ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE DAY – YOM HA’ATZMAUT – A History

CELEBRATE ISRAEL – 15TH APRIL, 2021 / 3rd Iyar 5781

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HISTORIC LAND OF CONNECTION

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

Land of Connection 1

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

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

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

Rome, in 200 BC, with its vastly superior fleet and large, well disciplined army, took control of the region as the Roman Empire expanded over most of the then known world. Under the Greco-Roman rule, in the year 70 AD, Jerusalem, and the holy site of the House of God – the splendid Second Temple, were destroyed and the Land slowly became desolate. And so it remained until 1948 when, in a marvelous intervention and outworking of God, the modern State of Israel was born. During that interim period of almost 2000 years the land, then named Palestina by the Romans, was invaded and trodden down by Byzantines, Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Mamalukes, Tartars and Turks – as well as by the Crusaders from the West. Throughout the string of invasions Jews continued to dwell in the land. At the time of the first Crusade, for example, there existed sizeable agricultural Jewish populations in the Galilee. There also were important Jewish communities in Jerusalem and other cities such as Hebron, Akko, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramlah, Ashkelon and Gaza.

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

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

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

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

 

In our modern generations we have been privileged and blessed to see God’s restoration of His Land and of His people to the Land. We joyfully celebrate as we see Israel blooming once again and the words of Israel’s prophets coming to fruition; including those concerning the nations…

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

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

Artwork – Yoram Raanan, Israel

 

THE RESTORATION

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

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

Land of Connection 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

These sentiments are powerfully echoed by his daughter Shoshanna:

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

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

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

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

 

~ Keren Hannah 

Footnotes:

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

Counting the Omer 2021 – WEEKS 3 & 4

WEEK THREE : 11 – 18 APRIL 2021

BLESSING: 

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

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

Today is Day [one, two, three.etc.] of the Omer.

11-12 APRIL : Today is Day 15, which is 2 weeks and 1 day of the Omer 

SAMECH Psalm 119:113-120 

Se’afim – I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Thy Torah. 

               Thou art my hiding place and my shield.

Se’afim are those who irresolutely waver between two or more courses. In verse 112, the Psalmist declared that he has set his heart on fulfilling the will of the Lord and walking in His ways, forever and to the utmost of his abilities. In so doing, he finds a faithful shelter and a constant shield of protection in God’s Presence.

Torah, the Word of God, is mostly comprised of the word orah, which means light. The Torah is the basis of God’s instructions on how to walk in His ways. It’s not meant to be a heavy load but without orah – it is heavy. When we live in His love, truth and revelation it is light.

Let us treasure and stand in continual awe of the unshakable Word of the Almighty.

12-13 APRIL: Today is Day 16, which is 2 weeks and 2 day of the Omer

 

AYIN Psalm 119:121-128 

Asiti – I have done justice and righteousness;… I love Thy commandments more than gold, yes, above fine gold.

The enemies of the God of Israel attempt to undermine and destroy the Word of God. The Psalmist chooses to act in the “justice and righteousness” as taught in the Torah because he loves the Lawgiver and His commandments – they are his eternal treasure.

Abraham’s hopes and fears are ours. The Divine future does not mean that we can leave the future to God. Abraham realized that God was depending on him – He needed him! Faith does not mean passivity. It means the courage to act and never to be deterred. The future will happen, but it is we – inspired, empowered , given strength by God’s promise – who must bring it about.

12-13 APRIL: Today is Day 17, which is 2 weeks and 3 day of the Omer 

PEH Psalm119:129-136 

Pe’laot – Thy testimonies are wondrous…The unfolding of Thy words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

‘Wondrous’ here denotes beyond one’s reach and understanding. The great wonder lies in the reality of God’s desire to communicate with His people and in how He makes it possible in the unfolding of His Word, which sheds light and grants us understanding.

Every Shabbat, every festival, every new day, reminds us to be surprised by the newness God has to offer. We need to be in wonder at this newness that He offers us constantly. Every breath is new – the one before, like yesterday, is gone. With this understanding, we can pray meaningfully. Pray what our Father wants of us today; then we can can give to others in harmony and cooperation with Him.

~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 13-14 APRILToday is Day 18, which is 2 weeks and 4 days of the Omer 

TZADI Psalm 119:137-144 

Tzaddik – “Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and upright are Thy judgments….Give me understanding that I may live.”

Again the Psalmist cries for insight and understanding of God’s judgments, of His righteousness and truth, for he knows that in them he will find true life.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

14-15 APRIL: Today is Day 19 which is 2 weeks and 5 days of the Omer 

KUPH Psalm 119:145-152 

Karati – I cried with all my heart; answer me O Lord! … Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness.”

The cry in verse 146, hoshieini, Rabbi S.R.Hirsch translates as, “Grant me a new, unbowed being.”

Life is filled with tests and challenges and those who oppose the ways of God, often aim to see a godly person’s downfall. Our hope is in the unwavering chesed, lovingkindness, of our Father in Heaven. He is always there to hear our cry when we cry to Him with a whole heart. In His love we can stand strong and unbowed before men.

15-16 APRIL: Today is Day 20 which is 2 weeks and 6 days of the Omer 

RESH Psalm 119:153-160 

Re’eh – Look upon my affliction and rescue me, for I do not forget Thy Torah. …The sum of Thy Word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.”

God not only hears but He sees. His eyes are continually upon His children and He is ready to help in our afflictions.

The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 146:5-9, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob…who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. …The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

16-17 APRIL: Today is Day 21, which is 3 weeks of the Omer 

SHIN – Psalm 119:161-168 

Sarim – Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Thy words.”

“We sin against God, first and foremost, because we scoff at His Word and act contrary to His will.”

~ Rabbi S.R.Hirsch, The Hirsch Psalms

May our hearts be open and transparent before the Lord and our lives fully committed to His Word of light and life.

WEEK FOUR : 11 – 18 APRIL 2021

BLESSING

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

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

16-17 APRIL:  Today is Day 22, 3 weeks and 1 day 

Tav Psalm 119:169-176

 Tikrav – Let my cry come before Thee O Lord 

Deliver me according to Thy Word. …Let my soul sing of Thy Word, for all Thy commandments are righteousness.”

In the knowledge that God hears our cries and is ready to help and deliver, we can sing a song of praise to extol Him and the faithfulness of His Word.
Every person has his or her own special, unique song; one that will bring blessing to our Father and to others.
We need to recognize it and to have the faith and courage to bring it forth.
You can touch the lives of others. The world is waiting to hear your song!

Note:  We have reached the end of Psalm 119 and will continue with a selection of Omer thoughts. 

 

17-18 APRIL:

Today is Day 23, which is 3 weeks and 2 days of the Omer

 

This is a season of Revelation. When we set our hearts in the direction of Love and Truth, of immersing ourselves in His Word with a deep desire for more intimate knowledge of the Beloved of our souls, this earnest searching and learning is where the miracle process of revelation begins to unfold.

“A man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. … we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.”

~ C.S. Lewis

 

18-19 APRIL: Today is Day 24, which is 3 weeks and 3 days of the Omer

He has every day of our lives in His hands.

Every moment of the seven days between our physical departure from Egypt and the stunning deliverance at the Sea of Reeds was carefully and lovingly choreographed by the Holy One. What seemed to us at the time to be confusion and aimless wandering around in the Desert, a mere chariot charge away from Pharaoh and his army, was all part of a Grand Strategy planned before the foundation of the cosmos.

Before we left the border area of Egypt, we simply had to see Pharaoh for who he really was. And we had to see ourselves for who we really were. And, most importantly, we had to see our God for Who He has always been, is today, and will forever be.

~Bill Bullock, The Rabbi’s Son 

 

19-20 APRIL: Today is Day 25 – which is 3 weeks and 4 days of the Omer

In ALL things give thanks – for He is constantly working ALL things together in His love for your total and eternal good!

“This is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, but perhaps especially to the woman – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

To see, in some measure, like God. His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him. We could almost say He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees.”      ~ C.S. Lewis

20-21 APRIL: Today is Day 26 – which is 3 weeks and 5 days of the Omer

I AM HIS! Each one of us, as human beings, is uniquely created by God in His image and likeness. We are specifically formed and sent into this world to live out the purpose for which we were created.

“That which allows me to fulfil my full potential, to soar to my highest heights, is freedom. True freedom, the highest freedom, is the freedom that comes from submitting to our Creator; then we are bound to a force that allows us to sing [our own uniques song” [one that He composed for His glory.]

~Rabbi Pesach Wolicki 

 

21-22 APRIL: Today is Day 27 – which is 3 weeks and 6 days of the Omer

Our hearts can be filled with anticipation for this great day!

‘On this mountain [Zion] the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine… And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the Lord, YHWH, has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)

The Exodus from Egypt only appears to be a past event. But, in truth, the Exodus never ceases. The arm of God that was revealed in Egypt to redeem HIs people’s constantly outstretched and constantly active. The revelation of the hand pf God is the breaking through of the light of God, shining great lights for all generations.

~ Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook

 

22-23 APRIL: Today is DAY 28 – which is 4 weeks of the Omer

In ALL things give thanks – for He is constantly working ALL things together in His love for your total and eternal good!

“There is such a hunger in the world, a hunger for something beautiful and holy.
A hunger for one good word, for a message from God.
People who are hungry for something lofty and glorious love each other so much.
Spiritually hungry people feel so close to each other. 

Yerushalayim, the Holy City, is headquarters for the hungry people.
’And I will bring them to My holy mountain. And I will make them glad in My House of Prayer,’ the prophet Isaiah says,
‘For My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations.’”

 ~ Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, The Heart of Jerusalem

The 49 Days of the OMER  –  COUNTING UP TO REVELATION

The 49 DAYS of the OMER    COUNTING UP TO REVELATION

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

Psalm 90:12

The biblical calendar is a measured walk through time that is made holy by His Presence with us.

Counting the fifty days from the second day of Passover to the Jubilee day of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is called Sefirat Ha’OmerCounting the Omer. Two questions immediately spring to mind: “What is the Omer?” and “Why should we count it?” 

The Hebrew word omer literally means ‘measure.’ Biblically, it is associated with the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest in the Temple on the sixteenth day of Nissan, which is the second day of the festival of Passover.

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

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

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

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

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

FIFTY DAYS OF PREPARATION

The walk from redemption to revelation is not a random wander. God is a God of purpose and order. His greatest gift to His children, after the gift of life, is the potential and the ability to change and to grow as we learn of Him and follow His ways. 

True freedom that has worth, reality and meaning is only found through the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of holiness given at Shavuot.

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

 

HOW TO COUNT THE OMER

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

Blessing to recite:

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

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

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

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

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

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;
Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy Presence.

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

~ Keren Hannah

APOLOGY!  Although scheduled for pre-Passover due to technical difficulties this post was not published. The Omer count began on the evening of 29th March this year, 2021. You can calculate from that date which day of the Omer we now are at. Even if you have missed the beginning there is still plenty of time to join in the count until the celebration of the 50th Jubilee day of Shavuot! 

If you would like to receive pdfs of meditations for each week of the Omer please send a request to my email address – kerenhgp10@gmail.com

Many blessings,

Keren Hannah

YOM HA’ZIKARON – ISRAEL’S MEMORIAL DAY

YOM HA’ZIKARON –  MEMORIAL DAY FOR ISRAEL’S FALLEN

(Tuesday evening- Wednesday, 14 April 2021)

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In Memorium for the fallen soldiers, security guards, and victims of terror. (ז״ל)

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

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

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

~Keren Hannah

PASSOVER – The Clash of Cultures

PASSOVER – THE CLASH OF CULTURES

The story of Passover, which recounts the Exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt, offers the opportunity to relive the struggle between two opposing perspectives of reality – that of the Egyptian empire on the one hand and that of the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on the other.

Egypt, at the time of the Exodus, ruled the world with its advanced science, strong system of religion, and mighty army. Weaker nations and cultures were swallowed up and subjugated. This historic form of slavery effectively silenced any voice that spoke in opposition to the prevailing and powerful Egyptian reality. Then God did the unexpected. He broke in and interfered with the laws of nature and history. A humble shepherd, born to the family of Israel yet raised in the Egyptian palace, walked into Pharaoh’s court carrying the rod of authority of the One true God of Israel and history changed
forever.

* * *

As the Exodus account unfolds we see that Pharaoh, the god-king of Egypt, refuses to heed Moses’ directive from God, “Let My people go, that they might worship Me.” 
In so doing, Pharaoh not only is denying the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, he also is rejecting the historical reality they represent – a process of Redemption, set in place and being evolved by the God of all Creation. The Almighty is working out His vision and goal for this world and is not limited by the natural laws that He established. He can choose to “pass over” the set, natural order of things.

Despite the succession of plagues that befall the Egyptians, Pharaoh stubbornly refuses to relent and God declares:

“I will pass through Egypt on that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, man and beast. And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am God!” (Exo. 12:12)

“That night” becomes the turning point of the narrative of history. The Israelites are prepared, the chosen and set apart lamb is slain, the blood is applied to the doorposts of their homes, and the meal with matza is eaten. As God passes through He sees the blood and “passes over” their homes, while He visits death upon the Egyptians. A breach is opened and the slaves are ready to pour through into freedom from Pharaoh’s bondage.

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The constant remembrance of the Exodus is commanded by the Lord through Moses: “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place…”  The Haggadah, the story of the Exodus read at the annual Passover Seder meal, recounts:

“… in every generation a person is obligated to consider themselves as if they themselves had gone out of Egypt this very day.”

In addition to this vivid annual reminder, observant Jews recite the Shema twice daily, during the morning and evening prayers, which includes the pronouncement:
“I am the Lord, your God, Who has removed you from the land of Egypt to be a God to you. I am the Lord, your God…”  This is followed by the declaration:

“The Helper of our forefathers are You alone, forever, Shield and Saviour… From Egypt you redeemed us, O Lord, our God, and from the house of slavery you liberated us.”

                            (Exo. 13:3; also Num. 9:1-3, Deut. 7:18-19)

Why the necessity to remember the Exodus daily? The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, which means limitations or boundries, is derived from the root tzarrar (tzaddi, resh, resh) that means: shut in, restrain, limit, border. Other words from this root are metzar, meaning: distress, confined place,  tzar (narrow) and tzarah (sorrow, anguish). The scroll of Jonah describes his entrapment in the dark depths of the belly of the big fish and how: “In my distress (mitzara) I called to the Lord.” In Psalm 118:5, King David writes:

“From my distress (metzar) I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a free, wide place.”

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In this regard, we can appreciate Victor Frankl’s description in Man’s Search for Meaning of his liberation from a Nazi concentration camp. He relates how a few days after the liberation (while the inmates were awaiting transportation) he found the courage to leave the confines of the camp and he walked for miles and miles. There was no one in sight – just wide-open spaces of earth and sky. Suddenly he stopped, looked up, and fell to his knees. He recalls how he had only one sentence in mind, which he repeated over and over:

“I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space.”

* * *

The same mighty God who delivered and redeemed us from Egypt is able to daily deliver and redeem us from our distresses!. Each one can be brought from the present Mitzrayim – the idol-worshipping, enslaving culture of death that surrounds and attempts to subjugate us – into the freedom of glorious eternal life intended by our Creator. We are invited out of the darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God and the embrace of its culture of life.

As we grow in knowledge of our Father and our King, so our trust and confidence grows and we can more effectively work with Him in not staying trapped in our bondages, our mitzarim. In the strength of the Lord, and by the Spirit of holiness God gives us, we are enabled to break through imposed boundaries and natural limitations. Our lives then can reflect in greater measure the truths of His Kingdom and we can more clearly see all through His perspective of reality.

Passover teaches us that Redemption is not a ‘one time’ event but an ongoing process, both on the national, historical level and in our personal, individual lives. To those whom His hand ‘passes over’ His steadfast love is new every morning, and we can say every day:

“I thank You Lord that You have answered me and have become my Salvation… This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in Him! (Psalms 118:21, 23)

 

~ Keren Hannah

 

 ‘Family Passover Seder’    Lynn Feldman  
Mixed Media Applique

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PESACH and TIKKUN OLAM – Healing of the World Begins with Healing of Ourselves

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The goal of all efforts is to bring about the restitution
of the unity of God and the world.
The restoration of unity is a constant process and its accomplishment will be the
essence of Messianic Redemption.

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

When we are redeemed by the grace of God from slavery to the Pharaohs of the world, and choose to worship God and to walk in His ways, our individual journey through life becomes a constant effort to align our wills with our Creator’s. The challenge we face is to subdue our natural urges and often negative inclinations in order to meld our character in harmony with His and to better reflect the beauty of His image in which we were created. 

The four basic negative traits that played a key role in the Fall of the first Adam, as described by Israeli Rabbi, Ezra Jacobs, are:

1. ta’avah, passion (the desire for pleasure)
2. kavod, honor-seeking (the desire for power and control)
3. kinah, jealousy (covetousness, or resentment of another; the basis for murder)
4. sinat chinam, baseless hatred (that results in lashon ha’ra – evil speech)

When the first Adam sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, both the physical and spiritual worlds were affected and underwent fundamental damage and changes. For Adam and Eve, their wondrous relationship with God, as well as the wholeness of body, soul and spirit they had enjoyed, was tragically shattered and broken. Ever since, the desire of both our Father in Heaven and of mankind has been to restore the relationship and to heal what was broken. In Jewish thought and expression, the aim and effort to do this is termed tikkun olam – the healing, or rectification, of the world (including man himself).

The face (panim in Hebrew) reflects man’s internal world, and the head [ rosh – meaning ‘first’] is considered to be the king [the ruling factor] over his entire personality.*

The four primary senses are expressed in a person’s face. The eyes – sight, the ears – hearing, the nose – smell, the mouth – taste and speech. These important faculties play a role in the healing of the four negative traits of brokenness listed above. How so?

  1. Ta’avah pertains to raw, unregulated passion that results in immorality. In the Garden of Eden the snake lured Eve with the promise that if she ate of the fruit, “Then your eyes will be opened” (Genesis 3:5-6). She was tempted by the desire to see and know more. The fire of passion is not a bad thing in and of itself and it can be healed by its transformation into something spiritual and beautiful. To accomplish this, the eyes need to be directed to the truth and beauty of the Torah – the teachings of the Word of God – whereby the mind will gain wisdom (chochma). This is connected to the right brain and the intellect, which is associated with the masculine personality. In general, men tend to find greater temptation by way of their eyes.
    As the saying goes, “The eyes are the window of the soul.” When the soul is filled with the truth and wisdom of God the eyes will shine His warm and welcoming light.

2.  Kavod pertains to one’s ego and results in idolatry. The  pride and honor-seeking of the ego needs to be broken down and rectified by the trait of humility (anavah), which is a component of love (ahavah). The ears play a role in this because their function is to hear. To truly listen and to hear the ‘heart’ of the other, whether it be a fellow human being, one’s spouse, or God Himself, needs the care and sensitivity afforded by humility. This quality is connected to the left-brain, which is the seat, as it were, of the heart and emotions and is associated with the feminine personality. The true hearing of the ears results in the gaining of binah, deeper heartfelt understanding. 

3. Kinah pertains to the negative trait of jealousy that breeds anger and ultimately leads to murder. The first example of this was Cain and Abel. The structure  of the nose, with two nostrils encased in one organ reflects the balance and unity there should be between the right and left brain, the mind and the heart, the masculine and feminine, man and God. Physiologically, it is compared to the head and the spinal column. When the wisdom of the mind and the understanding of the heart are in harmony, one gains da’at – intimate knowledge and perception – that results in the true performance of God’s will. One is able to do the commandments/mitzvot in loving obedience and to consistently hurry to carry out physical deeds of kindness. 

4. Sinat chinam pertains to baseless hatred that leads to lashon ha’ra – the evil speech of slander, lies, gossip, and mockery and belittling of others. The snake in the Garden, in effect, slandered God by intimating, “Did God really say…?” and planted doubt as to God’s character in Eve’s mind. The harmony of will between man and God was torn apart as a result. The healing of this disconnect lies in the mouth with its faculty of speech – the physical gift that sets man apart from the animals and enables relationship with others and with God.
The mouth is connected with keter (crown) – the head of a person, which represents his or her all-encompassing will and being, and which enables a person to make decisions and to express thoughts in speech. Using this gift for evil is considered one of the greatest sins and the healing of it requires the mercy, grace and redemption of God. Which fact links together with the celebration of Pesach, Passover, and needs a separate paragraph in order to explore the concept! 

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PESACH AND THE EXODUS

Two years ago, in September 2020, the Hebrew year 5780 began. In Hebrew it is written as tav-shin-peh (תשפ) as peh has the numerical value of 80. In Hebrew peh is the word for mouth. The decade will continue until 5790. We may conclude, therefore, that a major focus of the decade is on the mouth. God is saying it’s time to be still and know that HE is God!  

PESACH – the very name connects it with the mouth. Peh is ‘mouth’ and sach is ‘speaks’. The mouth speaks! Before the redemption from Egypt the people of Israel suffered slavery and the complete annihilation of their individuality,  the subjugation of their will and they lost the freedom to speak. Egypt was the national embodiment of the Snake in Eden, even displayed in Pharaoh’s head dress, and it literally robbed, crushed and destroyed the lives and will of the Israelites. Only then were they rebuilt into a new and united nation set apart unto God. Paradoxically, Egypt was the volatile womb that gave birth to the nation of Israel. Through their common experience of suffering, they could build on a foundation of genuine love and empathy with one another. To this day we are exhorted, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” Never dishonor or dehumanize another human being by forgetting to honor the image of God in which they are created.

In Egypt, the Hebrews witnessed the Ten Plagues, which, as they would realize at Mount Sinai, corresponded with the Ten Words He spoke and to the Ten Sayings He used at Creation to create the world. These, together with His miracles of redemption and provision, demonstrated without a doubt His existence, power and sovereignty over all creation. Now, the people of Israel were ready to be His witnesses, a light to the nations, and to express the reality of His Presence in the physical world by simply fulfilling His will, now delineated for them in His Torah given to Moses.

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THE DECADE OF THE PEH (Mouth) AND THE FINAL REDEMPTION

Hatred and lashon ha’ra (bad or evil talk), we may understand, are healed by the full acceptance and expression of God’s will in the world. Sadly, we know from history that the lesson was not fully learned by Israel and the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam, baseless hatred. Rome literally plowed under the City of God, Jerusalem, and the majority of the Jewish People were scattered to the four corners of the earth. The Sages believe that the full healing of the mouth will occur at the Final Redemption. Pesach relives the Exodus from Egypt and the first redemption and Sukkot will celebrate the final redemption, which will be permanent and eternal. 

As we are approaching the culmination of history and the fulfilment of God’s plan of Redemption it is no wonder the emphasis is on how we speak and the words we are proclaiming. The restoration of the mouth as a wellspring, speaking only words of prayer, goodness, praise, encouragement and goodwill, can happen with those who are surrendered to the love and will of God.

We now are eagerly awaiting the arrival of  Mashiach ben David as King of kings, to usher in the Final Redemption and to reign from Jerusalem over His Father’s Kingdom on earth. Then all God’s people will be fully restored and Jerusalem will be established on a solid foundation of Peace.  

“May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!”**

 The exhortation, ” Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” is, at heart, a prayer for the restoration of the unity and wholeness of the nation of Israel and for all the people of God to be healed and restored and established on the bedrock of His chesed, lovingkindness, and His perfect justice.

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May it be soon and in our time!

~ Keren Hannah 

Footnotes:

* Rabbi Ezra Jacobs, Coming Full Circle, 251

** Psalm 29:11

HANUKKAH – SEEING THE LIGHT

Hanukkah is the only feast that originated in the land of Israel.
Pesach originated in Egypt; Purim in Persia; Shavuot and Sukkot in the wilderness. Hanukkah, however, happened Poh – פה – here, in Israel. The Holy Temple was cleansed and rededicated and the miracle of the menorah lights occurred. Light broke in and overcame the darkness of the Greco-Roman idolatry and materialism.

The golden menorah represented the Presence of God and the light of His Truth. The details of the menorah are significant, e.g., the almond decoration. Almonds, in their shape, resemble eyes and the light of the menorah enables us to see reality in the light of the Word of God.

The main purpose of lighting the Hanukkah lights is to see them, and not to use them for any practical purpose besides enjoying and sharing their radiance with others. We, therefore, place them by a window or outside the front doorway when possible. We see the lovely dancing lights and enjoy their beauty and remember; “He Who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”  As the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (z”l) said, “HaShem’s eyes are glued to this Land – and ours should be too.”

He also said something I had not considered before: “The downfall of the world is, ‘And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating’ (Gen. 3:6). The way Chava (Eve) looked at the tree was the beginning of all darkness.” She was deceived by the serpent to see things differently from the way God had intended and instructed.  That is one of the enemy’s chief goals until today – to distort our perspective and understanding of life through lies, distortion and illusion.

To bring healing to Eve’s mistake, women have the blessing of lighting the Shabbat candles which cause darkness to flee and bring the peace and light of God’s Presence into the home in a special way. Lighting the candles of the hanukkiah, however, is about “seeing the light” and the redemptive healing of Hanukkah is “…when we fix the way we look at anything in the world.”

I love author Daniel Gordis’ description, in his book Here to Stay, of his family’s first Hanukkah after they had made Aliyah to Israel. Soon after arriving, Daniel and his family spent Hanukkah with five other families in the Negev desert:

Standing around the flames that were struggling to stay alight in the gentle desert wind, we huddled together to try to block the breeze so that the candles would not blow out. This is it, I found myself thinking; this is the ‘kibbutz galuyot,’ the “ingathering of the exiles” that the [Jewish people] have talked about and dreamt of  for two thousand years.

With the chill of the desert night getting stronger and stronger, we found ourselves huddled closer and closer together.  I looked at my kids. For centuries, Jews had been trying to make sure that the lights did not get extinguished, that Jewish life would somehow continue. And here were my kids, living this wonderful moment, part of this small band of people drawn to this one place, just to keep the flame alive.

Hanukkah miracles all over again, I thought. And now, because my kids live here, they not only celebrate them — they’re part of the miracle.

 

The beautiful menorah in the Holy Place stood for the light of God’s Word – His Torah – His truth and teachings for mankind. When we study the Scriptures throughout the year we need to be asking ourselves, for example: “What am I learning from this Word? Is it making me more holy? Am I walking in its ways to the best of my ability? Am I aware of the miracles that surround me every day?”

But… at Hanukkah, as Shlomo Carlebach also reminds us, we are to see the lights in grateful delight and to simply be. 

“No calculations, no expectations; I’m just looking at the light and I’m so glad it’s there.”

~Keren Hannah

TORAH – A BIRD’S EYE VIEW – Introduction

SERIES – A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF THE 5 BOOKS OF THE TORAH

More and more people are beginning to understand the value of the regular study of the weekly Torah portion. Many older folk have asked me, “Isn’t it too late for me to begin now?” My response is: “Better late than never!”

That, also, is my response to learning Hebrew and exploring the Hebraic heritage. Why? In each case every effort you invest is rewarded many times over.

In ‘A Bird’s Eye View,’ we examine an overview of each book as a whole, in order to lay a foundation for the study of the weekly portion. We will examine important themes and highlight  topics and aspects to look out for as you go through the book. It helps to see the bigger picture!

My hope, too, is that we approach the study of God’s Word with love, as a form of worship of Him. How we approach the Word causes it to become a Torah of love.
When we read it with an expectancy, with an ear to hear, we begin to identify God’s voice speaking to us as a loving Father who longs to make His love and will known.
In addition, we come to a greater understanding of just how relevant and applicable His Word is in relation to our personal lives and to what is happening in the world in general.

This year, may you invest some of your time in reading and exploring the layers of meaning in every weekly Torah portion. No matter how many annual cycles you accomplish, they only become richer and deeper.

~ Keren Hannah

TORAH READING CYCLE – 5781 – 2020 / 2021

TORAH READING CYCLE – 5781

17th October 2020 / 2 October 2021

This week we begin afresh the reading of the Torah – G-d’s letter of love to us His people.

We are always “beginning” and yearning to learn more of our Father in Heaven and to see HIs face more clearly. As we delight in His Word this year, and follow in the footsteps of our Master Yeshua, may we continue in our quest to grow more like Him – and to become more of our true selves created in His image – more holy and more whole, for His greater glory in the earth.

The six letters of the first Hebrew word of the Torah – בראדית (B’reisheet – In the beginning)  spell out the Godly attributes we need to be strengthening in our emulation of Him.

ב – B – bitachon – TRUST        Have complete trust in G-d and His love.

ר – R – ratzon – HIS WILL        Have a deep desire to live in accord with His will.

א – EI – ahavah – LOVE           Have a great love for Him and for our fellow human beings.

ש – SH – shtikah – SILENCE   Have godly self control and wisdom of words.

י – EE – yeerat HaShem  – AWE    Have awe and a reverential fear for G-d.

ת – T -TORAH     Finally, study the Torah in love and receive the transformation and                               holiness it will impart into your life.

 

We are happy to share the excellent FFOZ calendar this year.

Please return to the Home Page and click on the widget in the right-hand column in order to access.

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS – 10 DAYS OF AWE – 2020

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REFLECTIONS – 10 DAYS OF AWE – 2020

The 10 Days of Awe, between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, 2020, is an unprecedented time in this generation.

We need to turn our hearts, minds, and souls even more attentively to the Shepherd of our souls and have our ears attuned to hear the “still, small voice” of the Spirit of Holiness. 

This is a gift to you from His-Israel to print out and to reflect upon during the ten days.

 I pray and trust that our faithful Abba Father will bless you with fresh vision, increased strength to walk in the path He has uniquely designed for you, and an anointing of joy in your service in the extension of His Kingdom on earth.

In the faithful and compassionate One who loves us with an eternal love,
Keren Hannah

 

WONDERS BY MY WAYSIDE #12 – FLOWERS OF THE FIELD by DEBRA ELFASSY

THE ANEMONE – KALANIT and the CYCLAMEN – RAKEFET

“According to the Bible, the ‘inner’ life of nature is closed to man.
The Bible does not claim that things speak to man; it only claims that things speak to God.
Inanimate objects are dead in relation to man; they are alive in relation to God.
They sing to God.
The mountains melt like wax, the waters tremble at the presence of the Lord.
(Psalm 77:17; 97:5).
Whose ear has heard the trees sing to God?
Has our reason ever thought of calling upon the sun to praise the Lord?
And yet, what the ear fails to perceive, what reason fails to conceive, the Bible makes clear…it is a higher truth, to be grasped by the spirit.
Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these.
The world’s beauty and power are as naught compared to Him.
The grandeur of nature is only the beginning.
Beyond the grandeur is God.”

                                                     ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

I have so enjoyed taking you along with me on my highways and byways of the hillsides in Israel. Were we to record each and every one of the myriad wonders along our way we would surely need eternity to do so. In spite of Israel’s tiny land area, she offers a diverse flora of over 2,500 plant species.

Today we shall ” Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
(Matthew 6:28)

Although springtime here is relatively short, lasting from February to April, during this season the Land explodes with an impressive array of wildflowers, heralded by carpets of Anemones and Cyclamens. The exhibition is perpetuated by the appearance of Irises, Orchids, Wild Hollyhocks, Poppies, Buttercups, Crown Daisies, Field Marigolds, the Syrian Cornflower, and the Lupin.

We Israelis love our wildflowers. Even in pre-school children learn the names of our most common flowers of the field, with songs and stories about them. We shall take leave of this mini-series by focusing on two of Israel’s most beloved: the Kalanit (Anemone) and the Rakefet (Cyclamen).

THE ANEMONE – KALANIT

The name Kalanit derives from the Hebrew word kalah, or ‘bride’ because this striking flower is considered as radiantly beautiful and feminine as a blushing bride on her wedding day.

One of the first flowers to bloom in early spring, and among the most profuse, dotting our fields and hillsides with splashes of scarlet, the Kalanit was chosen to be Israel’s national flower in 2013. It won first place over the beloved Cyclamen and the exotic Purple Iris.

Each year, following the rainy season, the landscape of the Eshkol region of Israel’s southern Negev is transformed into a giant red carpet. Observing this breathtaking phenomenon became such a popular annual event that a festival called Darom Adom (Red South) was birthed to celebrate the spectacle.

A beautiful Hebrew poem about the Kalanit was written in 1945 by Natan Alterman. Its lyrics were sealed for posterity when Israeli singer Shoshana Damari made the song ‘Kalaniyot’ famous. She has a special place in the hearts of Israelis for the beautiful songs of Eretz Israel that she sang to our soldiers during Israel’s many wars.

Here is a translated excerpt from the song:

The evening comes,
the sunset on the hill burns
I am dreaming and my eyes see:
To the valley a small girl descends
and it blazes with a fire of Anemones.

Most insects cannot see the colour red, but one exception is the black beetle that pollinates the Kalanit. The flower’s open scarlet bowl welcomes the clumsy insect to land on its surface and roll to the centre where the pollen is. To keep its pollen dry, the Anemone closes when the sun goes down or when clouds overshadow it. It is not uncommon for these eccentric beetles to jump in just before the petals close, to protect themselves from the rain.

THE CYCLAMEN – RAKEFET

The bashful, delicate Cyclamen, once the unofficial national flower of Israel, is now a protected plant. With its sweetly-scented flowers and long blooming season (from December through April) the Cyclamen can grow either singly or in a carpet of blooms.

Its individual stems have flowers that appear to be upside down, their faces ever so gracefully bowing downward, something no other flower does. Its petals grow upward instead of outward, so that the flowers look like they’re stretching heavenward in adoration. It also has earned the name ‘Solomon’s Crown.’ This unique design protects its delicate stigma and stamens from the winter rains. Its heart-shaped leaves give it a romantic touch.

This unique type of flower is pollinated by large bees performing “buzz pollination” which requires an intentional buzzing that shakes the lower parts of the flower, causing the pollen to be released.

The intense heat and drought of the summer months lead to the demise of the plant’s above-the-soil parts. The fruits are capsules which then curl up in spirals and sink into the earth. The plant survives thanks to its shallow subterranean tubers. 

Naturally, a song needed to be written about the enchanting Cyclamen. ‘Rakefet‘ became an instant and all-time hit in the 1950s when it was sung by singers like Esther Ofarim. Here is a translated excerpt from the song:

From beneath a rock
a very sweet Cyclamen blooms suddenly
And the shining sun kisses and decorates her with a pink crown.
 ‘Cyclamen, Cyclamen’ the bird twitters,
‘Peek at me for a moment.’
But the glorious Cyclamen hides within the
rock, hidden from every living being.

So, what remains is for us to join with nature in this symphony of song.

“We thank Thee Lord for every flower that blooms,
 
Birds that sing, fish that swim, and the light of the moon
We thank Thee every day as we kneel and pray
That we were born with eyes to see these things. “  

                            ( Sung by Jim Reeves, 1960s)

Let us indeed, ” Bless the Lord, all His works in all places of His dominion:
B
less the Lord, O my soul.” (Psalm 103:22)

                         Amen.

WONDERS by my Wayside #11 – THE WHITE SQUILL – An Overnight Bloomer By Debra Elfassy

WONDERS BY MY WAYSIDE # 11                by Debra Elfassy

The Israeli folk saying: “The White Squill blooms and the summer ends” perfectly describes the arrival of this messenger announcing that Autumn is on our doorstep.

The White Squill, Chatzav in Hebrew, appears without warning. One day there’s no sign of it and the next it showcases its full glory. Their appearance provides a welcome sight for eyes weary of the monotony of a landscape mercilessly burnt to a crisp by the blistering heat of a long summer.

Its fluorescent stalk shoots up to a height of up to two metres, giving the plant its most distinctive feature and making it refreshingly conspicuous on the barren landscape. This loftiness is not in vain, for by September the searing heat is broken by gentle mountain breezes. The Squill uses these breezes to gracefully wave back and forth and, in so doing, disseminates its seeds far and wide on the wings of the wind.

The Squill can boast up to 250 blossoms. Its spectacular blooming begins at the bottom of the stem, then a new cluster of some 30 flowers is added every day. These open above the previous ones, which have already begun to wilt.

As few other flowers bloom in Autumn, the Squill enjoys the undivided attention of pollinators. The blossom is filled with nectar and lies unabashedly exposed to a large variety of pollinators, offering no defence mechanism against unwanted “nectar robbers” like ants and flies.

The flower opens in the dark of night at around 1am. Its almost luminous white colour attracts nocturnal insects. It produces its nectar only until 5am. and then remains open all day until around 7pm. 

The Chatzav sprouts from a bulb beneath the soil. Carrying the record for being the biggest bulb in Israel, it can reach 25cm in diameter. The Hebrew name Chatzav has the same root as the words for axe and the hewing of wood or rocks. No doubt this came about due to its ability to force its roots and bulb into small cracks in the rocky terrain, further splitting the rocks. 

This huge bulb is a storeroom of nutrients and is what enables the plant to survive challenging weather conditions like extreme heat or cold, lack of light and drought. This nutritious storeroom is however also a disadvantage in that it attracts foraging animals like the boar, the deer, the mole rat and the porcupine who have no difficulty digging it up.

However, the Squill has a secret weapon: a repelling toxin in its leaves containing cardiac glycosides and skin irritants. In addition it harbours tiny needles in its tissues which damage the intestinal wall and its blood vessels, releasing the toxins to penetrate the blood system. So, when digging for the Chatzav bulb, one needs to don protective gloves to prevent blistering of the skin. In the Middle Ages this toxin was harnessed and used as a cardiac stimulant and as rat poison.

At the end of spring, when the leaves have wilted, they become toxin-free and animals are then free to chew the leaves enthusiastically.

The Jewish sages record that Joshua ordered the planting of the Squill to mark the territorial borders of the tribes of Israel and to mark the boundaries between neighbouring farms. Its toxic skin irritants discouraged malicious individuals from uprooting the plant, thereby obscuring property borders as forbidden in Deuteronomy 19:14.

According to tradition, the Chatzav is placed in the vicinity of Arab graves in order to protect them. The Bedouin utilise the bulbs to make poison to kill rodents and they believe that a sighting of a profusion of White Squill heralds a rainy winter ahead. 

In one experiment during which a bulb was unearthed and divorced from the soil, its food and water content enabled it to bloom rather miraculously for ten years!

The life of the Chatzav can be divided into two stages:

In November its impressive leaves appear, heralding a hibernating stage which lasts through the winter and early spring. The leaves gather nutrients from the sun and rain to fill the bulb until they wilt at the end of spring and then disappear without a trace.

The next sign of life comes with the sudden appearance of its stalk and accompanying magnificent display of blossoms just in time for the Feast of Trumpets and Rosh Hashanah, heralding a new season; the new school year; new beginnings.

So, while the world sleeps, the White Squill blooms. At the darkest hours of the night it blossoms and produces its sweet nectar. 

We can glean great encouragement from the lofty Squill. Even the Scriptures attest to the fact that great things can happen in the darkest of nights:

  • David said, “Thou hast visited me in the NIGHT.”(Psalm 17:3)….” In the NIGHT His song shall be with me”.(42:8)
  • Job in his distress said that God “giveth songs in the NIGHT”.(35:10)
  • When Abram expresses his pain at being childless, God promises him that he would indeed bare a son and told him to prepare a sacrifice. 
  • As NIGHT FALLS and Abram falls into a deep sleep, God confirms the promise of the Land of Israel, defining its borders and sealing it with the covenant of circumcision, the sign of His eternal covenant with Israel.
  • After the Philistines had plugged the Hebrew wells, the Lord appeared to Isaac THE SAME NIGHT, saying: ” Fear not for I am with thee, and will bless thee.”(Genesis 26:24)
  • To Jacob too God spoke “in the VISIONS OF THE NIGHT…and said fear not to go down to Egypt…I will there make of thee a great nation…and I will surely bring thee up again…”(Genesis 46:2-4)
  • The Passover, which heralded freedom and redemption is called “THE NIGHT OF THE Lord”.(Exodus 12:42)
  • When the Israelites were sandwiched between the wall of the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptians, “…the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind ALL THAT NIGHT”. ( Exodus 14:21)
  • It was by NIGHT that God told Gideon to attack the Midianites; that they had already been delivered into his hand. (Judges 7:9)
  • Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet ALL NIGHT.
  • Nehemiah rose BY NIGHT to go and view the broken walls of Jerusalem, inspiring him to say ” Let us rise up and build!”
  • God spoke to Daniel in his NIGHT VISIONS.
  • BY NIGHT the angel opened the prison doors for the Apostles. (Acts 5:19)
  • Paul, in a ship tempest-tossed reassured his sailing companions of their survival ” For there stood by me THIS NIGHT the angel of God…saying, Fear not.” (Acts 27 :23,24)

Llet us take leave of the White Squill with the words of David:

“On the glorious splendour of Your majesty,  And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5)                                                         

FESTIVAL CYCLE CALENDAR 5781 / 2020-2021

Our gift to you for the new calendar year 5781:

DOUBLE SIDED – FESTIVAL CYCLE CALENDAR  2020 – 2021

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)

We hope you will enjoy the beautiful antique photographs of shepherds in Israel, along with  a personal rendition of Psalm 23 by my beloved husband, of blessed memory, Dwight A. Pryor.

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

 

 

FESTIVAL CYCLE 2020 -2021

A 5781 prayer and blessing to you from His-Israel:

May this new year bring us all deeper vision, 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 sacred awareness of life lead us into a closer, more intimate, relationship with our faithful Abba-Father.

As a prayer, I’d like to share a verse from Alden Solovy’s poem  For Grace

“Maker of heaven and earth,
Grant us the wisdom to choose lives of grace
Of vision and understanding,
Seeing each moments as a choice
To bless our companions
With strength and wisdom,
With honour and respect,

Blessed are the gentle moment of grace.”

Amen.

May 5781 find our hearts overflowing with love for the Lord and one another, our souls filled with wonder, and our bodies in constant praise, so that we each, like Yeshua, may truly:

“Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength; and love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

For His holy Name’s sake, in love.

Keren and Cindy

TU B’AV – 15th AV – SWEETHEART’S DAY! (5 August 2020)

AV, in general, is a paradoxical month. It begins with nine days of semi-mourning that conclude with the solemn fast day of Tisha B’Av (9th of Av).

During this time we recall the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem, the occupation by foreign powers, and the exile of the majority of the Jewish people from the Land given them by God.

 

Thereafter, the mood changes. We read the words of consolation given by the prophet Isaiah and remember the promises of God for the redemption and return of His people to restore and rebuild His Land. We, indeed, rejoice as we witness the fulfilment of these prophetic promises in our day!

We then arrive at the middle day of Av, which becomes a pinnacle of joyous potential as it is recognized as Sweetheart’s Day in Israel. The story of how this came to be also involves a paradox as it begins with tragedy and destruction and ends with the promise of new life and hope!

A sobering account in the book of Judges relates how certain men of the tribe of Benjamin, which was situated in the Jerusalem area, had committed acts of rape and murder against members of the other tribes. In response, the tribes gathered together and attacked and destroyed the small tribe of Benjamin, including the women and children. Only 600 men escaped the attack and fled to the cliffs of Rimmon, which are situated northeast of Jerusalem. Later, after the intervention of the prophet Samuel, the tribes repented of the severity of their action and they made peace with the Benjaminites.

Realizing the men now needed to find wives in order to build up the tribe once again, the elders advised them to go to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant was housed, on Tu B’Av – the 15th day of the month of Av, in order to attend the celebration of the annual grape harvest .
They advised, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch; if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and choose each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and return to the land of Benjamin” (Judges 21:20-21).

 

YAMIM LEVANIM – WHITE DAYS

Tu b’Av marks the day the summer begins waning. A cooling begins and the land and vegetation baked by the summer sun begin to feel the gentle, refreshing touch of increased dew. The days between Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur are called in Hebrew ‘Yamim Levanim’ –  White Days. Why?

At the time of Tu B’Av the white squill, with its delicate bridal-like blossoms, and resembling slim candles raised above the brown landscape, blooms all over Israel.

 

 

The virgin maidens, to retain modesty and similarity of dress for rich and poor alike, and in a reflection of the blossoming white squill, would don white dresses. They would joyously dance in the vineyards of Shiloh, and wedding matches were made.

To this day, therefore, the fifteenth of Av is celebrated in Israel as “Sweetheart’s Day”!

 

Just over six weeks later, on 10th Tishrei, Yom Kippur is observed when, once more, all traditionally dress in white. Again, it’s a fast day, but this one is combined with joy. Forgiveness is received after repentance, and, reflecting bridal holiness and purity, we stand like angels before the Throne of Almighty God, offering Him our hearts and lives in gratitude for His mercy, grace, and covenantal love.

 

Spiraling Up! AV – GROWTH

GROWTH

The Hebrew name of the month of Av is spelled with an aleph and a bet.  ( א ב )

Many question why the Torah begins with a bet, the second letter of the AlephBet, and not an aleph, which is the first. Many answers are offered but one I like is that the aleph is an ‘invisible’ letter in that it has no sound of its own; it helps to carry and emphasize the sound of the letter that precedes or follows it. Aleph is also the letter than begins the name of G-d, Elohim, as in El Elyon – אל אליוןthe Almighty G-d in the highest. The Aluf -the One (the numerical value of aleph) eternal, omnipotent, and invisible G-d who spoke all things into being.  

However, as well as being the invisible Creator and Master of the universe, the name Av also tells us that G-d is Avinu Sh’b’Shamaim, our Av – Father in Heaven. 

The letters are also an acronym for emunah ( אמונה ) and bitachon ( ביטחון ) – faith and trust, or security. Truly in Him we can place all our faith and trust!

As a child of G-d, the aim of all our spiritual growth is to gain greater knowledge of our Father in Heaven in order to draw closer in intimate relationship with Him. Our physical growth, from childhood to adulthood, is a natural process; although we can do our part in maintaining bodily health. Our bodies are vessels that house our minds and souls and they are designed to be a temple for G-d’s Presence in the world. The more the body and soul can function together in harmony, the more the light of His Presence can shine in and through us. 

In the annual, agricultural cycle, most growth of fruit and crops occurs during the hot  summer months. Now, as in Israel and the northern hemisphere, the month of Av is in the throes of summer and it is, therefore, an opportune time to examine our personal growth. In reference to the Growth series on the His-Israel website, in our pursuit to spiral up in our spiritual growth, we first need to be clear in our understanding that:

  1. You are worthy. The essential ‘you’ is a radiant soul worthy of honor.
  2. It is G-d’s will that you grow.
  3. You are equipped, in His love and grace, with all you need to grow.

To help us consider the foundational elements, or building blocks, of growth we may consider it as an acronym:

G – Gratitude and Generosity

R – Repentance and Righteousness (Turn and Return)

O – Obedience 

W – Worship and Warfare

T – Truth and Trust

H – Hope and HalleluYah! 

A significant component in our growth as a person, and gaining more awareness and maturity spiritually, is our mind and our thought processes. The question is, “How do we grow our minds?” On the Home Page of His-Israel’s website I posted this picture of Einstein:  

With regard to education, I heard an interesting teaching recently by Rabbi Simon Jacobson where he posed the question, “Looking back on your own schooling, were you taught how to think or what to think?” If you look back on your classes, teachers, lessons, what do you remember? How many “Wow!” moments were there? Times you were thrilled and inspired with a new understanding, something great you hadn’t considered before? Or was it mostly the receiving and memorising of facts – 5+5=10, the multiplication tables, grammar rules, historical and geographical facts, etc., etc.? Speaking for myself, school was predominantly the learning of facts. Cram them in before exams and spew them out as best I could! Of course, facts are important for general knowledge, and one needs to learn the information and data involved in one’s chosen profession or line of work, but this form of education is focussed on telling the student what to think and does not encourage the development of how to think.

Fortunately, Baruch HaShem, I had an English teacher in 9th Grade who brought the “Wow!” factor in her teaching of poetry and literature, and she awakened in me a love for words, books, and writing. In general, however, we weren’t encouraged to ask questions, to explore new approaches or different perspectives on any subject. Rabbi Jacobson also shared an observation made by Ken Robertson, who, in a TED talk, illustrated how the focus of the modern form of education, since the advent of the Industrial Age, is on efficiency and has virtually killed any creativity in children. Children naturally have a creative imagination, they see and explore things with wonder and curiosity. In school, this creativity and “free spiritedness” is usually dampened if not totally extinguished. Rather, they are wired to become almost like an efficient, mechanical machine.It works and is accepted because it’s easier to be told what to think. There’s a kind of security in not having to explore and figure things out for yourself!

So, with the education of a child, in “training up a child in the way it should go,” the issue is not the feeding of information but is rather empowerment. It’s not dictating what must be thought in every area of life without questioning, but rather empowering them to think for themselves. Rather than filling their minds with information – which they can always find on Google!, we should be asking them questions like, “What do you think about this? How would you solve this problem?” This not only encourages them to think for themselves but also inspires confidence in realizing they are being heard and that their ideas matter. We can also apply this same approach in other relationships in our lives.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

Have I been taught, in my schooling and religious experience, what to think or how to think? How has this affected my creativity? How do I teach, or share with, the children or others in my life? 

WHAT IS A MIND?

In an effort to “grow” our minds, we need to ask, “What is my mind?” We can maybe describe it as our brain and thought processes. We know that we have a right brain and a left brain. The right brain is more the absorber, the dreamer, the creative side of our brain, and the left side is the processor, it organizes and gives structure. Often the right is described as the ‘feminine’ side and the left as the ‘masculine.’ The truth is we need a harmony of both in order to have a balanced mind. We need the calculating, logical, and practical capacity of the left brain, however, in order to recognize and to transcend the given reality, it must be balanced with the power to dream, to envision. The right brain is needed to ascend from the material to the spiritual. A truly balanced mind knows how to think; it is able to challenge itself, and to creatively challenge all assumptions and ideas that are fed into it. 

Ideas should always be growing. We need to examine ideas from every angle. Most people don’t like their thoughts or ideas to be challenged, but, to challenge oneself and one’s ideas is part of the process of mental growth – of learning how to think. The Baal Shem Tov once said: “For every question I find an answer, and then for every answer I have a question.” Learning and discovering is an ongoing journey; one in which we should come to the understanding that, “The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know!”  We should never reach a point where we think we know everything and there’s nothing more to learn. Our minds should always retain mobility and keep growing. 

To challenge thoughts and ideas in a healthy way we need to have a strong foundation of solid principles. Our Creator knew this and provided us with His Word – the Rock of truth on which we can stand.  However, we all have attitudes, perceptions, and biases, which are learned or inherent. If they become too rigid they can be barriers to keeping an open and growing mind. The key to prevent this blockage of our thinking is humility. With the attribute of true humility we can honor another’s perspective, even if it contradicts our own. Humility keeps communication open, respectful, and possible. Pride and ego cause polarisation and the awful discord we see in so many areas today – whether in politics, the media, religions, and even in families and friendships. If you dare to disagree with anyone you’re liable to be attacked! The saddest thing is to see children, from birth, and through their school curriculum, being programmed to hate, to violate truth, and to kill other human beings. 

The beauty of a mind that is trained how to think is its flexibility – the ability to imagine a different reality, to think outside the box, and outside of one’s comfort zone. It has the ability to say, “I am not 100% sure about this issue. I will look and think again.” Then one can discover if one has any subjective bias or entrenched preconceived notions and gain even greater clarity and certainty on the issue at hand.

Bottom line – knowing how to think is a vital part of life itself. It affects how we interact with others, how we see ourselves, how we build true relationships. Are we prepared to be open minded and flexible in our thinking to openly and lovingly hear the perpective of another person and try to understand it? And then, also humbly and lovingly share the perspective we have? If so, then our communication will be “for the sake of Heaven” and not just to bolster our own ego.

May we aim to keep, in general, an open-mindedness, to not fall into a “herd mentality” or succumb to peer pressure on important issues. 

May we stay humble and teachable, with assurance and confidence in our G-d given ability to think creatively and with godly imagination. 

May we have joy in learning and in doing what our Father has called us to do. 

May we allow our holy soul to shine the love and truth of our Creator through our minds into the world around us – for His glory. 

Amen.