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 Pryor

In a Chaotic World are we Prepared for Redemption?

During the past decade we recall the appearance of a sequence of ‘blood ‘or red moons that  appeared at key Biblical Feast times during 2014 and 2015. These “signs in the heavens”occurred along with significant other fulfillments of Matthew chapter 23.
Now, with the world being affected by the pandemic of CoVid 19 and all the confusion, change, and chaos that goes along with it, the question again being asked is, “Are we indeed in the End Days?”  If so, and even if not, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I prepared for Messiah’s arrival as the King of kings?”

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The fact that the first “blood” moon appeared at the season of the sacrifice of the lambs in Egypt, the lambs at the Temple, and the Paschal Lamb certainly gave us pause for thought.

As my late husband Dwight (z”l, obm) expressed in his teaching on the theme of Redemption:

“From the time of the Church Fathers to today’s televangelists a ‘Scarlet Thread of Redemption’ has been touted as the main storyline of biblical revelation, weaving itself through the tapestry of Scripture in diverse images and incidents: from the blood shed to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the blood applied to the doorposts of Israelite homes in Egypt, to Rahab’s scarlet thread in Jericho signalling Joshua’s men, to the blood shed at Temple sacrifices for the sins of Israel. “

All these, it is said [in Christian tradition], are precursors to the real story of the Bible, namely, Jesus and his blood shed at Calvary for the redemption not alone of Israel but of the whole world.

As marvellous and indisputably central to God’s purposes in the earth as is the story of redemption, I would suggest nonetheless that another theme surpasses the ‘Scarlet Thread of Redemption’ as the overarching meta-narrative and unifying motif of the biblical story. We might call it the ‘Golden Thread of the Kingdom.’”

 

150127_444757792220816_328944923_nJerusalem of God – Yerushalaim shel Zahav – Artwork: Alex Levin

Gold, generally, is the color and metal associated with kingship; with royalty. We see one example of this in the wondrous 60th chapter of the prophet Isaiah, prophesying the Redemption of Israel, where he says, in regard to Jerusalem, “… they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” He continues, ”…and for brass I will give you gold.”  We are seeing the awesome beginnings of the fulfilment of Isaiah’s words in our own days, and await with great anticipation the further fulfilment when,

“Your people shall all be righteous;  they shall possess the Land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.” “I am the Lord;  in its time I will hasten it.”

The ‘Golden Thread’ referred to is thus the Kingdom or the Kingship of the One God of Israel. Going back again to the beginning in the Garden; God, the Creator of all, shared rulership over the earth with Adam and Eve. They forfeited that honor when they disobeyed the rules of the Master Gardener and chose to decide for themselves what was right or wrong. Self and independence triumphed over the will of their Father, God. Ever since, through all the centuries of man’s history, and in each individual journey of life, the goal has been to overcome this selfish lust for power and drive for dominion-on my-own-terms and to yoke one’s will to the will of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; to humble ourselves in service to His gracious Sovereignty.

In another mighty in-breaking of history, God sent His beloved Son as His anointed Messiah to restore His Kingdom to its rightful place in the world and to free those enslaved to sin and bound in the kingdom of darkness and idolatry. In his preaching, teaching, parables and deeds, Yeshua continually and insistently emphasized the reality of the Kingdom of God and the life-giving power of repentance and obedience to the will of our Father. After his submission to suffering and crucifixion, followed by God’s raising him from death to new resurrection life, he now is seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne in heaven and has been given all authority and power to reign over His Kingdom. As Paul so eloquently wrote, we can pray:

“May the God of our Lord and Messiah Jesus, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you,

what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Messiah when He raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
(Ephesians 1:17-20)

 

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His Kingdom is here and now and also will be established in its fullness on this earth. As Dwight reminded,

“The Kingdom of God will occur in Zion, not in heaven. Yes, there will be a ‘new heaven and earth,’ but a renewed Jerusalem will still be at its center and the Jewish nation still central to the purposes of the Creator.”

We need not be surprised, then, at the rise of vicious Anti-Semitism once again and the violent and persistent opposition to the establishment and prospering of the Jewish State of Israel. All the selfish drive of fallen and idolatrous human nature rises up against God’s Land and People. But,  let us remember the fact that at the heart of God’s plan for Redemption is the Golden cord of the reign of the Kingdom of God that encircles our lives with emet and kedusha – the powerful light of truth and radiant glow of holiness.

That is where our focus should be, where our hearts should be centered, as we await the arrival of Messiah as King, and anticipate His glorious reign over all the earth. Eventually, we understand that “…at the Last Day when death is no more, then the Son will hand the Kingdom back to the Father, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:24, 28). Until then we can be working with Him zealously in the redemptive process of tikkun olam – the restoration and redemption of Israel and the nations of the world.

Le’ma’an Shemo b’ahavah! For His Name’s sake, in love.

~Keren Hannah Pryor

 

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

Link:

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.

Spiraling Up! TAMMUZ 2020

TAMMUZ – WEEKS 1 & 2         COMMITMENT

The rich month of Sivan, with its focus on Ahavah – Love and Relationships, launched us into the heights of the “sky,” as it were – into the limitless bounds of our Father’s never-ending love; as well as into a perception of all the wondrous potential that is held within each individual soul and within each relationship. 

Sivan challenged us to widen our perspectives of ourselves, and also our set perspectives of others, and even of G-d, and then to review our relationships with Him, with ourselves and with others. 

Our endeavor was possibly heightened with the outbreak of the CoVid 19 pandemic. As disrupting and challenging as the situation has been on many levels, and continues to be, we are finding positive outcomes in that our awareness of our attitudes and values is being sharpened. We are gaining greater clarity of our need to cling more intently to G-d and His Word, and to be constantly ‘looking up’ in faith.

Now, with the fourth Hebrew month of Tammuz, after the soaring of Sivan, we will find a natural swing of the pendulum – a ‘return to earth.’ As we observe in the waxing and waning of the moon each month, life is in constant motion – a coming and going, inhaling and exhaling, soaring up and gliding down. This month calls us to focus on the attributes that will help us gain the most benefit from what we have been learning up to this point – commitment and savlanut/patience. 

BLESSING FOR THE MONTH OF TAMMUZ

Blessed are you Abba Father, Source of Joy

Who offers us a path of joy.

May this be a month of setting aside expectations

And surrendering to the simple truth of what is

That I may find my way to what might be

In Your perfect plan for my life.

 

ALL SOUL WORK IS SACRED

Initially, we need to examine our commitment to the serious task of gaining deeper understanding of our inner self, in order to bring about greater personal tikkun – inner healing. During this past year, as a group of women, in Being Holy Being Whole, Keep Climbing! (and for some of us it has been the past many years!) we have studied the discipline of Mussar – the pursuit of becoming more healed and whole, and as a result, to grow in holiness. Why? One answer is in order to become increasingly better able to fulfil our unique purpose in partnering with our Father in Heaven in Tikkun Olam – the healing of the brokenness in the world; which begins with receiving His healing in our own broken places. Physically, we are simply, as Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “jars of clay.” However, within these weak, clay jars, we hold the incredible treasure of a holy soul, which is filled with the breath and spirit of G-d Himself and which is fashioned in order to be a vessel that shines His radiance and reflects His light into the world.

 In order to accomplish this, the lamp of our soul needs constantly to be filled with the oil of His Spirit and the Truth of His Word. Our Creator has equipped us with the tools but we need to be committed to the task, just as the High Priest was in lighting the lamps of the Menorah in the Holy Place every morning and evening. It is said that Aaron, aware of his sacred task, tended the lamps every day with care and with joy; just as he had on the first day the Tabernacle was anointed and filled with the Presence of G-d. 

The word commitment in Hebrew is devakut – clinging like glue; just as we read, in the book of Ruth at Shavuot, how Ruth clung to Naomi, and to the G-d of Israel, and to His people. Likewise, we cling to G-d with a deep yearning in our souls to be more and more closely connected with Him, trusting that His light will fill us and flow through us. To be committed to our task we need to remember, like Aaron, that all ‘soul work’ is sacred work. It is tending to the inner menorah of one’s soul that is created to shine the radiance of the truth of the Word of G-d and the light of His Presence into the darkness of the world. 

For G-d, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of G-d [as it was reflected] in the face of Messiah Yeshua.    (2 Corinthians 4:6)

CORE QUESTION: 

What actions can I take to strengthen my commitment to tend to my soul in order to allow the light of G-d’s truth and presence to shine more brightly into the world around me?

To address the question we need always to remember that G-d, our Creator, is in control of our individual lives and of the whole world. He provides His people in every generation with exactly what is necessary to accomplish His purposes in the specific time in which He places us. All that happens in our lives, all we enjoy or must endure, is part of His bigger picture. He is the ultimate source of every circumstance in our lives. Accepting and working through the experience with awareness is essential for the maturing of our souls and in order to allow healing to flow to any area of deficiency or weakness in our lives.

We also need to be willing to do the sacred work involved that will result in the healing of past wounds and the rectification of old patterns of thought and behavior, including those that might have been passed down from generation to generation. This does not entail blaming or judging ourselves or others. It is about having the commitment and the patience – with ourselves and others – to work with our Good Shepherd in the inner work needed to fulfil the unique purpose He has for each of our lives.

BLESSING WEEK 1

Blessed are You Abba Father, the Source of Grace

Who offers us a path of grace.

May this be a week for reaching out to help

And reaching out to be helped

For offering love and being open to love when it is offered.

 

BLESSING WEEK 2

Blessed are you Abba Father, the Source of Transformation 

Who offers us a path of transformation.

May this be a week of doing things differently.

May  I seek out new ways of encouraging myself and others

With the potential inherent in joy, purpose, and growth.

 

TAMMUZ – WEEKS 3 & 4 – PATIENCE / SAVLANUT

The Hebrew word for patience is savlanut. Another word from the same root is sevel – suffering. We all endure forms of suffering during our days on earth. Sometimes they can be mild irritations or frustrations but, at other times, we face serious and painful events such as illness, loss of loved ones, lack of employment, betrayal by others, and so on. BeIng patient means becoming the bearer of each ‘suffering’ with equanimity. Equanimity, as Mussar teacher Alan Morinis describes, is the capacity to embrace what is without being overcome or bowled over by it. It is enduring without complaint. Which means, it’s a challenge!

However, being aware of the challenge and refining our patience brings greater balance and serenity to our lives. We begin to understand more clearly that our true inner happiness is not linked to the constant changes and ups and downs of life. Rather than being plagued by fear, worry, and anxiety, we keep our balance by placing our trust in our Father G-d and by standing in faith on the Rock of His Word.

Often our patience is sorely tried, or our equanimity lost, by the words, attitudes, and actions of others. Negative or insulting words are hurtful and can disturb our inner calm. An early Mussar teacher, Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543 – 1620), recounted how a rabbi responded to a student who admitted that he felt pleased when he was honored by another and was pained when someone insulted him. 

The Rabbi  replied: “Go in peace, my son. Until your soul does not feel honored when one honors you and embarrassment when one insults you, your consciousness is not ready to be attached to [to cling to] the higher supernal realms. So, go and surrender your heart even more, a true surrendering, until you attain equanimity.”

Impatience disturbs our inner balance and peace of mind – our Shalom. Another more recent Mussar teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (1914 – 2005) taught:

“A person who has peace of mind has gained everything. To obtain peace of mind you need to be at peace with the people in your environment. 

You need to be at peace with yourself, with your emotions and desire. Furthermore [most of all] you need to be at peace with your Creator.”

Another sage, quoted by Rabbi Rami Shapiro in The Sacred art of Lovingkindness, observed: 

“Impatience arises when you become too sensitive and you don’t have any way to deal with your environment, your atmosphere. …Patience has a sense of dignity and forbearance. You are not so easily disturbed by the world’s aggression.”  

Interestingly, Rabbi Shapiro also makes the observation: 

“Equanimity has everything to do with expansiveness: how much room you can make in your body, heart, mind, and life for reality as it is at this moment.” And, I would add: to engage that reality with truth, faith, and lovingkindness. 

Often the physical things of the world we treasure prove to be impermanent and unreliable and we find ourselves adrift and beset by uncertainty. That is when we can, in faith and trust in our faithful Father in Heaven, see through the temporal with its sorrows and losses, make peace with it, and see into the timeless – find the infinite in the finite. G-d is lovingly engaged with His Creation and we are part of it with Him. The physical world is real and valuable, and we must engage the temporal with care and courage, with commitment and patience. But, we also must remember it is simply a precursor to our permanent and eternal home.

JOURNAL PROMPT

ASK: Which situations, both small and great, try my patience? Identify them and make a list. Commit to bearing the burden of your emotions and negative feelings for as long as possible in that situation. You may need to be patient with yourself, but by practicing this awareness you will see gradual improvement in your ability to maintain equanimity.

WRITE OUT Scripture verses that encourage you in this area. Decorate them if possible. Read them out loud often!

CORE QUESTION: 

What actions can I take to strengthen my commitment to tend to my soul in order to allow the light of G-d’s truth and presence to shine more brightly into the world around me?

BLESSING WEEK 3

Blessed are You Abba Father, the Source of Balance

Who offers us a path to balance.

May this be a week of self-correction

Listening to my needs and fulfilling them in patience.

May this be a week of victoriously overcoming obstacles

Remembering that some walls need not be toppled but simply walked around.

 

BLESSING WEEK 4

Blessed are You Abba Father, the Source of Wisdom

Who offers us a path to wisdom.

May this be a week for heeding the still, small voice

Of the Spirit that whispers within.

May I be open to what comes my way

Trusting in the One who is the Source of Life.

 

Amen and Amen,

Keren Hannah

SIVAN 2020 Ahavah – Love and Relationship

SIVAN is the third Hebrew month. We are told in Exodus 19:1,
On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.

Sivan is viewed as a month of movement…the Israelites were moving forward, out of slavery into the freedom of God’s Kingdom. Sivan also is considered a month of fragrance. Physically, in the biblical context of Exodus, this does not make as much sense. We generally picture a wilderness as a dry and desolate place and certainly not filled with fragrant fields, orchards or gardens. However, once they reached the Land promised by God it was as we enjoy it today. Sivan is the month of transition between the seasons of Spring and Summer and, following the beauty and fragrance of their blossoming we see the fruit of the trees growing and ripening.

The prophet Hosea describes the beauty and fragrance of Israel when God’s people have returned to His Land:

“I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily; 
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
his shoots shall spread out; 
his beauty shall be like the olive, 
and his fragrance like [the cedar of] Lebanon.” (14:5-6)

During Sivan the festival of Matan Torah, the Giving of Torah is celebrated. It also is called Shavuot and Pentecost – the Jubilee of the fiftieth day since Passover. Spiritually, the month also is filled with the perfume of God’s gift at Sinai of His Word – the Torah, the Tree of Life – with its promise of beautiful fruit as it blossoms in our lives. In the Babylonian Talmud the sages record an entrancing idea;

“With every word that went out of the mouth of the Divine, the world was filled with the fragrance of spices.” This would be reenacted with the unique, special fragrance from the Incense Altar that would fill the air in the wilderness Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem – signifying the Holy presence of G-d in His dwelling place.

The Word of God also is described as the Bread of Life.  

“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, quoted by Yeshua in Matthew 4:4)

We know the wonderful fragrance of freshly baked bread!

Interestingly, we see a recurring theme of bread during the Spring Festivals. At Passover a central element is the Matzah – or lechem oni, poor man’s bread. Once in the wilderness G-d provides manna, the supernatural bread from heaven – revealing His love and care for His newly birthed people. Once in the Land, at Shavuot the kohanim waved two freshly baked loaves of bread as an offering before the Lord – a symbol of the reality of the working in harmony of G-d and His people to produce bread – the staff of life. 

On Shabbat before eating the challah, and at any meal where bread is eaten, the Motzi Lechem blessing is recited. The blessing expresses thanks to G-d for “bringing forth bread from the earth.” We recognize that all we have, all our sustenance, is from His hand, and yet, in the case of bread, human beings need to work with the grain He provides – harvesting it, winnowing, grinding it for flour, kneading the dough, and baking the bread.

Jewish author, Jill Hammer, notes that “…the celebration of bread and the celebration of Revelation are similar in theme.” Revelation and redemption are only fulfilled when we become part of the process. G-d gives us the gift of His Word and knowledge of Himself, but He needs us to receive it. Like a mother’s womb receives a seed of life, it must be sheltered deep within our hearts and allowed to grow. Then it can be given birth externally and nurtured in order that it may accomplish its Divine purpose. 

At Shavuot the book of Ruth is featured, which beautifully illustrates the key themes this month, which are Love – Ahavah and Relationship. The initial close relationship is between Ruth, the Moabitess and stranger to Israel, and her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. Stemming from this relationship, Ruth chooses to cling to the G-d of Israel and to join His people. When they return from Moab to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem, the harvesting of the wheat crop, with the ripe scent of summer replacing the delicate fragrance of spring, becomes the backdrop for the story of love. 

Photo credit: Kenneth Berg

As Ruth labors in his wheat fields, to gather grain to provide bread for Naomi, she is noticed by Boaz, the landowner and their future redeemer. He is impressed by her courage and modest demeanor and he ensures she is protected and fed. Eventually, in a reflection of the wedding at Sinai, Ruth is received under the ‘wings’ of Boaz’s garment, leading to their covenant marriage. Spiritually, Ruth also is covered by the wings of the Shekhinah and she becomes the great-grandmother of King David, the ancestor of Messiah.

My beloved husband of blessed memory, Dwight Pryor, once made the striking comment that Messiah Yeshua is the love, or chessed – lovingkindness, of G-d incarnate. All Yeshua did, as the Word enfleshed, was a reflection of the eternal love of the Father. In this light, let us take a look at one instance. In Mark 2:5-12, seeing that Yeshua was surrounded by a crowd of people at his home in Capernaum, in Galilee, a few of the friends of a paralyzed man, who believed that Yeshua could heal him, lowered him through the roof in desperation. Yeshua looked at him and then said to the paralyzed man,“Son, your sins are forgiven.” To the scribes there, who considered this a blasphemy, he said: “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” he said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, in his book The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness notes that Yeshua did not say, “Son, I forgive you your sins.” Rather he was “… the herald of the Good News that God’s forgiveness is absolute and timeless. Why? Because God’s love is ahavah rabbah – infinite, eternal love. Infinite love is unbounded, unconditional, present, here, now, and always.” Indeed, the Father’s love is limitless, and, therefore, so are His mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

It seems that Yeshua discerned that sin and guilt were at the root of the man’s paralysis and he demonstrated, in effect, that the Father’s love is greater than his sin and the Father’s forgiveness is greater than his guilt and shame. Without the burden of his guilt to weigh him down he could stand up and walk. 

We all can be weighed down by sins and weaknesses. We can even be paralyzed in certain ways by painful stories in our past. But Yeshua offers a new story – the realization that our Father in Heaven’s love is greater than any self-condemnation or accusations of the enemy. When we turn and reach out to Him and receive His love, forgiveness, and healing, the pains of the past are released, our paralysis ends, and we can stand tall and walk forward in joy on the path He has prepared for us – for His glory!

Today much of the world is broken and hurting and we see awful expressions of hatred, violence, confusion, and shaming and blaming. More than ever people are in need of the love and forgiveness of the Father, and of true relationships. Let us pray that His River of Life and Love will flow out to all people, with this special prayer by Eknath Easwaran in God Makes the Rivers to Flow.

May all who live be filled with lasting joy
[the joy of knowing you are created in the image of G-d, our Father in Heaven, 
and, as His child, you are loved with an eternal love]
May deception end and delusion cease.
May no one despise another,
Nor wish them ill.
May love grow boundless,
And may hatred end with the release of fear.   

Amen

 Let us go forward proclaiming words of faith in the Word of G-d and not speaking words of fear.
And, let us receive a deeper revelation of our Father’s love, in Messiah, and allow that love to be shared in all our relationships with others – whether family, friends, or strangers.

~ Keren Hannah

NOTE: A FaceBook Live video of this teaching can be found on the His-Israel FB page.

Spiraling Up! SIVAN 2020

For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the G-d of all the earth.

You have loved us with great Love, LORD our G-d, and with surpassing compassion have You had compassion on us … be gracious also to us and teach us. Our Father, compassionate Father … Instill in our hearts the desire to understand and discern, to listen, learn, and teach, to observe, perform, and fulfill all the teachings of Your Torah in love (Isaiah 54:5).

~ A small portion of the second blessing – Ahavah Rabbah – recited before the Shema.

Sivan comes on with the last blush of spring and the first kiss of summer. With it’s profusion of blooming flowers and warm scented air Sivan is traditionally a wedding month. Within Sivan we celebrate the marriage between Heaven and Earth.

 

JOURNAL PROMPT 1

SIVAN – SKY / RELATIONSHIP AND AHAVA

Sivan is a month of intimacy, union, and relationship, and we read in the Brit Chadashah of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) being poured into the hearts of Yeshua’s disciples on Mount Zion on Shavuot. The Torah once written by the finger of G-d on tablets of stone is now written on tablets of the heart by the Spirit of G-d.

And this Torah is an instrument of Divine love – an instrument that we continue to hear today. We are told that the voice of G-d heard at Sinai was kol gadol velo yasaf, “a great voice that never ceased.” 

Isaiah describes G-d’s voice still speaking to us today:

Your ears will hear (shema) a word (davar) behind (ahar) you,  “This is the way, walk in it…”

Ahar (behind you, in the background) is the Hebrew word Isaiah used. Combined with shema (hear / listen / obey) and davar (a word) this phrase is telling.

Divrei Torah – the words of Torah. Torah means teachings or instruction. We may consider the whole of the Word – the Tanakh and Brit Chadashah – as G-d’s words; and when you hear them, study them, understand them, obey them  He is speaking to you.  

Ezekiel and John both spoke of a “voice” behind you – that voice in the background:

Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind (ahar) me a voice of a great rushing, [saying], “Blessed [be] the glory of the Lord from his place.”

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind (ahar) me a great voice, as of a trumpet…”

Q:  How is the Torah an instrument of G-d’s love?

CORE STRENGTHENING QUESTION:

How might this understanding of Torah affect your relationship with G-d, with yourself, and with others?

 

JOURNAL PROMPT 2

SIVAN – SKY / RELATIONSHIP AND AHAVA

In this month of revelation, romance, and the culmination of our redemption, we turn our focus to the book of Ruth.

This scroll [of Ruth] tells nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, neither of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness (chessed). 

~ Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2:13

Chessed is usually translated as ‘kindness’ but it also means ‘love’ – not love as an emotion or passion, but love expressed as deed. Theologians define chessed as covenant love. …In one of the loveliest lines in the prophetic literature G-d says to Israel through Jeremiah, ‘I remember the kindness [chessed] of your youth, the love of your betrothal – how you were willing to follow Me through the desert in an unsown land’ (Jer. 2:2). Chessed is the love that is loyalty, and the loyalty that is love. It is born in the generosity of faithfulness, the love that means being ever-present for the other.

                    ~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 

To Heal A Fractured World: The Ethics Of Responsibility, 45-46      

Q: 2.. How do we learn chessed from the acts of G-d himself?

CORE STRENGTHENING QUESTION:

How might this understanding of chessed affect your relationship with G-d, with yourself, and with others?

 

JOURNAL PROMPT 3

SIVAN – SKY / RELATIONSHIP AND AHAVA

Almost every verse in the book of Ruth begins with the Hebrew letter vav… When that letter is placed at the beginning of a verse or word it carries the meaning of the word “AND.”  [In Hebrew] it is called Vav Hachibur or the connecting Vav. 

Moshe Kempinski, Understanding Vav in the Book of Ruth

The word vav means ‘hook’ and we read in the book of Exodus that in the Tabernacle golden vavim (hooks) joined all the curtains together. Similar to the book of Ruth, many verses in the Hebrew Scriptures begin with vav and the text of the scroll is set up in such a way that the writing on every page begins with a vav – the connecting letter – so the vavim join the whole Torah together to become one.

The letter “vav” connects words, verses and messages. The letter Vavgives the flow of thoughts, a history and continuity. When we relearn context and connect all the events and visions that seem so randomly placed before us we begin again to find direction and purpose. Only then do we find truth and that is why the letter vav is called the letter of truth.

~.Moshe Kempinski, Understanding Vav in the Book of Ruth

Q: What lesson, concerning the book of Ruth, can be gleaned from this?

CORE STRENGTHENING QUESTION:

How might this new understanding of the letter vav affect your relationship with G-d, with yourself, and with others?

 

JOURNAL PROMPT 4

SIVAN – SKY / RELATIONSHIP AND AHAVA

Here is how G-d revealed his love among us: G-d sent his only Son (Yeshua – the living Torah) into the world, so that through him we might have life. (1 John 4:9).

In our western culture, love is thought of as an emotion, something we feel toward another. But in Hebraic understanding love has a much deeper meaning. One Hebrew word for love is ahava, with its parent root hav, which means to give / to provide. The concept of giving provides a much fuller meaning to the word ahava.

The Hebrew word for father is av – א aleph / ב bet. In the ancient Hebrew pictograph the symbolic meaning of א aleph is leader or strength. The meaning of ב bet is family or house. So the pictograph for father (av) tells us that a father is the leader or strength of the family.  Ahav (love)* is composed of א aleph / ה hey  / ב bet. By placing a hey (symbolic meaning ‘to reveal’) in the middle of father we see that love is the father’s heart revealed.

Q: How does this Hebraic understanding of love affect your understanding of G-d’s commands of loving G-d, loving each other, loving neighbors, and loving your enemies?

CORE STRENGTHENING QUESTION:

How might this deeper understanding of love affect your relationship with G-d, with yourself, and with others? 

* Ahav is the first occurrence of the word love in the Torah – Genesis 22:2 the Akedah (The Sacrifice or Binding of Isaac).

Spiraling Up! IYYAR – FB LIVE

Shalom friends!

Sharing some thoughts on this important “in-between” month of separation, healing, and connection.

It is especially significant in the light of our Core Question for Nissan and Iyyar:

”How might this new understanding (what we are learning this month) affect your relationship with G-d, with yourself, Ana with others?”

Press in to His Word and stand strong on His promises!

All in His love,

Keren

 

Spiraling Up! NISSAN 2020

Being Holy Being Whole – NISSAN 2020 

THEME:  SEA / BIRTH and REBIRTH

CORE QUESTION: How does our theme this month affect your relationship with God, with yourself, and with others?

VERSE: “Be strong, be courageous! Do not be afraid or downhearted, because Adonai your G-d is with you wherever you go [or stay!]”. (Joshua 1:9)

Shalom dear fellow students on this sacred journey of life,

It is both interesting and disappointing to think that today, together with one of my sisters and her husband, I would have been setting sail from the beautiful city of Cape Town, in South Africa, into the Indian Ocean on the lovely liner Queen Mary 2. We had booked our 17 day “once in a lifetime” cruise many months ago, little knowing we would find ourselves in the global crisis we all are now experiencing. They were able to get home to America before the airports were closed here in South Africa, but I presently am on lockdown in Cape Town, gratefully with kind, caring friends. Now, rather than perusing the beautiful, physical ocean ‘landscape,’ I have time to contemplate my own inner personal ‘landscape.’

Our inner landscapes are, in fact, very similar to that of the ocean. Both are constantly changing, often unpredictable. They contain much life and beauty below the surface. When calm and undulating the ocean reflects the sapphire blue of the sky; much like when our souls are at rest, we can reflect the goodness and peace of our Father in Heaven. The glory and radiance of the sunrise and sunset glow from its surface, and the gentle lapping and rhythm of its waves are soothing and pleasant.

However, when a storm blows in, its power is unleashed – the waters churn and become steely gray. The waves crash and become dangerous to enter. Yet, when one views it from a place of safety, there also is a unique beauty in the power of a stormy sea. Life always presents us with different types of storm. They can be brief, such as an emotionally upsetting encounter with another, or one on a larger scale such as loss of a loved one, or severe illness; or even on an unprecedented scale such as the global CoVid 19 pandemic we now are experiencing. In whatever storm we encounter the only factor we have any control over is how we react and respond – how we allow it to affect our inner ‘landscape.’

Will we exhibit calm and strength, reflecting trust in the One who said, “Peace, be still!” And who enables us to calm the storm? Or do we churn and crash in fear and panic and block out the Shalom of His presence?

This is the year, and decade, of Peh – the new Hebrew year is 5780, tav-shin-peh. The word ‘peh’ means mouth. It is of great importance to note, not only what goes into our mouths but also, particularly, what comes out of them – the words we speak. Our focus needs to be on Prayer, Praise, Positive speech (as opposed to negative words of criticism, gossip, slander, judgmentalism, anything false, etc.) and Proclamation of truth and the Word of God.

ACTION STEPS

1. Ponder upon how you can increase and enhance these 4 P’s in your daily life.

2. Write down and speak out daily affirmations about who you are as a beloved child of God, redeemed by the Lamb, and a radiant soul deserving of honor.

In case you don’t receive the monthly HIs-Israel newsletter, here are 3 daily proclamations you may consider:

1. By your Spirit, Father, I have the strength I need for today. (Zechariah 4:6)

2. I take every negative, fearful thought captive and align it in accord with Your Word. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

3. I am grateful for every day and every breath You give me. I will breathe deeply and speak words of praise, hope, and kindness.

And, dear ones, remember to pray for family, friends, the nations, and pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and all Israel.

In Him who loves us with an eternal love,

Keren Hannah

PS: REMINDER – you will find the Journal Prompts for Nissan and other material in the Being Holy Being Whole Group on the His-Israel FB Page. Please join us there if  you have not yet already done so.