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May 2008 Updates


The Grace of Brokenness


 

05.28.08  I went to the doctor again yesterday and was prescribed a stronger antibiotic and Prednisone for my symptoms.  I am feeling a bit better, though with Prednisone the side-effects are difficult to deal with, as some of you might know... As the comedic sage Woody Allen once quipped, "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering -- and it's all over much too soon."

Seriously, however, it is evident (from even a cursory reading of the Book of Job or a consideration of the various trials given to the "heroes of faith") that suffering, affliction, difficulties, and testings are the means through which God performs some of His deepest work within our hearts.  As A. W. Tozer once said, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply" (Root of the Righteous, 1986).

This might seem to be a "hard word" for some people, especially if they have bought into the idea that Christianity is some sort of entertainment business or panacea for life's besetting problems, but that it no way hinders it from being an inescapable truth of the spiritual life.  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). The "outer shell" of the seed must be broken so that the life of the Spirit can come through... Plainly put, God (and only God) can "deconstruct" the self so that life's priorities, focus, and passion is redirected to Him alone as the Source of life and sustenance.

 

Of course for human beings this brokenness is a lifelong process as we keep reencountering the powerlessness of our inward condition and the all-pervading despair that lurks within us -- but the LORD is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in stedfast love and faithfulness" (רחום וחנון ארך אפים ורב־חסד ואמת), and therefore He provides nourishment in His love for us....

Alan Redpath once wrote, "When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual -- and crushes him" (The Making of a Man of God). This seems to be the divine pattern.  How else can we be in a genuine relationship with the LORD if we are still clinging to a set of mistaken assumptions about what is real, about who we really are, and about who God really is?

Sometimes suffering can be cognitive or emotional as well as physical. The presence of moral evil in the world -- including the prevalence of "war creators" and the innumerable ways human beings routinely harm one other -- can cause us to almost die of despair. This too may be part of our confession....  Toward this end, I created a simple Flash presentation using a snippet of audio from a plaintive Jars of Clay song.

Click:

 

I also want to offer a special word of thanks to those of you who have shown me gemilut chassidim by performing bikkur cholim -- offering me a kind word and prayer during this time of affliction (you know who you are!). I am very moved by your support and love.... Thank you so much.


 




Personal Prayer Request

05.27.08  I hesitated putting this request online, but I am not doing well physically, chaverim, and I humbly ask for your prayers.  My fever hasn't left for nearly two weeks now, despite antibiotics, etc.  I am dealing with a cough that keeps me up at night along with (severe) asthmatic reactions to the coughing.  This has been hard on my family, and I am growing more concerned that there is something more wrong than a simple cold/flu.  We solicit your prayers in Yeshua's Name. Thank you all...

 




Parashat BeMidbar - פרשת במדבר

05.27.08  I updated the Weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (BeMidbar):


 

BeMidbar means "in the wilderness" and is the name given to the fourth book of the Torah (i.e., Numbers). The Jewish sages sometimes call this book Sefer Hapekudim - the "Book of Counting." Throughout the book we see God calling on a census - counting each person and their various roles in the shevatim (tribes) of Israel.  As Yeshua our Mashiach told us, even the very hairs on your head are all numbered (Matt. 10:30).

The Tribe of Levi was the smallest of the tribes of Israel (both before and after the sin of the Golden Calf).  According to midrash, this was because the Levites were faithful to God while in Egypt and therefore did not come under the special blessing of God to supernaturally multiply those who persecuted the tribes (see Exo. 1:12). Even when going out of Egypt, the LORD preserved a remnant for the sake of His Name.

This portion of Torah also provides a description of the Israelite camp (machaneh Yisrael), which actually resembled a cross-like formation with the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the center of the camp. It is noteworthy that the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe, was located to the east of the entrance to the Mishkan, just opposite the priestly class of the Kohanim.
 




Anticipating Shavuot

05.26.08  Sunday June 8th (at sundown) is the start of the 6th of Sivan, the time traditionally recognized as the climax of the Passover season known as Shavu'ot ("weeks" or "Pentecost"). For traditional Judaism, Shavu'ot commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai (mattan Torah). In addition, Jewish confirmation ceremonies are often held at the synagogue for young adults to recommit themselves to Talmud Torah (the study of Torah) and to renew their decision to live as Jews.

Happy Shavu'ot!    
 

Common Shavu'ot customs include decorating the home and synagogue with greenery, eating dairy foods and sweets (as samples of "milk and honey"), and staying up the entire night of Erev Shavu'ot (the night of Sivan 5th) to study the Torah (this custom is called tikkun leil shavu'ot). For the Messianic Jew, Shavu'ot is the time of celebrating the birth of the new assembly of believers in Yeshua (the Church), since the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was poured out to the believers in Jerusalem during this festival.

In the Diaspora, Shavu'ot is celebrated on both Sivan 6th and 7th (though in Israel it is celebrated just on the 6th).


Josiah ben Yisroel (3 years old)
 




Yedidut - Beloved One

05.23.08  The modern Hebrew word for friendship is yedidut (יְדִידוּת), which is also the word for "beloved one." A love song is called shir yedidot, and yadid is the adjective that means beloved or lovely.



 

Despite the ravages of God's judgment upon the land (Psalm 60:1-4), King David ultimately put his trust in the love and kindness of the LORD for deliverance.  Because David was assured that Israel is beloved by God, he petitioned the LORD: lema'an yehaletzun yedudekha, hoshiah yeminekha va'aneni (למען יחלצוּן ידידיךָ הוֹשׁיעה ימינךָ וענני) (Psalm 60:5). We can do likewise because we are likewise beloved by God on account of the love of Yeshua, God's beloved Son.

Shabbat Shalom Chaverim...




The Hermeneutical Spin Factor


 

05.22.08  What are we to make of the plethora of Bible translations available today? In addition to the various "mainstream" versions available (KJV, ASV, JPS, RSV, NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJ, NIB, NLT, TNK, etc.), you can also purchase any number of "Study Bibles" to suit your preferences. For example, you can now read the Sportsman's Study Bible, the "Manga Bible," the "Emergent Bible," the "Bride's Bible," the "Revolve Fashion Bible," the "Duct Tape Bible," the "True Images Bible" (teaches young women about sex and self-esteem), and so on and on and on....


 

Now while it is true that language changes over time and the translation task is to communicate a source language/culture to a target language/culture, it should be clear that in order to do this well, the source language/culture (namely, Hebrew/Jewish culture) must be thoroughly understood before attempting to communicate its thought to a target culture. Sadly, this has not happened, at least in most translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into English (and other languages).

For example, the word "church" does not appear in English translations of the Old Testament. The Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint or LXX) uses the word ekklesia (from ek- + kaleo, "to call") for two Hebrew words that both refer to a "congregation" or "assembly": kahal (קהל) and 'edah (עדה). It appears to be a major fault of various English translations of the Christian Bible that the word "Church" was selected for the word ekklesia in the New Testament, since this suggests an anti-Jewish bias by implying that there is a radical discontinuity between "Israel" and the followers of Jesus (i.e., the "Church"). In other words, if the same Greek word (ekklesia) is used in both the LXX and the NT, then why was a new word coined for its usage in the English translation of the New Testament? Why not rather translate the word as it was used in the LXX, or better still, as it was used in the OT Scriptures? For more information about this, please my article "Israel and the Church."


 

Culturally speaking, there might be a more insidious reason why we are seeing an explosion of Bible versions and study guides tailored to various subcultural concerns.

Since there is always the temptation for the "Church" to mimic the ways of the world and follow the spirit of the age, perhaps some of the reason we see this multiplicity of Bible translations (and stylized repackaging of the Bible) is the relatively recent rise of the philosophy of "Deconstructionism," an anti-authorial literary approach that maintains that the original intent of an author is essentially unknowable (or at least irrelevant). According to this epistemologically cynical theory, a "text" derives its meaning from the reader and not from the intention of the original author. Deconstructionism is perhaps the brainchild of the enormously influential philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and his description of a plurality of "Language Games" that mark an individual's particular "Form of Life."


 

One implication of this line of thinking is that the classical pursuit to find "the meaning" of a text has been abandoned for observation about how people choose to use it, especially as a means of action, persuasion, power, and even politics. "Truth" has become "perspectival," which is just a fancy way of saying that it is relative to the interests of the interpreter (i.e., "reader").  Every story has a "spin," or an "angle" that is somehow self-serving to the storyteller. There is no transcendental, objective, and universally binding truth; no "metanarrative" that tells the story about "God, the world, and everything." Everyone is left alone to develop his or her own linguistic expression of life and values.... Hence we now have "The Manga Bible," etc., and hence we live in a world of existential alienation and virtual incommunicability with those outside our ghettoized "hermeneutical circle."

Even among orthodox Christians and those who profess to hold to a "high view" of Scripture we see these tendencies (hence it's become rather trendy for "emergent church" types to pooh-pooh the idea of certainty in their understanding of the Scriptures).

In light of this situation of "epistolary agnosticism" (to coin a new phrase), I thought it would be good to remind myself of something Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his work, "For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself." Kierkegaard used the analogy of a lover's letter written in a foreign language to make the distinction between the often tedious process of translation and the art of reading from the heart... For the lover -- the one for whom the words are addressed -- all the "scholarly preliminaries" of translation are regarded as nothing more than a necessary evil to reach the goal -- that of reading and understanding the question of the lover's message.

Kierkegaard's point is that we can often cop out of our commitment to follow the LORD by pleading that we do not know how to interpret some of the more obscure portions of the Scriptures.  Indeed, even the Bible scholar is not immune from this risk.  The task of busily comparing translations, consulting various commentaries, performing exegetical tasks etc., can lead to an excuse to essentially disregard the message.  Ironically enough, Bible scholars can actually study the Scriptures in order to defend themselves from what they are clearly saying!  If you want to read more, please take a look at the article, "Alone with God's Word."


 

Indirectly, of course, the foregoing provides yet another reason why it is important to study Biblical Hebrew, especially in light of the Jewish culture that informs the pages of Scripture. Hebrew words, phrases, grammar - when joined with an understanding of the cultural context in which they are embedded - helps us identify tendentious readings of various translators (i.e., interpreters) and commentators. Understanding the Jewish roots of your faith and the Hebraic mindset helps you attune yourself with the source message of Scripture more fully.  As our Beloved has said, "The truth (yes, there really is such a thing) shall set you free" (John 8:32).

An additional note

It needs to be remembered that language usage changes over time. The source language (i.e., the original MSS) is a somewhat static thing (subject to ongoing textual criticism) of which we must make serious effort to understand in light of the culture and context of the original authors. This is where a Jewish perspective of the Scriptures is essential, for without this a lot of assumptions may be "read into" the original text and foreign ideas are used to convey what the translators think is an equivalent meaning for a target language/culture. That is why I always aim to understand how the original authors would have understood their own usage before looking at how someone else decided to render their findings in English.

The ideal thing is to study both Hebrew and Greek. Work hard to obtain a basic reading level (i.e., the ability to read the simpler constructions of the text while using original language dictionaries and grammatical tools). Then you can check the translation of a passage of interest and are no longer at the mercy of a translators. You can do some of your own investigative work and exegesis.

The Bottom line: Spare no effort to study the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek (but especially in Hebrew, since the Hebrew text underlies the authority of the Greek text). Consider the various translations as guides to help you understand the original writings. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and insight as you seek God's truth.
 




Brokenness and Viduy

05.21.08  I've been somewhat introspective lately, doubtlessly because sickness and suffering tend to direct our focus inward. That seems inevitable. If you stub your toe, your attention immediately is redirected; if you find yourself in a place of physical or emotional agony, you likewise are more likely to search for the source of the pain.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) wrote, "I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving," and that rings true to my heart. When we pray to the LORD, it's obvious that we are not imparting to Him any information, since He is omniscient, of course. As King David wrote:


 

Ki ein milah bilshoni, hen, Adonai, yadati khulah: "For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether" (Psalm 139:4).

Yeshua taught us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matt. 6:8), and therefore we do not need to use the "many words of the goyim" (Matt. 6:7) to experience communion with God... 

Kierkegaard once wrote that the purpose of prayer is not to influence God but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. When we get past our words -- our chatter, the insecurities that rise from our hearts, the cares of the day, even our hopes and dreams -- then we are sufficiently quieted to encounter God. It is then that we can truly listen and begin to apprehend something of God's glory.... It is then that we can grieve over our lives and the lives of others in naked dependence upon God.

There is a saying that we are "only as sick as the secrets we keep." That applies first of all to ourselves.  We must get past self-deception and wishful thinking in order to soberly see who we really are.... Earnest, fervent prayer "availeth much," for it is the means by which we can get away from pretense and appeal to the LORD for help.

But this goes beyond a "solipsistic" connection with God.  Jewish prayer is always in the plural: "Our Father, who art in heaven..." We are not even persons when we divorce ourselves from others, but run the risk of delusion and even madness.  A quote by Scott Peck I read recently touches on this idea to make our brokenness known to others:

    Community requires the confession of brokenness. But how remarkable it is that in our culture brokenness must be "confessed." We think of confession as an act that should be carried out in secret, in the darkness of the confessional, with the guarantee of professional priestly or psychiatric confidentiality. Yet the reality is that every human being is broken and vulnerable. How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded! Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures. It also requires the ability to be affected by the wounds of others. But even more important is the LOVE that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.

    Source: "The Different Drum" by M. Scott Peck
     

May God give us all the courage and grace to be vulnerable with someone we can trust in our lives. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).




Parashat Bechukotai - פרשת בחקתי

05.19.08 
Today is Iyyar 14, a semi-holiday called Pesach Sheni (the "Second Passover"). If you missed your Passover Seder this year, you can observe it tonight at sundown!

I am still sick with intermittent fever, cough, etc. This has been affecting my sleep at night.  Your prayers are appreciated, chaverim. I updated the site for this coming Shabbat's Torah reading: Bechukotai.


 

According to the Sages, of all the various berachot (blessings) mentioned in this portion of Torah, the most desirable is that of shalom (שָׁלוֹם), or peace.  The Birchat Kohanim (the priestly blessing) ends with the word shalom, as does the Shemoneh Esrei (sometimes called the "Amidah") -- the central prayer of the synagogue. The root שׂ-ל-מ indicates not merely the absence of strife but completion and fulfillment, a state of wholeness and unity, and this implies a restored relationship with God and man. Hence the word can be variously understood to mean "peace, prosperity, well, health, completeness, safety." Shalom is a necessary precondition for all other forms of goodness.  It represents the Presence and Rule of God over the hearts and souls of humanity. May God grant you His shalom, chaverim.

Note: Regarding Lag B'Omer (which occurs Thursday, May 22 at sundown this year), see the entry below...
 




Dealing with pain, loss, and sickness

05.16.08 
Here is something I wrote while experiencing a fever today...  It is not meant to be condemnatory or to impugn the motives of anyone in particular.  I simply wanted to suggest that there are sometimes reasons for suffering in the life of a believer of which we sometimes forget...

There are some well-meaning souls who seem to think that the life of faith in Yeshua should be relatively pain-free and without the normal sorts of infirmities that affect all people.  These people seem to reason that since Yeshua died on the Cross as a ransom for our sins, we should also be set free from pain and sickness of every kind (based on their reading of Isa. 53:4). If a Christian gets sick or experiences loss in their life, then he/she must somehow be deficient either in their understanding of the power of the atonement or in the exercise of their faith... Such a viewpoint seems to suggest that followers of Jesus are supposed to lead lives of (American-style) prosperity, with papier-mâché smiles and an undying "can do" attitude -- even in the face of the most heart-rending adversity, injustice and pain in the world.

Find the out of place picture
 

Now while it is gloriously true that Yeshua died to reverse the curse of Adam and to restore us to God, it is puerile to think that because of this we are thereby immediately set free from any form of pain, discomfort or suffering in our lives (or worse, that we therefore gain access to the heavenly "cookie jar" and understand God as our personal genie). Isaiah 53:4 indeed says that Messiah carried (נשׂא) our sicknesses and bore (סבל) our sorrows, but it begs some questions about what these terms mean, especially in light of the experience of His followers in this world... Could such "carrying and bearing" refer to His intercessionary love for us as we experience a semblance of His own afflictions? (see 2 Cor. 1:5-7, Phil. 3:10, and especially Col. 1:24)

Just think of the various people who are NOW languishing in prisons around the world for the sake of the gospel, or Christians who share the distress of areas affected by drought, disease, economic hardship, or natural disaster.


 

Think about those with various terminal illnesses who have come to faith, or those who were born disabled, or enslaved; or think about those who have been injured in accidents or been victims of crimes; or those who have experienced the brutality and displacement caused by unjust wars, or those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, and so on and on.

Most of Yeshua's own talmidim (disciples) died kiddush HaShem (via martyrdom). Recall the unjust imprisonment of John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul; or consider how Peter died... Think of the persecutions faced by the earliest Messianic believers, or the early church.  Indeed, think of the various prophets such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Noah, or Job, or David, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah (there is a nice list of many of these heroes of faith found in Hebrews Chapter 11). But think especially of Yeshua Himself who called us to take up our Cross and follow Him in a life of sacrificial service to others. His church has been built upon the blood of God's martyrs....

There is mystery to our suffering, chaverim.  Certainly we believe that God could -- right now -- wipe away every tear from all the eyes of those who suffer, yet He doesn't. Does this mean He is unable to help those who are afflicted? In no way. Yet it is through the fires of affliction that we are able to better apprehend something of His consolation and even comfort. Some things are never known until we live them out through our own inner struggle....

I read a quote by Henri Nouwen today that helps me align the ubiquitous fight against evil (both external and internal) with my heart's deepest hope:

    You are still afraid to die. Maybe that fear is connected with some deep unspoken worry that God will not accept you as his. The question "Why do I have to die?" is connected to this fear. You asked it as a little child, and you are still asking it… God called you from the moment you were knitted together in your mother's womb.  It is your vocation to receive that love, and to give it back. From the very beginning you have, like every human being, experienced the forces of death. Whether physically (through aging and illness) or inwardly (through temptation, sin, etc.), these forces have attacked you--through all your years of growing up--and they will continue to attack you. But even though you have often felt overwhelmed, you have been faithful. Hang on to that. Know that the dark forces will have no final power over you.

    Death does not have the last word...

    (H. J. Nouwen, "The inner voice of love," Doubleday, 1998).
     

Amen.  Adonai Yireh - God sees - and understands our struggle, chaverim. We are living in a world set on fire....surrounded by the dust of death and destruction.  Yet the fight of our faith is of greater spiritual interest than our immediate comforts.

And here's another quote in this connection that I find helpful:

    The courage to die for their beliefs is given only to those who have had the courage to live for them. The final victory over their terror of pain and physical death is the last of a thousand victories and defeats in the war which is fought daily and hourly in the human mind and soul: the war in the overcoming of self. Dissected and examined in detail this is a most unglamorous battle and to the outsider seems absurd; but it is the constant denying of the natural human urge to stay in bed longer than necessary, to eat or drink more than is justifiable, to be intolerant of the stupid, and to accumulate more than a fair share of this world's goods, that makes possible the gradual freeing of the human spirit. (Sheila Cassidy, "Audacity to Believe," William Collins Publications)
     

May God strengthen us as we continue to hold fast to Him...  Shalom.
 




Parashat Behar - פרשת בהר

05.12.08 
  I am still pretty sick with a fever, cough, etc., but I managed to update the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Behar):


 

Why is it, the sages reasoned, that the LORD bypassed all of the world's great and lofty mountains and chose to give His Torah on the humble mountain of Sinai? Because God's Spirit (רוח) rests with the lowly, the humble of heart. Therefore humility (ענוה) is considered one of the greatest of middot ha-lev (heart qualities).

It is perhaps in this connection that we should understand the commandments given in this parashah to refrain from harvesting the land every seventh year (the shemittah - שׁמטּה) and to cancel all outstanding debts every 50 years (during the Yovel - יובל). Each of us must live in conscious dependence on God's provision and care for our lives... The earth is the LORD's and the fulness thereof, and in the end everything reverts back to God, since He alone owns all things. "From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things."


 

God reveals Himself to the lowly in spirit (שְׁפַל־רוּחַ), that is, to those who understand their own nothingness and complete dependence on Him.... Notice that the word dakka (דַּכָּא) refers to being crushed to the very dust, as Yeshua was verily crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:10). From the point of view of our dependence on God for salvation, dakka refers to humility and contrition we evidence in light of God's love and grace for our souls...  Pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness are antithetical to the awareness of God in the truth.




A Note about Lag B'Omer - ל״ג בעומר

Thursday May 22 at sundown this year marks Lag B'Omer, a semi-holiday that commemorates the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiva's students during the last of the Jewish-Roman wars (called the Bar Kochba Revolt (מרד בר כוכבא‎), c.132-135 AD).  Since Jewish tradition understood the Messiah to be a military leader who would deliver the Jews and usher in world peace, Rabbi Akiva (incorrectly) surmised that Shimon bar Kochba, the leader of the Jewish resistance, was the Jewish Messiah -- based on an esoteric reading of Numbers 24:17: כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב - "A star shall come out of Jacob" ("Bar Kokhba" means "son of a star" in Aramaic). His tragic endorsement led to widespread destruction of countless Jews and further alienated the Messianic Jewish community from Israel. The eventual defeat of the Jews by Emperor Hadrian perhaps marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora from the Promised Land. The province of Judaea was then renamed Palestine and Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina.


 

According to Kabbalistic legend, all of Akiva's students died during the time of the Omer Count, but Akiva "started over" with a new batch of students. Of these, his foremost student was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the purported author of the Zohar (one of the key texts of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism). Lag B'Omer is remembered as the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Shimon Bar Yochai, who told his followers to rejoice - not mourn - after his death. Today special celebrations are held in the village of Meron (near Safed, Israel), where he is said to have been buried. Every year, thousands of Jews celebrate late-night revelry at Mt. Meron in Israel.

It should be clear that Lag B'Omer is not a Christian/Messianic Jewish holiday, but on the contrary marks a tragic time that ultimately separated the Messianic Jewish community from Israel and contributed to the loss of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. During this time of "countdown," chaverim, let us pray that the eyes of many will soon be opened that Yeshua is indeed the Mashiach (anointed King) of Israel.
 




I've Been Sick...

05.11.08 
I have been quite sick the last week or so with bronchitis, chest pain, coughing, etc. I slept most of the day today and want to go back to bed now.  I appreciate your prayers for my healing, chaverim.


 

Since today is Mother's Day, I want to express my love and appreciation for my mother. I love you, Mom, and thank God for the gift of your life... 
 




Parashat Emor - פרשת אמור

05.06.08 
I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Emor). If I can find some time later this week I will add some additional drash here.


 

I've been busier than usual the last few days, especially since the new book was released from the publisher.  In addition, I am fighting a chest cold and the usual fibromyalgia... Your prayers are appreciated, chaverim.
 




Yom HaAtzmaut - יום העצמאות

05.04.08 
This coming Wednesday is Yom HaAtzmaut, or Israel Independence Day. After the Jewish people had suffered for nearly 2,000 years of exile in the galut (as foretold by Moses and the Hebrew prophets), Israel was miraculously reborn as a nation in their ancient homeland on Iyyar 5, 5708 (i.e., May 14, 1948).

Yom HaAtzmaut is usually observed on Iyyar 5, unless that date falls on a Sabbath (as it does this year), in which case it is moved earlier in the calendar.  This year, Israel celebrates Independence Day on Iyyar 3, which begins Wednesday May 7th at sundown (and runs through Thursday, May 8th).

Israel's Independence Day
 

For all our precious Israeli friends: Happy Independence Day, and may the LORD God of Israel be your Defense always... Our prayers, love and appreciation are with you.
 




Praising God for the new book!


 

05.03.08  My new book, A Year Through the Torah, is finally done and in print! We had a "siyum" party this weekend celebrating its arrival. I will tell you more about it if I get some time later this week.  Meanwhile, if you want to find out more about this book, click here.

Click for more...
 




Yom HaShoah

05.01.08 
Today begins Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Our hearts and prayers are for Israel and for all the Jewish victims of persecution throughout the millennia. You can recite Kaddish in memory of them here.

Holocaust Remembrance Day
remembering
 




Hebrew New Testament Readings

05.01.08 
I added a new audio resource for lovers of Biblical Hebrew: "Great Chapters of the Hebrew New Testament." This is a unique recording of Rabbi Amnon Shor reading from the Hebrew New Testament. The CD includes 17 tracks of some of the most beloved and powerful passages of the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), all impeccably read with a pure Yemenite Hebrew accent.


 

Note that this is an audio-only CD.  It is intended for those who want to listen to the Hebrew text being read for devakut, devotion to God (see entry below).
 




The Hebrew Word Devakut

05.01.08 
The Hebrew word devakut (דְּבָקוּת) means "cleaving" and refers to communion with God (in some Jewish thinking, devakut approximates the "beatific vision" in Christian mystical tradition). This word is derived from the Hebrew word davak (דבק), meaning devoted to God (the word for glue is devek which likewise comes from the same root). Davak is used to describe how a man cleaves to his wife so that they become basar echad – "one flesh" (see Gen. 2:24), and is also related to the word for bodily joint (debek), suggesting that we are to stick as closely to the LORD as our bones stick to our skin (Job 19:20). The devakim were those who "held fast" or "cleaved" to the LORD throughout the wilderness wanderings (Deut. 4:4) and all of us are likewise commanded to revere the LORD and cleave to Him (Deut. 10:20).

Artstorm VITREOGRAPHY detail
 

In the Kabbalah, devakut is considered the highest mystical step on the spiritual ladder back to God, though (in contradistinction to this) Yeshua emphasized that he is the true sullam, or Ladder, to God. Just as Jacob saw the ladder reaching to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, so Yeshua told Nathanael that He is the sha'ar hashamayim - the Way into heaven (John 14:6).

Chaverim, יֵשׁ אֹהֵב דָּבֵק מֵאָח -- yesh ohev davek me'ach -- "there is a friend who sticks (davek) closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24). His Name is Yeshua, the true Lover of our souls...
 





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