Mamzer – Not Quite Acceptable – Cindy Elliott

We currently live in a world that seems on a never ending cycle of unkindness. We are no longer one family, but live many separate lives. Many are marginalized or isolated. Those who make the most noise seem to set the rules for who belongs and who doesn’t.

Today I spent my morning with Ray Vander Laan listening to his teaching on Timothy The Unlikely Disciple. My words here are a patchwork of paraphrase with a sprinkling of creative wonder. My hope is to cause us to consider the truth that if we are looking to anyone other than our Creator for belonging and defining who we are – we are living a false reality. Our Abba has called us His children, who are we to argue?

Paul came down to Derbe and went on to Lystra, where there lived a talmid named Timothy. He was the son of a Jewish woman who had come to trust, and a Greek father. All the brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; so he took him and did a b’rit-milah, because of the Jews living in those areas; for they all knew that his father had been a Greek. Acts 16:1-3

As the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father – Timothy was a mamzer. According to the Talmud, mamzer is a blended noun which brings together mum (meaning defect) and zar (meaning strange or alien) or ‘a blemished pedigree.*’ According to Strong’s Concordance, mamzer is from an unused root meaning a mongrel. In modern Hebrew it literally means ‘a bastard.’

So what did this mean for Timothy?

Mamzers were not considered a legitimate part of the community and therefore were not permitted to go into the Temple Courts. He would not have been circumcised on the eighth day as a Son of the Covenant. No respected Rabbi of the time would have taken him on as a disciple. He would not have been accepted as a future son-in-law by a Jewish family, and his children would have carried the stigma of his status even to the tenth generation.**

Ostracized – is it possible that the other children called Timothy names and refused to play with him? Did people turn from him, afraid to associate with a mamzer? Did others cast slurs on his mother?*** Such a heavy weight for a young boy to live under. And imagine the heavy heart of his mother Eunice. Every time she saw the hurt and shame on her son’s face she knew that the mockery and rejection was from no doing of his own but the result of a choice she herself had made.

And then Rabbi Sha’ul, one who sat at the feet of one of the greatest rabbis of all time – Gamaliel, arrives in town. Had Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois heard rumor of something Rabbi Sha’ul had spoken, “There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman…?” Did that mean there were no mamzers either?

Sha’ul saw something in Timothy that stirred his heart to take him under his wing. Not just under his wing as a student but into his heart as a son. Could you imagine what this meant to Timothy? No more exclusion, no more shame.

What a rain of healing must have fallen from Heaven and embraced the heart of Eunice. All those years of watching her son be rejected; all those years of hurting for her son. Who hadn’t heard of Rabbi Sha’ul, star pupil of the great Gamaliel? And now he had chosen her son to sit at his feet, to be covered in his dust, and to be called his son.

To Timothy my true son…(1 Timothy 1:2)

Which of us has not known what it is like to be seen as a mamzer  – in some way not quite fully accepted? And yet by the grace of the Father we are called His children.

See what love the Father has lavished on us in letting us be called G-d’s children!
For that is what we are. (1 John 3:1a)

In the Kingdom of G-d – there are no mamzers. Fully accepted, overwhelmingly loved, full of purpose and potential, absolutely necessary, each a radiant soul!

May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released,

May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities,

May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.

– John O’Donohue

May you know without a doubt  that you belong!

* Yevamoth 78a
** Genesis 17, Deuteronomy 23:2
*** For a fuller understanding of what it might have meant for Timothy to be a mamzer see The Attitude towards Mamzerim in Jewish Society in Late Antiquity by Meir Bar-Ilan

Journal Jots for TEVET – Keep Climbing!

*
I form light and create darkness. I make shalom (peace) and create ra (evil).
I Adonai, do these things.
(Isaiah 45:7) Woe unto him that strives with his Maker….
Shall the clay say to him that fashions it, “What are you making?”
(Isaiah 45:9).

CHOSHECH – DARKNESS

Download – Journal Jots – TEVET

* Frank LaLou, Creation

December’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

 

Congratulations ADRIANA CRUMP
and many thanks 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, 2020.

Journal Jots for KISLEV – Keep Climbing!

“The soul of man is the lamp of G-d,” the Book of Proverbs tell us (20:27). What this means is that ultimately, our task is not to light candles, but to be candles. We have the potential to be the bits of light that help bring G-d back into a world gone dark. As the Sefas Emes puts it in discussing Hanukkah, “A human being is created to light up this world.” Rabbi Shai Held, Hanukkah, 1874

OHR KADOSH

Holy Light

Download – Journal Jots – KISLEV

November’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations MARTHA SCHNEIRLA
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, 2020.

Journal Jots for CHESHVAN – Keep Climbing!

*

Like a father who stoops to play with his toddler, laughing with the child, excited over those silly things that excite a small child, yet always remaining an adult who is beyond all these games–so, too, He creates within Himself a place where in love and laughter, in compassion and awe and beauty, Man and G-d could find one another, and neither would be alone. ~ Tzvi Freeman

רחמ׳ם

RACHAMIM / Compassion

Download here: JOURNAL JOTS – CHESHVAN

 

* artwork by Cindy Lou Elliott

October’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations TRACY HOOD
and our thanks for being a friend to 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, 2019.

Recommended Torah Commentaries

Ben Bag Bag said, “Turn and turn about in it [the Torah] for everything is in it; and within it you shall look, and grow old and gray over it, and not stir from it; for there is no better portion for you than this.”

Every sentence, every word, every letter, every space – holy holy holy, precious, bursting with understanding and meaning, brimming with life! Oh how I want to more fully embrace and understand every word of our Abba.  

We are on the cusp of a new Torah Reading Cycle. Just the thought of stepping once again into Bereshit causes my heart to tremble with excitment. Every time I read the first words of Bereshit: Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets – I know I am  once again home. 

We are meant to study, wrestle, argue, and yes even dance with Torah. Following are a handful of teachers whose insights and understandings have accompanied me in my studies and who have helped me do just that – study, wrestle, argue, and dance. They have become my trusted friends and much beloved teachers.

Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek – Be strong, be strong and may we strengthen one another!
In Him who loves us with an infinite love,
Cindy

RABBI SACKS – Covenant & Conversation

This summer Rabbi Sacks completed the fifth and final installation of the series Covenant & ConversationDeuteronomy: Renewal of the Sinai Covenant. This five volume set includes a number of profound, illuminating, and inspiring essays on each Torah portion – each inviting us into a conversation with Torah. Rabbi Sacks is a great scholar, philosopher, and theologian. Deeply thoughtful, an intellectual giant, his words require deep thought and contemplation. I often find myself having to read a small portion, wait, then read again. If I were to rate this series I would absolutely give it a 6 out of 5 stars.

SCHMUEL GOLDIN – Unlocking The Torah Text

I wish we had more than 24 hours in a day so I could deeply study with more than one teacher through every new cycle. If I were able to – Schmuel Goldin’s collection is one I would include every year. With each parsha Rabbi Goldin includes a number of studies and thought provoking questions – many, if not most – I never even though to ask. An incredible, very readable work, that compares and contrasts opposing rabbinical points of view. This set is truly a gem!

RABBI SHAI HELD – The Heart of Torah

This two volume set is another favorite. Rabbi Shai Held includes two essays for each weekly portion. He draws from Torah, rabbinic commentaries, contemporary biblical and pastoral studies. He has helped me more than once to read with new eyes, given text new understanding. A very accessible and thoughtful read.

RABBI ABRAHAM ISAAC HAKOHEN KOOK – Gold From The Land of Israel, Sapphire From The Land of Israel

Each book is a collection of essays on the Torah portions, nuggets distilled from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Kook. Rabbi Kook’s writing was both poetic and esoteric and – for myself – at times very difficult to understand. Rabbi Chanan Morrison has made Rabbi Abraham Kook’s writings both accessible (translating them for non-Hebrew readers) and understandable. These books are works of beauty.

AVIVAH GOTTLIEB ZORNBERG – The Beginning of Desire, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers

I will say from the beginning that these books are in a class of their own. Beautiful, arresting, really just glorious. Each of these commentaries weaves together biblical, talmudic, and midrashic interpretations. These are reads I come back to time and time again as there is no way I can fully take in all Avivah Zornberg is communicating. Avivah Zornberg has so often set my heart on fire. 

DAVID EBENBACH – the artist’s Torah

This book by David Ebenbach has become an absolute favorite of mine. A collection of essays – one for each portion – The Artist Torah is a delightful read for the creative soul (of which we all are). Rich, inspiring, and though provoking. I have come back to this read time and time again. Pure joy – this is a ‘kind’ read that truly feeds my soul!

RABBI SAMSON RAPHAEL HIRSCH – The Hirsch Chumash

This five book series is one that has been on my wish list for years. I have Rabbi Hirsch’s Tehillim – a book on the Psalms that I keep out and read from almost every day. I have read that Hirsch’s Tehillim is written in a similar way to his Torah series so I wanted to include just a short note on how Rabbi Hirsch brings unique understanding and light to Scripture. His books are not a fast read – at least for myself, but they are enjoyable and beautiful. Books that one could spend a lifetime exploring.

KEREN HANNAH PRYOR – A Taste of Torah

Last, but not least, is Keren’s classic A Taste of Torah. A Taste of Torah is a much loved friend of mine. I want to include a link to a fuller review of Keren’s book:

A Taste of Torah

Keep your eyes open for – hopefully, and b’Ezrat HaShem, with the Lord’s help – a new publication of A Dash of Drash this year by FFOZ.

Journal Jots for TISHREI – Keep Climbing!

“G-d is not only the creator of heaven and earth.
G-d is also the One
who created delight and joy.”

~ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,

לחיות בשמחה
LIVE JOYFULLY

Download here: JOURNAL JOTS – TISHREI

 

September’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations SUZANNA FENELON
and our warmest 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 October 30, 2019.

Weekly Torah Reading Cycle – 5780

She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who lay hold of her are blessed.
Proverbs 3:18

Time and again, in the midst of troubled times or facing difficult decisions, I’ve found the words of the weekly parish giving me guidance – or, conversely, the events themselves granting me deeper insight into the Torah text. For that is what “Torah” means: teaching, instruction, guidance. Torah is a commentary on life, and life is a commentary on Torah. Together they constitute a conversation, each shedding light on the other. Torah is a book not only to be read but to be lived.

~ Rabbi Sacks, Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible, Genesis, 2

Torah Reading Cycle 2019-2020 5780

Psalm 27

THERE ARE EASIER PSALMS: Some ring with “HalleluYah” or feature nature’s joy in field and tree; others darker, give us short and piercing cries of the heart.

But not Psalm 27. Not this poem that Jewish tradition bids us read for fifty consecutive days each year. Here, we encounter something more nuanced: the psalm of spiritual struggle, the heart that sings and weeps, the intimate wrestling match between faith and doubt that characterizes our existence…

Psalm 27 knows our pain and our joy…It is the voice of stubborn and challenged faith…it is for the obstacles without and the obstacles within. It is whiplash, journey and mirror at once…May the ancient psalm that plumbs the heart open your own.

 

~ Rabbi David Stern, Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27, from the Foreword by Rabbi Debra J. Robbins.

Download PSALM 27 – Hebrew, Transliteration, English

Artwork: Cindy Elliot

You can listen to Psalm 27, sang by Christene Jackman posted below.

Purchase a copy at Shuv Store

 

Festival Cycle Dates 5780 / 2019-2020

Our gift to you for the new calendar year 5780:

DOUBLE SIDED – FESTIVAL CYCLE DATES 2019 – 2020

As long as the days the earth endure, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22

Simply print off, fold in three sections and glue together to make a beautiful calendar to stand on your desk…or wherever.

A 5780 prayer and blessing to you from His-Israel:

May this new year bring us all fresh passion, greater understanding, and deeper insights into the Word and will of the One who Created us in love. May we live each moment of our lives, even the most mundane, with the understanding that all moments are infused with deep purpose and spiritual meaning. And may this soulful living lead us into a closer more intimate relationship with our faithful Abba-Father.

We trust that 5780 will find your heart overflowing with the love of Heaven, your soul filled with the wonders of Heaven, and your body in constant praise to Heaven so that you may truly:
“Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

For His holy Name’s sake, in love.

Keren and Cindy

The world says that time is money, I say that time is life. [1]

Keren and I have great anticipation for the new Rosh Chodesh cycle SPIRALING UP! beginning in NISSAN – March 2020. Our journey through the Hebrew month series every year has lead myself (Cindy) to the realization that every moment, including those moments that might be thought of as mundane, are precious and bursting – full of soul possibilities, spiritual meaningfulness and purpose. If we listen, our souls “feel the brevity of it all, the beauty. It wants us to behold each day, each minute, as a precious gift that we should not waste.” [2]

When  working on the new Festival Cycle Calendar I began exploring the many Jewish interpretations, traditions and understandings of time. Jill Hammer in her book The Jewish Book Of Days tells us, “The wheel of the year is complex, wealthy with distinctions and characteristics…” 

Rabbi Trugman tells us in his book Seasons Of The Soul that “when considering…the passage of time…connected to the yearly holiday cycle…time can be experienced in one of four basic ways”:

1. Linear – past, present and future follow a chronological sequence; as each moment passes it is gone, never to return.

2. Circular – time repeats itself in phases of weeks, months, and years.

3. A Spiral – time twists ever-upwards… always returning to the same horizontal coordinate, but on a higher plane during each successive revolution. Thus, each moment of time is both completely new as well as cyclically and seasonally consistent.

4. Transcendent – above historical time all together. This is the way G-d experiences time. For, on a Divine level, past, present and future all occur simultaneously.

He explains how the yearly cycle of the Biblical feasts has the potential to catapult us from a linear, circular, and even spiral-like experience of time to a transcendent experience.

The cycle of the Jewish holidays gives us the ability to be completely connected to and engrossed in time, while allowing us to simultaneously transcend its limitations.
For those who have been privileged to experience the timelessness of Shabbat and the holidays, they know the transcendent qualities accessible on these special days if we but allow ourselves to dive into them with total abandon. Great is the reward for those who make that leap into and out of time.

Rabbi Waskow [4] teaches that these festivals, especially the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot), “are a kind of national life cycle in which Passover represents birth, Shavuot represents marriage and commitment, and Sukkot represents maturity.” In this context the yearly cycle can be viewed as a mirror of our life and the journey of our souls.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe. [3]

Connected also with the Divine rhythms of time, is time’s connectedness to Creation.
Jill Hammer shares:

G-d made three realms in the world: sky, earth, and sea: “In seven days the Eternal made the sky, the earth, and the sea with everything in it, and rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). These three realms manifest through the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot – and the days that follow them.

 

Shavuot is connected to the sky. The sky is…the wedding canopy of Israel…we receive the Torah from the heavenly realms. We pray for the harvest to be successful and for rain to fall. On Tisha b’AV…we pray for the afflicted and martyred…On Rosh Hashanah we contemplate the past year and consider our deeds. On Yom Kippur, we wear white…the heaven’s correspond to the dimension of the soul, and this is the season when we do the most soul work.

 

Sukkot is connected to the earth. On Sukkot, the fields open to give us their bounty… we dwell outside in booths…we plant crops…we celebrate the holidays of Hanukkah and Purim, when earthly actions by human beings saved the Jewish people.
We honor trees on Tu b’Shevat. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple, the most holy space of the people. On the 1st of Nisan, just before Passover, we mark the anniversary of the building of the Tabernacle. [G-d’s first physical dwelling place on earth.]

 

Passover is connected to the realm of the ocean. On Passover, the Sea of Reeds parts to allow the Israelites to pass from slavery to freedom…The sea represents birth; and at this season the Jewish people were born. During this time, Miriam’s well…appears in the desert. The sea, which ebbs and flows in patterns of days and months, corresponds to the dimension of time; and it is at this season that we pay the most attention to time, counting every day between Passover and Shavuot. [5]

Our Abba has written layer upon layer into the circle of the year. So much to learn, so much to discover. Rabbi Waskow describes: “More of us are experiencing a thirst for the water of our spiritual wellsprings, or hunger for [our Jewish] roots…To fill that thirst and feed that hunger means that we must open up to what the holidays can be…much more than bubbles.” [6]

1. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, as shared by Rabbi Simon Jacobson in Toward a Meaningful Life, 143
2. Naomi Levy, Einstein and the Rabbi, 116
3. From the journal of John Muir (American naturalist) dated July 27.
4. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Seasons Of Our Joy
5. Jill Hammer, The Jewish Book of Days, 14-15
6. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Seasons of Our Joy, preface

AUGUST’S WINNER of A TASTE of TORAH!

Congratulations GARY PHELPS
and thank you for being a friend to His-Israel.

Gary please email us about your free copy – keciro@gmail.com.

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

Next selection will be October 1, 2019.