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   

DIY HANUKKAH

albert benaroyaAlbert Benaroya,  Israeli Artist of Judaica and Still Life

By the twenty-fifth of Kislev, we are ready to experience the deepest moment of winter …

By the twenty-fifth of every lunar month, the moon has gone into exile. The nights are dark, and getting darker. And late in Kislev, we are close to the moment of the winter solstice – when the sun is also in exile. The day is at it’s shortest and the night at it’s longest, before the sunlight begins to return.

It is the darkest moment of the year, the moment when it is easiest to believe that the light will never return; the moment it is easiest to feel despair.

At this moment, we celebrate Hanukkah.*

Download DIY Hanukkah – 2

* Arthur Waskow, Seasons of Our Joy, pg. 87

HANUKKAH – Background and Insights


THE EIGHT DAYS OF HANUKKAH

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

The world was created in seven days; therefore, in Hebraic thinking, the number seven represents the perfection or completion of a cycle and also the natural realm that we experience with our physical senses. The number eight, which follows, indicates a new beginning and also takes one beyond the limits of the senses and signifies the transcendent, unseen spiritual realm. We are aware of this spiritual dimension, and can be emotionally moved and mentally stirred by, but it is one we cannot physically reach out and touch. It can only be ‘seen’ with eyes of faith and with the heart. The festival of Hanukkah challenges us to see beyond the temporal reality of our circumstances and to grasp the reality of the transcendent; to focus on that which will endure for eternity.

The eight days of Hanukkah are thus extraordinary days, during which we are given the opportunity to “see the light” both physically and spiritually. We are encouraged to look both within and beyond ourselves, and to deepen our understanding of God’s eternal Kingdom. Each night, as we light a growing number of little dancing lights, we see their combined light grow in radiance and beauty. They call us to aim for greater unity and harmony between the transcendent and the worldly, the holy and the mundane, the spiritual and the physical.

Two important themes clearly emerge as one explores and experiences the festival. One illustrates the power inherent in a diminutive flame to banish a world of darkness, and another reminds us that there is an indomitable flame in the spirit that enables people to reach far beyond their perceived natural limitations.

Hanukkah 1 - 1

For with You is the fountain of life;

in Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9).

 

MIGHT AND LIGHT

The seven-branched Menorah was lit by the High Priest every morning and evening, first in the Tabernacle and then, once it was built by King Solomon, in the House of God, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The perpetually burning flames reflected the light of the Presence of God and of His Word. Throughout history, great nations have sought to overcome and even extinguish this light together with the Covenant people of God. Hanukkah relives the story of one such attempt and celebrates the victory of a small Jewish band of men who stood up for the God of Israel against impossible odds and, with His sovereign help, overcame the enemy and restored the light to His House.

In the year 175 B.C., the mighty Greco-Syrian army took control of Judea, under the leadership of Antiochus IV. By 168 B.C. the Holy Temple was desecrated, the worship of Israel’s God was forbidden by law, and the values and lifestyle of Hellenism were enforced – on pain of death. Many Jews willingly embraced the Hellenistic way of life and assimilated as thoroughly as possible, which expedited their acceptance and ability to function successfully within the new system. There were many God-fearing Jews, however, who chose to remain faithful to the ways of the Hebrew Scriptures and readily gave their lives rather than submit to the yoke of man-exalting Hellenism.

One small family, an elderly kohen (priest), Mattitiyahu (a son of the High Priest,Yochanan) and his grown sons, lived in the village of Modi’in not far from Jerusalem. They stood firm in the face of the tyranny and refused to bow down to the false gods. More and more faithful Jews rallied around them, until the tiny rag-tag band, who became known as the Maccabees, challenged the might of the Greco-Syrian army. Their intimate knowledge of the terrain was a great benefit but their main strength was the awareness of God’s presence with them.

Although it is not the primary focus, the political/historical reality we celebrate at Hanukkah is the fact that the Maccabees defeated their foe, an army vastly superior in might, numbers, training and equipment. (The story is well recorded in the First Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha.) After four hundred years of repression and persecution, the fact that the Judean state thus created was able to exist in relative independence for another two hundred years, while confronting a hostile world on equal terms, was a miracle in itself.

Rabbinic literature almost totally ignores the military triumph of the Maccabees and emphasizes instead the miracle of the Temple menorah. A chief priority for the Maccabees, when they began to reclaim and restore their land after their victory, was to cleanse and rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem.

Hanukkah 1 - 2An over six foot tall menorah in a church on the Isle of Man, which was commissioned and made by an Israeli artist from shells of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into the town of Sderot in Israel through long years of constant barrage. (Pic.- Talbots)

The sign of dedication, and the symbol of God’s Presence in His House, was the lighting of the golden, seven-branched Menorah in the Holy Place. The Maccabees found only one flask of uncontaminated oil fit for use in the lighting – enough for one day. It would take another week for the preparation, according to biblical standards, of more pure olive oil. So eager were they to restore the light to the Temple that they decided in faith to use what they had. What joy arose as the blessings were sung, and one by one the seven lights were lit and their radiance grew to bear shining witness to the presence of YHWH, the God of Israel, in their midst.

They had done all in their power to restore His light to the darkened Temple. Now the Eternal, the Source of all Light, intervened and the flames of the Menorah kept burning day after day, for the next seven days, until the fresh store of oil was prepared. Thus, in 164 BC, at the rededication of the Temple, the festival of Hanukkah was inaugurated. The nine-branched menorah (the hanukkiah) is lit to commemorate the victory of light over darkness, and the miracle of the oil that kept burning for eight days.

Perhaps this constant guarding and restoring of the Eternal Light through history prompted the physician of Ferdinand the Great, at the demand to provide the Spanish king with proof of God’s existence, to reply with: “The proof that God exists is that the Jews exist.”
Only the watchfulness of the God of Israel over His people has kept the flame of the Menorah burning when all the forces of darkness in the world have tried to extinguish it.

Hanukkah 1 - 3jpg

The fuel for the Menorah was the purest of olive oil, which was also used to anoint kings and priests. The prophet Zechariah’s vision of a menorah flanked by two olive branches, which provided oil for the lighting of the seven lamps, is illustrated both by the hanukkiah and on the emblem of the restored State of Israel (seen above).

The two additional biblical Feasts, which are not listed in the Torah but are found in the book of Esther and referenced in the book of John, are Purim, which occurs before Passover (the first set Feast in Leviticus 23) and Hanukkah, which occurs after Sukkot or Tabernacles (the last set Feast). The two thus add two branches, as it were, to the ‘menorah’ of the seven Feasts and provide a nine-branched hanukkiah. Both Purim and Hanukkah tell of the threat of extinction of the Jewish people and God’s miraculous intervention on their behalf, which is subtle and hidden at Purim but shines brightly at Hanukkah.

When Zechariah asked for the meaning of his vision of the menorah and two olive branches, the angel of the Lord replied with seven Hebrew words:

Loh be’chayil ve’loh be’choakh ki im b’Ruchi. “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit,” [says the Lord of Hosts] (Zechariah 4:6).

God is diligently watching over His Word to perform it, and if we as His Covenant people, both Israel and those from the nations who stand with her, are to shine His light into the world it must be with the power and anointing of His Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh. He provides the oil for our lamps.

FRUIT AND LIGHT

Simchat 5Interestingly, the nine branches of the hanukkiah can be linked with the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22;

joy, peace, patience, kindness,  love,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

Notice that the shammash (servant) candle in the very center aligns with ‘love’. Love is the heart of the spiritual fruit that we want to be growing in our lives, through which we demonstrate the life of the One Who is Love. We can call to mind Paul’s outstanding chapter on the importance of love, 1 Corinthians 1, where he says for example:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (13:2).

When we light the lights each night we are reminded that Love lights all the others. As we participate with the Holy Spirit, in the love of Yeshua, the fruit of holiness will grow in our lives and, as a result, more of His light of truth and life will shine through us into the darkness of the world. The ways of this present, polluted age lead to meaninglessness, passivity and despair. They produce a bentness and brokenness, as opposed to standing upright in faith and walking confidently with the Lord in His ways. The assurance we have, just as the Maccabees of old, is that we are not alone! We do not rely on our own might or power, but on the enabling and the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

The Light of the World

On every hanukkiah the shammash, the helper or servant candle, is distinguished from the others. It is usually in the center or somehow set apart from the other eight. It is lit first every night and its flame is used to light the remaining candles. The shammash is a beautiful representation of our Messiah Yeshua, who divested himself of his heavenly glory and became a servant of all. Humbly, yet with the radiance of a single candle flame, he became the promised, anointed bearer of God’s light. Through him, the Word of life and truth would spread to illuminate the far corners of the world.

Hanukkah 1 - 4jpg

Traditionally, the hanukkiah is placed in a window or sometimes, as in the Old City of Jerusalem, outside the door to show that the light is not to be enjoyed by us alone but can shine like a beacon outwards to others. By the Spirit of the One true, living God, imparted to all in Yeshua, we can be transformed and reflect the image of God in which we were created.

As we become more and more like Him, His glory will shine all the more into the world, bringing hope to the weary and despairing, holiness to the mundane, and the eternal to the passing and temporary.

It is a daunting responsibility to be the bearers of His glory, His light, but it is a challenge the people of God must willingly and gratefully accept. Light will always dispel the darkness. As Clay McLean sings on his album, Against the Night:

When every holy symbol is fading out of sight,
The children of the morning must stand against the night.

Leanne Payne, founder of Pastoral Care Ministries, expresses this concept beautifully:

There is the Absolute – ultimate truth and reality. To know and be in fellowship with God is not only to know the Real, but it is to gain the capacity to bring our lives into alignment with it. Our lives then take on the characteristics of that which is true, noble, and just
…and we become Lights!

 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14;16)

Hanukkah 1 - 5

 

Learn from the Crawling Creatures? 10.55 mins

Learn from the Snake, the Ant & the Spider and the Fly! (10:55m)

 

The more one studies these amazing creatures, the more there is to discover!

The punishment given by God to the snake was very fitting. He was made to crawl on his belly in the dust. The Sages wisely conclude, “Falsehood does not have legs [to stand on].”

 

Ants are the epitome of cooperation… all is done for the common good.

 

The spider can be found spinning its web in the palace of a king. It is tolerated due its web’s ability to trap flies.

 

Praise God for His wonders! We can indeed marvel at the intricacies of His creations.

 

~Keren Hannah

 

 

 

CHALUMOT – DREAMS – Cindy Elliott

A Word for the Month of KISLEV – A MONTH OF DREAMS

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Came to witness springs new hope, born of leaves decaying.
Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.
Live hand-in-hand and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a dream. [1]

What would the world be like without dreams? Life immersed solely in materialism is coarse and bleak. It lacks the inspiring grandeur of expansive horizons; like a bird with clipped wings, it cannot raise itself above the bitter harshness of the present reality. We are only able to free ourselves from these shackles through the power of dreams.

Some foolishly take pride in being ‘realists.’ They insist on taking into account only the present state of the world – a partial and fragmented view of reality. In fact, it is our dreams which liberate us from the limitations of the current reality. It is our dreams that accurately reveal the inner truth of the universe.  [2]

Sefer Yetzirah 5:9 tell us that Kislev is ‘the month of sleep’, it is also considered ‘the month of dreams.’ Maybe that is because our bodies are physiologically attuned to the seasons. In Kislev as the days grow increasingly shorter and the nights increasingly longer, many of us grow increasingly lethargic. With the faded light and so much of nature resting, we tend to follow suit. We move less and sleep more and with sleep comes dreams.

Or, it could be that Kislev is called the month of dreams because within the Torah portions for this month, Va’yetze, Va’yeshev, and Miketz, we read about dreamers and nine of the ten dreams recorded in Bereshit.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman [3] said, “One must live with the times.” Rabbi Yehudah Leib, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s brother, later expounded on what his brother meant: “‘One must live with the times’ means that every day one should ‘live with’ and experience in one’s own life the Torah portion of the week and the specific section of the week’s portion which is connected to that day.” [4]  So maybe Kislev is a time to examine and give consideration to the thoughts, the images, and the sensations that fill our minds as we sleep.

Not all our sleeping dreams are a revelation from Heaven – but all our dreams are under the sovereignty of our Creator. Many of our dreams may stem from what and who we choose to occupy our mind on that day (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8) and the meditations of our heart (Psalm 19:14, Luke 6:45). Other’s may spring from our hopes, joys, fears, or disappointments – fragments of our lives – even a releasing of a day’s frustrations. Or, we can humorously consider, they could simply be triggered by indigestion!

Rav Chisda [5] said that a dream that is not interpreted / understood is like an unread letter. As long as it is not interpreted it cannot be fulfilled. So maybe it is worth giving our dreams a moment of thought. But a word of caution, dreams do not always track the truth reliably. Our brain works differently while we are sleeping. The part of the brain that controls logic and rational becomes relatively inactive while we sleep – so our dreams can be stimulating and emotionally charged, but, completely irrational. Berakhot 55a tells us that just as it is impossible to grow grain without straw, so too it is impossible to dream without nonsense. One thing we do know from Scripture – G-d does at times speak to us through dreams. And maybe at times it is simply to stir our soul or quicken our spirit.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook taught, “The dream is the conception of one’s direction which sent from heaven for the purpose of activating one’s energies lying dormant in the soul.…Dreams serve as a boost from G-d helping to develop the quality of the soul of man.”  [6]

But really – what are we to make of this month of dreams?

He reveals mysteries from the darkness
And brings the deep darkness into light.
Job 12:22

Remember as a child how a dark room sent your imagination into hyper-drive? Maybe Kislev – a time of ephemeral darkness – could be to us a hyper-sensory space in time. Light illuminates, it makes things more visible. Light is about optics. But Kislev is a month of darkness. Darkness has less to do with optics but everything to do with other senses. Maybe Kislev is a space to become truly sensitive to those things that are understood and seen more vividly in the dark or with our eyes shut. Maybe it’s a time to wake up and dream.

But what about nightmares?

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Proverbs 3:24

[Abba], I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is. Whether I have dreamt about myself, or my companions have dreamt about me, or I have dreamt about others, if they are good dreams, confirm them and reinforce them like the dreams of Joseph, and if they require a remedy, heal them, as the waters of Marah were healed by Moses, our teacher, and as Miriam was healed of her leprosy and Hezekiah of his sickness, and the waters of Jericho by Elisha. As you have changed the curse of the wicked Balaam into a blessing, so too, change all my dreams into something good for me. [7]

All of us know how truly disturbing it is to be startled awake by a nightmare. Heart pounding, adrenaline racing, sweaty and weak. Rav Yehuda said, “Three matters require a plea for mercy to bring them about: A good king, a good year, and a good dream. These three…are all bestowed by G-d and one must pray that they should be positive and constructive…A good king, as it is written: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the watercourses: He turns it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). A good year, as it is written: “The eyes of the Lord, thy G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12). And a good dream, as it is written: “O Lord, by these things men live, and altogether therein is the life of my spirit; wherefore You will restore my health to me [vataḥlimeni], and make me to live” (Isaiah 38:16). [8] The word taḥlimeni (restore, health) is derived from the word cḥalom, dream. May G-d turn all our dreams to good, healthy ones!

Shaina metukah ve’Chalumot Paz!
May you have sweet sleep, and beautiful, golden dreams!

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Creator of the Universe. Thank you for making us dreamers. Abba may you be both the wellspring and the inspiration of our dreams. Breathe Your dreams into our hearts and minds and Abba bind firmly upon our hearts those dreams that are from You and meant for our good and for the good of others. May we spend our waking hours filling our hearts and minds with what is good, right, and holy so when we sleep we can dream in league with You. Abba as we kindle the lights of Hanukkah, please rekindle our dreams.

Wake Up and Dream

in the dark wintery light
winter’s shadow unfurls and clings
to bare branches
and faded grasses

sparse beauty
bare-boned landscape
nature resting
winter yawns

aah…a contagious yawn

in the watery light of slumbering
safe and warm in Your embrace
Abba I am listening
I sleep
but my heart is awake*

sing over me your songs**
and sow Holy seeds
of lovingkindness
Divine intentions
deeds and desires

at the threshold of wakefulness
before my dreams begin to fade
let those seeds sprout roots of remembering
and kindle Holy Sparks
illuminating the darkness

“A little light dispels great darkness!” ~ Baal Shem Tov

~ Cindy Elliott

* Song of Songs 5:2
** Psalm 42:8

Photo Credits – shutterstock.com

1. Graeme Edge, The Dream
2. Rabbi Chanan Morrison, Sapphire from the Land of Israel, 279
3. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, 1745-1812, was the founder and first Rebbe of the Chabad branch of chassidism, known also as the “Alter Rebbe,” “the Rav,” and as “Baal HaTanya”. He is the author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, a code of Jewish law.
4. As recorded by Yanki Tauber in Living With The Times
5. Rav Chisda (C. 290 – C. 320 CE) was a Amoraim of the third generation. Amoraim – one who told over teachings of the oral Torah – Jewish scholars of the period from about 200 to 500 CE.
6. Midbar Shur 222-6, 231
7. Prayer for dreams recited during the Priestly Blessing, Talmud, Berakhot 55b
8 Berakhot 55a

KISLEV – VIDEO – BREAD/CHALLAH, SLEEP/REST – ROBBIE MASON

ENJOY Robbie’s informative material…and the beauty of Shabbat and challah baking!  

BONUS Here is Robbie’s delicious, tried-and-true challah recipe for your convenience.

 

DASSIE’S CHALLAH Challah_Bread_Six_Braid_1

Dassie is one of my nieces. I’ve been using her challah recipe for at least 18-years! So it’s proven and true. When my husband and I spent a few years living in a little hut in Lesotho, Africa, I was even able to bake this recipe there. Now it’s a special joy to be baking challah for Shabbat in Jerusalem, where it receives an added fragrance and flavour!

Ingredients:

7 cups flour
2 Tablespoons instant yeast
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil
2 cups warm water
1 beaten egg (for wash on top of challah)
sesame seeds

Method:
1. Into a large plastic or glass bowl place 4 cups of flour.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
2. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well.
3. Add the remaining three cups of flour one cup at a time mixing well each time.
4. When all the flour has been added, turn out onto your workspace and knead until the flour is well integrated.  It will be sticky, just put flour on your hands if necessary, but don’t add more flour to the mixture.
5. Lightly oil the bowl and return the dough to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until doubled (usually one hour).
6. Punch down and divide for braiding (this makes two large challot or three medium sized loaves).
7. Braid the loaves and then place into prepared loaf pans (greased and floured) or if two large loaves, onto a greased and floured cookie sheet.
8. Allow to rise again for about 30 minutes.
9. Brush tops with 1 beaten egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
10. Bake for 30 minutes at 350/180 degrees.

Enjoy and “Shabbat Shalom!”

*photo credit wikipedia creative commons, copyright Aviv Hod

October’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations SHAYNDEL
and our warm thanks for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL!

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 December 1, 2018.

CHICKEN MAN

I wrote Chicken Man after living and working on Kibbutz Mizra. I had a friend who worked in the ‘lul’ [lool] – the chicken coop. His charming stories of the chickens and the fun he had in the lul convinced me to work there, too. It was a horrible place and I hated the chickens. That’s when I learned about the power of stories. [1]

CHICKEN MAN
by Michelle Edwards

~ Review by Cindy

Deep in Israel’s Jezreel Valley there once lived a man known to his mother as Rody and to all the rest of  Kibbutz Hanan as Chicken Man…Chicken man liked the chicken coop. He liked the chickens. He liked all the noisy clucking when he sang…Chicken Man thought that he might like to work in the chicken coop forever.

Rody loves his job in the chicken coop, he loves the chickens as well. And the chickens? Well they love Rody in return – in fact when Rody took care of the chickens they laid more eggs than ever before.

But there was a problem. Rody had a unique attitude toward his work and that attitude caused others to covet his position. You see Rody was a content and happy worker. He even sang as he worked. He made whatever job he was given seem easy and that caused Bracha – who spent long hours in front of a big hot stove – to request to be moved to the chicken coop. So Rody was moved to the laundry.

It was hard for Rody to leave the chickens but he said goodbye and moved to the laundry. Singing as he worked, he once again made his job look easy. And soon Dov – who milked the cows – asked for Rody’s job. And so it goes on and Rody is moved from one position to another.

This is truly a delightful read and without giving the entire story away – all ends well for both Rody and the chickens.

Chicken Man teaches us that there is beauty and value in every job. This book is a sweet introduction for children to a valuable work ethic and an insight into the early years of life on the kibbutzim in Israel.

In conjunction with reading this book with your children or grands, you might like to take advantage of a free online teacher guide written by Barb Stein and Michelle Edwards:

Chicken Man Teacher’s Guide

You can purchase Chicken Man from amazon.com
Chicken Man

1. From a Barbara Bietz interview of Michelle Edwards. You can read the entire review at Jewish Books for Kids