The ‘Plot’ of History

By and large it seems that this present generation is an ahistorical generation. What has gone before is ignored and of little interest. During the Three Weeks – and at any time of reflection and remembrance – we do well to consider why History is, in fact, important and what is lost when we do not deem it so.

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Hashiveinu!  Turn us to You, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old.” (Lamentations 5:21)

I am not sure if it is there anymore but, before the recent major renovations, a quote attributed to the Baal Shem Tov was inscribed above the exit of the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It read: 

       “Forgetfulness leads to exile, while remembrance is the secret of redemption.”

The Feast days and the fast days are special periods of reflection in the Biblical calendar. They help us delve intentionally into God’s purposes in history; to plumb the depths of meaning both of the joys and of the tragedies and suffering of the past. As we do, we can marvel at how the ancient voices speak directly into our present reality and shine a light of understanding on today’s circumstances of confusion and pain. History, as God’s story, is the cord that binds us together. It is the crucible of the past that unites us and, as we learn from it, we can be transformed and propelled into the future with a clearer vision of His redemptive purposes.

Holocaust survivor, and renowned author and teacher, the late Eli Wiesel (z”l), endured memories of great suffering and he said: “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” If we forget or choose to ignore the suffering and lessons of the past because, maybe, that would disturb our comfort and interfere with our “happiness,” we will lose the plot of our existence. Without the lessons of history, that provide an anchor of core values and deeper meaning, we will be drifting in a shallow, aimless sea of meaninglessness.

Western culture presents us with a perfect example. With its emphasis on youth and pressing forward without regard for, or understanding of, the roots of history there is no awe, respect, or gratitude for what went before. Thus, as Erica Brown describes, “Memorial Day [in the United States] is not observed as a mourning period for the loss of soldiers; it is a day of barbecues, sales, and public pool openings.” We may notice, too, that Thanksgiving has lost its historic and spiritual meaning and has become a day of lavish and excessive turkey dinners and football.  The values have been lost along with the remembrance and there is a shallowness about it all. This also can be applied to Christianity that has cut itself off from the history of its Jewish Roots and the celebrations of Christmas and Easter can be viewed in the same light. The plot has been lost.

God’s timeframe for history is only found in the biblical calendar. At present we are anticipating the Three Weeks of reflection and repentance, which fall between the fast days of 17 Tammuz (1st July) and Tisha b’Av, the 9th of Av (22nd July). On the 17th Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached and, after great suffering and the murder of her inhabitants, on Tisha b’Av the Holy Temple, the House of God, was destroyed.
As tragic as it was, the loss of the building itself was not the deepest sorrow. One can compare the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on 11th September, 2001. The deeper tragedy was the loss of thousands of lives – each of which impacted further ripples of families and friends, as well as all of us who cared with aching hearts. The reasons for mourning on Tisha b’Av are predominantly the loss of the visible reminder of the Presence of God; the loss of His city, a capital that stood as a spiritual heart for His people; the exile from the Land. Another cause is the pain of the baseless hatred – of the enemy and among the people themselves – that were the cause of the destruction. 

While we certainly can rejoice today at the restoration of the land of Israel and her people to it, and the reclamation of Jerusalem as the capital city, the story is not yet over. The warfare and pain continue and we teeter on the brink as a result of man’s forgetfulness and rejection of the ways and purposes of God. And so we mourn and repent, and pray and trust, and our hope is anchored in the mercy, compassion, and power of the God of Israel. We must simply determine to continue to serve Him in faith, and trust that He steadily will accomplish the ultimate goal of His great Redemption for all the earth.

“God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, 
that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
(Numbers 23:19)

~ Keren Hannah

The Liminal Space of ALIYAH   –  Debra Elfassy

“The relationship between G-d and man changes when man ascends
to the Land of Israel.” (Martin Buber)

During the latter part of the 19th Century there began a rustling in the tops of the mulberry trees; the gentle winds of Aliyah began stirring. Man and nature knew that something momentous was about to happen. The long, dark chapter of Jewish exile was about to end as G-d looked down on his people and said, “It is time.” During the two thousand years of persecution and horror in the nations where they’d been scattered, the House of Israel had been reduced to a valley of dry bones. Now the Spirit of G-d was hovering over the valley as it had hovered over the waters of Creation.

Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live. (Ezekiel 37:5,6)

The world looked on, an astonished witness to the ascending of the Jewish people from their graves in the nations as the words of Ezekiel became a reality:

There was a noise and a shaking as bone joined to bone, as sinews and flesh clung to them and skin covered them, but there was as yet no strength in them. Come from the four winds O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. (Ezekiel 37:7-9)

The Spirit of G-d filled them, and they stood upon their feet, a great army.

It was as if a nation clapped its hands and a door swung open. These Jews, so used to ‘crossing over,’ now crossed over from wandering to belonging; from exile to inheriting. But the Land that welcomed them lay as desolate and orphaned as the people; the land was a graveyard of rocks and stones, “a land not sown.”

~ Early Pioneers

The words of the Prophets echoed across the barren landscape:  Fear not, O land: be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things.” (Joel 2:21) … “‘They shall build the waste places; and they shall plant vineyards…they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land…which I have given them,’ saith the Lord thy G-d.” (Amos 9:14,15)

 ALIYAH

The first of the Aliyot began in the late 1800s when some 30 families left Yemen. In addition, some seven thousand Jews left eastern Europe for Palestine during a wave of pogroms. They called themselves ‘BILU’ – ביל״ו, from the Bible verse Isaiah 2:5: Beit Ya’akov Lekhu v’nelikha b’ohr HaShem. “House of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

What began as a trickle soon became a stream as Jews heard and responded to the shofar call to return to Zion. Only two years after Independence, every third person who walked the streets of the newborn State had returned after May 14, 1948. They came – the young and the old; the strong and the sick; pregnant women, and children nearly blinded by trachoma. Together with the traumatized masses who had survived the ravages of the Shoah and displaced persons’ camps of Europe, came Jews from the ghetto gutters of North Africa who had been uprooted from the ancient Jewish communities of the Maghreb. Some came on foot across the blistering sands of the Yemen and Arabian deserts; others came on the ‘wings of eagles’ like Operation Magic Carpet that carried some 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Eretz Israel. Still others others came in rusty, barely seaworthy vessels, carrying their ‘illegal’ human cargo to the shores of Zion under the threat of the British blockade. Had there ever been such a stream of people returning to their ancient homeland in so short a time?

YOSEPH

One of these new olim was a young boy, not yet fourteen, named Yoseph from Fes, Morocco.

He found himself, one day, standing on the platform of the train station; one of a crowd of bewildered children bidding farewell to not only his family, but also his past. Another Abram. Amid the jostling and commotion and tearful goodbyes, Yoseph’s Savta pressed a sandwich and a tiny wrapped parcel into his hands. The train whistle blew, the locomotive billowed clouds of smoke as it pulled out of the station, and Yoseph found himself, too abruptly, a boy alone. Close to tears, and with no appetite, he unfurled the wrapping of Savta’s love-gift. He saw a beautiful silver fork, knife and spoon set that , in the years to come, would always remind him of his childhood home in Fes. Many years later, that young boy was to become my husband, and that little cutlery set my treasure.

The steam locomotive chugged along with its precious human cargo, heading for the port of Casablanca where the bewildered children would be met by a Jewish Agency emissary from the Aliyat Hanoar Department( Youth Aliyah) who would accompany them on a ship headed for Marseilles, France. When the ship docked in Marseilles, they would be accompanied to temporary transit locations; ‘collection points’, so to speak, while they awaited the arrival of the ship that would carry them to their final destination, Eretz Yisrael. The children soon made friends, knit together by the trauma and excitement of their journey; friendships that would last a lifetime. Yoseph’s sojourn in France was spent at an orphanage in Montpelier.

THE NEGBA

One fine day a rather rickety ship, the ‘Negba,’ docked in Marseilles and the dream became a reality. The family of children set sail for Naples, Italy and then for Piraeus, Cyprus where other children joined their ranks on the holy adventure. The ‘Negba’ was now carrying three hundred and three children from the lands of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, France, Brazil, Algeria, America and Holland to their beckoning ancient land, now pregnant with future promise.

On the 8th April,1952, a beautiful spring day, the Negba approached the harbor of Haifa, a stone-stepped city huddling against the biblical Mount Carmel. For Yoseph it was love at first sight; and the realization of G-d’s promise to His people: “Rise up my love, and come away…the winter is past…the flowers appear on the earth…the time of the singing of birds is come…the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give their fragrance.” (Song of Songs 2:10-13) After completing the required customs and quarantine inspections, Yoseph and his companions spent their first night in the Promised Land in an immigrant house high on Mount Carmel.

~ Yossi’s Teudat Zeut – Oleh identity card

THE KIBBUTZ

The following day the youths were met by emissaries representing the new farming communities in Israel, called kibbutzim, who then accompanied each respective group to a ma’abarah or transit camp. Yoseph’s group was selected to go to Kfar Giladi, a kibbutz high up in the north of Israel overlooking the Hula Valley, which straddled the Lebanese border. On their arrival they were greeted with songs and spartan wooden tables bursting with the crops of the Land; a mini-wedding between the Land and her returnees. They were like dreamers, their mouths filled with laughter and their tongues with songs of joy.

~ At Kfar Giladi – Yossi on the left wearing a hat.

They soon learned, however, that this newfound freedom did not come without price. These northern settlements faced constant attacks by Arab marauders and armed gangs who stole their produce and set their fields on fire. They learned that for the Jew in Israel, land meant life and no land meant death; and that Israel was a Jewish island in the midst of a hostile Arab sea. The kibbutz transformed its new halutzim (pioneers) into a new type of man: tillers of the soil in peace and fighters in war.

The dream and aims of the kibbutz movement were to reclaim the Land, restore it to its previous fertility and, also, to restore to the Jewish people its national life, language and culture. Its principles of freedom and equality united all of Israel into one big family. Members ate their meals together in the communal dining room; their children slept together in childrens’ houses. By day Yoseph and his friends joined the seasoned kibbutzniks and toiled the fields, drained the malarial marshes and lifted boulders with their bare hands.  In the evenings they would gather for lectures and poetry recitations, or join in the communal singing and dancing of the hora beneath the stars.

Hebrew, the Language of the Book, used in the Diaspora only for studying the Sacred Scriptures, now became the daily language of the People of the Book. The tongue of Solomon’s love songs and Moses’ Torah became the language of the new State – of bus drivers and street sweepers and statesmen. It was the language now used to buy bread and sugar and shoes.

A NEW HOME

After a suitable period of adjustment, Yoseph, now affectionately called Yossi, and his fellows were sent to the Mikveh Yisrael agricultural institution in Holon, near Tel Aviv, where young Jewish olim were schooled in all fields of Zionist activity, agriculture, and defence. Founded in 1870, its name was taken from two passages in Jeremiah, 14:8 and 17:13. The goal of Mikveh Yisrael was to equip these young boys and girls to establish villages and settlements all over Israel and to help the desert to blossom as a rose.

~ Mikveh Yisrael Agricultural Institution

From Mikveh Yisrael Yossi was absorbed into his new permanent home, Kibbutz Ein-Gev on the yonder shore of Lake Kinneret. Located at the foot of ancient Susita, and nestling in the shadow of the towering Golan Heights, Kibbutz Ein- Gev came under constant Syrian bombardment. Yossi was ‘adopted’ into a kibbutz family and it was not long after that he, together with other boys in his kvutza, became Bar Mitzva. These were the days of tsenna (austerity) when strict rationing was a way of life and all that each young man was given as a Bar Mitzvah gift were a lollipop and a Sefer Torah.

~ Early photograph of Ein Gev

~ Looking across the Kinneret towards Ein Gev from Tiberias

These young pioneers were idealistic men and women of the soil and cared not for material things; even the clothes they wore were shared. They owned nothing, yet lacked nothing. How good and pleasant it was back then when brethren dwelt together in unity. When Yossi wasn’t toiling in the banana and date plantations or milking cows in the reffet, he was baking bread and braided challot for Shabbat in the communal kitchen. He remembers the singing of the songs of Zion around the bonfires of an evening and the long hours of keeping guard under possible sniper fire in the dead of night. He also remembers the endless wars; losing his friends; captaining the boat that would carry wounded IDF soldiers from the Golan across the Kinneret to the hospital in Tiberias. He remembers his long conversations with David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon. The honey and the thorn; the bitter and the sweet. But most of all he remembers celebrating Chaim – Life.

God’s great gift to Israel is the Land and the firstfruits of His increase. (Jeremiah 2:3)  Zion is the centre of His world-plan, and the goal of its fruitfulness is the salvation of the whole world. The fruit will come when the Jews come home.                                        (Martin Buber)

 

~ Debra and Yossi

~ Yossi, 2017, lighting the hannukiah lights

 

GLOSSARY

Aliyah (plural Aliyot)

Bar Mitzva – literally ‘a son of the commandment.’  When a Jewish boy turns 13 a ceremony is held in celebration of his “taking on the yoke of the Torah.” He comes of age to take responsibility for continued study and obedience to G-d’s Word.

challah (plural – challot) special braided bread for Shabbat

Diaspora – lands of exile outside of Israel

Eretz Yisrael – The Land of Israel

hora – a circle folk dance

kibbutz (plural – kibbutzim) – a collective farming community

Kinneret – Sea of Galilee

kvutza – group

oleh (plural – olim) – immigrant who has made Aliyah to Israel

reffet – cowshed

Sefer Torah – A Tanach – the Hebrew Scriptures

Shoah – the Holocaust

Savta – grandmother

PSALM for DAY 7 – SHABBAT / Saturday

Day 7 – SHABBAT – Saturday

Psalm 92

A Song for Shabbat

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High;
to declare Your steadfast love in the morning,
and Your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work;
at the work of Your hands I sing for joy.

How great are Your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep.
The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
but You, O Lord are high forever.

For behold Your enemies, O Lord,
for behold Your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.

But You have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
You have poured over me fresh oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of all my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the House of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;

He is my Rock,
and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Artwork credit: Yoram Raanan, Israel.

PSALM for DAY 6 – Yom Shishi / Friday

Day 6 – Yom Shishi – Friday

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns;
He is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed;
He has put on strength as His belt.
Yes, the world is established;
it shall never be moved.

Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunder of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits Your house,
O Lord forevermore.

Artwork credit: Shimon Nachshon, Israel.

PSALM for Day 5 – Yom Chamishi / Thursday

Yom Chamishi – Day 5 – Thursday

Psalm 81

To Him who grants victory – by Asaph

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.
For it is a statute for Israel, a judgment of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree in Joseph when he went out over the land of Egypt.

I hear a language I had not known:
“I have removed his shoulder from the burden,
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”  Selah.

“Hear O my people, while I admonish you.
O Israel, if you would but listen to Me.
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

But My people would not listen to My voice,
and Israel would not submit to Me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that My people would listen to Me,
that Israel would walk in My ways.
I would soon subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward Him,
and their fate would last forever.

But He would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

Artwork credit: Matt Doll

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrew Exercises – Self-correct ANSWERS

EXERCISE 1. Vocab.

 In the paragraph below, find the correct word or phrase that matches the  Hebrew words in the list.  Fill them in or write out both lists for practice!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day and the darkness He called night. He separated the dry land from the waterof the seas.

     the earth      הארץ.      sea        ים          in the beginning    בראשית

the heavens       השמים           good  טוב                          created  ברה                                                            

darkness       חוֹשֶך                   night        לאילה                    light  אור

   God          אלֹהים           and there was      וְהַיהַ             water    מיים    

      

 

EXERCISE 2 . Vocab.

The root word rosh –  ראש  – means the beginning, or the head of;  something important.

Match the Hebrew words with the meanings:

ראש השנה  /  ראש בית ספר   /  ראש חודש   /  ראש הממשלה    /   הראש שלי

1. Beginning of a new month – ראש חודש

2. School principal / head of a school – ראש בית ספר

3. My head! –  הראש שלי

4. The Prime Minister –  ראש הממשלה

5. New Year / the beginning of the year – ראש השנה

 

 

EXERCISE 3.   Nouns – masculine and feminine

A. Copy the columns and fill in the missing nouns from the list:

בַנַמַה, יַלְדָה, בת, אוֹטוֹבוס, אַבָה, יַרֵאַח, בָיִתת , תמונה

boy  – yeled – יֵלֵד                           girl – yaldah – יַלְדָה,

father – abbaאַבָה                       mother – imah – אִימָא

son – ben –  בֵן                              daughter – bat – בת

book – sefer –  סֵפֶר                        picture – temunahתמונה

house – bayitבָיִת                      candle – ner –  נֵר

bus – ohtobus – אוֹטוֹבוס                 ship – ohniah – אֱנִייָה

orange – tappuz – תַפוז                  banana – bananahבַנַמַה

 

B. The Definite Article – ‘ha’ – 

By adding the definite article hey –  – as a prefix before the noun, you form a defining noun. E.g., a boy, yeled,  יֵלֵד   becomes the boy – ha‘yeled –  הָיֵלֵד

Do the same with the other nouns in the lists above.

C. Singular and Plural

Generally, masculine nouns in the plural form are given the suffix – im – יִם and feminine plurals are given  – ot – וֹת. E.g., boy – boys, yeled – yeladim – יֵלַדִים; girl – girls, yaldah – yeladot – יְלַדוֹת

These change the form of the word somewhat, as do: sons – banim and daughters – banot.

Fathers also are exceptions – avot , while mothers simply add an ‘ot’ –  ima’ot.

Write the plural forms of the remaining nouns in A.,
which simply receive the general endings im and ot.

סֵפֶר  – ספרים

תמונה  –  תמונות

בית   – בתים

נר – נרות

אותובוס – אוטובוסים    

אנייה – אונייות

תפוז – תפוזים

בננה – בננות

 

EXERCISE 4 – Nouns and Adjectives

Match the Hebrew word or phrase with the phrases below.

יוֹם אַרוֹך , הָבַיִת הָקַטַן , סֵפֶר טוֹב , בתִים גְדוֹלִים ,  המִִיכְתַב , הָיַלְדָה הָיַפָה , הָאַח שֵלוֹ , גַן יְלַדִים

ספר טוב , הָכֶלֶב שֵלִי , סוסים גדולים , השבוע

1. a good book     –   ספר טוב

2. the small house  –    הָבַיִת הָקַטַן

3. a children’s kindergarten –   גַן יְלַדִים

4. the letter –   המִִיכְתַב

5. his brother –  הָאַח שֵלוֹ

6. the pretty girl – הָיַלְדָה הָיַפָה

9. my dog – הָכֶלֶב שֵלִי

10. this week – השבוע

Homework Exercise 5 – La’Jiraf Yesh Tsavar Aroch – A Giraffe Has A Long Neck

VOCAB. EXERCISE 2 : Fill in the words of the song in English.

The giraffe has a long neck. He can see a bus before it leaves (goes out). And the sun before it dawns.

All that we can see, the giraffe sees before us (we do). He also gets remarks from those who see him:
“How good to be a tall animal!

The giraffe has a long neck.
He sees people at the edge of the world
and he predicts:
“Friends, in two months there will be rain!”

From the height of the giraffe we all look short. And the biggest problems we have
all look like small dots to the giraffe!

PSALM for DAY 4 – Yom Revi’i / Wednesday

Yom Revi’i  – Day 4 – Wednesday

PSALM  94

God of retribution. Lord, God of retribution, appear!
Rise up, Judge of the earth. Repay to the arrogant what they deserve.
How long shall the wicked, Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph?
They pour out insolent words. All the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush Your people, Lord, and oppress Your inheritance.
They kill the widow and stranger. They murder the orphaned.
They say, “The Lord does not see. The God of Jacob pays no heed.”
Take heed, you most brutish people. You fools, when will you grow wise?
Will He who implants the ear not hear? Will He who formed the eye not see?
Will He who disciplines nations – He who teaches man knowledge – not punish?

The Lord knows that the thoughts of man are a mere fleeting breath.
Happy is the man who You discipline, Lord, the one You instruct in Your Torah,
giving him tranquillity in days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.
For the Lord will not forsake His people, nor abandon His heritage.
Judgment shall again accord with justice, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will stand up for me against wrongdoers?
Had the Lord not been my help, I would soon have dwelt in death’s silence.
When I thought my foot was slipping, Your loving-kindness Lord gave me support.
When I was filled with anxiety, Your consolations soothed my soul.
Can a corrupt throne be allied with You? Can injustice be framed into law?
They join forces against the life of the righteous, and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord is my stronghold, my God is the Rock of my refuge.
He will bring back on them their wickedness, and destroy them for their evil deeds.
The Lord our God will destroy them.

Come let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the God of our Salvation.
Let us greet Him with songs of praise.
For the Lord is the great God, the King great above all powers.

Photo credit: Sarah Showalter

TAMMUZ – 4th Biblical Month – Being Holy, Being Whole

TAMMUZ

THEME:  VISION AND PERCEPTION

BODY:  EYES

QUOTE:  When you place your life in the hand of God, you begin to see His hand in everything.

PSALM : 42 G-d-my-Ever-Present-Help

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find pictures; draw your own; sketch; write down any other Scripture verses and/or quotes that will illustrate and express the theme and what you are
learning and experiencing this month. 

G-d-my-Ever-Present-Help 

Psalm 42 is a maskil – a song of instruction. Its words carry a spiritual lesson. It could well have been written by David while he was fleeing from King Saul, who was intending to kill him, and David was hiding in a cave at Ein Gedi. There he would have observed the deer and mountain goats and heard their panting for water as they approached the Ein Gedi oasis from the surrounding desert. The psalm vividly describes the pain of perceiving that, while separated from home, family and friends, one is separated from G-d Himself. As a deer pants for water, the source of life in a dry land, so one’s soul becomes dry and thirsty for the life-giving water of the presence of G-d.

It is, however, a false perception – a result of the scorn and reviling of those who jealously mocked him, saying, in effect,  “You are nothing but a fugitive. Where is your God now?” This same scorn followed Israel throughout her exile and has brought much pain and many tears. The psalmist, however, expresses the truth that G-d’s Word is the Hope they can cling to and rejoice in. His people are never alone. They can say: “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love [over me], and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” (v.8). His hand always is there when we reach out for it. Our hearts always can sing to Him in response to His constant, unshakeable love. 

CE: Write out the verses that resonate with you and express your responses to the Psalm. 

PARTS OF THE BODY – EYES

Last month we saw how the Name of G-d was embedded in our skeletal frame. This month we will begin to examine the head, which would link with the first letter in the Name of G-d – the yod. The head is the head, the ‘manager’ as it were, of the body. As well as the brain, it carries the four sensory organs of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. This month we will focus on the eyes. The eyes are considered the most important of the four and often are compared to wisdom – the seeing and understanding the essence of something. 

The Hebrew word for eye – ayin / עיןhas the numerical value of 70; an important number in the Bible. Abraham was 70 when God cut the Covenant of the Pieces with him. There were 70 souls of the house of Jacob who went down to Egypt (Genesis 46). There are 70 archetypal nations of the world, for whom 70 bulls were offered as sacrifices during the week of the Festival of Sukkot. These correspond to 70 evil characteristics that epitomise the worldly nations, of which the trait of sexual immorality is considered the most widespread and damaging.  The Torah is considered to have 70 facets that counteract these evil characteristics.

The Shemah prayer, the first learned by Jewish children and prayed at least twice a day, is prayed with the right hand covering the eyes to impress the importance of sight and how we “see” things. The verse Numbers 15:39 is included in the Shemah: “…remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.” The verse refers to the tzitzit – the tassles on the corners of a man’s tallit, prayer shawl and tallit katan, a vest-like undergarment. By constantly seeing the tassles, a man is reminded to obey God’s will and to be “holy to your God.” Yeshua emphasised the importance of not “straying after one’s eyes” in Matthew 5:28, when he said:”…I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

Another important aspect of seeing is included in the portion. The account of ‘The Sin of the Ten Spies.’ The Israelites are camped on the border of the Promised Land and twelve leaders, one from every tribe, were sent by Moses to scout out the Land, to “see” what it was like, and to bring back a report. After 40 days they returned and, according to their report, ten saw one thing and two saw another. What happened? The ten described ‘reality’ as they saw it, from a fear-filled perspective, and gave a negative report of the ‘giants’ the inhabited the Land and made them feel like grasshoppers. The two – Joshua and Caleb, assured the now terrified people of the goodness of the Land and they would be able to conquer the giants because G-d had promised and was with them. Which perspective won out? Sadly, the faithless fear-based one… and, as a result, that generation continued to wander for 40 years and died in the wilderness. What was their sin, which is considered to be worse than the Sin of the Golden Calf? They did not see with eyes of faith and they turned their backs on the Land G-d had promised them for generations as their sacred inheritance.

We could argue that the two were facing reality and were only sharing what they had seen with their own eyes. Joshua and Caleb, by the way, did not argue with them about the challenge posed by the warlike inhabitants but emphasised how the reality we see with our physical eyes is not necessarily the truth of the matter. In a wonderful commentary by David Ebenbach, called The Artist’s Torah, he describes how, when a person is in pursuit of truth – about life, about meaning, about the universe, the Divine, often the things we discover may seem completely unrealistic! We need to see beyond the seemingly ‘real.’ Ebenbach quotes from scholar Earle Colman’s book, Creativity and Spirituality, how famous Jewish artist Marc Chagall called spiritual reality unreality. To see the spiritual view, which G-d was asking the Israelites to do, means seeing and grasping the truth that is beyond the mundane reality which we see around us. In his autobiography, Marc Chagall wrote of his search for truth and G-d’s unique purpose for him: 

I roamed the streets, I searched, I prayed. “G-d, Thou who hides in the clouds or behind the shoemaker’s house, grant that my soul may be revealed, the sorrowful soul of a stammering boy. Show me my way. I do not want to be like all the others. I want to see a new world.

Stained glass window – Marc Chagall

Interestingly, I believe that art and creativity are gifts, tools, we have been given to better envision the reality of the spiritual realm. It began in the wilderness with the creation of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with all its beauty and design, color and pattern, as a vision of this “new world” – the world as G-d created it to be, with His Presence dwelling among us. In fact, the Hebrew words for art – ohmanut –  אמנות, and faith –  אמונה, both have the same root אמנ, amen, which is an acronym for El Melech Ne’eman,  which means G-d Faithful King. The truth of which is the basis of our faith! 

Ebenbach also quotes the well-known poet and author Saul Bellow (whose novel Seize the Day popularised the Carpe Diem saying, and whose novel Henderson the Rain King is a perennial favorite) who said, in his 1976 Nobel Prize winning acceptance speech:

Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect on la sides – the seeming reality of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality [Chagall’s new word?] is always sending us hints which, without art, we can’t receive. 

We need to be visionaries. What does that mean? To be a visionary means, not ignoring the reality of what we see around us, but perceiving things that are not there – yet! It means standing with Caleb and Joshua against the fear and pessimistic proclamations and rather to proclaim the truth of what we can envision – that which is written and promised in the Word of our Creator.

HOW DO WE SEE? 

There are many idioms associated with seeing, for example, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” There is a danger in choosing to see only that which we want to see, as opposed to the reality of what actually is there. Our perception of things can be distorted by, for example, the desire to be right and to not admit to ignorance, or a mistaken understanding of the facts. The Torah also underscores in the case of making a judgment, “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right” (Exodus 23:8).  There are many forms of ‘bribery’ – peer pressure, desire to be popular and accepted, or to be seen as important. If we succumb to these we can make unfair and unsound judgments and end up calling bad good and good bad.

The Sages of Israel describe the reality of a Good Eye – ayin tov (עין טוב), and an Evil Eye – ayin rah (עין רע).  Proverbs 22:9 tells us,  “Whoever has a good eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” Abraham is the prime example of one with a good eye for he intently watched out for those whom he could help and always tried to see the good in others. Balaam is an example of one with an evil eye – someone who always looks for fault, is willing to accept bribes, and is jealous of another’s goods or status. One with a good eye gives, while one with an evil eye takes and the latter is never satisfied with what he has; he is driven by greed.

In order to combat the presence of the ‘evil eye’ – from evil thoughts about others, from jealousy and covetousness, and all forms of negative thinking, our focus must be on God’s Word, which is Truth. We need to shift our gaze from the materialism and influence of the ‘kingdom of the world’ – Olam HaZeh around us and remain focussed on the Kingdom of God and Olam HaBa – the World to Come. That doesn’t mean, as the popular saying goes, that one must be so heavenly minded that one is no earthly good! It means that we need to train our eyes to see the Presence of God and the signs of His provision in this world, even while we know that this is but an all too brief transition to the eternal world to come. 

The eyes of our Father in Heaven always are upon His children; and upon those who are searching for Him. “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God” (Psalm 14:2). Psalm 145:15-16 also tells us how, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” He is the prime Giver, the perfect Ayin Tov, Good Eye.We need to see and understand that all our provision comes from God. When we do we will have an attitude of complete trust in Him for all our daily needs. We will learn to see His hand clearly and will be able to respond in heartfelt gratitude without ever taking it for granted. Then we will be able to work more in harmony with Him in this world. We will be able to taste and see that God is good! (Psalm 34:9)

The prophet Isaiah gives a beautiful, joyful promise to those who are watchmen and women, watching for God, in 52:8, “The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.” Seeing ‘eye to eye’ means being in perfect agreement. Coming to an intimate knowledge of God through His Word, and having one’s will in harmony with His; being ‘one’ with, just as Yeshua was with the Father. As he prayed to the Father for his disciples before his arrest in John 17: 17-24, 

Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world….The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and You in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent me and loved them even as You loved me. 

The prophet Habakkuk tells us that after Messiah is enthroned in Zion, ruling over God’s Kingdom, “…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). Until then, let us pray…

Abba, Father, our desire is to “see eye to eye” with You. Help us to surrender our lives more fully into Your Hand and to begin to see Your hand more clearly in all things. Thank You for Your faithful provision. We pray that you will continue to sustain us and strengthen us in all You call us to do. May we continue to grow in knowledge of You, and to become more and more the people You created us to be; each one unique and in Your image. 

Help us to study and gain deeper knowledge of Your Word that we may stand securely on it and proclaim is Truth without worry of being led astray. Our trust is in You Abba. Thank You that You hear us when we call to You.You see our hearts and know our love for You and for Your son and Messiah. Let us keep our gaze upon You and Your amazing wonders even in this world; and may our inner focus be on the glory and reality of the World to Come. For Your Holy Name’s sake! 

                                    May we constantly…

Thanks to Geneva Seeds for the photograph!


 

We are blessed and honored this month to have TERRY MASON, a dear friend, share with us his perspectives on the value of eyes and sight, both physical and spiritual, and his experiences of birdwatching in Jerusalem. 

 

PSALM for DAY 3 – Yom Shlishi /Tuesday

Yom Shlishi – Day 3 – Tuesday

PSALM  82

A psalm of Asaph.

God stands in the Divine assembly. Among the judges He delivers judgment.
How long will you judge unjustly, showing favor to th wicked? Selah.
Do justice to the weak and the orphaned. Vindicate the poor and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy. Save them from the hand of the wicked.
They do not know nor do they understand.
They walk about in darkness while all the earth’s foundations shake.
I once said, “You are like gods, all of you are sons of the Most High.”
But you shall die like mere men, you will fall like any prince.

Arise O Lord, judge the earth. for all the nations are Your possession.

“A judge who delivers a true judgment becomes a partner of thre Most Holy One,
blessed be He, in the work of Creation.” (Shabbat 103)

 

PSALM for DAY 2 – Yom Sheni / Monday

Yom Sheni – Day 2 – Monday

PSALM  48

A song. A psalm to the sons of Korach.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of God, in His holy montain – beautiful in its heights,the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on its northern side,
the City of the Great King.
In its citadels God is known as a stronghold.
See how the kings joined forces, advancing together.
They saw, they were astounded, they panicked, they fled.
There fear seized them, like the pains of a woman giving birth,
like ships of Tarshish wrecked by an eastern wind.
What we had heard, now we have seen, in the city of the God of hosts,
in the City of our God.
May God preserve it forever, Selah!

In the midst of Your Temple O God, we meditate on Your love.
As is Your Name, God, so is Your praise: it reaches to the end of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the towns of Judah be glad, because of Your judgments.
Walk around Zion and encircle it. Count its towers, note its strong walls, view its citadels,
so that you may tell a future generation that this is God, our God, for ever and ever.
He will guide us forevermore.

Photo credit: Kenneth Berg

 

HOPE and HARPS – The Promise

HOPE – Tikvah

THE PROMISE OF HOPE

The greatest miracle of history in our times, in all likelihood, is the restoration of God’s Promised Land to His people, the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The implications of that miracle, while rousing considerable and violent animosity in the enemies of the God of Israel, should stir great faith and hope in those who believe in the Bible and the promises of God. Faith in His Word and hope for the future are inextricably linked, as we see illustrated in the powerful “faith chapter” in the book of Hebrews:

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar…” (v. 11:11-14).

“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his burial” (11:22). Joseph had received the revelation and promise that his people would return and he trusted the hope that eventually he would be buried in his homeland.

The chapter continues to enumerate great exploits performed in faith by the people of God. Many were victorious and overcame great odds but some endured suffering and trial and did not see earthly success. All, however, persisted because they had hope in the One who promised and they all were secure in the knowledge that the true and lasting reward awaited in the eternal Kingdom of God.

In his very relevant book Future Tense, Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England, quotes economist Alan Greenspan’s observation that we are entering an age of turbulence, which can engender fear. However, as Rabbi Sacks describes, “The antidote to fear is faith, a faith that knows the dangers but never loses hope.”* He connects this hope to the Jewish people and says: “The Jewish people are ancient but still young; a suffering people still suffused with moral energy; a people who have known the worst fate can throw at them, and can still rejoice. They remain a living symbol of hope.” Significantly, the stirring and beautiful national anthem of Israel is simply entitled HaTikvah, “The Hope.”

 

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In Jewish literature, the nation and people of Israel are compared to the moon, which continually wanes then waxes full. Forces of hate throughout history have conspired to obliterate Israel and she seems to fade from sight, but then, according to the Almighty’s will and design, she proceeds to grow strong and bright once more until the Day that she will remain forever radiant in all her fullness. This truth can be applied on a personal level in the life of each child of God. The greatest aim of the enemy of God and His people, the enemy of our souls, is to rob one of hope. To be rendered ‘hopeless’ can be likened to being ‘lifeless’. There is indeed truth in the axiom, “Where there is life there is hope” and vice versa.

Central aims of the perpetrators of terror and violence in the world today are to instill fear and to extinguish hope. We know, however, that the One who promised is faithful; He who said, “I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s love and truth cast out all fear.

It is through our trials and challenges that we are strengthened and grow in character. In turn, this growth strengthens our resolve and our hope. As Paul writes:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh – the Holy Spirit of Messiah – which has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Yes, our heart is glad in Him,
because we trust in his holy Name.
Let Thy steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in Thee.
(Psalm 33:22-23)

Dear brothers and sisters, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

HARPS OF GOD

King David is described as “the sweet singer of Israel.” [3] No doubt, when he was a boy guarding his father’s sheep, he would play the shepherd’s harp and also a simple, melodious flute. When David was a young man in the court of Saul, the first king of Israel, the Scriptures relate that he would be summoned to play his harp and sing to Saul whenever the king was troubled by an evil spirit. The music would soothe and bring healing to Saul’s troubled soul.

Irish author and poet, John O’Donohue (obm), gives testimony to the healing qualities of music:

I have a friend who is a music therapist. I have seen her work with a man who had had a stroke; he could no longer speak. I saw her in her last session with him where she sang and played in an attentive and accompanying improvised style. …He began to hum the music with her and ended up actually speaking. It was such a touching experience to see this person unexpectedly freed. Music is often the only language which can find those banished to the nameless interior of illness. [4]

 

esther-lamandier

 

When the prophet Samuel anointed David as God’s chosen king, we are told that “the Spirit of God came upon David from that day onwards” (1 Samuel 16:13). We may conclude, therefore, that the songs, the psalms of David, were written with Divine inspiration and can understand how they have the power to inspire and to heal to this very day. In a unique way the Psalms are, as it were, “harps of God” – God-given instruments that, if we but grasp them and give them voice, become His tools that have the power to cut through and render powerless the chains of the enemy that tie and bind and control.

Revelation means “to lift the veil” in order that we might see something that is already there. In the apostle John’s record of his revelation on the island of Patmos we again behold a sea and hear a song!

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire.” On the shores of the sea stood those who had overcome the enemy, “… with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!’” (Rev. 15:2-4).

The Hebrew letters of the word Mashiachmem-shin-yod-chet, can be rearranged to form the word yismach – to rejoice! The Song of Messiah is a full and glorious crescendo in the Symphony of God – the song that will burst forth at the Final Redemption, when all will be brought into one, whole, free and joyful Psalm of Praise!

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes!
…He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his truth.
The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
(Psalm 96:11-13; 97:1)

 

HalleluYah!

~Keren Hannah Pryor

 

Footnotes:

1. Johnathan Sacks, Future Tense, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009, 10.
2. Tamid 3:8
3. 2 Samuel 23:11
4. John O’Donohue, Beauty – The Invisible Embrace, Harper-Collins, NY, 2004, 71.

Art of REVELATION by Yoram Raanan

“Few artists in the Jewish world capture the beauty of holiness, and avodah [worship]…than Yoram Raanan.”

~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Raanan’s paintings add a dimension of renewal, revival and hope. His paintings create a bridge between past and future, the individual and community and between physical and spiritual.

~ Nurit Siris Bank –  Curator, Researcher, Lecturer

Art of REVELATION – A Visual Encounter with the Jewish Bible

Paintings by Yoram Raanan \ Commentary and Explorations by Meira Raanan

Review by Keren Hannah 

 

Yoram Raanan and his wife Meira live on  moshav Beit Meir, a type of communal village, in the Judean hills outside Jerusalem. I remember well the horror of the wave of arson attacks by PLO terrorists during November of 2016. I experienced deep shock and sadness on hearing that the Raanans’ moshav was one of those targeted and part of the destruction suffered was the burning of Yoram’s art studio. Forty years of his life’s work, about 2000 works of art, were consumed in the flames of the enemy’s hatred.
His collection included canvases being saved for their children and grandchildren’s inheritance as well as many intended for a worldwide exhibition and for inclusion in a museum of Jewish Art.

Yoram recalls how, as he and his wife were escaping their still burning village, he had a revelation: “I realized that this was surely the work of G-d, and only good would come of it.”  He understood that what the enemy meant for evil, G-d could turn around for good and for blessing. This book, indeed, as a vessel for sharing much of his art with the world, is a major source of goodness and blessing.

He and Meira had for many years been capturing the inner depths of the weekly Torah portions. Yoram depicted the parasha in a painting and Meira researched and wrote about the biblical understanding and the artistic nuances that these visual representations of the parshiot conveyed. Baruch HaShem – thank G-d, their work was recorded digitally and can now be shared and kept alive in the pages of this book.

Meira describes the spiritual essence of Yoram’s art beautifully when she says:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said: “Real art does not reproduce the visible, but rather reveals the invisible.” Raanan’s art strives to make… the transcendent moments in Torah visible – to reveal the inner dimension and essence of the events, the people, the laws, and stories of the biblical narrative. …We experience vibrations of light and color, and an energy that affects our hearts and emotions.

~ The Seventh Day of Creation

~ The Banquet of Joseph and his Brothers

~ The Lion of Judah

My personal encounter with Art of REVELATION was like entering the Holy Place of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple). As I perused the pages, I was aware of many key recent Bible studies and spiritual points of focus somehow converging together in unity. It was as if, suddenly, in the words and pictures before me, layers of meaning were surfacing and blending together in a burst of revelation, beauty and color. Threads of previous inspiration and understanding of G-d’s Word were being pulled together in a glowing tapestry.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacke well expressed in his Introduction: 

Art is supremely the language of the spirit. God wants us to see beauty and create beauty.

This unique book, dear readers, will be an investment for your own continual enjoyment, as well as an opportunity to share its wonder with family and friends.

~ The Peace Offering

~ The Cherubim above the Ark

Available at Pomeranz Bookstore in Jerusalem – www.pomeranzbooks.com  – 011-972-6235559 / 1-800-SFORIM / pomeranz@netmedia.net.il

Or via the Raanan Art website. www.YoramRaanan.com/new-release

Victims No Longer

ISRAEL to the World…A message.

After the ghettos and the camps,
The humiliations and the murders,
A decision was made —
To rise from the ashes,
To work and to build,
And to fight if necessary
To be free.
A reborn people
In our reborn Land,
Walking in victory
With G-d’s help,
Victims no longer.

-Keren Hannah


The Liminal Space of CHANGE – Keren Hannah

Change, arguably, is the most constant and unchangeable element of life and yet is one that we find difficult to embrace. Much natural change often goes by unnoticed. Old age creeps upon us slowly. Relationships can sadly wither and fade away due to lack of awareness and attention. Sunrise and sunsets come and go without our giving their beauty and passing due recognition. Some changes, however, rise up before us and demand our engagement and conscious participation. Loss of a job, a physical relocation, an illness, a death, or, more happily, a marriage or a birth. All these are upheavals of a sort and need great conscious readjustments of lifestyle. Often a possible change requires a decision on our part. Do we accept the challenge and make the change…or not? These changes involve risk. To succeed we need the courage to take the risk, to have the will to learn.  We also need enough humility to admit to failure if that results, and, in which case, we need the determination to recover, to try again, and to keep going.

This liminal place of change –  the recognition, decision making, uncertainty, and adaptive challenge, is one we all pass through many times. Sometimes there are no simple, painless solutions to changes and they require that we learn new ways – a change of attitude, of perspective, and of behavior. We have to sift through what to keep and what to discard in order to face the challenge and to go forward as productively as possible.

One of the most dramatic biblical illustrations of change is the passage of the redeemed Israelite slaves through the towering walls of water as God parted the Reed Sea before them. They had to make the decision to go forward in faith and trust in the God who had revealed His presence and power to them in their place of bondage. Now they needed to learn to take individual responsibility for their decisions and actions. After generations of living under the dictatorship of Pharaoh, God was now inviting them to become His partners in His ongoing work and purposes. In other words, a slave-minded people needed to renew their ability to trust authority and to become self-governing at the same time.

We can learn from the principles of adaptability and positive change that enabled the Israelite community to survive, and to flourish and thrive. Rather than independence, they learned, it required interdependence – the humility to know that we need, with God’s help and guidance, to continue to learn and grow together. Did they fail at times? Of course they did. Do we fail at times? Of course we do. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” We must learn from our mistakes, recover from them, and go forward knowing we are stronger as a result. 

The key element of learning and growing, of coping with change, whether in the life of an individual, a community, or a people, is the fact that God gifted us with the tools we need in His Torah – His Word – His teaching, instruction, and guidance. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has described three types of knowledge. The knowledge you learn from books, that which you learn from teachers, and that which you learn from life. The important thing is to be in active dialog with God’s Torah in each of these areas; to affirm that there is only one guiding voice and that is the voice of our Father in Heaven. Our lives should be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in His Word. Just as Yeshua himself said, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:18-19). And, “…I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28-29). Yeshua was the perfect embodiment of the Torah of God and was one with the Father’s will. 

Rabbi Sacks compares this unity to the musical term ‘counterpoint,’ which is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as: “The technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.” [1]  When we are in harmony with the will and Word of God we can cooperate in unity and interdependence, just as a healthy body does, with each part playing its role in order for the whole body to function as well and effectively as it can. Together we can face the challenges and changes that come our way and achieve something greater than any one person can accomplish alone.  In unity we can enjoy the good and pleasant blessing of our God.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! …For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalms 133:1,3)

 

All stages of change, growth, and metamorphosis are beautiful!

[2]

[1] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Lessons in Leadership, Maggid Books, Koren Publishers, Jerusalem, Ltd., 2015, 103

[2] Picture credit: Chabad; Artist: Adele Steinberg

NISSAN – 1st Biblical Month – Being Holy ~ Being Whole

THE NEW ROSH CHODESH CYCLE

A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
A spring locked, a fountain sealed.
Song of Songs 4:12

Every woman has innate feminine creativity that can be expressed as gifts to her family, her friends, and to the world. As many and varied, and uniquely created as we are, that is as unique and varied our gifts can be. Home-making, decorating, cooking, sewing, and gardening, are all forms of creativity, as are painting, sculpting, writing, dance, and music. 

Children naturally are bursting with creativity and curiosity. Inevitably, either by family, teachers, peers, or society in general, as a child grows different forms of creativity are squelched or restricted. Most unfortunately, what is repressed may well be the one particular gift or voice that only that individual child has been given. The world needs to hear that voice. 

Now is the time to allow the wind of the Spirit to blow, as it were, on any “locked gardens” in our lives, so that fruit may blossom and the unique and fragrant spices may be released – to the delight of the Beloved; and to help bring beauty and healing to the world.

Let my Beloved come into His garden and eat its choicest fruits.
Song of Songs 4:16

 

TIKKUN of BODY, SOUL, and SPIRIT

Each month we will focus on a particular part of the body and see how the three elements of our being are related to the functioning of that member of the body.

During Nissan we will explore why how and what we speak is important. What prompts us to speak as we do? What effect do our words have on ourselves and others?

NISSAN – Mouth – Speech 

NISSAN – the first month of the biblical year and the Rosh Chodesh Cycle. The month is associated with the mouth and words. The first festival of the year is celebrated – Pesach / Passover. The name Pesach is comprised of two Hebrew words…peh – mouth and sach – speaks or converses. The Israelite tribe connected with Nissan is Yehudah; which means praise. How fitting that a mouth filled with praise describes Nissan – the month of the Exodus and God’s mighty deliverance of His people from slavery. As His redeemed, He brought them to Mount Sinai where His mouth would confirm HIs covenant faithfulness to them and would speak forth the Ten Words that would transform them into a holy nation and would change the world forever.

In connection with the festival of Pesach  – when the enslaved Israelites were delivered by God and brought into freedom, including the freedom to speak and have a voice, Rabbi Nachman states in Likutei HaMoharan that pure speech leads to freedom, while blemished speech corresponds to exile. If we rectify our speech we become free people; an exalted creation. Such is the great value and power of speech.

“With every breath one takes, with every word uttered, one can evoke God’s honor. Speaking properly, even when speaking of mundane matters – and avoiding blemished speech – brings one continually closer to God. …These are words through which we merit the Exodus. Through them we become free.” Likutei Moharan 1, 55:7
And then, with each breath and word, we are able to praise God.

Good vs Evil Speech

One needs wisdom to distinguish between good and evil speech. Evil often can masquerade as good! Apart from the obvious hate-speech, profanity, and slander, today, with the general lapse in morality and integrity, many lies are accepted as truth. Evil speech has a powerful and detrimental effect on the one who speaks them. They also cause damage to the listener and to the one who is being denigrated or slandered.

To strengthen good and holy speech we need to consciously reflect on God’s Word and express His words in prayer, praise and song. Rabbi Nachman taught, “Through song and joy one can guard and preserve one’s memory  and [always keep in mind] the World to Come.”  (Likutei Moharan 1,54:12) Also, “It is good to make a habit of inspiring yourself with a melody. Great concepts are contained in each holy melody and they can arouse your heart and draw it towards God. …The loftiness of a melody is beyond measure.”

Even Moses had a problem with speaking. Medically, It has been  proven that singing, even by yourself in the shower, and reading poetry, helps to rectify speech problems.

Mashiach – Messiah

Yeshua, as the Word made flesh, is the perfect example of good, holy speech. Rabbi Nachman points out that the Hebrew word MaShIaCH relates to ”MeSIaCH the mute” – “God causes the mute to speak.” In the era of Messiah, when he is ruling as King of kings in Jerusalem, everyone will be dedicated to the pursuit of peace and holiness and all will be able to speak freely without causing pain to another. At that time, when God’s Kingdom of Love, Unity, and Shalom is established on earth, then all speech will be holy, as proclaimed by the prophet Zephaniah,

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” (3:9)

PSALMS – HEALING HARPS

On a harp of ten strings You have made me rejoice Adonai in Your works!
Psalm 92:4-5

It has long been understood that the Psalms carry a special anointing and blessing of healing. I call them “harps of God,” the strings of which produce music that severs the bonds that the world and the enemy of our souls attempt to lay upon us. 

As an aid in assisting us towards wholeness – be it mental, physical, or spiritual, we will be focussing on the ten Psalms identified by Rabbi Nathan of Breslov as Tikkun Klali – Complete Healing or Repair.  

The Concept of Tikkun

The word tikkun means healing or repair in the context of the perfecting of the individual, the Jewish people and the nations, and the universe in general. The phrase Tikkun Olam means the repair of the world. The ultimate goal, working together with God, and with His help, is to bring the world to wholeness and perfection as far as it is in our ability to do so. Every tiny, individual act of healing and reconstruction of brokenness contributes to the repair.

The Word of God is the Rock we stand on in this work. 

To quote Midrash Tanchuma – Yitro 8:

     Said the Holy One blessed be He:
     “There is no affliction
     for which there does not exist a cure;
     the therapy and medicament for every affliction is discernible.
     If you seek that misfortune befall not your body,
     engage in the study of Torah,
     for it is therapy for the entire body.”

The ultimate purpose of Creation is to reveal and establish God’s Kingdom in the world. Every person created in His image has this purpose and can only find meaning and fulfilment to the extent that he/she discovers and releases their innate godliness and creative gifts. We can only do our part, in whatever situation our Father places us, remembering the wisdom of PIrkei Avot 2:16,

“You are not required to finish the task,
but neither are you allowed to desist from it.”

Often we can feel intimidated and question our own worth and ability. The world can be like a mighty, churning, often threatening ocean. Rabbi Nachman points out:  

“[One’s] life is like a very narrow bridge, and the essential thing is not to fear at all!”

Even if one falls into the waves there is no room for despair, for, as he explains, there are “rafts” to cling to for safety, such as: 
Faith, encouragement, melody, dance, appropriate self-criticism and introspection, learning from others, and the yearning for a deeper relationship with the Creator.

We also have the assurance that our Messiah, Yeshua, is there to raise us from the troubled sea and he can speak the words to still the storm! (Mark 4:39).

How to Apply the Psalms

Each month we aim to read a particular Psalm and attempt to apply it to oneself in a meaningful way – to find one’s self in the psalm. How?

  1. Find a word or phrase or passage that resonates with you. Consider expressing it through writing your thoughts or composing a verse or poem; doing a sketch, painting, collage, or illustration in your journal; sing it, express it in movement or dance. Make it yours in whatever way you can.
  1. In place of ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ the Hebrew word Adonai can be used to shed a fresh perspective on the verses. We also will seek a more personal, descriptive name for the Almighty in each Psalm.

Understanding that this is “holy work,” and in order to sanctify it as a sacred, set apart time, we suggest you do a special washing of your hands at the start.
(i) First get your Journal, any artisitc materials needed, Bible and notes ready.
(ii) Do a traditional netilat yadaiim – pouring cool water from a cup [use a traditional two-handled one if you have one] first over the right hand and then the left.
(iii) Before drying them, say, e.g.,
Blessed are You O Lord our God, I dedicate the work of my hands to Your glory and I ask for Your inspiration and anointing upon it. Amen


NISSAN – PSALM 16

In verses 1-4, David is feeling vulnerable, unworthy, and guilty. Maybe he believes he is suffering because he deserves it? Reassurance comes in verse 5 with the knowledge that Adonai is his “portion.” When we reach out to take hold of His right hand, it is always there and He, in His great care for us, leads us toward the destiny He has planned for us.

Our loving Father does not want us to wallow in our troubles and sorrow. When we, as verse 8 tells us, keep Adonai continually before us and keep our eyes upon Him, we see His power at work and we gratefully can appreciate that we are beloved and beautiful in His sight. We need to understand that we each are equally and completely worthy of being here in this life. We are essential to God’s unfolding plan of Redemption, of which we, individually, play a tiny but important part. As Madyson Tigler says, in Healing of Soul, Healing of Body: “Seeing ourselves as part of something larger, as beings called to serve, is the ultimate cure for feelings of unworthiness.”

Because of God-Who-Is-My-Right-Hand, we can stand strong and press forward with perseverance. Our whole being can be joyful and we can rest secure and sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; let all that is within me bless His Holy Name.”

My [Keren’s] response:

God-Who-Is-My-Right Hand
is my refuge in times of trouble.
When I am weak, He is strong.
I am not over, finished with; rather
I am starting anew!
In His strength and compassion
I am revived; myself.
Ready!

POEM to Ponder for Nissan 
* Suggestion:  Write the poem in your Journal and jot down any thoughts.

Water Without a Tongue  by Malka Heifetz Tussman / original in Yiddish

The sea
ripped a rib
out of its side and said Go,
lie there,
be for me a sign that I am great,
mighty am I.
Go,
be for me a sign.

The canal lies at my window
Mute.
What could be sadder
than water
without a tongue?

As a 16 year old, in 1912 Malka immigrated to America from the Ukraine. Having to learn the language and suffering the limitations that entails, she described it as the experience of becoming inconsequential. You lose your voice and cannot communicate or contribute to society. 

The sea can be heard. Its waves sometimes resound with mighty crashes – a canal, however, lies motionless, the water constrained and uncommunicative.  

The description of a canal being ripped as a rib from the side of the sea clearly is a reference to Genesis 2:21-22, making Eve a kind of “tributary derivation from Adam, as Andrew Vogel Ettin describes in his book Speaking Silences. While useful and practical, Ettin continues to describe, “…a canal is quiet and subsidiary, sadly lacking a tongue and language for wider discourses; mere water without substance, effect, or majesty.” How many women, mistakenly, feel that they fit this description?

Author Tillie Olsen, in her book Silences, notes the significant fact of “…women’s silence of centuries. Not until several centuries ago do women writers appear.” She encourages those “…who begin to emerge into more flowered and rewarded use ourselves,” and says, “…by our achievements [we are] bearing witness to what was [and still is] being lost, silenced.”

Dear women of God, as we do our part in TIkkun Olam, let us discover and exercise the different “voices” the God-Who-Is-Our-Right-Hand has gifted us with and begin to sing them forth for His greater glory.

CHIDUSHIM – JOURNALING

From the same root as chodesh (month) and chadash (new), the Hebrew word chidushim means new insight and thoughts; fresh inspiration. During this year’s monthly cycle – Being Holy ~ Being Whole, we are encouraging each one to keep a journal and to express our thoughts, ideas, sketches, pictures, doodles – whatever, in order to give expression to the chidushim in our hearts and minds. Each month we are aiming to share a video of a woman who is finding a way to creatively express the physical focus of the month.

This month HIS-ISRAEL friend SUSAN MAXON shares how she finds creative expression with her words.

Download OHR KADOSH – NISSAN Notes