other of gold. The Brazen altar was the biggest instrument found in the Tabernacle. And it was located in the courtyard. Which means everyone could see who was coming in and going out, and based on the type of sacrifice they were bringing, assume just what kind of sin they were repenting of. Quite embarrassing.

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If it were up to me, I would have switched between the two. Why does everyone need to know what exactly I did wrong, and see me repent publicly? Not to mention the strong smells and scary sights found by that altar: particles of flesh, blood, fire, death and smoke. I’d much rather be seen by the Golden altar, while I burn incense of prayer, praise and worship before my Beloved; where the aroma is sweet and the sights aesthetic.

Does Everyone Need To Know?

But that is the nature of sin, and that is how the Corona Virus works too. It incubates in an unseen realm, its symptoms are not always immediate, yet it spreads rapidly. One little sneeze, and the entire surrounding is affected. One little word I’ve misspoken; one nugget of gossip that may be entertaining those who share it, but is infecting others with shrapnel; and that addiction I think affects only me, but in the spiritual and unseen world causes damage to a spiritual Body.

The treatment for both also runs in parallels: quarantine, or sent outside the camp. And of course, everyone around is notified. Humiliating? Yes, to a degree! But that is the only way to bring an end to it.

When I truly repent of something, when I get to that place inside me that is so ready to change direction and set my eyes – not on others who are ministering in the Court, not on my usual diversions and indulgences outside the Gate – only towards the Holy of Hollies, then I don’t even care if others hear or watch or know. I so much want to see a lasting change, and to stop affecting others by my wrongdoings, that I don’t really mind if others see it. On the contrary, I want people to know that something had changed.

Shaking

When this present situation will be all over, will everything go back to the way it was before? I am asking God to help me make the most out of this unique situation. I do not want to regret not using this down time to go deeper, or untie some ancient bonds, or develop a new habit that I know is good for me but “who ever has time for that…”

Social media is full of theories concerning what the Corona is meant to achieve in the kingdoms of darkness and conspiracy. Some of these theories are scary and intriguing and certainly possible. But they take over my time and mind. I would prefer to know what is God planning to achieve through that. The enemy may try to shake us in order to establish his order, but God has a way to use these shakings. He shakes us every once in a while, not so that we lose our faith, but in order to build and edify it (Mark. 14:31).

Nearly 37 years ago I chose to enter His Courts through the one and only Gate that leads to the Holy of Hollies. Since then I need to make a repeated choice: to stand by the Brazen altar. There I leave various feelings, thoughts, memories and reactions that have no place in God’s kingdom. I love seeing how He conquers every such territory with His weighty glory.

Incense Prayer – The “Pitum Haketoret”

Since the destruction of the Temple on 70 AD, the daily commandment to burn incense on the Golden altar is no longer applicable. The Pharisees found creative solutions to bypass the blood and sacrifice requirements. Various prayers were put together to replace the different ceremonies taken place in the Temple, in an attempt to provide what both altars were meant to provide: atonement, forgiveness, repentance and a sweet aroma.

God’s commandment to burn incense daily on the Golden altar, as the sun was setting (Ex. 30:1-10), was substituted by a special prayer, called “Pitum Haketoret” (The Compounding of the Incense). It’s a combination of various psalms that refer to the different ingredients of the incense. This prayer is said until this very day in synagogues.

Kabbalah literature (the ancient Jewish mystical interpretation of the Bible) teaches that declaring the “Pitum Haketoret” can put an end to a plague. The claim is based on Numbers 17:47-48. But this is one more case where Rabbinical Judaism is bypassing the importance of blood. Most of its rules and regulations are based on parts of stories in the Bible, at times even parts of verses, taking things out of context.

Look at v. 46: “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started”.

Moses commands Aaron to take the censer and put fire in it. Where did he get the fire? There was only one source of fire in the Tabernacle: the Brazen altar. Which means that the fire was saturated with the blood of sacrifices. It was not the incense that provided atonement and put an end to the plague, it was the combination of coals sprinkled with innocent blood and sweet aroma.

Just a few short words are used to describe Aaron’s running to and fro between the two altars, in a scene that conveys much courage and stress. With every second that passed more people were killed by the plague. Aaron was interceding for the people with his own body, knowing he himself can contract it, yet he knew that the censer in his hands was purified.

The Challenge

We all want to be seen when we are at our best. We prefer that people hear our carefully crafted prayers, the ones that carry a sweet aroma of perfumed incense, and our worship and praise. We are happy to share the altar of gold found within us, but let us not forget you don’t start there. You have to go through the bigger altar for your prayers to produce that desired sweetness. The Golden altar is smaller, located in an intimate section of the Tabernacle, far from sight.

When a plague erupts, whether it looks like a miniature ball with a crown of strange arms, or be it some hidden sin that is spreading unseen through us, God is calling us to come to the outer altar, the one saturated in blood and exposed to the public. There He commands us to burn the sin and let go of any foreign fire we hold on to. To confess, forgive, change direction.

Humiliating? Yes. But that’s the only way leading to His Glory, the only way Aaron had put an end to a plague.

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Running between two altars, and among a dying nation
(Illustrated by Michal Ben Hamo)

Abba, how privileged we are to have a High Priest who runs on our behalf between both ends – stopping plagues with His own blood, and receiving our sweet praises when they ascend to His throne. There is an appropriate time for each of these, please teach us to not confuse the two or neglect one of them.