5779 / 2019 Counting The Omer Calendar

COUNTING UP TO HOLINESS – KEEP CLIMBING!

Sefirat Ha’Omer – Counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot 

BETWEEN REDEMPTION AND REVELATION

If we are merely counting down to something, then that thing is, by definition, finite. It is limited; it disappears as quickly as it arrives. But if, instead, we “count up” to something, we desire it to be infinite, to be unlimited, to be everlasting. And so we celebrate the timelessness of Torah [the Word and ways of G-d] and the importance of each and every day when we commit ourselves to counting the Omer, because, “In matters of holiness we should always ascend, and never descend.” *

Download: 2019 Omer Calendar

 

* Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Counting Up, Not Down, Toward the Omer

NISSAN – A Month of Miracles

REMEMBER THE EXODUS

The root of the name Nissan is nes – meaning miracle. During this month of Nissan G-d performed open, supernatural  miracles – miracles that transcend nature and the ability of men to comprehend. He sent the ten plagues upon Egypt in order to prove to Pharaoh and the people that their idols were false and powerless.

He then parted the Reed Sea and effected the physical redemption of His people from the slavery in Egypt. We need also to remember the part the Israelites played in the midst of these miracles. And what part do we ourselves need to play as we await the Final Redemption?

This Grateful Heart – Prayer and Poems

 

Prayer reminds me of the simple truths. We are surrounded by holiness. By beauty. By wonder and awe. At the same time, we must live as it is offered us, sometimes messy, sometimes challenging, potentially painful, potentially traumatic, a mixed bag of joy and sorrow. No matter what, our lives are enriched by prayer. Prayer gives our hearts a voice.

There’s no moment too small for a prayer. Or too large for that matter. A single petal of a rose. A field of wildflowers. A birth. A death. And there’s no moment too small or too large for gratitude.

 

THIS GRATEFUL HEART
Psalms and Prayers for a New Day
by Alden Solovy

~ review by Cindy

Alden Solovy is a well-known liturgist and has become a favorite writer of mine. His words are both beautiful and heartfelt and I find myself not just reading his words but praying them. These psalm and prayers are both profound and deeply seated expressions that stir yearnings in my heart and have often helped me form words that I couldn’t find on my own.

This stirring anthology contains over 100 poems, organized into nine sections to make finding what you are looking for easy:

  1. Days
  2. Seasons
  3. Shabbat
  4. Jewish Holy Days
  5. Other Special days
  6. Turning Points
  7. End of Life
  8. Grief
  9. Memorial Prayers

The Grateful Heart is deeply soulful.  Often used by myself for personal prayer, Alden Solovy truly does bend light onto the pages of this inspiring collection.

His new book This Joyous Soul is just as beautiful and inspirational.

You can find them both on Amazon.com

Visit Alden Solovy at To Bend Light

March’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations CEYLON CUSICK HARGROVE
we are so grateful for your friendship to HIS-ISRAEL!

As always, please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the current month’s name selection and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be May 1, 2019.

Signs and Wonders – Fun For The Family Seder

OTOT U-MOFETIM
SIGNS and WONDERS
(Exodus 7:3-11:10)

Raphael Abecassiss

Raphael Abecassis (Israeli) PASSOVER

The following family activity based on the ten plagues can add fun and drama to your Pesach Seder meal.

Make a  gift “Plague Packet” for each child and insert small labelled bags containing each of the plagues that offer ‘hands-on’ application. At the appropriate plague they can open the small bag and toss the contents at their friends!

Or, as we have done in our (Cindy’s) home, enjoy one sign and wonder on each of the 9 days prior to Pesach eve with the hope of stirring up questions and discussion, and of building excitement in anticipation of the Seder.

Enjoy and adapt according to your child / family. Use any or all ideas.

1.  WATER INTO BLOOD (Exodus 7:14-25) You need red food coloring.

I’m not sure if this one is more fun for the child or the parent. Put a few drops of food coloring in a glass prior to the family sitting down at the breakfast table. Once everyone is seated, pour water into each glass — oooh… the water turns red!

At the Seder table you also can have fun with the food coloring and water. To add to the ‘Plague Packet’ you could make drops of blood by cutting two tear drop shapes out of red felt. Sew the top of the tear drop together and a child can slip it over his / her finger.

1

 

2.  FROGS (Exodus 7:25-8:11) You need little plastic frogs.

These little guys are way too much fun! On frog day, you can put them in a lunch bag, or half in and half out of a sandwich (you want your family to see them not eat them); strew some on the breakfast table or place some on your child’s bed before he or she wakes up.

The possibilities are endless! In shoes, on toothbrush etc., etc.

2

 

3.  LICE (Exodus 8:16-19) You can use llittle beads or confetti.

Sprinkle the beads / confetti over your child when sleeping so they have to shake them off when they wake up. Put some in their hairbrush. Sprinkle on your table and counters. Again, the possibilities are endless…the clean up is worth the fun.

3

 

 

4.  WILD BEASTS, possibly flies* (Exodus 8:20-32) You need toy plastic lions and tigers and bears, insects. Oh my!  Place them around your house.

Flies are just too hard to resist. Freeze them in your ice cube tray and put the cubes with the frozen flies in your families beverages.**  Enjoy the beverage with wild / zoo animal cookies.

 

4

5.  DISEASED LIVESTOCK (Exodus 9:1-7) You need a toy cow, goat, sheep etc..

Place them around your house in strategic places.

5

 

6.  BOILS (Exodus 9:8-12) You need round colorful stickers.

Place the stickers on everyone’s face.  Another option is to get those wonderful gel stickers, cut into circles and place on all the mirrors in the house.

 

7.  HAIL  (Exodus 9:13-35) You need styrofoam or  marshmallows.

Cover your table top and counters. Be ready for some snowball fights!

7

 

 

8.  LOCUSTS (Exodus 10:1-20) You need toy winged insects.

Set around your house, on meal plates…etc.

8

 

 

9.  DARKNESS (Exodus 10:21-29) You need sunglasses.

Wear sunglasses inside. At Seder meal you can turn off the lights suddenly.

IMG_2690

 

 

10. PESACH EVE – SEDER

If you would like a beautiful picture book to use along with, or in place of, the ideas mentioned above, consider From Darkness to Light by Gadi Pollack — it’s a gem! Stunning illustrations, simple text, and a special study section at the end of the book to help understand the meaning of each sign and wonder and how it might correspond to the hardships suffered by Bnei Yisrael – the Israelites.

You can purchase this book via Amazon.com From Darkness to Light

from darkness to light

 

ONLINE RESOURCES***

Rabbi David Fohrman

In his six part Passover series, Rabbi Fohrman opens up layers of meaning of Biblical text, asking questions most of us have never even thought of asking and bringing it all home to who we are and the time we find ourselves in.  An absolute favorite teacher!

Rabbi Sacks

Visit Rabbi Sack’s website and type Passover in the Search box. You’ll find a number of inspiring and thought provoking teachings that are perfect for this season.

Avivah Zornberg

Avivah Zornberg, a Torah scholar, is one of the most original Biblical teachers I have ever heard. Inspired by Scripture and Rabbinic midrash, Zornberg illuminates Scripture; injecting life into them.

You can enjoy two of her teachings pertaining to this season for free on iTunes Exodus, Cargo of Hidden Stores and The Transformation of Pharaoh, Moses, and God. If you don’t have access to iTunes visit On Being with Krista Tippett and type Avivah Zornberg in the search box.

 Footnotes:

* The majority of Rabbinic commentators say that the fourth sign was wild beasts. They understand the Hebrew word arov ( עָרֹב ) to mean a mixture. Rashbam translates arov as a wolf-like beast. The wolf – arov, attacks at night and is related to the Hebrew word erev (עֶרֶב) meaning evening.

** Be careful that as the ice melts you or your little ones don’t swallow any flies!

*** You can access each of the teachers websites by clicking on their names.

 

 

A BLESSED CHAG PESACH SAMEACH TO YOU
FROM HIS-ISRAEL!

February’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations ROBYN NEIL
and thank you for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL!

Just a reminder – remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the current month’s name selection and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be April 1, 2019.

ADAR – 12th Hebrew Month – Being Holy, Being Whole

THE TWELFTH MONTH  – SORROW INTO GLADNESS

We conclude another biblical calendar year with the injunction to be joyful. Historically, the month of Adar was not a particularly good one for the people of God, however, traditionally many Jewish families make posters or cards saying:

BE HAPPY! IT’S ADAR! 

During Adar, the fun festival of Purim is celebrated; and here we find the reason for the happiness. We read all about it in Megillat Esther – the scroll of Esther. Our great God, who is  as close as our next breath, had placed one of His people, a very wise Jew named Mordechai, and his beautiful, young adopted niece Hadassah (Esther) in Shushan, the capital of the mighty Persian Empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia. When the king decided to choose a new bride the most beautiful young women in his kingdom were brought to the palace and Esther was among them. According to the purposes of God, she was the one chosen by King Achashverosh to be his new Queen.  

As you know, in every generation an enemy of God rises up in envy and pride with the aim to destroy and denounce Him by means of destroying His people. Think Pharaoh, Balak, Hitler, -— fill in the blanks! The villain of Esther’s generation was the wicked Haman, who devised an evil plot and tricked the king into signing an official edict that on the fourteenth of Adar all the Jews in his great empire – young and old, women and children, were to be attacked and murdered. The edict, sealed with the king’s ring, could not be revoked. All seemed hopeless…but… God! Esther and Mordechai called for a time of fasting and praying for His merciful intervention. Then Esther summoned all her courage and faith and approached the king without his invitation – an action punishable by death. He loved his beautiful bride, however, and instead she was given the opportunity to expose Haman and to have another edict sent which would warn the Jews and allow them to defend themselves. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had constructed with the intention to hang Mordechai, and the Jews were victorious on the day planned for their demise. 

And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Achashverosh, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:20-22).

After enduring great fear and trepidation at the threat of annihilation, we are told in Esther 8:16, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.” Indeed, as we celebrate the month of Adar, so may it be for us all.

PART OF THE BODY: THE FACE

Children (of all ages!) love the festival of Purim. Apart from the delicious cakes, cookies, and candies that abound, part of the fun is that people get dressed up in ‘fancy-dress’ costumes and masks. These are meant to hide one’s identity, or maybe to portray a desired identity!? In the story of Esther, the face of God was hidden, as it were, and yet the deepest lesson we  can learn is that He is, in fact, always there; whether or not we feel we clearly can “see” Him. 

Another lesson is that true discernment, requires that we see beyond the physical facade — to look below the surface in order to not judge things by their outward appearance; just as our Father God does. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). “But You, O Lord, know me; You see me, and test my heart toward You.”   (Jeremiah 12:3)

Our Father knows us intimately and sees our deepest hearts. He knows our motives; our thoughts and fears. Our own perception of things can be distorted when we see only what we want to see, as opposed to the reality. For example, we can become “blind” to truth when we believe we are right regarding an issue and stubbornly refuse to consider the possibility that we may be mistaken, or ignorant of certain facts. The Word of God also tells us that ulterior motives, such as bribery and corruption, lead to unfair judgment, when bad is called good and good bad (Deuteronomy 16:19). Our outward actions are the ‘fruit’ or manifestations of our inner thoughts and feelings. 

A popular idiom tells us, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” The eyes undoubtedly are the most expressive parts of one’s face. They can shine beautifully with love or can throw looks like daggers. As author Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed: “An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun, … or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness it can make the heart dance with joy.” 

William Shakespeare noted in Much Ado About Nothing: “Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes.” More kindly he described, “And as the bright sun glorifies the sky, so is her face illumined with her eyes” (Venus and Adonis). 

The apostle Luke illustrated it well when he said, “The lamp of your body is your eye…”  (11:34). Interestingly, there are seven openings in the face – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth. In Jewish mysticism the face is likened to the Menorah in the Holy Place of the Temple, and the seven openings are compared to its seven lamps. The pure olive oil that was used as fuel for the Menorah is compared to one’s mind, or intellect, which we trust are informed by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Spirit of Holiness. 

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that these seven “lamps” can only radiate the light of God if they are sanctified. Our senses – what we see, hear, speak, touch, and taste can be sanctified only by purifying our heart and our thoughts. We remember how, after he had been ‘face-to-face,’ as it were, with God on Mount Sinai, Moses’ face shone with such radiance that he needed to veil it in order to not frighten the Israelites. He had received the water of the Word of God directly from the Source and his heart and mind had been purified and the result shone through his countenance. The closer we can draw near to God – the more we can perceive His Presence and “see” His hand in every aspect of our lives, the more we will achieve a clear perspective of reality. We can pray, as did poet George Herbert,  “Teach me, my God and King, in all things Thee to see.”

Are we seeking Him and recognising that all we have comes from His hand? Are we clinging to His hand in total faith and trust? Are we standing resolutely on His Word and constantly praying, with King David, “Send Your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3). 

People experience some form of pain or frustration every day. Our challenge is to see beyond the pain and suffering of this world with the understanding that our lives are in His hands and that everything God does has a purpose for our ultimate and eternal good. His is an eternal Kingdom and we know that when our Messiah returns to the City of the Great King, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”  (Isaiah 11:9).

We have another wondrous promise from the prophet Isaiah, “Eye to eye you will see the Lord when he returns to Zion.” The Lord is comforting His people and redeeming Jerusalem and He will “…bare His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (52:10). 

So, dear friends, may we, like the beautiful golden Menorah, be a vessel that allows His light of Love and Truth to shine in our lives, and may we rejoice always! HalleluYah!

 

January’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations SOJ FRASIER and our warm thanks to you for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL!

Remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the current month’s name selection and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be March 1, 2019.

ROOTED IN AHAVA / LOVE – Cindy Elliott

A Word for the Month of SHEVAT

Man is like a tree in that his good deeds are his produce, his “fruits,” and his arms and legs the branches which bear these fruits. He is, however, an “upside-down tree,” for his head is rooted in the heavens, nestled in the spiritual soils of the Eternal, and nourished by his connection to his Creator. [1]

*

A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall. Planted in the House of the Lord, in the courtyards of our G-d they will flourish.
Psalm 92:13-14

“Take with you of the song of the land,” said Jacob to his children.
“What is ‘the song of the land’?” asked the Rebbe of Apt, “if not,
‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’?” [2]

In this month during which the New Year of the Trees falls, do the trees have anything to teach us? Can trees actually speak? Scripture often references trees and even shares that they sing (1 Chronicles 16:33), dance (Psalm 29:9), clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12), and rejoice (Isaiah 55:12). [3]

Anyone who has taken the time to be alone and quiet in nature knows well how our Abba Father’s creation inspires, heals, quiets, renews, and, yes, even speaks / teaches. Jonathan Wittenberg in his book The Eternal Journey, goes as far to say, “There may be parts of the heart which simply fail to receive their due education because of the absence of the language of trees and grasses, animals and birds.” In other words, without taking the time to be quiet and to hear the language / lessons our Abba has built into His creation, parts of our very body, soul and spirit starve.

Life-giving soil is fundamental to a tree’s ability to grow and produce. Likewise, our ability to grow and produce are connected to the life-giving soil of our Heavenly Father. And just as a tree whose roots are deeply sunk into the ground is better able to withstand a storm, a person rooted deeply in Heaven is better able to withstand the winds of life.

As any fellow gardener well knows, change and chaos in the garden causes stress. Insects, weather, pathogens, transplanting…all these are forms of stress that deeply affect the health of the plant. In our ever changing, stress-inducing world of hustle and bustle and noise, keeping our hearts connected with the life-giving soil of our G-d, His Word both written and Living, is so vital. How deeply we are rooted in the life-giving soil of our Father’s heart will determine how we handle life’s change and chaos – the winds of life.

Scientists have realized that for a tree to have deep and strong roots, it needs the winds. Strong winds produce strong roots. Likewise, the winds of life are also necessary for our spiritual growth and maturity. Deeply rooted in the soil of Heaven, we are not only better equipped to deal with change and chaos, but these winds help us to grow stronger. In addition, remembering that it is the wind that spreads the seeds of a tree, likewise it is often the winds that enable us to both grow, spread seeds, and speak Life to another.

Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav has a prayer:

Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; may it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass, among all growing things, and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with [You] the One to whom I belong.

May I express there everything in my heart, and may all the foliage of the field – all grasses, trees, and plants – awake at my coming, to send the powers of their life into the words of my prayer… May I pour out the words of my heart before Your presence like water, O’ Lord, and lift up my hands to You in worship!

Amen

ROOTED IN AHAVA** (Love)

planted in Your deep
life-rich soil
nourished
sustained
love lavished
tender, compassionate
a holy sanctuary

Abba, please
may we learn to live
in the life-giving soil of You
and your Word

May we encounter You
e-v-e-r-y day
with naked trust

and, Abba, may you be
the love of our life
and may we know
and speak
without a doubt
the a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e reality
that we are indeed
the one whom You love!

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Yeshua which surpasses knowledge, that you maybe filled up to all the fullness of G-d.
Ephesians 3:17-19

* Photo credits – shutterstock.com
** The pictograph for love is an embrace from Heaven. Ahav (love) is spelled Aleph (א) – Hey (ה) – Bet (ב). Aleph-Bet (אב) spells father. The Hey in the pictograph means reveal. By placing the Hey in the center of the Father we see that love is the Father’s heart revealed. Adapted from Hebrew Word Pictures, Dr. Frank T. Seekins

1. Midrash Shmuel on Pirkei Avos 3:24
2. * A creative, hasidic interpretation of Rebbe of Apt as shared by Jonathan Wittenberg in The Eternal Journey, 115
3. Anyone who has had the honor to experience fall in the north east of the USA can share how the trees – dressed in all their glory of reds and golds – both sing and praise our Creator. Here, off the Gulf of Mexico, we have seen both the gentle dance of trees swaying in the soft ocean breeze and the wild dance as the the pelting rains strip their branches and bend their powerful trunks.

SHEVAT – 11th Hebrew Month – Being Holy, Being Whole

SHEVAT

THEME: FRUITFULNESS; PLEASURE

BODY:  THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

QUOTE: 

The day you were born is the day God decided that the world could not exist without  you.  ~ Rebbe Nachman

PSALM 139: God-Who-is-There

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month. 

GOD-WHO-IS-THERE

Psalm 139 powerfully expresses the fact of God’s omniscience, He is all-knowing of our every word and thought and of every aspect of our personality. As has been said, “He knows us better than we know ourselves!” He also is omnipresent – there is nowhere we can can hide from Him. For those who know and love Him, this is a great comfort. 

Verse 10 describes how His left hand guides us. It is on the side of the heart, and is the more gentle hand, as of a Shepherd, who caringly leads his flock. And His strong, redeeming right hand, often associated with Adonai Tzevaot – the Lord of Hosts, is the one that holds and protects us.

David highlights how intricately and wondrously our physical bodies are formed, and concludes with a plea that his heart and spirit would be guided in God’s “everlasting way.”

To which we can say “Amen”! 

SHEVAT is the 11th month of the Hebrew calendar and Jacob’s son Asher was placed  11th in the tribal formation in the wilderness. What do we know about Asher, who was born to Leah’s maid Zilpah? At his birth Leah declared, “Happy and prosperous (bosher) am I! For the women will call me happy” (Gen. 30:13). Asher, thus, is related to happiness. Other connotations of osher are: to be straight (yashar), honest, to go forward, to prosper.

Jacob’s deathbed blessing of Asher reads, “Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies” (Genesis 49:20). This richness is attributed to the fact that his territory in the Land would be filled with an abundance of olive trees. 

We are blessed to have witnessed the rebirth of the Land of Israel and the quality and abundance of its trees and fruit once again. Of the physical restoration of the land and the people, Isaiah prophesied: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly” (35:1-2). 

Water, together with air, is the element necessary for life. Speaking of God’s great salvation, spiritual life, the prophet Isaiah describes, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; …for waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (35:6). The spiritual water we need is mayim chaim, the living water of the Word of God. At the great water-pouring ceremony in the Temple at Sukkot, Yeshua stood and proclaimed, as the Word enfleshed, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Water and oil generally do not mix, but here we can find a link between water and the oil of joy – osher. In the Holy Place of the Temple, the symbol of the living water of the Word of God is the golden Menorah. The vital fuel that provides its light is pure olive oil. The Word of God and the illumination of the Spirit of God; Life and Light; water and oil – both are needed for the fullness of understanding and abundant joy (osher) to be found in His Presence. The deepest joy is found not in the material pleasures of worldly things but in the spiritual delight of intimacy in our relationship with God.

THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

Just as we saw the joyful benefit of the combination of two different elements, water and oil, so we can examine the differences, and unique properties necessary to bring forth fruitfulness, life, and joy in man and woman, the masculine and feminine.

Physically, the anatomical differences between a male and a female are obvious. In the God-given reproductive process that enables human beings to reproduce and bring forth new life, a husband and wife join together, become one, in an intricate, mysterious, and pleasurable, sexual union. The male’s sexual organ is external to the body…it is outward, and extends and gives. The female’s sexual organs are housed within the body…as a vessel prepared to receive. This design also reflects the innate nature and qualities that are found in men and women. 

For example, the man is given the seed of potential by God, which he gives to the woman who completes and nurtures what she receives. A man tends to be the initiator, while the woman patiently develops and brings forth new life. A particular aspect of the feminine nature is nurturing,  which we see illustrated physically in that a mother has the ability to naturally provide milk as nourishment for her baby.

 In Judaism, it is considered that the man has the characteristic of chochma, wisdom – intellectual knowledge, and a woman has binah – understanding. Wisdom without understanding is cold and essentially useless but, when combined with deeper understanding, the proper application can be made that will produce positive results in one’s life. The combination of wisdom and understanding, one can compare head and heart, and the balance between the two leads to da’at – true knowledge of God. 

King Solomon wisely declared, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4). She completes and honours him. In this regard, we can compare the six workdays of the week as ‘masculine,’ which are crowned with the ‘feminine’ Shabbat. During the week, we work, our actions are outward and giving. But Shabbat is a day to rest in the feminine mode of receptivity; which is why the Shabbat often is referred to as a Queen – Shabbat Ha’Malka or a Bride – Kalla. Work is an act that demonstrates man’s mastery over the world through his intelligence and skill. Shabbat, on the other hand, is a day of rest, drawing back from exhibiting dominance over nature and contentedly existing in a state of harmony with it – absorbing and appreciating the blessings and fruit of the weekday efforts. 

While we look forward in faith and anticipation to “the day that will be all Shabbat’’ when Messiah is ruling from Jerusalem and the Father’s Kingdom of love and peace is being established in the world, we can enjoy a taste of that day every Shabbat. 

As we greet one another with, “Shabbat Shalom!” we express the peace that this day is designed to bring between man and nature, reflecting the harmony between God and His creation.  A wise woman once said, “The Shabbat does not only make you holy, it also makes you whole!” The real depth and mystery of Shabbat is the unity and delight of echad – oneness. Another word from the same root is shevet – to dwell; as in the beautiful verse in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to [shevet] dwell together in unity!” In unity, one-ness, harmony we find Shalom. A third word from the same root is shev -to sit, indicating a position of rest. God worked and created the world in six days and then, on the seventh, He rested and made it His home [bayit] – His dwelling place; a place of rest, harmony, beauty and peace. There was Shalom Bayit. This Shalom Bayit is God’s design and will for every husband and wife, every family and home.

The physical dimension mirrors the spiritual, and the perfect unity and ‘oneness’ of God is reflected in the union of a husband and wife. It is in this unity that God’s image can most perfectly be reflected on earth; which, very likely, is why the greatest aim of the enemy of God is to destroy this image – man and woman, masculine and feminine, husband and wife.  Adam and Eve first were created as one being; then God separated Eve from Adam and said to them, “Now become one!” Unity takes work and vision, and building together in harmony. When a husband and wife, and we can extend this concept to people in general, interact with each other with utmost respect and love, the full glory of God can be revealed. 

In a marriage, each partner’s approach to sex in their marital relationship is the main indication of how much they have matured emotionally and of the strength of their character, psychologically. There needs to be a balance of the essentially feminine characteristic of chessed (the ability to love and care for, and nurture another unselfishly) and the more masculine gevurah (sound judgment, self control and restraint). This capacity will be expressed in the way a person relates to their spouse before, during, and after sexual intercourse. Of course, key, and of utmost importance is for each one to have the awareness of including God as central to the relationship, especially in the bedroom. 

The Hebrew word for marriage is Kiddushin, from the root Kadosh – holy. When a couple understand the beauty and intimacy that exists also in their sexual union, when two opposites become one, then new spiritual heights of pleasure and joy are attained, and God’s image in their life together becomes stronger and clearer. On the other hand, if sexual desire is reduced to merely satisfying one’s bodily lust, this will lead one further from God and reduce the act to an animalistic level. 

If a marriage is based solely on physical attraction, without an awareness of the spiritual dimensions of love, the marriage may likely deteriorate over time. One or both may even become entangled in an illicit, extra-marital affair. Falsehood then enters the dying relationship and fear of discovery erodes whatever was left of it. If chessed (love and kindness,; compassion) is no longer operating in a marriage then the covenant is damaged. It probably was not true love, which is based on a spiritual bond. Any adultery, being untrue to one’s partner, damages the covenant between the couple and with God.  It is equivalent to idolatry, disloyalty to the Divine. Without true knowledge of God, which includes love of Him, faith in Him, and trust in Him, so-called love and compassion can be distorted and turn into cruelty.

Rebbe Nachman taught:

The prophet foretells (Isaiah 11:9), “They shall neither destroy nor harm in all My holy mountain, for the earth will will be filled with Da’at [Knowledge] of God as the waters cover the sea.” The attributes of compassion and kindness depend wholly on [this] Da’at, and in the Messianic Future, Da’at will be very great. For this reason, when Mashiach comes, there will be no cruelty or desire to harm others. Compassion will spread far and wide.”

BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it… (Genesis 1:28).

God spoke these words first to Adam and Eve, and we see them echoed through the Scriptures, to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and eventually to the nation of Israel.

The primary response to the blessing and command is physical. People have the ability to procreate physically, in accord with their human bodies.  As important is spiritual fruitfulness. If spiritual fruitfulness, which stems from one’s own being, is missing in a relationship, whether it be with God or one another, the relationship will not thrive and grow into its full potential, and may even wither and die. 

The apostle Paul emphasises this truth in Ephesians 1:4,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and Messiah Yeshua, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love:

How do aspire to be “holy and without blemish”? He tells us, by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22).

 

Early Israel poster for Tu’B’Shevat

The 15th of the month, Tu b’Shevat, is celebrated as the New Year for Trees and is the time that the sap in the trees begins to rise, ushering in new life, and feeding and strengthening the tree for the year to come. The dormant tree is waking from its winter’s sleep and we are reminded that although the tree looks dead with no greenery, and no fruit, inwardly there is much life. 

During this Hebrew month of Shevat our attention is very much focussed on the physical trees in Israel and the fruit they bear. The quality and abundance of fruit that is produced on a tree is dependent on the quality of soil in which it is rooted and in theatre it receives and the care with which it is maintained. The same factors can apply to the production of spiritual fruit in our lives. Is our life rooted in our Father’s Love and being nourished by His Word? Are we caring for and maintaining the growth of our spirits? The fruit, or lack of it, in our lives will be evidence of that.

The reassurance and comfort we have is that, as we do our part to the best of our ability, our Father God – the Master Gardener, is working with us.

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9: 6,8).

May the Garden of our lives abound this month with the fruit of the Spirit of Holiness, and may they nourish and sustain and encourage the other precious souls He has placed in our lives. And, as we go forward in His light and love, may His glory shine even more greatly in the earth.

~ Keren Hannah

For more information on the New Year for Trees, Tu b’Shevat and a Seder to celebrate please visit the His-Israel website – www.his-israel.com 

December’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations MEG JOHNSON
and thank you for being a friend to HIS-ISRAEL.

Please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the draw and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be February 1, 2019.

* Please note – Due to increased mailing cost, those living outside of the USA will
receive a coupon from FFOZ to download a complimentary PDF eBook of Keren’s ‘A Taste of Torah.’ Those living within the USA will continue to have the option for a hardcopy or may choose to receive the PDF eBook.

THE HIDDEN GOODNESS OF TEVET – Cindy Elliott

A Word for the Month of TEVET – A MONTH OF TOV – GOOD

In Tevet, “Bare branches wait for sun to touch them, and trees wait for sap to begin to rise. Animals and humans dream, waiting for the sun’s power to increase. The seedling waits in the earth for the nourishment of light. In time the shoot will develop branches and buds; birds and insects will live in it and feed from it. Yet for now, it is warmed by a blanket of earth or a blanket of snow. It sleeps, and wakes slowly.” [1]


THE HIDDEN GOODNESS OF TEVET

How great is Your goodness (tovah), which You have hidden (tzafanta) for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of men!
Psalm 31:19

In the northern hemisphere winter’s bleakness has set in. The trees are bare, the landscape stark, and the sun seems to sleep more than it is awake. There’s a chill that  fills the air and, for many of us, seems to take up residence in our bones. But at this cold, dark time, when all we can see is the hidden face of the moon, the glorious blaze of the Hanukkah lights usher in the month of Tevet.

Tevet is a month that commemorates tragedy and loss:

1. The 8th of Tevet traditionally is marked as the date when the Septuagint [2] was completed. While Jewish tradition teaches that this was indeed miraculous, the Talmud also states that upon its completion darkness descended upon the world for three days.

Like the sun lost behind the pall of darkness, the brilliance of the Torah had become eclipsed to all those who would now depend upon its rendering in a foreign language, with all its levels of depth and meaning lost. The Torah had become “like a lion in cage,” no longer the king of the beasts striking fear into all who heard its roar, now behind bars and stripped of its freedom and power; so too had the Septuagint reduced the Torah to just another cultural document. [3]

2. According to Jewish Code of Law, the 9th of Tevet marks “troubles that occurred on that day that are no longer known to us.” Rabbinic tradition records that the 9th of Tevet is Simon Peter’s Yahrzeit. [4]

3. The 10th of Tevet commemorates the Siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25) a siege that led to the destruction of the Temple and the 70 year Babylonian Exile.

Yet Tevet, brushed stroked with the cold and harshness of winter and marked by tragedy and loss, shares a root with the Hebrew word tov – good.

We often label light as good and dark as evil. But both light and dark can blind as well improve our ability to see, both can kill as well as sustain life. [5] The fertile soil of Tevet reminds us that there are times we must grow through the dark. Plants need the darkness of the soil as much as they need the warmth of the sun. Actually most seeds germinate best under dark conditions.

Tevet also teaches us that G-d is the G-d of light as well as dark, “And the people stood at a distance and Moses approached the heavy darkness where G-d was.” (Exodus 20:21).

The hidden goodness of Tevet can be revealed in a beautiful Rabbinic saying, “Before the Holy One, Blessed be He, inflicts the wound He prepares the remedy.” Baruch HaShem! I’ve been listening to a series on the book of Hebrews by Daniel Lancaster. He reminds us that the book was written around 60 AD, ten years before the destruction of the Temple, just before the night of the exile was about to begin (70AD).

“Before the Holy One, Blessed be He, inflicts the wound, He provides the remedy.” Before the darkness, the struggle, the uncertainty and doubts, our Abba in His chesed (loving kindness and faithfulness) has provided the remedy. Planted in the dark soil of Tevet, our Abba has shone into our hearts the holy lights of Hanukkah. For eight nights we celebrated G-d’s light. We nightly acknowledged and gave thanks for the miracles and the great salvation He gave to us in Yeshua – the Heavenly Shamash.

As believers we know it is going to get darker before it gets light. But like a shoot that must struggle its way out of the earth, we too struggle but with hearts filled with a Holy Light, a Light that has prepared us before the struggle. A Light that flickers with hope and holiness.

Always our Messiah draws our hearts to the Father. And with Jeremiah he reminds us of our Father’s promise of newness and hope.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the city will be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the Lord;  it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever” (Jeremiah 31:38-40).

On earth as it is in Heaven!

May it be soon Abba!

THE WOMB OF G-D

like the dark, rich soil of Tevet
is the womb of G-d
a sacred space
swollen in love
the birthplace of an always new creation

a holy good
protected
nourished

a place of healing
where life breath
is the lamp of the Eternal **

cradled in Divine mercy
compassion welling up

the deepest darkness
setting the stage for the greatest light
waiting for the right time
for a spark to spring forth

surging upward
outward
forward
recreated in G-d’s love
carrying His light
into a dark world

* The ancient Hebrew pictograph for rachem (רחם) draws a precious picture of our Abba’s love for us.  With the resh (ר) we see the head of a person, the chet (ח) a fence (illustrating protection), and with the closed mem (ם) a picture of a womb. The letter mem itself (מ) is connected to water and can also signify chaos.

Joined together these letters place one inside a womb – hidden, surrounded, and protected from chaos. A safe place where life springs forth. To live in G-d’s rachamim – mercy, His compassion and tender affection, is to live in His womb.

** Proverbs 20:27

1. Jill Hammer, The Jewish Book of Days, Tevet
2. The ancient Greek translation of the Torah. Know also as LXX or ‘translation of the Seventy.’
3. Rabbi Yonason Goldson, The Septuagint, Jewish Word Review)
4. Rabbi Baruch Frankel Teomim on Orach Chaim, 580
5. Light – staring at the sun can cause blindness, the heat of the sun can kill a tender plant. Yet we all know light reveals what is often hidden in the dark. The light/energy of of the sun is necessary for most plants to produce their own food.
Dark – we are unable to see in absent of light and most plants without the energy of the sun would not be able to make their own food. Yet we all know how dark times often reveal things hidden in our hearts. Also darkness is necessary for the germination fo most seeds.

November’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah

Congratulations STEVE FRANKLIN
and our warm thanks for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL.

Please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the draw and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be January 1, 2019.

LIVE – The Special Lights of Hanukkah – Video and Notes

NO ORDINARY LIGHTS.

What makes the lights we light on Hanukkah, and Shabbat and the biblical Festivals different? Can they change the way we see things…God, others. ourselves?

For your convenience, you can download Keren’s notes here – LIGHTS OF HANUKKAH Notes

ONE CANDLE – dispels much darkness

Join Keren in lighting the lights on the first night of Hanukkah HERE

And enjoy this beautifully illustrated and stirring story of one family’s special Hanukkah tradition… (With special thanks to Gayle Ann Cater for gifting Dwight and me with this book many Hanukkahs ago!)  ~Keren