ADAR – The Twelfth Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH 

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Adar upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life,
a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah  
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem  
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfils our heartfelt requests for good.
Amen. Selah.

Purim 1

“Be Happy – It’s Adar!” 

Adar is the twelfth and last month of the biblical year, which begins in Nissan, the month of liberation from Egyptian slavery. The happy holiday of Purim, when the scroll of Esther is read in commemoration of God’s salvation of the Jews of Persia, always falls on 14th Adar. [ In a leap year, when an extra month of Adar is added, and we have Adar Aleph and Adar Bet, it is celebrated in Adar Bet.] The story of Esther speaks of God’s people who are in exile and the defeat of the enemy who plots to destroy them. It illustrates the historical threat of Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish people; and the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory. Esther’s cry echoes the cry of her matriarch Rachel, who “wept for her children who were in exile.” God again hears from Heaven and brings deliverance. Praise our faithful God and mighty Deliverer! A good reason to celebrate with a party, and to put up a sign to remind yourself, “Be Happy – it’s Adar!”

 

The month of Adar corresponds with the tribe of Naftali.* As recorded in Genesis 30:8, he was the second son born to Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah. Why did Rachel name him Naftali? And what is his tribe’s connection with the month of Adar?

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The Blessings of Naftali 

When Jacob assembled his sons to his deathbed, he blessed Naftali as follows: “Naftali is a hind let loose, who delivers – imri shafer – beautiful sayings” (Genesis 49:21).
The Midrash explains that the word shafer alludes to the word m’shaper, to perfect or to beautify. It also shares a root with the word shofar. Interestingly, Proverbs 5:19 compares the Torah to a “beloved hind”. A possible reason for this is found in a verse in the Talmud, which states that just as a hind always remains beloved to her mate so too the Torah remains beloved to those who study it.*** The tribe of Naftali would obey and perfect, i.e., teach and clarify the words, or sayings, of the Torah that were given at Sinai with the sound of the shofar.

By comparing him to a hind, a female deer, let loose, we can surmise that a characteristic of the tribe would be alacrity – the ability to swiftly reach “high places” and to be fruitful in their undertakings. Indeed, once the Israelites were in the Land, the northern Galilee area allotted to Naftali proved to be extremely fertile and was the first to rapidly produce much fruit.

The Scriptures also describe how the tribe of Naftali were ready and able soldiers, quick to defend their nation. With alacrity this tribe, led by Barak ben Avinoam, joined the prophetess Deborah and fought to defeat Sisera and his mighty army (Judges 4:10).

When Moses blessed the tribe, he proclaimed, “Oh Naftali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 33:23). This was a blessed tribe indeed; those satisfied with their lot in life. They studied and shared Torah, produced an abundance of olives, fish, and fruits of the Land, and enjoyed the good favor of God and man.

It is not surprising to find that this is the area where Simon Peter and his brothers lived and which Yeshua loved. Here he performed many miracles and gave his discourse on blessings on the Mount of Beatitudes. The green, fruitful surrounding and the beauty of the fresh-water Lake Kinneret glimmering below could not have stood in greater contrast to the dry, barren wilderness landscape of Mount Sinai. However, a dark spiritual shadow covered the land and the people were suffering under harsh Roman domination. Their hearts yearned for Messiah and Redemption. Now, here in the Galilee stronghold of the Roman gentiles, they beheld the Light of the Torah Incarnate in their midst.

…And leaving Nazareth [Yeshua] went and dwelt in Kfar Nachum (Village of Comfort / Capernaum) by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naftali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “In the land of Zebulun and the land of Naftali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13-16)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them” (Psalm 126:2).

The Fun of Adar

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IDF soldiers having fun!

Humor often puts things into perspective and in a world that sometimes makes no sense, often combines sorrow and laughter. In Adar we find a laughter which springs from joy.

As Rabbi Lubliner describes, in Sanctity of Laughter,  

Humor is also a path to God. For to laugh at something is to recognize its limits, its boundaries. Humor shatters a variety of idols — be they our leaders, our enemies, our own foibles. Only God is absolute. All Jewish humor points to the fact that nothing else in this universe even comes close [to Him].

The fun and joyful festival of Purim is celebrated during Adar. The message of Purim, however, is not to wear a mask of joy to cover up your true feelings. Pain and suffering touch every life, but this month of Adar reminds us that joy is our birthright.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

In the face of the ongoing historical threat and violence of Amalek, we can trust in the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory.

 As Queen Esther reminds us, even when we cannot see Him, God always is whispering to us: “I am with you, as I have been all along. I will always be here for you. Choose in faith to see Me in all circumstances, and let your heart be filled with joy and peace.”

Amen to that!

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

 Footnotes:

* Jeremiah 31:15-17

** Pri Tzaddik, Rosh Chodesh Adar, quoting Shaarei Orah  

*** Talmud Bavli, Eruvin 54b

The Liminal Space Between Christianity and Judaism – Raynna Myers

Introductory Comment by Keren Hannah:

We find ourselves in a very significant and prophetic period of history, in particular, of course, regarding God’s restoration of the Land of Israel and of His people to the Land and to Himself.

A significant factor in this process of restoration is the bridging of the once believed unbridgeable chasm that historically, and for good reason, has developed between Judaism and Christianity. With the reawakening in the Church to the vital need of reconnection with its severed Jewish roots and a reclaiming of the lost Hebraic heritage – of realigning once more with the Biblical calendar and the Hebraic perspective of the Word fo God, an astonishing alignment and connection is being made between those of sincere, God-fearing hearts from both “camps.” While still fragile and needing to stand the test of time, where there is sincere, genuine, heartfelt reaching out the bonds are proving strong.

Raynna, indeed one with a sincere heart and a spirit yearning for truth and the richness afforded by the Jewish roots of her faith, has beautifully expressed her perception of this “liminal space” between Christianity and Judaism…this space that is being bridged, with our Father’s help and according to His will.

The liminal space between Christianity and Judaism is like the space of separation, a hallway that begins at the front door of home and leads out into the wild world. A hallway a mother once walked through after she divorced her husband. She doesn’t know where she is going, but she leaves and finds a way out through this hallway. Twenty years later, her daughter, oblivious at the time of her mother’s reasoning or feelings for leaving, stumbles back into the hallway from the wild. She wants to return to the house she was born into, although it leads to the door her mother had slammed shut, angrily weeping as she went

Yet, it became clear that this was no ordinary hallway. The mother thought she would only have to walk it once, but many reasons required her to return again and again to this space. This space was sacred ground for the tears that had been spilt there, and because of the ties that bound and found a way outside of the grief and confusion to grow, but nothing could erase the knowledge that this is where the separation began—where bitter roots took hold and choked life.

 

So the daughter had returned, curious to explore her beginnings. No one blames her but some attempt to restrain her. With one step through the door she sees the beauty and feels the warmth of the home but then hears the “voices of reason.” She recalls the chasm of separation and what she knows of the pain involved. She leaves and does not return. Generations pass, the children marry, their children marry—family roots forgotten and forsaken. What could the history in this original house possibly mean for all the children so far removed? How could connections ever again be made? The years had made the hallway an unkempt and overgrown place. By all appearances it was long abandoned and, further than that, it seemed useless. 

Yet, this still was no ordinary hallway. 

“Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?
Under the apple tree I awakened you.
There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor.”
Song of Songs 8:5

Liminal spaces come in varied forms: some physical, some spiritual, some emotional. Great grandsons and daughters who inherited or were adopted into the divided family of the People of the Book are now in large quantities entering the spiritual liminality between Christianity and Judaism from both ends of the hallway. In faith a path is being cleared, stumbling stones are being removed. We are meeting together, in accord with Psalm 85, 

“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.”
Psalm 85:10

Although the space still carries deep memories of separation, of weeping, and wrong doing, it also is like the liminal space of a river, of water, mayim מים— a place to walk through and become new. It also is like the liminal space of the wilderness, midbar מדבּר — a place through which we wander and are made ready. It is here we all, every member of the family, can rediscover the heart of the the holy commandments, mitzvot מצוות— the way and wisdom of God, embodied in Messiah משׁיח. It is here, that we can hear and say and do together, 

“Shema, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God,
the Lord is one.”
Deuteronomy 6:4

We can find a quiet place in this liminal space, a place to gather so that we can pray toward His house – a house of prayer for all nations,

“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,  for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.”
Psalm 85:8

And may we not turn back to folly. Rather, may we weep tears of wonder and realization and humility, that if the Lord is one, so are we. If Israel is a tree and those of the nations that revere the God of Israel, are wild branches grafted in, may we show our gratefulness. If Isaiah said to seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon him while He is near; let, “faithfulness spring up from the ground, and righteousness look down from the sky” (Psalm 85:11) and let those of us who live betwixt and between, here and now, know I AM.

For surely, his salvation, Yisho ישעו spoken of in Psalm 85 speaks to us of Yeshua…ישׁוע

 “Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.”
Psalm 85:9

Though a seemingly lost and forgotten hallway feels formidable and far away, nevertheless, the words of Isaiah resound, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.” (Isaiah 51:1)

We are encouraged in  Deuteronomy 30 and Romans 10 : “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” so that we can do it. “

“Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.”
Psalm 85:13

Christians are not the replacement of the Jewish people, they are part of their multiplication, their blessing, their comfort. Do we know who we are, where we are? Here in this hallway, we have been called to remember, and to return to the Source so that we may be renewed and restored, together. 

“…Christianity was not invented out of whole cloth, nor did it originate de novo; instead, it was a development from Judaism. To understand anything of the depth of biblical Christianity and its teachings one must understand Judaism.” -Marvin R. Wilson

Restore us again, O God of our salvation… Psalm 85:4

We travail the waters, the wilderness, the brokenness, the trivialities, the time and understanding, to discover our spiritual roots and the place of our birth between heaven and earth. These are not the problem, these are all part of the sacred calling in the liminal space between Christianity and Judaism. All for a time such as this… which is no ordinary time.

The Liminal Space of LETTING GO – Raynna Meyers

Some time ago my dear friend and teacher, Keren Hannah Pryor, began to write about liminal spaces, those in-between places, when we are not in one specific place or another, but find ourselves past something known (at least in part) and not quite on the threshold of what we do not yet know. I’d only ever really heard this space named by one other, the Irish poet John O’Donohue. His words made my heart sing, Yes. Even though the language was new to me, the concept was profoundly felt. Together, life became reframed.

Prior to that, I think the only vocabulary I knew to describe this capacity in life was…lost. And that word wasn’t quite true. That word carried my own self-judgement, my own definitions of where I stood. I learned that I was, “as found as I feel lost.” And it hit so hard when Rich Mullins said what Susan said, when we feel lost…

How love is found in the things we’ve given up…

I needed help from outside of my own head, as I often do, and the consideration of liminal spaces was the hand that reached out to take me there. But now, over time, as I look back I see there were people and words and songs as guideposts all along the way that were showing me, even if it was from their own lack, how to be comfortable in my own skin.

And ain’t it funny what people say
And ain’t it funny what people write
In the middle of the night.

Because, here where we live between the two great thresholds of birth and death, all of this life is liminal. All of us will at sometime find ourselves with a sense of uncertainty, or as we often call it, transition. When we engage with our own uncharted stories, pain and questions  often rise about how to live with joy and contentedness, with purpose, especially when we can’t quite name where it is that we are. right. now. Don’t be surprised nor feel alone in this. Life forming, on its way but not there yet, is an uncomfortable process.

And if your home is just another place where you’re a stranger
And far away is just somewhere you’ve never been
I hope that you’ll remember, I was your friend
I hope you’ll have the strength to just remember
I’m still your friend.  *

No, you are not alone. None of us is so different from each other as we sometimes imagine.  And, we all have had people, words, images, and songs as guideposts all along the way. In my own lack I’ve thirsted and run after so many empty or imagined promises of satisfaction. As though life could be a mathematical equation, as though it could be predictable, as though when it doesn’t turn out as we thought it would, or hoped or planned it would, there was a failure. Failure… another word often carrying our own definitions of where we stand; blind to kindness.

It’s so complicated how we get there, through the messages we have ingested, swallowed whole for one reason or another; those we allow to define our lives. On one hand we know we aren’t sure of where we are, on the other we know we’re not quite sure where we are headed, but still we’re holding on to the old because at least we know that. I have held onto the old—in my thirst, in my quaking.

Yet this realization, of letting go, is no end. This is a new place to begin, a choice laid before us to see the broken cistern we or others have dug that no longer holds precious water—because real life has happened; earth-quaking, time-battered life. This is a liminal space – a place to see the fountain of living water that will not break, though the mountains tremble, and words fail, and songs are wrong, and culture sucks, and people leave.

There are always imitators, but the worth of the genuine is never impaired
by the abundance of imitation and forgery. **

The prophet Jeremiah poetically uses the words, “fountain of living waters,” in reference to the Lord—yet it also is a technical term used elsewhere in the Bible for the concept of mikvah/immersion/baptism. Living waters, mayim chaim, the place a soul can bring their whole body into an action that proclaimed death to the old and lays firm hold upon the Source of all things old and new, known and unknown, lost and found. Taken hold of with open hands, by letting go, by recognition, and humility and, yes, even when we don’t know all the words yet, when we’re in the liminal space. Adonai Elohim, the fountain of living waters, is present there, near to the broken hearted ones who are ready and willing to let go.

It has been a quiet December at my house, by intention. Much lighting of candles and dinners together around the table with almost all the electric lights out. I have both loved and floundered within it. No matter how good I know it is in my mind, even in my bones, my personal taste is a much faster, brighter, and louder pace. I’ve been learning to let go.

It’s been a loud December in my heart, by admission. I’ve found myself unable to escape admitting at least a dozen things, especially people, I haven’t and I don’t. want. to let go. It’s been fast, and bright, and loud in ways I don’t like at all. How picky I can get. I’d like to tell you that I prefer the gentlest of first sunrise light, and it would be true, not because it is my personal taste but rather an acquired one.

I acquired this preference running hungry and thirsty to the Living Waters – a good place, that did not hold me under boldly lit scrutiny, but rather invites all to dwell within as whole human beings because the power of God will dwells within us when we choose to dwell within Him, following His ways. This brings rest and recognition of the guideposts all along the way showing me how to be comfortable in my own skin. They continue to teach me that when I get to the crossroads it’s not about perfection, or what was, or what I thought could, would, or should be. They are teaching me there is an ancient path, a good way, a place to find rest for our souls and that we can let go, together. There is a belonging in the in-between.

And I remember what Susan said,
How love is found in the things we’ve given up
More than in the things that we have kept. *

Two incredibly powerful ways to process life is through conversation and journaling. Here are some questions and prompts for you to take into your own conversations and journals. If you feel alone, be the friend for another that you wish you had, it really can mend us a little at a time:

Q: When you look back, what do see you’ve been being taught all along? Who or what have been guideposts in this for you? Let them know?

Q: What do you need to let go, remembering, “What Susan said, how love is found in the things we’ve given up, more than in the things that we have kept”?

Q: What have you lost that you can still give thanks for today—because at one time you held it?  (Hugs to you in this bitter-sweetest liminality)

Q: What have you named mistakenly, that needs a new word? What have you deemed small, but is actually worthy?

To stand in the tension of allowing a day, a moment, a word, a detail—even our own selves—to be what. it. is. small…but it also, here now, can bring freedom, outside the walls of fear, to see it as it actually is,

worthy.
worthy to be with,
worthy to be present to,
to nurture,
to look in the eyes of,
to stop for,
to choose,
to release.

Our Father in Heaven, Avinu sh’ba’Shemayim, give us eyes to see.

Letting go with you, this new year.
Raynna

  • *  Rich Mullins, What Susan Said, The World as Best as I Remember It, vol. 2
  • ** Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, pg. 229

 

Hello, my name is Raynna Myers. I am very honored to get to write and communicate with HIS-Israel readers!

I would love if you visited me at www.raynnamyers.com, where I share as I grow as a disciple of Yeshua.

I am an author/photographer who lives with my husband and our six children, in Washougal, Washington, USA.

TEVET – VIDEO – OVERCOMING ANGER – MIKE DAVIS

Shalom!

I’m happy to introduce a great couple and beloved friends of mine [Keren] and of His-Israel,  pastors Mike and Karen Davis, who live and minister as life-coaches in Redwood, California.

Mike shares a deep lesson with us this month on ways to 1) recognize (be aware of), 2) acknowledge, and 3) take responsibility for, and overcome emotions, (including the dire character trait of ANGER.) 4) Breathe! and 5) analyze and redefine your story! 

The root of God’s anger is constructive… it’s redemptive, and stems from His love and concern for the values that are important to Him – Love, life, and blessing for each one created in His image.

KEY advice: Be aware of the STORY that makes you angry…and being a Victim, and be the Victor…change it, realistically, for the better! TELL A DIFFERENT STORY!

Love this!  Thank you Mike!

TEVET – 10th Hebrew Month – Being Holy, Being Whole


 

TEVET

THEME: ANGER/PRIDE; GRATITUDE/PEACE

BODY:  THE BODY FILTERS

QUOTE: There is a song that only my soul can sing.

PSALM 105: God-Who-is-our-Praise

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month. 

GOD-WHO-IS-OUR-PRAISE 

In reference to Psalm 105, Rabbi Maurice Lamm makes a very interesting statement: “If we are going to heal from illness need to break two kinds of spiritual gridlock. One paralyzes us so that we become passive and resigned; the other steals the very song from our throats, leaving us with only a groan [of despair].” The psalm teaches us that, no matter the circumstances – illness, troubles, challenges, “Don’t act like a victim!” 

The first five verses of the psalm show us how to remain to remain positive and engaged with life. The first of ten calls to action is one of gratitude. In a troubling situation, to avoid reacting with passive resignation,or anger and despair, we need to maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and “Give thanks to Adonai!” We can always find something to give our Father thanks for – a new day, every breath, a facet of beauty. Even facing death, we can give thanks that, due to His loving grace, we will enter a glorious eternity in His Presence.

Next, “call upon His Name.” He always is near to hear our prayers and to respond. Then, “Let all the nations hear about HIs deeds!” We must do all we can in whatever He has called us to do, and take every opportunity to share about His goodness and wonder. Be proud of Him. “Sing to Him!” When we sing praises our spirits soar above the mundane. The more we get to know Him the more our hearts rejoice. Search His Word, treasure His teachings. 

Learn the ways of God. Long and search for His Presence always. And, finally, always remember “the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the laws from His mouth.”

When we lay a foundation of gratitude in our hearts then we can sing and our souls will be filled with Shalom, even a peace that is beyond understanding. HalleluYah! 

 

THE BODY FILTERS – LIVER, GALLBLADDER, SPLEEN

Last month, during Kislev, we explored the digestive system. Now, in Tevet, we will take a look at the organs that work together with the digestive system specifically in their role of filtering impurities from the body. These are: the liver, which is the largest organ, the gall bladder, and the spleen, which also plays a significant role in the circulatory and lymphatic systems.  Let’s take a look at their physiological characteristics before we consider the spiritual application.

The liver is the largest single organ in the body and it has essentially two functions: 1) it produces and regulates chemicals for the body’s needs, and 2) it neutralises poisons and waste products. Once the blood absorbs nutrients from the food that is digested it passes through the liver and is filtered before returning to the heart. We can picture the liver as serving the heart. In addition, it serves the rest of the body in that it takes the raw nutrients from the food we eat and purifies them so that the body can absorb and utilize them. 

It manufactures proteins and processes carbohydrates (sugars and starches) by converting them into glucose to supply energy for the body. And it stores some of the sugar for future use. The liver also processes fats and the waste products of the blood. The enzymes in the liver cleanse the blood of bacteria and neutralises any poisons that have entered the body. As the liver interacts mainly with the heart and blood, its essential color is red.

Next to the liver, also on the right side of the body, is a small pear-shaped organ – the gall bladder, which stores bile – a thick, bitter, yellowish-green fluid produced by the liver. Bile neutralizes acid and is necessary for the digestion of fats. 

The spleen is situated on the left side of the stomach. It offers protection against any foreign matter in the body and against infection. It collects the surplus fluids from the body’s tissues and it filters and destroys any bad bacteria and breaks down any waste matter. The color of its fluid is milky-white. However, if it is overworked or weak, blood can become tainted and is described as “black” blood. Therefore the spleen is also associated with the black fluids in the body.

THE LIVER – THE BLOOD FILTER

In Hebrew the liver is called ka’ved, meaning ‘heavy.’ The liver serves the heart and the whole body, and if it is functioning well then all goes well. If it has problems, the negative effects are felt throughout the body. 

An interesting connection is found in Exodus 8:28, where the well-known term is found – “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” The Hebrew word used here is also ka’ved. He livered his heart! Instead of serving the heart the liver took over and ‘hardened’ it. What does this mean? In Scripture, the heart and the kidneys are associated with wisdom, and should reign over the body.  For example, in Psalm 16:7, “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.” The main function of the kidneys is the processing and purifying of the fluids of the body. The two kidneys filter and retain what is good and excrete the waste. Likewise, we should cultivate the wisdom to choose and keep what is good and reject what is bad or evil. 

We know that life is in the blood. The liver is the primary filter that purifies the body’s blood. All blood passes through the liver. If it is properly nourished it functions well, but if, for example, we overeat, or have an unhealthy diet, it becomes overworked and returns impurities into the blood. These accumulate and the blood becomes polluted causing negative effects in the body. Blood is red, which can symbolize heat, anger, and violence. The Sages connect this with Esau, who, at birth “…came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau” (Genesis 25:25). His characteristics are pride, anger, and accusations. On the other hand, King David was also red-haired and, positively, red represents strength of character and fear, or reverential awe, of God.  When a person desires godliness, and, in the awe of God, longs to serve Him properly and to worship Him alone, he will be free of the influence of Esau and will live in gratitude and peace. His heart will rule his liver and he will be set free from the traits of pride, envy, and anger. 

The lust for power and wealth is a major negative force of our times. When this is driven by a materialistic desire, anger, envy and hatred will be the outcome. Rebbe Nachman observes: 

A by-product of the fire of pride [which is tantamount to idolatry for man puts himself on the throne in place of God] is anger. Because of his haughtiness, a person is quick to anger when his desires are not satisfied as he wishes. A humble person is more capable of exercising restraint. Therefore haughtiness and anger stand together as two of man’s worst characteristics.  

 

 

 

A fool or angry person as described in Proverbs!

A related danger is false humility, which is a more disguised form of pride. A person realises that arrogance is bad, so they adopt an appearance of humility. Often fooling themselves, they act as though they are modest and not wanting to accept any honor or recognition. Deep down, however, they crave notice from others and chase after honor. True humility does not require that you hide yourself, or act as though you are worthless. You should know the extent of your full worth, and yet be humble, knowing that you are not perfect and are on a spiritual journey that is not yet completed. Humility leads to repentance, a quality that is vital on our life’s journey; for, God says, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he/she who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2b).

THE GALL BLADDER is alongside and works together with the liver. We are reminded in the Psalm for the month of the Exile in Egypt. In slavery the Israelites became weakened, both physically and spiritually, by the suffering they endured. They became embittered. In Hebrew, the gall-bladder is called ma’rah from the root mar – meaning bitter. Usually, it serves to cool and balance the liver, but If this organ gets out of sync it becomes stoney, hardens as it were, and can cause pain, fever and illness. 

THE CONNECTION OF 70

The Sages consider that there are seventy basic facets of Torah (God’s Word/Teaching), that correspond with the seventy aspects of a person’s character. Seventy also relate both to the seventy souls of the Children of Israel who went down to Egypt and to the seventy nations. The Children of Israel are rooted in the Torah – the will and ways of God, which guide one on the spiritual path. When a person distances himself from God and the spiritual light of His Word, then the darkness and negative characteristics of the nations – including materialism, lust, anger, and violence, take root in him/her and result in wicked or immoral behavior. Interestingly, the liver has seventy major blood vessels. Therefore, a person can choose to connect him/herself to the good source of Jacob, which is following God and His Word with all one’s heart, resulting in joy and peace; or to the materialistic, evil source of Esau that results in anger and despair.

THE SPLEEN – THE SEAT OF DEPRESSION

 The role of the spleen is to eliminate impurities found in the body. The more excesses, the harder it must work. A damaged spleen, if overworked by an unhealthy diet, or over-eating, can result in a general sluggishness, which leads to indifference, laziness, and sadness. Traditionally, the spleen has been associated with melancholy. 

The spleen is called t’chol in Hebrew. The word for sand is chol. Rebbe Nachman taught that “…the main bite of the Serpent is sadness and sluggishness. This is because [even in the New Heaven and New Earth] the Serpent is cursed with, “Dust shall be the Serpent’s food” (Isaiah 65:25). In Genesis, Adam, too, was cursed concerning the earth and eating, “And to Adam [God] said, “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain [sorrow] you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (3:17). 

We are advised in the Word of God to distinguish between Kodesh ve’Chol – Holiness and Materialism – spiritual and earthly. Bounty and wealth are not evil in and of themselves. Wealth, when achieved and used correctly, is a great blessing and can be a powerful tool for the advance of spirituality and God’s Kingdom. When, however, greed and lust separate the material from the spiritual, wealth becomes like dust. If a person becomes obsessed with materialism and wealth, “all the days of his life” will be consumed and ultimately it will be like eating dust, and will result in delusion, sadness, and depression.

All bounty, goodness, and true wisdom, come through our faith and trust in our Father God. Knowing that our lives are in His hands, we can trust Him to provide for our every need. This understanding fills our lives with balance, joy, and great peace.

KISLEV – 9th Hebrew Month – Being Holy Being Whole

KISLEV

THEME: EATING, BREAD/CHALLAH, SLEEP/REST

BODY:  THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM 

QUOTE: Eat to gain strength to serve HaShem physically and to grow spiritually.

PSALM 137: God-our-Avenger-and-Song

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month.

 

GOD-OUR-AVENGER-AND-SONG

Psalm 137 is a song of captivity and exile. Sometimes, on our journey through life, situations occur and things happen for which we have no ready explanation and they leave us filled with grief. In such times of darkness we can only weep. Our spirit feels crushed and we cannot imagine being able to raise our voice in song; not even one to the Lord of our lives. We simply hang our harp of song on a branch of a weeping willow. We find ourselves on “alien soil,” far from “Jerusalem” – the place of the beauty and fragrance of His Presence, which is our highest joy.

Suddenly, even as we remember Jerusalem and His Holy Sanctuary, something in our soul shifts. We recall the eternal home of our God-breathed spirit – His Eternal Dwelling Place, where He promised to place His Name forever. A popular saying goes: “Wherever I stand, I stand with Jerusalem.” Such is the cry of the heart of those in whose hearts there is a Highway to Zion – the palace of the King of kings.

At this remembrance, we find that our hearts and mouths can fill with song. We can sing songs of gratitude, of praise, of wonder. We can celebrate the wonder of life in His Kingdom; the truth and promise of His Word. We can breathe deep and rest in His unfailing love, secure in the knowledge that His is the vengeance and the eternal glory.

 

EATING AND THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

The first transgression of man, as recorded in Genesis, was connected with eating. Since then, it has been recognised that the three primary weaknesses or failings of mankind are the lusts after wealth, sexual pleasure, and food. The lust for wealth is a driving force from which it is very difficult to break free.
Sexual lust, that manifests in various forms, also is a constant challenge that plagues many. Yet, Rebbe Nachman calls gluttony “the paramount lust!” Why? He points out that food is a constant essential that provides man with physical strength and, therefore, enables him to pursue all his other desires – which could either be for good or evil. Food is always before us as a temptation. In the abundance of food available today, medical scientists record that more people are dying from the effects of over-eating than from famine. 

Eating, of course, is a natural need, second only to that of breathing. On the one hand, for optimal survival, humans need only a simple, well balanced diet. The body’s need to eat, to digest, and to eliminate waste begins at birth and continues until death. Interestingly, babies instinctively know when they have received the nourishment they need and, therefore, when to stop eating. Apart from our basic need for food, on the other hand, the Word of God also makes it clear that we are expected to enjoy and derive pleasure from food. Special meals, such as our weekly Shabbat tables and Festive meals, are an integral part of our heritage. However, we need constantly to  be aware, that there is a difference between maintaining a healthy balance in our enjoyment of food and lusting for excesses. Avinu, our Father, defines, and provides us with all that is permissible and beneficial for man to eat and we, then, are able to thank and praise Him for His provision and His wonderful edible creations.

*Photo credit: Debra Elfassy

Next, a look at the digestive system: Ancient as well as modern medicine recognizes the vital importance of the digestive system in the healthy growth and physical well-being of a person. In addition, the health and fitness of our physical body has a powerful effect both on our mental capacity and on our spiritual well-being. Obviously, our spirits don’t need physical food; we feed them with the ‘bread’ of the Word of God. However, while they are housed in these physical bodies, there should be a harmonious relationship of well-being between the body and spirit.

How does the digestive system work? Based on Chaim Kramer’s explanation:
When we eat, the food descends to the stomach, where acids and enzymes break it down into smaller particles. The digestive tract processes the particles into nutrients, which then are transported to the blood stream. The blood flows to the heart, where it is further enriched with oxygen from the lungs. It is then pumped throughout the system, bringing nourishment to the body. Whatever is not needed is rejected and eliminated from the body as waste. The whole process and the ability of the body to know exactly what to absorb and what to reject is truly one of God’s most awesome wonders.

The organs of the body associated with eating are the mouth, the neck or throat, and the stomach, intestines, and colon. We will take a closer look at the neck/throat and the stomach. The neck is a narrow part of the body. In Hebrew the throat is called Meitzar ha’garon, which literally translates as “the narrow of the neck.” We know that the stories of the Bible carry meaning for every generation, including this one. Rebbe Nachman taught that the land of Egypt – Mitzraim, has the same Hebrew root as Meitzar ha’garon. And, Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler who represents the forces of evil, has the same root letters, in reverse, as Oreph, which is the nape or back of the neck in Hebrew. 

The three life-sustaining vessels that pass through the throat are: 

  1. the trachea (windpipe) that carries air to the lungs and is situated on the right side; 
  2. the oesophagus, which carries food and is situated on the left slightly behind the trachea and is closer to the nape of the neck; and 
  3. the jugular vein and carotid arteries, which carry blood.

We can notice that the tube for food is located closer to Pharaoh – the back of the neck! If we give in to the wiles of an evil master through improper eating habits not pleasing to our true and good Master, then we become as slaves in Egypt. 

Regarding the stomach, Proverbs 13:25 tells us: “The belly of the wicked always feels empty.” Rebbe Nachman taught: “This refers to those who are never satisfied and always crave more.”  He adds:  “Peace and prosperity go hand in hand, while hunger bodes strife and war. Therefore a craving for food is a sign that one has enemies. By breaking one’s craving for food, one can gain peace with one’s enemies.” (Likutey Moharan 1,39) 

Essentially, these ‘enemies’ are deceptions, which often bring confusion between what is good and what is evil.  When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the one tree God had forbidden to them (Gen. 3:6) the serpent had enticed Eve with, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Instead, they were exiled from the Garden and descended to a place where good and evil are often confused – where evil can be seen as good, and good as evil. As the prophet Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. They exchange darkness for light and light for darkness…” (5:20). 

In this context, the celebration of the Festival of Hanukkah during this dark, wintry month of Kislev, reminds us that the true light we have is that of the God of Israel and His Word, as expressed by King David:

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?” Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:6)

A Talmudic story reflects a central theme of the season of Hanukkah:

When Adam and Eve first saw the sun go down they were panic-stricken, thinking that the setting of the sun was a consequence of their sin, and that this new, intense darkness would spell their death. They spent that entire first night weeping, until dawn broke and they realized, to their immense relief, that this was simply the way of the world — day was followed by night, and night was followed by day.

Sometimes we, like Adam and Eve, find ourselves in a confusing and painful “dark night of the soul” and can forget that morning follows night. We become anxious and even panic stricken at the thought that there is no end to the ominous darkness that has befallen us. Then God, in His chessed, love and mercy, gradually brings the dawning of a new day.

This truth is reflected in a powerful statement by the prophet Micah: “Rejoice not over me,  O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”  (7:8) 

We can celebrate the fact that in Messiah Yeshua the veil of darkness that covered the nations could, and can to this day, be pierced as they received the light of the truth of the One God and His Word.  “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has  dawned.”
(Matthew 4:16)

Photo credit: Shutterstock

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

CHESHVAN – 8th Hebrew Month – Being Holy Being Whole


CHESHVAN – The 8th Hebrew Month

THEME: BREATH, FRAGRANCE, PATIENCE

BODY:  NOSE 

QUOTE: May our lives emit the fragrance of His Presence. 

PSALM 33:6 tells us: “With the Word of God the heavens were made; with the breath of His mouth, all their hosts.” 

From the very beginning we realize the importance and power of breath. All that is was created by the breath of God, and His Divine breath is the constant sustainer of life.When God created man we are told: “God breathed into Adam’s nostrils” (Genesis 2:7). We know that the nose is the main passageway for air. Also, it contains membranes and fine hairs called cilia, which filter and purify the air when we inhale. Thus, the nose plays a vital part in the process of respiration. Through our noses we draw in air and oxygen which descends to our lungs. There life-sustaining oxygen is absorbed and channeled to the heart, which distributes it into our blood. There the oxygen is absorbed and the waste of carbon-dioxide is brought back to the lungs from where it is exhaled. There we have the fairly simple process of breathing, which helps to sustain our lives. It is a process we mostly take for granted until, G-d forbid, something goes wrong!

A Hebrew word intimately connected with respiration is ruach ((רוח. Ruach has many meanings; for example, it can refer to the wind that blows outdoors. Metaphysically, it can mean spirit or soul. A person’s ruach is the basic essence of one’s personality, one’s character, which is affected by one’s mind, thoughts, attitudes. Psychologically, too, e.g., one can speak of a ruach or spirit of despair, or a deep, quiet spirit. The Ruach HaKodesh (רוח הקודש) is the Spirit of Holiness – the Spirit of God that can fill, inspire, and anoint one. The prophets, for example, were inspired (or in-spirited), to speak words from God to the people. The prophet Isaiah describes how Messiah is blessed with six qualities of the Spirit of God:- 

A ruach of wisdom and understanding, a ruach of counsel and might, a ruach of knowledge and of fear of God.” (11:2)

The Ruach is a gift from the Father to HIs beloved children. Yeshua instructed his talmidim to remain in Jerusalem after he ascended to the Father until Shavuot when they would receive the promise of the Father of a special anointing of the Holy Spirit  in power (Acts 1:4-5). In the face of the ever-increasing Godlessness in the world today, we can trust the Spirit of Holiness to cleanse our hearts of any impediments that would hinder us from growing in knowledge of the One true God and, as a result, would prevent us from growing in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. Proverbs 20:27 tells us: “The spirit of man is the lamp, or candle, of the Lord.” We are encouraged by Matthew, in chapter 12:21-22, who quotes the prophet Isaiah in saying, regarding the Messiah who would be “…a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out from prison those who sit in darkness,” that “…a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning – or smoldering,  wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:1-4). No matter how faint a person’s faith is, the Spirit of God can fan it into a brightly burning flame!

BREATH – AIR – WORDS

We know that physical and spiritual realities are intertwined. In a lovely metaphor, the Breslover Rabbi Nachman compares the lungs to two wings whose gentle movement constantly fans and cools the heart in its demanding work of pumping blood, thus regulating its temperature and enabling it to operate smoothly without overheating. To live, physically, we need a constant supply of air and water. Spiritually, the Torah, or Word of God, is often compared to both of these life-sustaining elements. In connection with breathing, we inhale the moisture-laden air of Torah, which fills our being with life. Interestingly, the five books of Torah can be compared to the five lobes of the lungs. When we breathe in the truth and holiness of His Word, our response should be to exhale prayer – words of thanksgiving and praise to the Giver of Life, as well as words that carry truth, kindness, and holiness. 

The enemies of God and His people “…breathe out cruelty, or violence” (Psalm 27:12). This indicates that what they are breathing in – their very life source and essence of being is cruelty, hatred, violence, and lies.  The words we breathe out have power, and either elevate or deplete us spiritually. In addition, they have the power to influence and affect those around us. Let us speak life-giving words and be careful to not be a source of Air pollution!

Happily, when Messiah is reigning as King of kings over all the earth, and all mankind turns to God, then speech will be perfected, as the prophet Zephaniah foretells: “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).

The Hebrew word for nose is af, which also can mean anger. In II Samuel 22:9, anger is compared to smoke “…escaping through the nostrils.” If one becomes angry, impatient, or anxious, one tends to breathe short, shallow breaths. Being aware of this and regulating one’s breathing by taking deep, long and slow breaths, helps control the negative emotions. In Exodus 34:6, a characteristic of God is erech apayim – literally of ‘extended nose’ but meaning “long of breath, slow to anger, patient!”

We presently are moving from the intense and Feast-filled month of Tishrei into the quieter month of Cheshvan, which is sometimes called Mar-Cheshvan, (Mar means bitter), because it has no festivals. This also indicates a move, or shift, of awareness from an intense focus on our relationship with God, when we affirm His Kingship over our lives, and the universe in general, and rededicate ourselves in His service, to our relationship with and service to others. Cheshvan is the first Rosh Chodesh of the new calendar year that is celebrated after Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei. This initiates the start of our walk once again in connection with the others in our lives. We can employ what we learned during the intense month of Tishrei, when we purposed to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart,”  to now “…love your neighbour as yourself.”

FRAGRANCE.   May our lives emit the fragrance of His Presence.

The Hebrew words for spirit – ru’ach and smell – rei’ach are closely related, and for good reason. The sense of smell is mysterious and powerful. The Sages say that: “Mashiach will be able to ‘smell’ deceit and judge by his sense of smell.” (Sanhedrin 93b) In English, when something is “off” and does not seem right, we have the expression” “I smell a rat!”

In Exodus 20:13, the commandment “Do not commit adultery,” in Hebrew is, Lo tin’af, which literally would be translated as, “Do not give in to the nose!” The Sages comment that this can mean, “Do not even seek to smell the perfume of another woman for this leads to adultery.” 

Anatomically, the physical sense of smell is associated with the limbic lobe of the brain, which is considered to be the link between the cognitive and emotional processes, that is, between thoughts and feelings. Since the sexual urge is undoubtedly one of man’s strongest passions, which impacts his mind as well as his emotions, physiologically the sense of smell and sexual desire are interconnected. Quoting Rebbe Nachman again: “A spiritually pure  sense of smell can be attained only through sexual purity. Where sexual purity is lacking, spiritual energy inevitably wanes.”

In ancient biblical times perfumes were very costly and only used by royalty. We see in the book of Esther how the young women who were to be presented to the king underwent a treatment of “…six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women” (2:12). *

Of course, the Song of Songs is the most fragrance-laden of books in the Bible, and speaks of the king as “…perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant spices of a merchant” (3:6). We can make the connection with the gifts brought by the wise men from the East to the babe in Bethlehem, who is destined to become the King of kings, all of which indicate royalty: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In a striking example, it’s interesting to note that God filled His house with fragrance. The special incense burnt constantly on the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place filled the Temple and also all the surrounds of Jerusalem; so much so, that the women didn’t need to wear perfume. How wonderful to realize that as travellers, and pilgrims during the Feasts, approached Jerusalem they were informed of the presence of the King of the universe by the fragrance in the air. 

Stirred by the Spirit of Holiness, may we be filled with the beautiful fragrance of the presence of Messiah and may our homes and lives, too, emit a fragrance pleasing to our Father God.

 

CHESHVAN – The Eighth Hebrew month

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Blessing of the New Month – Birkat Ha’Chodesh

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Cheshvan upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life,

a life of peace – Shalom,

a life of goodness – Tovah

a life of blessing – Bracha

a life of sustenance – Parnassa

a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot

a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet

a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah

a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod

a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God

Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem

a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

The cycle of the moon, with its waxing and waning, is symbolic of renewal. It is a constant illustration of the fact that, as we journey through life, we too continually experience phases of growth and decline, prominence and hiddenness. Every day, week, month and year are opportunities for new beginnings. Biblically, the number 7 indicates completion – the Shabbat crowns and completes the week. The number 8, as in the eigth day, indicates a new beginning in a special way and is seen by the Sages as representing Olam HaBa,  (the World to Come or Eternity) once Olam HaZeh, this world, has reached its completion.

It is also worthy of note that the observance of Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment given to Israel as a newly formed nation (Exodus 12:2). Israel thus has a special, God ordained, identification with the moon. It serves as a reminder that Israel’s glory may fade and seemingly disappear but the nation will always re-emerge and grow to fullness, as does the moon.  For Israel, and those who stand with her – particularly at this time of God’s restoration of the nation and the violent attempts of the enemy to prevent it –  the blessing of the New Moon is an event of inspiration and importance.

After the Exodus from Egypt, the verse that references the first month set in place by God to mark the deliverance from Egypt reads,

“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”

Notice that He says it is for you! The months are set in place for our benefit. It is as though our Father has stored a gift for us at the start of each new month – a fresh opportunity of renewal –  to strengthen ourselves in our relationship with Him and in our service to Him.

A connection is made between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals in all three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures – the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings [the TanakhTorah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim].

1. Numbers 29:1 

“On the first day [New Moon] of the seventh month [TishreiRosh HaShanah] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets…”

2. Isaiah 66:23 

“From New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me”, says the Lord.

3. 2 Chronicles 2:3

“I am now about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for offering fragrant incense before him, and for the regular offering of the rows of bread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the Appointed Festivals of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel.”

The main differences between Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals are:

  1. On Rosh Chodesh work is permitted as if it was an ordinary workday; unless, of course, it falls on a Shabbat or a Festival. However, due to the particular identification of women with the moon (for many reasons, e.g., the menstrual cycle) it was long a tradition that women refrained from working to whatever extent possible. Today women are again discovering Rosh Chodesh and are creating ways to celebrate it together.
  2. It is commanded in the Torah that we be joyful on the Festivals and celebrate with festive meals, but this is not the case with Rosh Chodesh. It is, nevertheless, considered a day of gladness.
  3. A significant difference is that the Festivals are celebrated in a physically overt fashion. They are obviously different from ordinary week days; there is a transformation, an aura of holiness that encompasses these “holy” days. Rosh Chodesh, on the other hand, appears to be a regular weekday, with no special meals, dress or concrete actions taken. Like the shy moon, it quietly and softly comes and goes. This reticence, however, does not diminish its value and holiness.  A renowned Torah teacher of this generation, Rabbi Yosef Dov Solovetichik, explains that Rosh Chodesh was celebrated more visibly in the times of the Temple. The Levites would sing and conduct the same ceremony as they did on the Festivals. Without the Temple, that external stimulus is lacking.

The Tribe of Menashe.

“According to the order of the encampments, Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim and Marcheshvan [Cheshvan] to Menashe [Manasseh]…”

(Bnei Yissachar: Maamarei Chodesh Tishrei 1:2)

In his writings, Rabbi Soloveitchik also describes the character of a person, whom he calls an Ish Rosh Chodesh – one who embodies the nature of Rosh Chodesh; one who knows how to combine holiness, especially hidden holiness, with the outwardly mundane. He notes that the first person to embody this synthesis was Yosef Ha’Tzaddik – the Righteous Joseph.

Joseph was a ruler in Egypt, adept in worldly matters of government, and he was holy and upright, imbued with knowledge of the God of Israel and His ways. Joseph’s inner purpose was to do the will of God in every circumstance, whether he was in a prison or a palace. As a result, all his actions were holy and to the glory of God.

Joseph loved his sons, Manasseh the firstborn and Ephraim the younger. He was surprised when his father Jacob, as he was bestowing his final blessing upon them, placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh.

Yad ha’Yamin, the right hand, is of great significance in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Why did Jacob favor Ephraim over Manasseh? Jewish sages comment that both sons were of sterling character and were great leaders. However, Ephraim, like his grandfather Jacob in his youth, was more inclined to “remain in the tents” and study the teachings of God, while Manasseh (who, as firstborn, no doubt accompanied his father and learnt of matters of governance) excelled in worldly, communal matters. Jacob was indicating that spiritual service to God came before material service to one’s fellow man.

The ideal is to combine the two, as did their father Joseph. No doubt, as they grew older and more experienced in the leadership they were given over a tribe of Israel, each young man would become an Ish Rosh Chodesh like Joseph. To this end, parents bless their sons on Shabbat to be like Ephraim, one who excels in the study of the Word of God and walks in His ways, and also like Manasseh, one who enjoys success in business and worldly matters.

In many ways, the Righteous Joseph is a forerunner of the Messiah, the Anointed one to come – Yeshua, the fully righteous one, in whom was found no sin and who lived only to do the will of his Father in Heaven.

“Let Your hand be upon the one at Your right hand, the one whom You made strong for Yourself” (Psalm 80:17).

Yeshua is the Son, seated at the right hand of the Father, where there is fullness of joy forever (Psalm 16:11; 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62;16:19; Luke 22:69).
He is glorious in power (Exodus 15:6), the “right hand” extended to save; our help and the place of refuge from one’s enemies (Psalm 17:7).
In him is the victory (Psalm 98:1-2; Isaiah 41:10).
God exalted him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).
As High Priest, Yeshua intercedes for us before the Throne (Romans 8:34) and he pours upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father (Acts 2:33).

He is the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy to receive the scroll with its seven seals from the right hand of the Father (Revelation 5). And the myriads around the Throne sing,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

The author of Revelation, Yochanan (John), concludes:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the One seated on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might, forever and ever!” (5:11-12)

Amen and HalleluYah!

 

  •  Artwork – Matt Doll 

VIP PRAYER FOR THE PROTECTION AND DEFENCE OF ISRAEL

VIP PRAYER FOR ISRAEL’S PROTECTION AND DEFENCE*

Let Israel say, if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us….they would have swallowed us alive…Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth….Our help is in the name of the Lord

(Psalm 124:1-8). 

Please, God, our Father in Heaven, keep Israel as “…the apple of Your eye; hide her under the shadow of Your wings from … her deadly enemies who surround her” (Psalm 17:8-9). 

Along all Israel’s borders, dispatch angelic guardians and warrior hosts. 

Protect Your Land from division by the nations.

 “Hide [Israel] in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of men…keep [her] secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Ps. 31:20). 

Bring the counsel of ungodly nations to nothing, and their plans against Israel to no effect. (Psalm 33:10) 

Please, Abba, protect Your people from terror in the streets.. Guard Israel’s borders from attack by land, air or sea. Expose and overturn schemes of evil destruction against Your people. Keep us from ungodly alliances with nations seeking to entrap us. May Israel trust in You for deliverance, not in her own strength, skill, military might or in the favor of other nations.

NORTHERN ISRAEL:

Please protect Israel’s mountains and northern borders from foreign invasion, for Your Word says her fiercest enemies come from the north. If enemies do invade from the north, “…show [Your] greatness and [Your] holiness, and make [Yourself] known in the sight of many nations” (Ezekiel 38:23).

Give those in the North the strength and faith to trust in You at all times.

COASTAL AND CENTRAL REGIONS:

Guard and defend Israel’s Mediterranean coast from foreign invasion. Rule over the sea coast according to Your Word: 

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters…the Lord thunders over the mighty waters…the Lord sits enthroned over the flood…the Lord blesses His people with peace.”
(Psalm 29:10)

Bless with peace the Mediterranean coast to be enjoyed with thanksgiving and used for good as shipping harbors, as a media center and hi-tech hub. Prosper the center of Israel as a region of farming, agriculture and industry. Protect, strengthen and embolden those in the coastal and central regions with Your truth.

SOUTHERN ISRAEL:

Please be a shield to Israel’s south, the desert You have enabled to bloom. Send Your heavenly hosts to guard our southern borders from infiltration, terror, war or other forms of attack. Thank you for intercepting and miraculously re-directing rockets and missiles shot from Gaza into southern Israeli civilian centers. 

Enhance peaceable cooperation with the Bedouin in the Negev, many of whom have blessed the Jewish people. Sustain cooperative relations with Egypt and Jordan over shared borders and interests. Expose and shake enemy hideouts and tunnels in desert lands, for “the voice of the Lord shakes the desert” (Psalm 29:8). 

Make a way where there seems to be none for the Negev to grow as an agricultural, industrial, hi-tech and military center (Isaiah 43:19). 

“Provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to … the people [You] formed for [Yourself] that they may proclaim [Your] praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21).

JUDEA AND SAMARIA  (THE WEST BANK) :

Shield of Abraham, would you protect the Jews living in settlements from terror and other forms of military invasion. Expose and dismantle violent conspiracies and  attack. 

Expose the lies condemning Israeli settlements as illegal. Implement true and righteous justice between the Arabs and Israel. Expose the errors and evils of Palestinian Christian theologies that teach God’s covenant with Israel has expired. Protect, strengthen and embolden the Arab remnant following You in Spirit and in truth. 

Please do not allow Israel’s land to be wrongly divided, for we “know You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Graciously thwart invasion of the West Bank by terrorist groups seeking to destroy the Jewish state. Mercifully spare Israel from a false peace treaty. Protect, strengthen and embolden those living in Judea and Samaria.

G-d’s promise:

* Based on Sandra Teplisky’s Prayers for Israel

TISHREI – VIDEO – TOUCH / RELATIONSHIP – KAREN FREEMAN WORSTELL

 Hands are the part of the body we are focussing on during the month of Tishrei. Our hands enable us to touch and feel.

The importance of touch in the field of relationships cannot be overemphasized. It is one of the stronger physical expressions of love and relationship. Babies who are not held and touched by their mother and father and/or other caring human beings, after birth and beyond, suffer deep emotional scars. The caring touch of a hand can bring comfort, encouragement, and joy to another. The same applies to hugs. People need to be hugged, often!

We have the sensation of touch through our skin, and therefore have feeling throughout our bodies. Through our sense of touch we also experience pain. It is an awful and negative thing when one person deliberately inflicts pain on another. A sensitivity to pain, however, is necessary for survival because it warns us of injury, such as a cut or burn, and, hopefully, helps prevent further injury.

This sense of physical touch has parallels on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. The protective “skin” that covers us in these areas is the Word of God, The more sensitive we are to His Word and, as a result, walk in His ways, the more healing we can receive and the healthier, and stronger, and less susceptible to pain and injury we become.

This month HIS-ISRAEL friend KAREN FREEMAN WORSTELL shares about the importance of touch. Reach out!

Narration: Karen Freeman Worstell
Videography: Tikvah Lightner

Read more about TISHREI – The 7th Biblical Month in our Being Holy ~ Being Whole Series

TISHREI – The 7th Hebrew Month – Being Holy Being Whole

  TISHREI

THEME: GOODNESS, TOUCH, BLESSING

BODY:  HANDS 

QUOTE: Gam zu le’tovah! This, too, is for the good.

PSALM 77: Almighty God-Who-Does-Wonders

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month. 

 

ALMIGHTY GOD-WHO-DOES-WONDERS

THE ECHO OF YOUR PROMISE  – Based on Psalm 77 – by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis 

When I cry my voice trembles with fear   When I call out it cracks with anger.

How can I greet the dawn with song when darkness eclipses the rising sun

To whom shall I turn when the clouds of the present eclipse the rays of tomorrow

Turn me around to yesterday that I may be consoled by its memories.

Were not the seas split asunder  

Did we not once walk together through the waters to the dry side

Did we not bless the bread that came forth from the heavens

Did your voice not reach my ears and direct my wanderings

The waters, the lightning, the thunder remind me of yesterday’s triumphs

Let the past offer proof of tomorrow, let it be my comforter and guarantor.

I have been here before, known the fright and found your companionship.

I enter the sanctuary again to await the echo of your promise.

THE DAYS OF AWE

Rosh HaShanah (or Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets as it is called in Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1), is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. It ushers in the ten days until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, considered the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar. Yom Kippur marks the conclusion of the forty days of cheshbon nefesh (introspection) and teshuvah (repentance) that began on the first of Elul. After hearing the one hundred blasts of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the ‘Ten Days’ are a final time of spiritual preparation before we stand, as it were, before the Throne of G-d’s Presence and an accounting is made on Yom Kippur. While it is not intended to induce fear, the solemnity of the season should engender yirat HaShem – a reverential awe of our Almighty G-d and a deep gratitude towards the One who is good and performs wonders on our behalf.

The cry of the shofar initially is intended to announce the presence of the King, who is drawing closer to us at this season, and to wake us up to any area of sin that needs attention. Another purpose we may contemplate is that it is a call to us to reconnect with God’s Divine calling on our lives.The seventh month of Tishrei is considered by the Sages to be humanity’s birthday – the day G-d created Adam and Eve. Thus, it also is a fitting time for us to re-examine our lives; to affirm our identity as His child and to re-evaluate the purpose He has given us in the work of tikkun olam, bringing healing to a hurting and broken world,. This must begin, of course, with healing ourselves – to address and repair any ‘brokenness’ and to realign our lives where necessary with our Father’s will and Kingdom purposes. 

Perhaps at this threshold of the new Hebrew year of 5779, so filled with major appointed times with Him, He is wanting to redirect our steps or enlarge our tents. Now is the time, as the shofar reminds us, to be awake and aware; to draw near and hear His voice. 

After all the preparation of Elul, while the King had left His palace and was with us in the field, we now, on Rosh HaShanah, enter the palace to which He has returned. During the ten days, the shofar is silent as we make our way through the palace courts and the Holy Place, as it were. On Yom Kippur, when we put aside as much of our physical, material existence as possible, we enter the Holy of Holies to stand in awe before His Throne and worship in the beauty of the holiness of His Presence.

If we have accepted His gifts of grace and repentance, we can stand before Him with deepest gratitude, assured and resting in His love. Then, after the last, long, unbroken blast of the shofar sounds to mark the end of Yom Kippur and the closing of the heavenly gates, we can enter into the week of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, with the assurance of His love and protection, sheltered by His clouds of glory, and we can draw from the source of Joy that will sustain us through the year ahead.

I grew up in a Western culture where the Gregorian calendar ‘New Year’ is celebrated. Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple  formerly a rabbi in Australia and now retired in Jerusalem, said the Western New Year season could be described as “Ten Days of Living it Up.” He concocted a list, in alphabetical order, of ten characteristics of the secular celebration: amusement, banality, consumption, drinking, eating, frivolity, gambling, hedonism, idleness, and jabber. I comprised my own list, instead, of the attributes characterising the Ten Days of Awe: ahavah (love), binah (understanding), [OK, I cheated a bit using Hebrew words here, but I had to include love and understanding!], charity, dignity (of every person), empathy, faith, goodness, holiness, justice..all leading to JOY!  

As we progress through the seventh, holy month of Tishrei may we think on these things.

5779 – A YEAR OF GOODNESS

The number 9 is represented by the Hebrew letter tet – ט. The first tet in the Bible begins the word good – טוב, tov. 

The first thing God spoke into being was light, and God saw that the light was good, tov! (Gen.1:4). When He surveyed the work of Creation every day, He saw that it was good. After He created man, bringing full meaning and purpose to Creation, He proclaimed it was all very good! (Gen. 1:31).

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us: Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is GOOD, for his steadfast love endures forever! (33:11) 

It is easy to thank G-d for good things and when all is going well, but the verse doesn’t say that. It says to thank Him – no matter what, because HE is good. Naturally, we tend to evaluate things and happenings in our lives subjectively, and consider what is good for us. Only our Father in Heaven sees all and knows, objectively, what truly is good for us in the light of eternity.  When we understand that whatever happens according to His will is good, because, like a perfect parent, His will for His children is only based on grace and loving-kindness, then – even when it’s beyond our natural understanding, we can thank Him for everything. The quote this month – Gam zu le’tovah! Also this is for the good, comes from the story in the Talmud of a man, Nachum, who was given the nickname Gamzu, because he had full trust and faith in HaShem and always said, no matter what the circumstances, “Gam zuh le’tovah!” And, usually, as far as possible in this life, he was proved right. So, dear ones, let us ask for “good” understanding this year, to enable us to make the right decisions in whatever comes our way and, no matter what, to always be grateful for our Father’s goodness.

BODY: HANDS

In Psalm 77 we see a theme of hands. Verse 2: “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.”

The psalmist dreads being forsaken by G-d and verse 9 cries: “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” He then recalls, in verse 15:You, with your outstretched arm, redeemed your people…” And, finally, in the last verse, he proclaims: “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” The Good Shepherd is always there, watching, caring, and guiding His people through every circumstance, no matter how difficult and challenging. We can rest knowing that our lives  are in His hands.

Taking a closer look at our hands. There are 14 bones in the fingers of each hand.
The Hebrew word for hand is yad – יד , which has a numerical value of 14. Thus the number for both hands is 28. Interestingly, there are 28 Hebrew letters in the first verse of the Bible, which describes G-d as creating the heavens and the earth. The prophet Isaiah records that, of the earth, it is G-d: “ Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand”…and “who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in” (40:12, 22). As we know, hands are vital instruments for creation and expression, whether in art, music, dance, poetry, writing.  Just as our Creator did in the beginning, bringing His concepts and ideas into physicality, so de we, as those created in His image, bring our ideas, concepts and inspirations into physical reality. 

Despite his many troubles, King David in the Psalms always concludes: “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (63:8) “Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand.” (73:23). The Right Hand of G-d is referenced many times in the Bible, which indicates He also has a left hand. Indeed, we find in Scripture that His right hand usually is associated with His chessed – love and kindness, whereas His left hand represents gevurah – judgment and restraint.  These four basic attributes are influenced by one’s mind – one’s thoughts and attitudes, which influence the decisions we make and how we act and react. Our thoughts and emotions often are reflected in the gestures of our hands. For example, clenched fists usually indicate anger; drumming fingers express impatience; one can give a thumbs up, or down; a friendly wave…or, hopefully not, signal rude signs! 

PRAYER

While our hands are vital in accomplishing our practical everyday tasks, they also are very significant spiritually. There are many biblical examples, one being Moses stretching out his hand and God parting the Reed Sea for His people to make a way of escape from the Egyptian army. We also see Moses raising his hands in supplication during the Israelites’ battle with Amalek (Exodus 17:12). The Hebrew word says his hands were faithful. Raised hands expressed his faith as he, in trust, reached out his hands toward God. When his arms fell, the Israelites weakened, but when they remained raised with the help of Aaron and Hur, they triumphed. Using one’s hands, raised in prayer or clapping in praise, as well as one’s feet in dance and celebration, gives freedom in expressing one’s emotions before God. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov goes so far as to say that an “inability to bring and express heartfelt emotion into one’s prayer demonstrates a shortcoming in one’s faith.”  

He also points out that what “blemishes” or adversely affects the hands is pride and greed, as illustrated in Deuteronomy 8:17, where the proud person proclaims, “My power and might of my hand have brought me this wealth!” Rabbi Nachman says, “An obsessive pursuit of wealth shows he lacks faith in God’s ability to give him his sustenance.” He stresses that idolatry [the opposite of faith in God] is basically found in the worship of money. Without faith people are eager to “get their hands on” as much money as possible. We do need to work to provide for our livelihood but we also need to have faith that, at the end of the day, it is God who is providing all we need. We know, as described in Psalm 145:115-6 that, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.” God opens His hand and “satisfies the desire of all living things.” So, we need to raise our open hands to Heaven in faith in order to receive the bounty and blessing our faithful Father wants to bestow on us, His children. 

BLESSING AND HEALING

As we see throughout Scriptures, hands are basic to bestow blessing and healing. One command in the Torah is that the kohanim (priests) bless the nation of Israel every day (Numbers 6:22-27) and in Leviticus 9:22 we are told that Aaron, as High Priest, raised his hands and blessed the people. When the priests are faithful to do that God says that it is He Himself who bestows the blessing. As a “kingdom of priests” we too can extend our hands to others, in the authority of our High Priest Yeshua, and trust our Father to give the blessing. 

In the medical profession, hands, of course, are vital.  Doctors and nurses engage in procedures and administer treatment that, hopefully, will bring healing to the patients.  Scripture tells us, on the other hand, “My son, attend to My words, incline your ear to my utterances… for they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:21-22). His “words” and “utterances” are God’s Torah, or Teaching – His Word. As described in Deuteronomy 8:3, God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert so that “…He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” And as Yeshua also declared in Matthew 4:4,  when the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”…“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Often, when Yeshua healed the sick, he would physically touch the person, such as when he took Jairus’ daughter’s hand and raised her to life (Mark 5:39-42). Also, when Peter and John were on their way to the Temple and a man lame from birth begged for alms, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Yeshua the Messiah of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”and he “…took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:1ff). After the event, where thousands had witnessed the healing, heard Peter’s testimony and believed, Peter gave God the glory and prayed, “Lord, …grant to your servants to continue to speak Your word with all boldness, while You stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name [authority] of your holy servant Yeshua.”(Acts 4:29)

On other occasions only Yeshua’s words were needed to bring healing, such as with the Roman centurion’s daughter (Luke 7). Also, the woman with the issue of blood had faith that if she only touched the hem of his garment she would be healed.  

To conclude… during this special month of Tishrei, may we be aware of what our Father has put in our hands to do in the extension of HIs Kingdom on earth. 

Interestingly, Science shows, as illustrated in the famous  sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci, that when a person extends his or her arms out to the side the span is equal to their height. One’s arms and hands therefore correspond to the outer range of one’s potential. 

May we all, throughout this year of God’s goodness, reach out and embrace all the opportunities our Father brings to learn and grow spiritually, and to more fully give expression to all the potential He has deposited within us, for His glory! 

Amen.

~Keren Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

TISHREI – The Seventh Hebrew Month

The holiday of Rosh HaShanah, the New Year of the Hebrew calendar, is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. Due to the significance of the start of a new calendar year, Tishrei is not regarded as an ordinary month and thus the Birkat HaChodesh, the Blessing of the Month, is not recited. Rosh Chodesh – the new month – is overshadowed by Rosh HaShanah – the New Year and its blessings.

5779 ~ SHANA TOVAH VE’TIKATEVU!  

May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for a good and healthy year! 

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At Rosh HaSahanah we acknowledge our Creator as the Source of all life and light. This festival, therefore, is more a reflection of the light of the sun, which eclipses that of the moon. As the moon is hidden in the sunlight, so Rosh Chodesh is hidden at Rosh HaShanah.

Time can be seen chronologically and historically as a linear sequence of events; yet, in a natural and spiritual sense, time really moves forward in reoccurring cycles (picture a circle in a spiral – a pulled out Slinky). This dual nature of time is echoed in the Hebrew word for year – shanah which is a derivative of shoneh – change. Time repeats itself but in a new form. We pass through the same set appointments in time each year, yet each year offers a new experience. Our journey from Egypt toward Mt. Sinai happened, is happening and will happen again in a constant ebb and flow of darkness and light, resting and growing.

In general, the focus of every new month, and every new year, is one of community; we celebrate that the Lord has brought us through the past month/year and together we now can go forward with hope and trust into the one before us.

images-10At this season, with the intense reflective nature of the preceding month of Elul, of Rosh HaShanah and the subsequent ten Days of Awe culminating on Yom Kippur, each individual is engaged in a deep and thorough accounting of one’s life before God. This causes the emphasis to shift to the individual and the start of the new year is a more deeply personal beginning.

The letters of the month, Tishrei, can be rearranged as Reishit, meaning ‘beginning’ as in the first word of the Bible, B’reishit – In the beginning. Therefore, we focus again on the Creation of the world and the dawning of life, and God’s creation of the first man and woman. We celebrate the birthday of Adam and Eve and the year which is numbered from Creation – this new year being 5779.

Another name for Rosh HaShanah is Yom HaKeseh, “the day of the hiding.” Unlike the happy hester panim (hiding of the face – presence of God) on Purim, when we realize God’s hidden provision for the people of Israel, the hester panim of the Days of Awe has to do with Divine absence and teshuvah. If we hide our face from God, he hides his face from us.

To quote Abraham Joshua Heschel  from God in Search of Man, 

The extreme hiddenness of God is a fact of constant awareness…God is a mystery, but the mystery is not God. He is a revealer of mysteries.

“He reveals deep and mysterious things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him”

(Daniel 2:22).

 

In the words of the liturgy of the Days of Awe:

“Thou knowest eternal mysteries and the ultimate secrets of all living.” The certainty that there is meaning beyond the mystery is the reason for rejoicing.

THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM

Tishrei is the seventh Hebrew month, therefore Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim, the seventh tribe to travel when moving camp in the wilderness. The singular characteristics of a tribe are often reflected in an outstanding leader who represented the tribe during the course of biblical history.

The first, and foremost, leader who emerged from Ephraim was Yehoshua ben Nun. Joshua – the servant and closest disciple of Moses. He was a beautiful example of a moon to Moses’ sun. The Sages of Israel describe how “Moshe’s countenance was like the sun, and Yehoshua’s was like the moon… he only reflected what he received from Moshe” (Bava Batra 75a).

This also is a beautiful description of Yeshua the Messiah. Jesus reflected the Father’s glory and he shared the Word of truth and life given him by the Father, as we read in these verses from the gospel of John:

“… the One who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what  I have heard from Him.” (8:26).

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…”  (8:54).

In turn, as we lift our lives before the Throne of Mercy on Rosh HaShanah, we remember that we are to reflect the light of the Son. He has brought us from darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God, and we now are enabled to carry that light into the darkness… for the Father’s glory.

~Keren Hannah Pryor

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ELUL – The 6th Hebrew Month – Being Holy Being Whole

ELUL– אלול

THEME:  ACTION, RECTIFICATION – TIKKUN

BODY:  BRAIN

QUOTE:  “Time is reversible, the past can be undone, a wasted life can be restored.”

PSALM 27:  G-d-Who-is my-Light

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month. 

God-Who-is-my-Light

PSALM 27

Psalm 27 is read every day during Elul. Orthodox Jews recite it morning and evening through both Elul and Tishrei, until the close of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). In your journal, write it out in your own hand, also in Hebrew if you are able, and keep it available for easy access. 

The psalm reminds us that the Lord is our Light. When we repent, His light dispels any darkness in our lives and the light of His Truth guides our feet into and through the coming year. King David never claims that he is not afraid. Fear is a normal emotional reaction, which could, for example, follow a cancer scare, the loss of a job, a lost child, fear of our own hearts… but when this natural fear is wrapped in the absolute knowledge, da’at, of our God who is good, we are enabled rather to fear [in awe and reverence] the only One who is to be feared. When we do, then Fear becomes a fortress and refuge for us. David feared God and lived in the fortress of His love all the days of his life.

ACTION: REPENTANCE AND RECTIFICATION – TIKKUN

There are forty days between the first day of Elul and Yom Kippur. These correspond biblically with the forty days between 1st Elul, the day Moses saw the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf and broke the first set of tablets carrying the Ten Words or Commandments of God and, after ascending Mount Sinai to intercede and plead for God’s Divine pardon, the day (10th Tishrei) he returned with the second set of tablets. 

In response to Moses’ heartbroken and persistent intercession, God forgave the sin of idolatry and the gift of His Word was evidence of His forgiveness. This clear manifestation of Divine pardon has marked these forty days as a time for  self-examination and repentance, and for giving and receiving forgiveness.

“The first tangible symbols of justice, the Holy Law of God, are the two stone tablets that bore the words inscribed by “the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18). We only can imagine the depth of emotion Moses experienced when, after being immersed in the wonder of the glory of the Presence of God for forty days and returning with the gift of His precious Word, he was confronted with the ‘carnival’ spectacle of the people idolizing the Golden Calf. He smashed the tablets in all-too-human despair. However, the holiness of the fragments did not disappear when the tablets were broken; they still carried the letters written by God.  Although not stated in the text of Deuteronomy 10, Rabbinic literature supposes that they were gathered and placed in honor in the Ark of the Covenant together with the rewritten tablets. 

That compelling supposition is a great encouragement. Sometimes we can despair at the brokenness of the sinful world, often evident in our own lives as in that of others, and yet each broken piece is holy. It was created and written on, as it were, by the finger of God and is precious in His sight.  Our Father, through the work of His Son and the power of His Spirit of holiness, is actively restoring, regathering and redeeming all the scattered pieces. In all we do, we have the honor and sacred calling to participate with Him in that healing work.”

~ Keren Hannah Pryor, (unpublished series) Ethics Now and Then 7, Avot 1:8

The month of Elul is considered a particular time for repentance and reconciliation with God. The name of the month is a reminder that this season of repentance (teshuvah) and spiritual reflection is not to be a time of morbid introspection or conducted with heaviness. E,l,u,l (aleph, lamed, vav, lamed) is an acronym for the Hebrew verse, Song of Songs 6:3, 

Ani le’dodi ve‘dodi li.   I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

The month therefore affords us a special opportunity to turn our hearts to God in love. We are reminded that teshuvah, repentance, is a loving gift from our faithful Father. It is, in fact, a supernatural gift – a process that is above the forces of nature. The Creator set the laws of nature in place, day follows night, time marches on, death follows life and penalty follows sin. Teshuvah/repentance, however, demonstrates that the same Creator is able to counteract His laws of nature. As Jewish author Avraham Finkel, in our quote for the month,[1] describes:

Time is reversible, the past can be undone, a wasted life can be restored; “God is close to all who call to Him – to all who call Him with sincerity” (Psalm 145:18). 

Teshuvah enables the the Presence of God-Who is-our-Light to enter any areas of darkness in our hearts, to allow purification and illumination – bringing rectification. The Baal Shem Tov [2] uses a beautiful analogy to explain the concept of repentance:

When you enter a dark room carrying a burning lamp, the darkness vanishes without leaving a trace. So too a baal teshuvah [one who repents and turns to God and His Word] even though until now he lived in the total darkness of sin, when the light of Torah begins to shine in his soul, all the darkness is gone.

Teshuvah takes courage! It requires 5 elements, which, in accord with Maimonides’ view of repentance, I like to call “The Five Fingers of the Hand of Repentance” that we reach out to God.

FAITH – Belief /  RECOGNITION – Determination  / CONFESSION – Humility /  

RESTITUTION – Honesty / RESOLUTION – Resolve

  1. First one needs FAITH – emunah – even as a mustard seed – to believe that His voice is calling us  closer and to have hearts prepared to respond. 

2. Then it requires a RECOGNITION of our weaknesses, which takes determination to push aside our natural tendency to justify our every action and to recognize those that are out of line with God’s will. 

3. Next, we need to CONFESS the sin or wrongdoing before God and, before the person or persons we have wronged. This requires much swallowing of pride and walking in humility, before God and especially before man. 

4. Then we need to make RESTITUTION in whichever way possible for any wrongdoing towards our fellow man. God forgives the sins against Himself but, with honesty, we need to seek forgiveness from and extend forgiveness to one another.

5. Finally, to achieve full RESOLUTION, requires having the resolve to not repeat the sin or wrongdoing when one is in a similar situation or faces the same temptation. When one can achieve this, one has reached wholehearted repentance of the sin. 

The physical symbol of this season of Repentance is the Shofar. The first mighty blasts of the Divine Shofar were heard at Mount Sinai, announcing the revelation of the Presence of God to His chosen and redeemed nation. Its call has echoed through the generations ever since, echoing sounds of a shepherd calling his flock home. The Torah portion Nitzavim, which always is read during Elul,  carries a Divine promise of the joyful time when the hearts of all Israel will return to God and will yield to His will in loving obedience: 

“You will do everything that I am commanding you today; you and your children will repent with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deureronomy 30:2).

On that day the great Shofar of God will sound with a triumphant blast to announce the arrival of the King of kings before whom every individual will stand to give an account of his or her life. The shofar is thus sounded at the morning and evening services every day through Elul in the hope that its stirring blasts will awaken those who are “asleep” in the stupor of sin. The clarion call moves us to repent and turn again to the Almighty, the Shepherd of our souls, to receive the power to break any negative patterns of the past and walk forward in new hope and inspiration.

As we extend forgiveness to others who may have hurt us, and (i) in faith in the love and mercy of our Father God, (ii) recognise the areas in our lives that are not in accord with His will, and (iii) confess any sins and weaknesses, and (iv) make restitution where possible, and (v) resolve to not succumb to the same sin, we can rejoice and rest in the knowledge that we are forgiven and can stand confidently before the “Judge of all flesh” when the shofar resounds on Rosh haShanah, the Day of Trumpets, and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:24;27). We then can eagerly anticipate another year of devoted service in joyful worship of our God and King, and in partnering with Him in His great work of healing and rectification – Tikkun Olam.

Every individual is a product of his or her past experiences; all of one’s ‘yesterdays.’ 
One of the greatest gifts of God to His children, along with free will, is the ability to change 
– to learn and to grow in character – and to step forward into tomorrow reflecting His image a little more brightly.                        

~Keren Hannah Pryor,  Ethics Now and Then

POEM FOR THE MONTH

You and I

Leonard Nimoy

I am not immortal.
Whatever I put off for later
May never be.
Whoever doesn’t know now
That I love them
May never know.
I have killed time.
I have squandered it.
I have lost days…weeks…
As a man of unlimited wealth
Might drop coins on the street
And never look back.

I know now,
that there will be an end,
A limit.
But there is time
Valuable and precious time
To walk,
talk,
breathe.
Time to touch,
taste,
care.
To warm the child
Who is cold and lonely.
There is time to love.

I promise myself…
I will.
I am
I am ready
I am ready to give
I am ready to give and to receive
I am ready to give and to receive love.

The poem was published after Leonard Nimoy’s death in the Blog of a friend, Rabbi John Rosove.

PART OF THE BODY:  BRAIN

All my limbs shall declare, “G-d! Who is like You?” (Psalm 35:10)

There is a profound connection between a person’s physical body, one’s outer being, and the spirit, one’s inner being. In reality, as someone described, we are spiritual beings encased in physical bodies. However, how we physically “…live, and move, and have our being,” as Paul mentions in Acts 17:28, and whether it is “in God” or not, has a powerful effect, either positively or negatively, on our spirits and inner being. 

The brain, which is the most complex organ in the human body, is what connects the two. The brain is the center of our thought processes and our physical coordination and actions. Together with the spinal cord, it comprises the central nervous system. As the location of one’s mind, we can compare the brain to the central processing unit of an ultra-sophisticated computer. Everything that happens to the body at some point has been processed through the brain. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught, “The mind is the commander-in-chief of the body.” (Likutey Moharan 1.29:7) 

While we must never stop learning and growing, we also should have a clear understanding that we will always be Beginners in this life, no matter how much we learn and think we know. We should always yearn and long for further revelation of our great God and His ways and strive for greater spiritual growth and fulfilment. As a result, the body and spirit begin to work together in harmony and we become more conformed to the Image of God in which we were created. As one’s everyday actions become more imbued with holiness, the light of one’s spirit is more reflected in one’s personal life and the glory of God’s presence can shine more brightly in all we do.

[3]

How is it possible even to aim for this? We know that it is impossible. As Rebbe Nachman also taught:

Know! There is a light which is higher than [the spirit and soul of man]. This is the Light of the Infinite One. And though the intellect cannot grasp this Light, the racing of the mind nevertheless constantly pursues it. …And know that it is impossible to grasp this Light…except by performing the mitzvoth with joy. (Likutey Moharan 1, 24:12)

To enable us to even to make the attempt, God Himself has provided the tools we need – the revelation of Himself and the teaching in His Word. We need to first know and love Him and then, in faith, learn His ways as expressed in His Word and then walk in obedience to His commandments (mitzvot). Yeshua, who was the Word enfleshed, and whose life illustrated the perfect harmony of spirit and flesh in accord with the Father’s will, was tempted to satisfy his hunger supernaturally after forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He responded: “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4) His Word is the source of true Life; our response is joyful, loving obedience to His commands/mitzvoth.

The Hebrew word mitzvoth, plural of mitzvah, has the root meaning le’tzavot – to command, or to bind. When we perform a mitzvah with joy it binds us closer to our Father in Heaven. 

This is our essential mission in life – to overcome the ever-present conflict between the needs and wants of the body and the yearnings of the soul to grow and become the true spiritual being we were created to be. Adam and Eve exchanged what was truly good; life in the garden of Eden – a place of eternal delight in the Presence of God, for the temporal, material life we now endure. We must, b’ezrat HaShem, with our faithful God’s help, aim and purpose to grow spiritually, to better discern between good and evil, and to end our personal exile and return to the Garden and the Presence of God….for that isn His will and the longing of His heart.

~ Keren Hannah

 

 

[1]Avraham Yaakov Finkel, The Essence of the Holy Days, Insights from the Jewish Sages, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, London, 1993;

[2] Israel Baal Shem Tov (1700 – 1760), founder of the Hassidic movement in Eastern Europe.

[3] Artwork: Orit Martin

ELUL – VIDEO and SET FREE to DANCE!

This month of ELUL, with its focus on Action and Restoration, may we be SET FREE TO DANCE!

Children instinctively love to dance; unselfconsciously – freely, openly. Our bodies are created to move and flow, to respond to rhythm. By the time most of us reach adulthood, unless we are professional dancers, we usually have stopped dancing altogether. We likely aren’t even aware of the loss. We may, however, be reminded of it when our feet start tapping to lively tune. Or, maybe, something stirs deep within our souls when we hear a particularly beautiful piece of music. A stirring that invites our bodies to move, to celebrate the life we enjoy, to worship our Creator – to dance with joyous abandons as King David did when he restored the precious Ark of God’s Presence to its rightful place in Jerusalem.

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Most cultures have a history of dance as a means of expression and celebration of life. To this day, echoing back to the joyous dance of redemption on the shore of the Reed Sea, Israel values and encourages participation in the nation’s folk dancing. If not doing so already, we need to rediscover the healing, happy enjoyment of listening and actively responding to music – even the singing of our own song. We need to set ourselves free to dance!

Dancer and choreographer, Anna Halprin, often invites people with no dance experience to participate in her dances, which have no audience but are intended to transform the dancers themselves. In this regard, she says: 

“I used to be discouraged that people in the dance world would just slough this work off as therapy and say that I wasn’t doing Art. But I could see how important this work was and how limiting it is to say that there is only one way to dance!”

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If it is not possible, whatever the reason, for you to participate in a public setting – such as dance classes or groups, do it at home. If you have a willing partner all the better. If not, simply choose some music you love, feel it in your soul, and allow your body to respond and move. Don’t be concerned about what you look like. Don’t limit yourself. Your body will remember the joy it has in moving and flowing to rhythm and melody. And, while you do, give grateful praise to the One who has blessed us with these wonderful gifts!

~ Keren Hannah

  • * Photo credit: Aleksandra Brzeska
  • ** Shutter-stock

We feature two videos this month with Jerusalem based couple MICHA’EL BEN DAVID and his wife ASHLEIGH (who is the daughter of our dear ‘Being Holy, Being Whole’ friend Kathryn Cox) on flute, in the second video. They present a beautiful rendition of the traditional Shabbat song ADON OLAM – Master of the Universe, accompanied by a lovely young ballet dancer. Enjoy and worship.

In the first video, Micha’el, with friends in his home island of Haiti, joyfully Sings to the Lord a New Song! 

Read more about ELUL – The 6th Biblical Month in our Being Holy ~ Being Whole Series

THE CALL TO VIP PRAYER

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand,  I shall not be shaken” (Psalms 16:8).

CONSIDER THIS A CALL TO VIP PRAYER!

What is that exactly? I coined the acronym to carry the meaning of  Valuable, Important and Powerful Prayer. Indeed, every genuine prayer from the heart is of great value and importance, and is extremely powerful in our battle against the forces of the enemy. 

During the month of ADAR we celebrate the festival of PURIM – instituted by Queen Esther and Mordechai, as described in the biblical book of Esther.  Purim commemorates the great victory over the enemies of God, who had devised a plan to kill and get rid of His people! This is a great encouragement to pray, for, as well as the courage of Esther, who approached the king at risk to her life, the key element of procuring the victory was the united effort of the Jewish people to fast and pray together with her for three days.

God’s face is hidden throughout the book of Esther, although one is very aware of his hand at work behind the scenes. A reason for his ‘hiddeness’ could well be that he desires to impress upon us the value, importance, and power of the prayer of his people. When we turn to him in faith, and call to him in prayer, He responds supernaturally. We need to enter into VIP Prayer! But what does this look and sound like? There are many different forms of prayer – all of which become VIP Prayer when issuing from a pure and sincere heart.

I believe that when we have no words, every thought, sigh, tear, and cry directed to our Father in Heaven, is a form of prayer. More usually, as He has given us the gift of words and communication, our personal from-the-heart prayers can be raised verbally anywhere, and at any time. And all are precious. Also, as they are today, we know that in Yeshua’s time and that of the Early Church, prescribed prayers were already in place and recited, either individually or communally in the synagogues. The daily morning and evening prayers, as well as those for Shabbat and the Festivals, are collected in the Siddur – the Jewish Daily Prayer Book.*  Siddur is from the root word  seder – order.

When these prayers are read and prayed with kavanah – concentrated focus and sincere devotion – they are powerful indeed. This is true also of the Psalms – another form of prayer. Just as Esther knew the importance of having all the people pray with her, wherever they were physically, we know that strength, unity, and reassurance ensue when many hearts are lifting the same prayers before the Throne of Grace. Particularly at the time of history we find ourselves in now, this prayer from the Siddur, which was  composed centuries before and would have been familiar to Yeshua and his disciples, is valuable to pray with a resounding Amen! 

May the time not be distant O God, when Thy Name shall be worshipped in all the earth; when unbelief shall disappear and error shall be no more. Fervently we pray that the day may come when all men may invoke Thy Name, when corruption and evil shall give way to purity and goodness, and when superstition shall no longer enslave the mind and idolatry blind the eye – when all who dwell on earth shall know that to Thee alone every knee must bend and every tongue give homage. 

O may all created in Thine image recognize that they are brothers, so that, one in spirit and one in fellowship, they may be forever united before Thee. Then shall Thy kingdom be established on earth, and the words of Thine ancient prophets be fulfilled. Adonai yimloch le’olam va’ed. The Lord will reign forever and ever!

May we daily be encouraged to focus our hearts on VIP Prayer – “for such a time as this!” 

With every blessing and encouragement in Messiah,

Keren Hannah

* An inspirational Hebrew-English Siddur we recommend is The Koren Siddur, (Ashkenaz),  with commentary by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.