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Will You Be an Orpah or a Ruth?

On Saturday we celebrated the eve of Shavuot (Pentecost). Traditionally, the Jewish people world wide read the book of Ruth during this feast, as the story described there takes place during this season.

לימוד בקהילה על שבועות

Teaching about Shavuot at my congregation

The book of Ruth is my favorite one in the Bible. I believe we are living in the prophetic fulfillment of this story. I have been digging into it for a couple of years now, and I keep gleaning more and more truths each time I teach it. The one that touches me the most is the relevance it has to the modern history of Israel.

You see, just like Naomi, who comes back to the “House of Bread” (Beth Lehem) from a few decades of living in the diaspora of Moab, so is Israel coming back now from a few millenniums of living in the diaspora world wide.

The Jewish people could not have done it on their own. We needed various Ruths along the way in order to make it. I love the way Isaiah describes parts of it:

Thus saith the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people. And they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isa. 49:22-23).

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This picture of Ruth and Naomi was painted by Michael Washer,
and sent to me by a modern “Ruth” from GA

Throughout the entire book of Ruth, the redeemer knows Naomi is back in town. She also knows he is there. But there is no direct communication between them. When he wants to send her something, he does it through the Gentile. When she needs something from him, she sends the gentile to him. Why is the significance of it? Read more about it in my article titled Ruth and Naomi.

There is another widow in the story – Orpah. While Ruth means Friendship, Orpah means a Neck. Orpah also loves Naomi, but is willing to walk with her only a certain distance. She than gets tired and walks back to her comfort zone, and out of the narrative.

What will you choose when it comes to Israel? Will you be a faithful Ruth, or a neck turning Orpah?

My Jerusalem

This week we celebrated the 49th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, the number one achievement of the Six Days’ war in 1967. There is probably no other subject that divides the people of Israel as this one. Many Israelis believe that the return of Jerusalem and of the mountains of Samaria to Israeli hands is the core for most of our problems. And so do many nations. They all say that if we give away a part of Jerusalem, we shall reap peace with our neighbors. Is that so?

Celebrations launched on Sunday in Jerusalem, and will continue throughout this whole year, as this is the 50th year, the Jubilee. Yes, on June 6 next year Jerusalem will celebrate 50 years of being back under a Jewish sovereignty, after nearly 2,000 years of being trampled under the feet of many nations.

A few months ago I took a short vacation in Jerusalem, with a dear friend. So in this post I would like to share with you a little of my Jerusalem. The way I experienced it recently, with much joy.

At the entrance to Jaffa gate we came upon this harpist. If you toured Jerusalem, you might have seen her there too, playing beautiful hymns, based on Old Testament scriptures, to the delight of those who pass by.

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So many cultural events are taking place in Jerusalem. Constantly. There is always a parade or a festival or a good show to see. Even a car race. Look at this whimsical display of umbrellas in one of the old alleys. It can get so hot in Jerusalem during the summer, so why not create a little shade for the pedestrians?

Shoshi and I are bibliophiles. Give us a book, as old as you can find, one that has that special aroma and is written in old Hebrew, and we are on cloud nine. We walked up and down the streets, and all of a sudden found this refreshing sight: a bus station turned into a neighborhood library. People bring the books they don’t use, and take what others left. No need to control it. No fees. And it is well kept and maintained.

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Some street art: huge billboards, promoting a new national project (called 929), that deserves its own post. These posters refer to Gen. 2:18 at the top – “It is not good for man to be alone”; and at the bottom – Ex. 32:4: “He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf”) in a comical way (the art criticizes using cellular phones excessively).

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We were looking for a nice coffee shop for a much needed rest, and found ourselves in the midst of a wedding. “Thus says the Lord, yet again there will be heard in this place… in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem… the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride…” (Jer. 33:10-11). So many years this voice was not allowed to be heard in Jerusalem.

Did you know that under the Huppah (the canopy), every groom says during the ceremony: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Ps. 137:5-6)? No matter how joyful you are in the most exciting day of your life, Jerusalem should be above it. Does any other religion put Jerusalem above all joy?

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Derek Prince is burried in a small Christian cemetery in the midst of the German colony in Jerusalem. Whenever I pass by and the gate is open, I enter in. I have my little “Derek” story, as he was one of the main people God used to instill into me the calling to establish Ot OoMofet.

I met him in Jerusalem, a few years before he died, in order to discuss the publishing of his books in Hebrew (back than I had a publishing business). But we ended up talking about God’s heart towards the needy, and especially widows and orphans. He was so passionate about it. We continued to meet on a regular basis, and this was always the main topic he wanted to discuss.

The walls of that cemetery are decorated with fabulous art, of huge scenes taken from the Bible.

Mount Zion hotel overlooks the Judean desert and the old city. Its garden is a masterpiece, and provided us many spots to pose a little.

She Is Alive

You may be hearing a lot about terror in Jerusalem and how dangerous it is to be there. But Jerusalem is alive, alive and kicking, and creative, and searching for its trues identity. And the most important thing – she is being restored (though as of now, it is mostly in the physical realm).

Centuries have passed since Jerusalem has been in Jewish hands. All this time she was neglected, filthy, stricken with diseases and poverty. She was not special at all to those who ruled her, so they didn’t care to invest in her development or even worship their gods there. That issue rose up only after Israel started investing in this city and restoring it.

So typical to all of us. Don’t we all tend to overlook the broken and needy? Well, maybe we do have compassion and are extending some humanitarian help, but how much hope do we have that they can deeply be transformed? And restored? Do we see them through God’s eyes? Do we know what He promises to do with them and for them, and how much glory He ascribes to them? Read for instance 1 Cor. 12:22-24. But when someone rises up, full of hope and faith for a broken heart, and starts investing in him or her, at some point we are all amazed and attracted to it, and even desire to have a part in his or her life. This is human nature, but when it comes to the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, it is also prophetic.

Staring Death in the Face

In my previous post I shared about Rebecca, one of the Holocaust Survivors I am ministering to. None in the Israeli society embodies the widowhood of Israel more than these precious souls, so many of them still living in the torture of their memories.

We have been working with Rebecca for nearly a year now, and have been able to assist her with significant needs. Through the generosity of some of you, we purchased specialized telescopic glasses that enable her to do that which she could not do for a long time – paint, use her computer, read. We installed a small air conditioner unit in her home to ward off the unbearable heat of the Israeli summer.

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For years, whenever she needed to get her laundry done, Rebecca would stick this hose into the toilet to allow drainage. The washing machine was placed in a tiny little balcony on the other side of the wall. There was no hookup for water, and no money for a plumber either, so she herself dug a hole in the wall for the hose to go through, and when she needed to do her laundry, inserted the hose into the toilet.

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Most of the electric plugs in her home were dysfunctional, and not being able to afford an electrician, throughout the house she taped extension cords to the wall, so she could use all her electric appliances. These cords ran everywhere in the apartment – including her bathroom – so extremely dangerous!

Thanks to donations given to our Holocaust Fund, we were able to renovate her bathroom, making it safer for her to maneuver. The tub was replaced with a walk-in shower, the washing machine is now hooked to a proper drainage system and we brought in an electrician to fix all the wiring in the house.

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However, more than anything else, her greatest need has always been for companionship. For someone to come and talk, listen, and spend time with her. I took a photographer with me to document a short clip of her life story, this time we bring it to you with English subtitles.

In a few short weeks Rebecca will be celebrating her 87th birthday. Her greatest regret is that she has no legacy to leave behind. Nothing to show for all her years. So we are going to change that! Rebecca is a talented artist and poet. Over the years she penned dozens of songs and painted endless paintings. We are currently hard at work compiling a book of her creations – some of her poems, accompanied by her paintings. Our goal is to have the book finished and in print for us to present to her as a birthday gift. Work on the English version will follow beginning next month.

Join us in prayer for all the pieces to fall into place in time, so that we will indeed be able to bless her with this gift by mid June.

(If you’d like to read more about Rebecca please check out update #101 in our Updates Archive).

One of my heart’s desires where holocaust survivors are concerned is to get our local youth group involved in this work – for the youth to visit the survivors, and learn from their rich history and heritage. Rebecca lives outside our region, so this is not feasible for us to do with her. But please pray with me that God will bring some survivors that live nearby. We can get names and contacts from the local authorities, but then our hands will be tied where it comes to sharing the Gospel with them.

Please pray that God will bring to us those He wants to use us in order to fill this gaping hole in their hearts. Thank you for joining us as we contribute our part in the restoration of the widow Israel through these precious ones.

For donations to our Holocaust Fund, you can send checks to:

House of Stephanas
1005 Elaine Trail
Chattanooga, TN 37421

Please add a note specifying the donation is for
Ot OoMofet’s Holocaust Fund

 

 

A Mourning Turned Into Dance – Part 2

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There is another way our nation commemorates her widowhood. Tonight starts Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Acts of Terror. Since the first “olim” (immigrants) started coming back to Zion, through the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 and till this day, 23,447 soldiers and civilians lost their lives in wars or acts of terror.

Just like on Holocaust Memorial Day, on this day the nation will once again cease all its doings for a moment of silence as the sirens will go off. The home maker by her sink, the driver on the road, even the prime minister will cease his important work – and all will stand in silence. Ceremonies will be conducted in military cemeteries throughout the land.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” sings David. And Israel can join these lines, since the moment memorial day will be over, we will begin the celebration of our Independence Day.

And so, in one very busy and emotion filled week, Israel will address its widowhood and orphanhood, her mourning, but also her victory and her rising from the ashes. From the cross to the resurrection.

Not an easy transition. How do you swiftly turn from a day of mourning to a time of rejoicing?

How could the holocaust survivors, who suffered years of hunger and abuse, make it to the Land of their fathers and immediately join the forces to fight for our independence? How were they even able to start new families? Or express love? And choose life?

I often think about life in the camps. What would I have done if…? Why did the prisoners not run towards the fence, knowing they’d be shot or electrocuted, yet at least they would finally know rest? What caused them to hold on to life, day in and day out, when they had no idea, none what so ever, if they will ever leave those camps?

Every year, as we go through this transition from mourning to dancing, our people are given an opportunity to see the spiritual parallel: for two thousand years we were orphans and widows, with no one to manage us, let’s not forget that. But let us also lift our eyes to the future, to the day in which white robes of linen will replace the black mourning clothes we’ve been wearing for generations.

I invite you to pray for us accordingly: that we will rise from our widowhood, that we will recognize the existence of a loving husband, reaching his hand out to us. A God who gave us to the hands of vicious enemies because we have not heeded His voice, yet now is fulfilling the final part of His covenant with us, inviting us to enter His home as a bride enters the home of her husband.

The majority of the people of Israel do not even speak in these kind of terms and do not recognize the real reason for the sword and exile that have come upon us. Pray for our hearts to be softened, that we would recognize the fatherhood of God, and that we will realize He is our Husband. And a loving one indeed.

A Mourning Turned into Dance – Part 1

Once a year, about two weeks after the Passover Seder, Israel commemorates two huge events, that transformed her modern history.

The holocaust is the first one. Not that we ever forget it throughout the year, but this one day is fully dedicated to the memory of those who were murdered, and the unfathomable torture of those who survived.

It starts on the eve of the 27th day of Nissan. All media is busy with the Holocaust; no other movies or shows are broadcasted, no cinemas or restaurants are open. An entire country mourns.

On the following morning, at 10am, a siren is sounded all over the country. Everybody stops whatever it is they are doing at that moment, and stand still for two minutes.

What you see in the above picture is not the result of an accident. The siren went off, and the drivers simply pulled over, got out of their cars, and in silence expressed their feelings regarding something that words cannot describe anyhow.

Some Numbers According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (as of April 2015):

♦ About 189,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. 60% are women.
♦ 45,000 of them live below the poverty line. Almost all of them struggle with severe loneliness
♦ About 1,200 die each month. With every passing month, however, this number grows for obvious reasons.
♦ Their average age is 84.

The Holocaust was the most severe form of punishment God had brought upon our nation in modern history. It was not the first time a decree has been issued to annihilate our name from among the nations. Psalm 83 describes it well, providing a long list of the nations that had that in mind in Biblical days. The book of Esther is yet another example of that desire. Hitler did not come up with something new. The only thing new was his loathsome method.

Living among us today, we still have some of those who miraculously survived this scheme. Each one of them is an amazing testimony to God’s promise to revive us from ashes.

Remember Rachel? Well, I now have her permission to share her real name – Rebecca. She is one of them. Against all odds she survived, and in the short clip bellow she shares about one of those moments, in which she looked death in the eye. (For the non-Hebrew speakers among you, our apologies. Right now the clip is in Hebrew only. We are working on the English subtitles which should be ready in a week or so, but we did not want to wait to share this beautiful clip. As soon as we have the revised clip, we will upload it and notify you).

 https://vimeo.com/165013726

Rebecca is an artist. The picture below shows the footprints left by those who were burnt in the flames. Some did not leave anything behind, except those prints.

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You can read more about our work among holocaust survivors at Restoring the brokenness of holocaust survivors.

But this day of mourning is not the end of the story. A week later Israel stands still once more. Read part 2 of this post to learn more about it.

No Bleach Required

The Jewish nation is preparing for the coming holiday, Passover. On Friday evening, most Jewish families will sit around festive tables, and read the story of the Exodus. Parts of it will be sang, we will play some games with the kids, and eat for what seems like forever. We will also recall the ten plagues that God had brought upon the Egyptians, beginning with the very first one – Blood.

Most Jewish housewives go through a thorough cleaning of every corner in their homes in preparation for this high holiday. Drawers, piles of things long forgotten and untouched for months, everything is dusted and organized. Some joke and say that this holiday is to commemorate our freedom from slavery, only so that we can be in bondage again, this time to cleaning.

But what about our hearts? How can we remove old stains and hidden dust from our hearts? The Bible teaches that the cleansing of our hearts can be done only with blood. Interesting. Ask any housewife. She will clearly tell you that blood only stains. Moreover, blood stains are almost the hardest to remove from any fabric.

But God’s logic works so differently. No matter what contaminated your heart, memory or imagination through the years, it can be cleaned, redeemed and purified. And only through blood. No bleach required.

Blood stains are very common on bed sheets, PJ’s etc. and removing them can be...:

All it takes is to apply it to the wound or memory or negative feeling. Similar to what the Israelites did when they smeared blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses before they left the land of slavery.

How do you smear that blood today, on the doorposts of your hurting heart? I do it through repentance and forgiveness. I simply listen to His knocks on closed doors of my heart, and open them. I invite Him to sit as Lord over anything that bothers me, whether it be something in my circumstances, feelings, or thoughts. I take an imaginary piece of hyssop, and spread His blood (by faith) over anything in me that cries out for freedom from slavery.

So as a whole nation prepares for the traditional meal, you can pray for our hearts to be cleansed as well, not just our homes. Pray that we will understand who the real Lamb is, and how powerful His blood is. Though history made us think His blood contaminated us, the truth is it is what we actually need in order to stand clean.

A Widow, a Bride, and the In Between

Is the opposite of a widow a married woman? I used to think so. Changed my mind. I now believe that the opposite of a widow is a bride.

One wears black, the other white. One mourns the loss of her relationship, the other looks up to a future and a forming relationship, and is full of excitement. Ashes versus crown or wreath. And so on.

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Israel is a widow (for more on that go into Israel, a widow?), but that’s only a temporary status. She will not remain a widow forever (Isa. 54:4). Israel is not a widow because she lacks a Husband, but because she does not acknowledge Him as such. As of now, He is hiding from her a certain part of His character.

This widow is being restored from her mourning, and begins to replace her ashes with a beautiful wreath. She is turning into a bride, and gradually learns to recognize her Husband as the lover of her soul, and not as her greatest enemy. It is a fascinating process, tied directly to the Messianic Body in Israel today, and to everything else our nation is going through.

But what practically turns a widow into a bride? How can you, as Ruth, pray for this widow, whom most of her children are not even aware of this status and the process we are going through as a nation?

I’ve spent the past weekend with five young Messianic brides. This was the launching event of a new project we added to our ministry. It is called “Libech,” meaning Your Heart. Dana and I taught them how to listen to God through their negative feelings, thoughts and circumstances. But as they were working on their own hearts, I was also listening to what it is that they are concerned with; what stands before their eyes as they choose one decoration or another, think about the vow they are about to take, the covenant they are about to enter in; and what is in the heart of a bride-to-be that sometimes hinders her from focusing on that which she so desires to focus on?

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All brides are looking forward to the future, to a marvelous day of celebration and to all that follows. Any spare moment our precious participants had during the Libech weekend, was dedicated to talk about preparations for the Big Day.

But in the midst of all the excitement there were many concerns and questions, stormy emotions and a past that needed to be moved out of the way. What do you do with that past? Suppress it? Ignore it? Pretend it doesn’t exist?

Dana and I taught them to recognize God’s Hand in these questions, how to manage them, clear them out of the way, and how to invite Him into every emotion, thought or fact that robs their energy, joy and patience.

It has given me many images and enriched my terminology in praying for Israel. How can you pray for her to rise from her widowhood? Here are some points, that may inspire you as you pray for us:

  1. Israel needs to acknowledge her status as a widow, as a nation that does not lean on God, that lives in a spiritual ruin. You can pray for that revelation. The secular Jews in Israel couldn’t care less about God, and they are the majority. The average feeling of secular Jews is either one of indifference about our future as a nation, or a deep mourning over our present situation. Either way. God is not even in the picture. He is a part of our history, but most of us cannot see Him as the solution to our present huge problems, let alone the future.
  2. Many Israelis carry a sense of heaviness and many emotions because of our past and present wounds. We hold a lot against all those nations who trampled over us throughout history, and those we hurt today and who hurt us back. If a nation has a heart, than the Israeli heart is broken, shuttered, disillusioned. Bitter. We are a modern Naomi, who could use a Ruth to bring all these feelings that we have to the feet of the Redeemer.
  3. When we are in trouble, we tend to lean on the Arm of our Flesh (our wisdom, our army), and not to seek the lover of our soul, who has a higher plan for us and great promises to fulfill.

 

The Chisinau Experience

The evening before I started the seminar – we took time to prepare our hearts and spirits. No, we are not sleeping here. This is a sweet and sincere group of young men and women, with a right spirit and open hearts.

We spent 4 or 5 hours studying the Word together and worshiping. What a refreshing experience!

Marina came to Chisinau from Germany about ten years ago. God sent her to care for the “lost children of Moldova.” Apparently, Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Many children are abandoned here by their parents, who leave the country in search of jobs elsewhere. Sadly, at times they choose to establish brand new families and do not even return for the children they left there.

Marina traveled to various villages in her van with games for the children, and brought them some hope and joy.

The responses to the forgiveness seminar were heartwarming. Some of the people in attendance were so broken. The range of what they can do within the law is limited, even when extreme abuse is involved. At times forgiveness is the only way out of the horrors, and they truly did embrace it gladly and wholeheartedly. I am waiting to hear some reports, and will gladly share them with you later on.

 

Back from Chisinau

Visiting Chisinau stirred within me emotions I wasn’t quite expecting. I was so deeply touched. Almost everything around seemed to be symbolic.

The visit opened up a quest in me to try and find some more information about my mother’s side of the family. It is annoying to realize just how little we know about my grandmother. So much has been lost over the years, so many stories that no one took the time to sit and write down and are now lost forever. Something to think about for the future.

So on the first day in Chisinau I visited the Jewish cemetery, hoping to see some commemoration of the atrocities done there against the Jews in 1903. That cemetery has been totally demolished and is now covered with beautiful spring flowers.

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The only mention is this one solitary monument, commemorating the Chisinau pogrom of 1903 in which 49 Jews were murdered. My great-grandfather was among them.

Prior to the war, the Jewish population in Chisinau was apparently quite big and thriving. It was, after all, the capital of what was then known as Basarabia, or today, Moldova.

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The Jewish present cemetery is in such a sad state of neglect and disarray. Apparently, the authorities do not take any responsibility for maintaining it. The families of those who are buried are supposed to do it. But most of them left, thank God, and now live in Israel. So the tombstones mostly lie desecrate and broken.

In the cemetery stands this beautiful synagogue, neglected, broken, filthy. I assume the Rabbi stood on this very platform while preaching.

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I came to Chisinau to teach about forgiveness; the neglect and desolation I saw gave new meaning for my personal need to forgive, not only for the past, but also the present.

Off to Chisinau

April 1903. Kishinov (Chisinau), back than – a part of Romania. The “Christians” in the city ad just finished their Russian Easter masses in the local churches, flooded the streets, and slaughtered the Jews. 700 Jewish homes were robbed, nearly 600 Jews wounded, 49 slaughtered. Babies were torn to pieces by a blood thirsty and enraged throng.

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My grandmother’s family (here with me as a baby) was among them. Her father was murdered. She was only 3 years old.

The local police did not intervene during the first three days. But for the international media and especially for the young Zionist movement, this pogrom was a turning point in planning a solution for the Jews – establishing a land of their own.

Nearly two years ago I flew to Germany, for the first time in my life, and developed the strangest skin reaction, like a burn all over my body. It was painful and took weeks to recover. It also took me a while to realize this is a physical expression of an emotional state. That it was God’s way to show me how much I hold against the Germans, because of the persecution they inflicted on my family from my father’s side.

Well, this coming Tuesday I will be leaving for Kishinov (now the capital of Moldova). I am invited to train a team there, and will write about it in my next post. This one is to recruit your prayers, mostly for my health, as my body already starts “talking.” My chest is burning, my throat hurts, but I keep my ears open to God’s soft voice, pointing to places in my soul that still carry this historical wound.