JERUSALEM’S JUBILEE – 50 Years of Restoration – 1967-2017

JUBILEE in Hebrew is YOVEL (יובל).

In biblical times, the special shofar used by shepherds to call the sheep together before they returned home to their sheep-pen also was called a yovel. It was made from a gazelle horn and, unlike the curved shofars used for ritual purposes, it is straighter and dark in color.

 A Dorcas gazelle, Israel – Wikipedia

The concept of ‘return’ blends well with a central commandment of God concerning a jubilee year. We see in the book of Leviticus:  “It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan” (25:10) “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.” (25:13)
The reason God gives as to why no one could make a permanent claim to the land of Israel is: “The Land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the Land is Mine.” (25:23) In a Jubilee year things are restored to their original, God-intended place!

This is what we celebrate this year on Jerusalem Day 5777 / 2017. It is the Jubilee of the restoration of the reunified City of God to its rightful place. In 1967, during the Six Day War, when Israel was attacked by the armies of the surrounding Arab nations, a brigade of the Israel Defense Forces broke through the Lion’s Gate of the Old City, which had been held by Jordan since the War of Independence in 1948.  Against impossible odds they were victorious and the city – including the holiest place for the Jewish people, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall – was restored to Israel’s sovereignty. 

Jerusalem is a place to which one returns – a place of connection and meeting. Here, in this city, heaven meets earth; the past and the present meet with the future. This Holy City of God is where we will meet our soon-coming Messiah; a day when this fleeting life will meet eternity. Then God’s purpose for the city, the one envisioned from before the very Beginning, will be fulfilled in radiance —the establishing forever of the eternal Dwelling Place of the Holy One of Israel.

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for lo I come and will dwell in the midst of you,” says the Lord.

(Zechariah 2:10)

The Lord’s Sanctuary will be established with powerful praise and unshakable strength in His city, which is the heart of the universe—the City of the Great King. Therein, His throne will be set and the light of Zion will shine forth to the nations, bearing the vision of eternity in the spirit of kindness and truth.

A new song will flow forth, a pure haunting melody carrying luminous words of redemption and hope; and this Holy Place will finally become a House of Prayer for all nations.  King Solomon knew God’s purpose for His Dwelling Place on earth and the vision of promise it contained. When he dedicated the first beautiful Temple in Jerusalem – built as designed by his father King David in accord with God’s specific instructions and plan, Solomon proclaimed:

“… that all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name and fear Thee,  as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this House which I have built is called by Thy Name”  (I Kings 8:41– 43).

Also, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the Great Shepherd’s yovel is sounding and he is gathering his flock from the nations and leading them home where they belong, to be one flock with the family of God.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—
these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer;
…for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (56:6-9)

May we soon all rejoice together in grateful praise, thanksgiving and joy in the City of the Great King – the eternal, filled-with-His-glory, Jerusalem ~ YERUSHALAIM SHEL ZAHAV.

Artwork:

  1. Baruch Nachshon, Israel – www.nachshonart.com 
  2. Alex Levin, Jerusalem – https://artlevin.com

5577 / 2017 Counting The Omer Calendar

You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain [barley harvest – Passover]. Then you shall keep the Festival of Weeks [Shavuot] for YHWH your G-d, contributing a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from YHWH your G-d.
Deuteronomy 16:9-10

Download 5577 / 2017 Omer Calendar

Daily Omer Thoughts – Seven Weekly Segments

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two
Week Three – Download Omer Thoughts Week Three
Week Four – Download Omer Thoughts Week Four
Week Five – Download Omer Thoughts Week Five
Week Six – Download Omer Thoughts Week Six
Week Seven – Download Omer Thoughts Week Seven

 

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week Six

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two
Week Three – Download Omer Thoughts Week Three
Week Four – Download Omer Thoughts Week Four
Week Five – Download The Omer Week Five
Week Six – Download The Omer Week Six

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week Five

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two
Week Three – Download Omer Thoughts Week Three
Week Four – Download Omer Thoughts Week Four
Week Five – Download The Omer Week Five

 

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week Four

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two
Week Three – Download Omer Thoughts Week Three
Week Four – Download Omer Thoughts Week Four

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week Three

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two
Week Three – Download The Omer Week Three

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week Two

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

We trust, as we journey from Redemption to Revelation, that our Daily Omer Thoughts will give pause for meditation and help add inspiration during the 7 weeks.

Week One – Download Omer Thoughts Week One
Week Two
 – Download Omer Thoughts Week Two

Daily Omer Thoughts – Week One

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Join HIS-ISRAEL as we count the Omer – the significant days between Passover and Shavuot.

Enjoy our Daily Omer Thoughts during the 7 weeks as we journey from Redemption to Revelation.

They will be shared in weekly installments.

Week One – (2016 – Eve of April 23 – Eve of April 29) Download Omer Thoughts Week One

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM DAY – Yom Yerushalaim

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CELEBRATING THE RESTORATION AND REUNIFICATION OF JERUSALEM 

Yom Yerushalaim  ~ 28 Iyar 5775  / 17th May 2015  ~ Jerusalem Day

 

Following is an excerpt from the historic JERUSALEM COVENANT, written to acknowledge the miraculous return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem in June 1967.

The original Jerusalem Covenant is displayed alongside Israel’s Declaration of Independence in the Knesset and for the past twenty years has been signed by hundreds of visiting dignitaries.

Once again, ‘our feet stand within your gates, O Jerusalem –
Jerusalem built as a city joined togethe
r’
which unites the people of Israel to one another
and links heavenly Jerusalem with earthly Jerusalem.

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Jerusalem – peace and tranquility shall reign in the city:

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you be tranquil. May there be peace within your walls, and tranquility within your palaces.’

Out of Jerusalem, a message of peace went forth and shall yet go forth again to all the inhabitants of the earth:
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore.

In the future, The Holy One, the Blessed, will comfort Jerusalem only with Shalom.

From this place, we once again take this vow:

‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its strength; may my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not raise up Jerusalem at the very height of my rejoicing.’

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And with all these understandings, we enter into this Covenant and write:

‘We shall bind you to us forever;
we shall bind you to us with faithfulness,
with righteousness and justice,
with steadfast love and compassion.’
 

We love you, O Jerusalem,
with eternal love, with unbounded love,
under siege and when liberated
from the yoke of oppressors.
We have been martyred for you;
we have yearned for you,
we have clung to you.
Our faithfulness to you we shall
bequeath
to our children after us.
Forevermore our home shall be within you.”

Amen and Amen.

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YOM HA’ZICHARON – MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day

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In Memorium

The two thousand year old hope of the Jewish people – to return to their homeland – has been realized; yet is not completed. We must continue to stand in support and prayer with Israel and its eternal capital, Jerusalem.

At this time, while we commemorate the nation’s achievements, we shall always remember the many who have paid with their lives, and those who continue to be willing to do so, in order that today we can live, prosper and create as free people in our Land, as promised by God.

Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the fallen and all who have lost beloved ones.
May our Father comfort each one and surround them with His blessing and strength.

~Keren Hannah

YOM HA’ATZMAUT – INDEPENDENCE DAY – A History

CELEBRATE ISRAEL – 12th May 2016 / 4th Iyar 5776

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Historic Land of Connection – by Keren Hannah

Israel, although small geographically, is a land huge in historic significance. Biblical history revolves around it. The Bible, however, is not only a history book; it was primarily given by God to teach us about Himself and how we best should live as His children. This indicates that, in the view of the God of Israel, our very lives as His people are somehow connected with His Land – this little land of Israel. 

Land of Connection 1

Situated as it is on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea between the land masses of Turkey and Russia to the north, the stretches of Arabia, Iraq and Iran (ancient Assyria and Persia) to the east, and Egypt and Africa to the south, historically Israel was a corridor linking them all. Trade routes ran through the land serving travelers in every direction. Three of the main routes were the Coastal Highway, which ran through the Jezreel Valley and the plains of lower Galilee, the King’s Highway that provided a route to desert caravans to the east of the Jordan river, and the Damascus Road leading to Babylon and Persia. These highways provided convenient access to invading armies and were often scenes of military conflict.

Due to its strategic geographic importance, many strong nations battled over this little corridor of land. The Assyrians invaded and occupied Israel from 740 BC and repopulated the region of Samaria with foreigners from Mesopotamia, who became known as the Samaritans. The Babylonians again invaded to quell insurrection and destroyed Jerusalem and the First Temple in 604 BC. The Jewish population was exiled to Babylon, leaving only the poorest families behind in Israel. Persia subsequently took over the whole area and the Babylonian exile lasted almost 300 years until the Persian Empire fell to the Greek leader Alexander the Great in 332 BC. During the time of Darius’ rule, many Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, led by Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubavel, in order to rebuild the Temple. The large number who chose to remain in Babylon, including the now aged prophet Daniel, became a flourishing and influential community.

In Israel, the imported Greek culture slowly took hold in the form of Hellenism. It dominated commerce and trade in the area, as well as the newly introduced sporting and cultural events, and in order to participate the Jews had to speak Greek. Many Jews forsook the ways of their God, became assimilated into the culture and adopted the popular Hellenistic lifestyle.

Rome, in 200 BC, with its vastly superior fleet and large, well disciplined army, took control of the region as the Roman Empire expanded over most of the then known world. It was at this stage of history that Jesus (Hebrew – Yeshua) was born in King David’s birthplace of Bethlehem in Judea and then lived most of his life in the Galilee village of Nazareth. The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that Galilee in Yeshua’s time was “encircled by foreigners and filled with able-bodied men [who resented the heavy taxation imposed by the Roman occupiers under Caesar] prepared to fight rather than to submit.” [1] There was a fervent messianic hope that Ha’Mashiach, the Anointed One, would be sent by God to redeem Israel from the heavy Roman burden. 

Land of Connection 2

During the three years of his ministry, 27-30 AD, Yeshua was based in the town of Capernaum (Kfar Nachum – Village of Comfort) on the shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which was home to Peter and Andrew. Yeshua and his disciples traversed the Galilee, Judea and Samaria. His only trip outside Israel, when he “withdrew,” possibly to have a break from active ministry, was north to the non-Jewish cities of Tyre and Sidon. The highlight of the trip was his encounter with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27).
The dynamic center of his ministry, however, was Jerusalem, the site of His Father’s House, the splendid Second Temple. He wept over Jerusalem as he foresaw the destruction that would come upon her before she would be raised up again as the City of Peace – the City of the Great King. His holy city!

At Yeshua’s crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, the messianic hopes of many were dashed. Then he arose! And, after his resurrection from the dead until his ascension to the Father, he met with his disciples confirming that he was indeed Messiah and Lord. This was followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Temple at Shavuot (Pentecost) after which the Good News of the Kingdom of God indeed went forth, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Land of Connection 4

Artist: Baruch Nachshon

…And many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)

Undergirding the Word was the promise of YHWH: “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain” (Zechariah 8:3).

The Word went forth but forty years later, in the year 70, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans. Again, the majority of the Jews were exiled and the land slowly became desolate until 1948 when, in a marvelous intervention and outworking of God, the modern State of Israel was born. During that interim period of almost 2000 years the land, then named Palestine by the Romans, was invaded and trodden down by Byzantines, Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Mamalukes, Tartars and Turks – as well as by the Crusaders from the West. Throughout the string of invasions Jews continued to dwell in the land. At the time of the first Crusade, for example, there existed sizeable agricultural Jewish populations in the Galilee. There also were important Jewish communities in Jerusalem and other cities such as Hebron, Akko, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramlah, Ashkelon and Gaza.

In the Diaspora, whether prospering in peace or being mercilessly hounded and persecuted, the longing for Zion never abated. Many times a day, and at weddings and funerals, Jews prayed, as they continue to do, toward and for Jerusalem. On Shabbat, before the Ark is opened in every synagogue, these words are prayed:

Merciful Father, deal kindly with Zion, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Truly in Thee alone we trust; high and exalted King and God, eternal God.

Throughout the centuries there are records of those who with undying hope and great tenacity made their way back to Eretz Yisrael. Many who attempted failed and died en route. Those who succeeded, accepted with love the difficulties and tribulations of life in Palestine in those days. Their dedication no doubt paved the way for all the pioneers who followed, including during the modern restoration of Israel as a national homeland. The unwavering love and connection with the Land that carries Jerusalem at its heart is reflected in these words of the poet, Yehudah Halevi, who lived in Spain during the twelfth century:

Would that I have wings that I could wend my way to thee, O Jerusalem, from afar!
I will make my own broken heart find its way amidst your broken ruins.
I will fall upon my face to the ground, for I take much delight in your stones and show favor to your very dust.
The air of your land is the very life of our soul.

The Restoration

The major political turning point occurred on November 2, 1917, when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, which stated that: “His Majesty’ s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” As a result Great Britain was given the Mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations (the forerunner of the United Nations) in 1922 in which they were charged “…to secure the cooperation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of a Jewish National Home” in Palestine (Article 4).

In 1947, a special United Nations committee proposed that the Mandate be terminated and Palestine divided into two sovereign states, one Jewish and one Arab. This Partition Plan was adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 33 to 13, on November 29, 1947. 

Land of Connection 5

The Arab state was named Transjordan and the Jewish state, Israel. David Ben Gurion was placed at the head of the provisional government which, on May 14th, 1948, proclaimed the establishment of the reborn state of Israel.

The fact that we who are now living are witnesses to the miracle of the restoration of the Promised Land to God’s people carries with it a wonder and a responsibility – a “creative challenge…demanding new action, new thinking.” [2] The full depths of the spiritual meaning and implications may escape us, as it did the early pioneers who might not fully have imagined how their backbreaking work of removing the stones, draining the swamps and suffering malaria would impact the generations to come.

“When the Lord brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those who dreamed!” (Psalm 126:1)

Nevertheless, we can do our part, however small it may seem, in upholding and proclaiming in faith the Word and promises of God regarding Israel. We can “set our sights” on Israel; live there if we can, stand with her wholeheartedly in support and prayer if we cannot. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel:

To be involved with the life of Israel is to be in labor. What is the meaning of the State of Israel? Its sheer being is the message. [It] is a rehearsal, a test, a challenge to all of us. …Nonparticipation in the drama, is a source of embarrassment. Israel…is a call to every one of us as an individual, a call which one cannot answer vicariously.

It is, at the same time, a message of meaning…a hope for a new appreciation of being human. [It] is to participate in the process of continuous redemption…[to ensure] that awareness of God penetrates human understanding. …This is the challenge we face. The Bible is the challenge and the way. [3[

These sentiments are powerfully echoed by his daughter Shoshanna:

The presence of Israel has tremendous spiritual and historical significance for the whole world. Israel is God’s stake in human history, …the dawn and the dusk, the challenge and the test. Israel calls for a renewal of trust in the Lord of history. [4]

The murderous threats against this small nation, that has miraculously remained standing through the continuous attacks on every front by the enemy since its inception, are as virulent and relentless as ever. They have, in fact, escalated and become even more blatant and outspoken. Anti-Semitism has morphed into Anti-Zionism, an attack against both Christians and Jews who believe in the Bible’s authenticity as the eternal Word of God and in its proclamations regarding the Land of Promise.

What does it mean to be a Zionist? David Decker, a Christian pastor living in Jerusalem, answers: “Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people should return to live in their ancient homeland [according to] hundreds of Scriptures in our Bible.” He adds: “The whole modern Zionist enterprise, even ‘just’ the physical part, is Divinely blessed and inspired. In my own humble opinion Israel is already the greatest place to live on earth! [However] the real greatness of Israel lies in her spiritual potential…to build the Holy Temple and to become the prophesied Light to the Nations.” [5]

In almost all Bible-believing circles there is a growing anticipation of the imminent arrival/return of Messiah to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Only God Himself knows the details of the ‘bigger picture’ of His plan. In the meantime, we can stand together with Israel and in Messiah and aspire to faithfully do all our Father gives us to do, with joy at all He has already accomplished and in great hope for the promises still to be fulfilled. 

Land of Connection 6

 

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Footnotes:

1. James M. Monson with Steven P. Lancaster, Regions on the Run, Biblical Backgrounds, Inc. 2009, 30.
2. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israel: An Echo of Eternity, Jewish Lights Publishing, 1995, 224.
3. Ibid., 224-225
4. Ibid, Introduction, 136-137
5. Pastor David N. Decker, Revival from Zion!, M.A.D.P.-Tarshish Ltd., Jerusalem, Israel, 2004, 29-32.

YOM HA’SHOAH – A Memorial of the Holocaust

Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day,  2016
begins the evening of 4th through 5th May.

A Shoah Memorial by Keren Hannah

I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.”
(Isaiah 56:5)

Holocaust 5

Abba, Father
no more of me
is left to bring to Thee
only the gifts you have given
tallit and tefillin
the lamb and the prayer
remain and help me stand
in You.

Dehumanization
is a gradual process
a breaking down
a stripping away
first the outward trappings
then the inner layers
until all of self melts
into a final desperation
and all one has to offer Heaven
from the soul’s deepest depths
is a nameless
faceless cry.

~khp

 A Memorial and a Name

In 1953, six years after Israel’s rebirth from the Nazi’s flames of death, a special motion was passed in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) to establish Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial site on a hill in the Jerusalem Forest. Yad Vashem means ‘A Memorial and a Name’ and is taken from the Hebrew text, “I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial (yad) and a name (shem)” (Isaiah 56:5). These were the very things that Hitler’s regime aimed to wipe from the world’s consciousness – the memory and the name of the Jewish people. Individuals were tattooed with numbers and rendered faceless and nameless. Communities were uprooted and shattered. The ‘Final Solution’ was devised and implemented to exterminate the Jews as a people, to erase them from memory that they may no longer have a name.

Today, in a vibrant, restored land, Yad VaShem [1] stands as a beautiful and powerful witness to the memory of the six million Jews, more than one third of world Jewry, who were annihilated, and to the thousands of flourishing communities that were destroyed. It is a physical representation of the special flame of memory that is carried in our hearts. Our hope always is anchored in the God of Israel, who promises at the conclusion of the same verse in Isaiah, “I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.”

Remember and Tell

The need to remember has recently been underscored with the increase in active Holocaust denial. The exaggerated, blatant anti-Semitism and denial of the Holocaust that is rampant in Middle Eastern politics and press is maybe understandable, but it is all the more dangerous when found propagated by Israel’s enemies on Western University campuses and in purportedly academic literature. If this is being perpetrated one generation after the event, with eye-witness survivors still living, what can be expected in another twenty years? We cannot underestimate the value of recording indisputable evidence, and the retelling of the heart wrenching and heroic testimonies of those who were as “brands plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2).

Holocaust 2

Institutions such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington and Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, preserve and display not only the historical, graphic evidence of the Shoah, but also the art, sculptures and memorial structures that depict the expressions of grief and capture the intrinsic human dignity found in the midst of the suffering. They are unique, urgent voices in the face of the world’s indifference and the traumatized silence of the majority of survivors. We need to see and remember, even though the evidence of the harsh realities of man’s inhumanity to man leaves one emotionally numbed and raises a multitude of inexpressible questions. As we remember we also need to tell, in order that the profound lessons may be learnt and that present dangers are not overlooked and the atrocities repeated. Never again…

Elie Wiesel, world renowned author and Holocaust survivor, wrote in his autobiography, And the Sea is Never Full, of a decision made in Auschwitz:

“I continue to learn – thus to take and give back – to reach out to others, to begin and begin again with every encounter…. Help me Father. Long ago, over there, far from the land of the living [in Auschwitz], we told ourselves that if we were to come out alive, we would devote every moment of our lives to denounce by word and deed the cynicism and silence of mankind towards victims past and future. …The one among us who survived would testify for all of us…His days and nights would be devoted to telling the story. …There were times after the liberation when I saw myself as a messenger carrying only one message: to say no to forgetting. …I continue to teach, to write.”

The Children’s Memorial

A special structure stands at Yad VaShem in honor of the almost one million Jewish children who were victims of the Nazi extermination camps. A group of stone pillars, broken off at varying heights, stands outside the Children’s Memorial. At the entrance is a carved portrait of one young boy, Uziel, whose parents agreed that he could represent all those whose names are lost to the world. Passing through the entrance, one enters a darkened maze of glass passages that reflect candle flames. The names of the murdered children that are known have been recorded and are played softly in the silent space.

Holocaust 3

Uziel – “God is my strength” – has a name and a face. Outlived by parents who, with deep and anguished love, have set his fearless smile as a remembrance of the million children whose lives were extinguished.

In the subdued, mirrored maze of their memorial one feels suspended in time and space names of the children are repeated in continuous succession their faces, their souls, are mirrored in the glow of a myriad candle flames reflected into infinity.

The art and poetry of many children, while herded in ghettoes en route to the concentration camps, were somehow saved and preserved, sometimes miraculously. Here is one poem, that of a boy whose name and thoughts live on.

The Butterfly
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
Against a white stone…

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
Kiss the world goodbye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelion calls to me
And the white chestnut candle in the courts.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live here,
In the ghetto.

– Pavel Friedmann (4 June, 1942)

Holocaust 6

 In contrast, this is a poem written in recent years by a young 10th grader in restored Israel, who although free and living in a land that has bloomed like a rose in the desert and is now filled with flowers and butterflies, still asks:

Why?

One million, two, three
It is something you can’t see
I ask God why?
Why six million had to die?

Those who survived, I admire.
Did they march like sheep to the slaughter??
All these questions with no answers…
We will remember this forever!

I used to be afraid and worried
That this would come back
All this history…

Now I know that we can resist
We have a country and independence
I am proud to be a Jew
If I need to choose – I would

– Tal Bargig
10th Grade
Sha’ar HaNegev
Israel [2]

 So many questions… The faith of many Jews, even the devoutly religious, was deeply shaken and even lost. Where was God in this inhuman hell? However, these words found on the walls of a cellar where Jews hid from the Nazis in Cologne, Germany, echo the strong deep core of belief in the One God of Israel who, despite the evil perpetrated by man, is constant and faithful and suffers with us in affliction and triumphantly raises dry bones to new life.

I believe.
I believe in the sun,
Even when it is not shining.
I believe in love,
Even when feeling it not.
I believe in God,
Even when God is silent.

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Commemorating Yom HaShoah

In April of 1951, the Israeli Knesset established the date of 27th Nissan to commemorate as “Holocaust and Ghetto Uprising Remembrance Day”. The date, 5th May, 2016, this year, occurs during the period of Counting the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot and was selected because it falls between the dates of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on the first day of Passover, and the two days, 5th and 6th Iyar (11th – 12th May), that commemorate the memory of those who fell in the wars against Israel and the nation’s establishment of Independence, Yom Ha’Zikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day). While we joyfully celebrate the freedom of the Jewish people restored to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, we first remember the great sacrifice of the lives that were, and sadly continue to be, mercilessly taken by the enemy.

In Israel:

It is a deep and moving experience to commemorate Yom HaShoa in Israel. As the evening begins, the President of Israel leads a meaningful ceremony of song, prayer and testimony at Yad VaShem, which is attended by the Prime Minister, other dignitaries and a large gathering of guests. In front of the large stone Wall of Remembrance, six survivors of the Holocaust each lights a memorial flame.

The next morning, a siren sounds at a designated mid-morning hour in cities and towns countrywide. As its strident wail fills the air everything comes to a halt. Pedestrians stop in their tracks, traffic comes to a standstill and the occupants alight from their vehicles and stand upright and motionless. For two minutes all is still. Most heads are bowed in remembrance, lips move in prayer, tears fall. As the sound fades and dies, eyes are raised and one feels a deep bond of unity with all Israel in the knowledge that  Am Yisrael Chai. The People of Israel Lives! In spite of enduring the horrors of hell on earth –
Am Yisrael Chai!

In the Home or Congregation:

There are original ways of sensitively acknowledging and commemorating Yom HaShoah personally or as a congregation. Be encouraged to formulate something personal and meaningful in your own particular situation. A few examples:

  • Each person as they enter is handed a yellow paper star resembling that worn by the Jews for identification by the Nazis. Pinning it to one’s clothing conveys a sense of identification with those who suffered the pain and humiliation, as well as with those non-Jews who courageously wore the star as a protest in sympathy with the Jewish victims. When done respectfully, this is very meaningful.
  • Read a selection of poetry and Shoah-related literature and play a selection of appropriate music.
  • View a film, such as “Schindler’s List”, “The Hiding Place”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
  • If there are Holocaust survivors, or the children of survivors, living in one’s area they could be approached to share their testimony with one’s congregation or a home group.
  • Read a selection of Scripture verses and pray for God’s purposes for Israel.
  • Make a donation and plant trees as a symbol of new life in Israel. You can do this online via Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund.

Suggested Scriptures

Genesis 1:26-28, 31

…God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God did God create them; male and female created God them. God blessed them..God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

1 John 3:11, 14-15, 18

This is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Ezekiel 37:11-12

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.’”

Suggested Blessings

Father, we lift to you those six million of the Holocaust and the myriad slain before and since, even unto this day; we pray for strength and courage to resist the evil that diminishes human beings everywhere because of our prejudice, hatred and fear.
Lord, in your mercy bring your healing and peace and may it begin with us.

We pray for Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, and the leaders of all the nations, that their remembrance of past evil and recognition of evil that is present may be so powerful that peace and justice may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Lord, in your mercy, bring your healing and peace, and may it begin with us.

We thank You for those who glorify Your Name in simple, hidden, and faith-filled ways.
Lord, in your mercy, bring Your healing and peace and may it begin with us.

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Sketch by KHP of statue at Yad VaShem
‘The Silent Cry’

The Kaddish: A Jewish prayer recited by mourners. It has many parallels with the prayer Yeshua taught his disciples.

Let the glory of G-d be extolled, and G-d’s great name be hallowed in the world whose creation G-d willed. May G-d rule in our own day, in our own lives, and in the life of all Israel, and let us say: Amen.

Let G-d’s great name be blessed for ever and ever.
Beyond all the praises, songs, and adorations that we can utter is the Holy One, the Blessed One, whom yet we glorify, honor, and exalt. And let us say: Amen.

For us and for all Israel, may the blessing of peace and the promise of life be fulfilled, and let us say: Amen.

May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens, let peace descend on us, on all Israel, and all the world, and let us say: Amen.

~Keren Hannah Pryor

Footnotes:

1. Yad Vashem
2. With thanks to their English teacher, and my friend, Carol Wolff

THE OMER – Countdown to Revelation

Countdown to Revelation

Teach us to number/count our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Counting the fifty days from the second day of Passover to the Jubilee day of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is called Sefirat Ha’OmerCounting the Omer. Two questions immediately spring to mind: “What is the Omer?” and “Why should we count it?” The Hebrew word omer literally means ‘measure.’ Biblically, it is associated with the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest in the Temple on the sixteenth day of Nissan, which is the second day of the festival of Passover.

And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven full weeks shall they be, counting fifty days to the morrow after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a cereal offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, as first fruits to the Lord (Leviticus 23:15-17).

The date of the Festival of Shavuot/Pentecost or Weeks is set according to this date. Forty-nine days, or seven weeks /shavuot, which gives the festival its name, are counted and Shavuot is celebrated on the fiftieth day. The Greek term related to the word fifty is pentekostei, from which we derive the English name Pentecost. These concepts – the “measure” of the omer, the counting of days, the symmetry of the weeks – instill within us an awareness of the balance, harmony and stability of God’s appointed times. Nothing is haphazard or insignificant. The biblical calendar is a measured walk through time that is made holy by His Presence with us.

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The question remains, “Why should we, in our modern times, count the days between Passover and Pentecost?” We can find answers to the question on many levels. When, for example, we consider the agricultural cycle of the Land of Israel we see that this is the time between the first harvesting of the barley crop and the final grain harvest of the wheat. It is a critical time for the grain farmers; indeed for the nation, as bread is a staple food. Each day the growing crops are carefully checked, the weather is anxiously observed, the days to harvest are counted. If anything fails, a famine could ensue. How does this apply to us today, however? We can buy bread ready packaged, even sliced, every day!

Let us consider the important spiritual application Yeshua made regarding bread, when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of YHWH.”

At Passover the whole sheaf of the first-fruits of the harvest is waved as an offering to God, chaff and all! Passover is the season of Deliverance. We receive the gift of salvation from God’s mighty outstretched arm and, as those enslaved to sin, all we can bring before Him as an offering is ourselves, with the chaff of our sin and all! Then, we immediately set out on our journey of freedom and new life. Every day we learn something new. God draws us, with great longing, ever closer to Himself.

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When the Israelites were redeemed from slavery in Egypt, they needed to be set free from an engrained slave mentality. After witnessing the miracles of God and proclaiming Him as their God and King, their passage from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai was a time of preparation. Their minds were being renewed in order that they might receive the great revelation of God that awaited them at the mountain. So it is with us. When we are redeemed from sin and death by our Father’s loving grace, through the perfect sacrifice of the blood of the Passover Lamb, we need a season of transformation – a renewing of our minds and hearts – before we can stand in the place of greater revelation of the glory of God. We must consciously move forward on our journey, covered by the cloud of His mercy, before we can stand at the Mount in the fire of His glory.

Fifty Days of Preparation

The walk from redemption to revelation is not a random wander. God is a God of purpose and order. His greatest gift to His children, after the gift of life, is the potential and the ability to change and to grow as we learn of Him and follow His ways. After his crucifixion and resurrection at Passover, Yeshua appeared to his disciples and taught them through forty days of the Omer. He then told them to wait in Jerusalem until Shavuot, when they would ascend the Mount of the House of God and would receive the “promise of the Father” that would empower them to do all they were called to do.

To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the Kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, saying, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit, …you shall receive power when the Spirit of Holiness has come upon you” (Acts 1:3-5,8).

The disciples spent the days after Yeshua’s ascension waiting purposefully for the power that the Father had promised. We are told that they “…with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Power is a serious responsibility. A good parent, for example, will not give the keys of his or her car to an underage or untrained child. As we grow in knowledge and understanding through the study of His Word and walk in faith after the Shepherd of our souls, our Father enables us to more effectively exercise the power of His Spirit of holiness.

True freedom that has worth, reality and meaning is only found through the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of holiness given at Shavuot. At the first Pentecost on Mount Sinai, God gave His eternal Word, the Bread of Life, to His redeemed people through Moses and sealed it on two tablets of stone. At the Pentecost on Mount Zion, through His Word made flesh in Yeshua, the fire of the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples and sealed the Word in their hearts, and filled them with power to bear witness to the Risen Messiah.

Those redeemed, as a “new creation” in Messiah, are assured of two things on the journey of faith: (i) Yeshua is with us. He said, “…I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and (ii) our Father God has provided us with all we need for the journey. He has given us the map and instructions in fine detail in His Word, and the power, the comfort and the counsel of His Spirit of Holiness. It bears an awesome responsibility to realize that the same resurrection power by which God raised Yeshua from the grave is available to us, working in us and with us.

Counting the Omer, the significant days between Passover and Pentecost – Salvation and Revelation – reminds us that our journey of faith is a daily walk, and we must actively participate with our Father in it. He provides us with the “raw materials”, comparable to the sheaf of first fruits waved at Passover. At Shavuot, however, two freshly baked loaves of bread are waved as an offering. The production of loaves of bread that sustain life – the harvesting, winnowing, grinding, mixing, kneading, baking – requires man’s efforts. If we work with Him, we can joyfully offer our Father the “two fragrant loaves” of the fruit of our labor at Pentecost.

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How to Count the Omer

Traditionally, the count of the day and the blessing is said in the evening, but if this is missed it can be done during the following daylight hours.

Blessing to recite:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu be’mitzvotav ve’tzivanu al Sefirat ha’Omer. Ha’yom, yom echad [sheni, shlishi…] ba’Omer.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through Your commandments, and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Today is the first [second, third…etc.] day of the Omer.

It is advisable to print out calendar pages, or have a means of checking off the days as you count from the first evening through, the fiftieth day, when the festival of Shavuot is celebrated.

As our focus is centered upon the Scriptures, it is traditional to read through Psalm 119, a few verses a day, during the Counting of the Omer. The psalm is divided according to the 23 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the AlephBet. The Word of God is made up of combinations of the individual letters and each one is considered holy. This is also an opportune time, therefore, to study some Hebrew!

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Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;
Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy Presence.
(Acts 2:28)

As we count the days in anticipation of the revelation of God at His appointed time this coming Pentecost, let us also meditate on the direction of our lives and the influence we are having on those our Father has placed in our path. May we allow Him to reveal the “chaff” that is stubbornly clinging to our lives that we may repent of it and release it. As we walk and work with the Lord through this season, may the Spirit of holiness give us “clean hands and a pure heart” that we may ascend the mountain of the Lord at Shavuot and receive all He longs to share with us (Psalm 24:3-5).

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~ Keren Hannah

PS  

For interest:  Note how many associations the number 40 has with life and death – with beginnings and endings.

> A baby is formed in 40 days – that is, from conception through the embryo stage until a fetus that looks like a person begins to grow and develop.

> The Flood included 40 days of rain during which time, all creatures on earth were destroyed (except…)
Also, there is mention of 40 days from when the waters started to recede, the Ark “landed” on Ararat, when No’ach sent the birds from the Ark to test the situation. In other words, life is both destroyed and created in 40 days.

> The Torah of Life was given in the 40 days and nights Moshe spent on Mount Sinai.
So too was the generation of the Exodus killed off during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness – that corresponded to 40 days of the scouting operation of the Ten Spies who gave the Bad Report on the Land of Israel.

> One can also view this 40 year wilderness period, not (only) as the demise of the older generation, but as the birth of the new nation of Israel.