Shalom friends, I’ve been following this highly recommended channel on Youtube called “Sergio and Rhoda in Israel” for a number of years and I would like to share this channel with you. Due to corona virus restrictions in various parts of the world (including Israel), international travel is either restricted or unavailable. However, one could still “travel” by watching videos such a these produced by Sergio and Rhoda. They are believers in Yeshua living in Nazareth, Israel and they produce videos about places of interest in Israel with a biblical perspective. I’ve included 2 of their videos and visit the Youtube channel to view more.
Evangelical communities in the United States have largely supported the nation of Israel and for good reason. Years of antisemitism and persecution have skewed the Jewish perception of their Christian counterparts, and has painted a false image of the very Jewish Jesus. Pastor John Hagee runs CUFI (Christians United for Israel) out of Texas, and over the years it has become one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in America. The Hebrew Roots movement and rise in Messianic Judaism may contribute to the fairly recent explosive support for the Holy Land.
Growing up as a reform Jew, my religion and ethnicity were so intertwined that Zionism was just as much of a religious virtue as say, tzedakah (charity) and mitzvoth (commandments and good deeds). I looked in awe at scenic laminated photos of the Western Wall and the Jerusalem skyline proudly displayed after a group from synagogue returned from a trip. Twice a week at Hebrew school the American and Israeli national anthems were sung and the flags were brought down together to the bimah (raised platform in the synagogue from which the Torah is read and services are held). Before Jesus found me and completed my Jewish identity in him, I was spiritually lost and wondered why I needed to travel across the world to experience God in a more powerful way. Since God created the heavens and the earth, it didn’t make sense to me that I was ‘less of a Jew’ if I hadn’t yet taken up my birthright trip or had tourist photos taken in a Middle Eastern desert.
As a thirteen year old studying for my bat-mitzvah, my knowledge of the Torah wasn’t extensive, but the various questions I had weren’t taken too seriously by my tutor. My portion was Korach, and after inquiring about the possibility of a man getting swallowed by the earth and how that could possibly relate to Jewish life here and now, he replied “Who knows if any of this sh*t is real”. (this is an example of a ‘flashbulb memory’. I don’t remember much else from bat mitzvah study at 13 but those words were so utterly shocking (and funny at the time) that they never left me and probably never will)). I figured that my religious confusion would be wiped away once I made it to that patch of land and that God would solidify my Jewish pride as I touched the wall. This wasn’t exactly the case. I visited Israel with my local church last summer as a hoopla after finally, through Jesus, achieving the assurance of an authentic relationship with God that I had always been searching for. I got the touristy desert photo & everything!
The potential drawback of this thinking is putting religious piety before humanity and care for the lowly. This is exactly what we’re told not to do (Isaiah 2:12, Isaiah 23:9, James 4:6, James 4:10, Philippians 4:3, Proverbs 8:13, Proverbs 27:2, Proverbs 29:23, Luke 14:11, Matthew 23:12, etc..). The word ‘humble’ occurs 71 times in the Bible, not including the variances ‘humility’ and ‘contrite’. That would give us an even 100. We know that the fullness of God’s plan will unfold regardless of our human attempts to assist, and Jesus makes it clear that our job is to simply obey and draw those from every tribe, nation, and tongue into his kingdom so they too can experience his peace. I will not put myself with one camp or the other, because labels don’t help us to actually understand people. Jesus ministered to individuals as well as to groups, and the need to assimilate can draw us away from our unique, God given identity and into a watered down form of spirituality. This conflict is more complicated than meets the eye, and Christians need to be a light and safe haven for the Jewish and Muslim communities pitted against each other. At the end of the day, we want every people group to notice something different about us. I’ve been called a pacifist, but knowing that Christ is the ultimate authority over every world power gives us the peace to walk confidently through tumultuous situations and show unconditional kindness to those who seem strange or unfamiliar.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men came forward, seized Jesus, and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reaches for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its’ place,” Jesus said to him,”For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” ~Matthew 26:50-52 (NIV)
During this holiday season my hope & prayer is that we focus on our similarities rather than our differences. Reversal of fortunes is a common theme weaved through God’s story, and it’s a call to us to treat our ‘enemies’ as his sons and daughters with infinite potential, marked with his fingerprint. As the wise Martin Luther King said,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Shabbat Shalom, friends!
The new Biblical year is upon us again, this weekend. I wrote a very brief post with this interesting picture last year:
In the Torah, the first month of the Biblical Year is called Aviv (הָֽאָבִ֔יב) and in the Writings section of the TaNakH (Old Testament), the name was changed to Nisan ( נִיסָן).
We find a couple of references to the month of Aviv in the Torah and I’ve listed these below:
1 ADONAI spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt; he said,
2 “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you.
1 ADONAI said to Moshe,
2 “Set aside for me all the firstborn. Whatever is first from the womb among the people of Isra’el, both of humans and of animals, belongs to me.”
3 Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day, on which you left Egypt, the abode of slavery; because ADONAI, by the strength of his hand, has brought you out of this place. Do not eat hametz.
4 You are leaving today, in the month of Aviv.
15 Keep the festival of matzah: for seven days, as I ordered you, you are to eat matzah at the time determined in the month of Aviv; for it was in that month that you left Egypt. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
18 “Keep the festival of matzah by eating matzah, as I ordered you, for seven days during the month of Aviv; for it was in the month of Aviv that you came out from Egypt.
1 “Observe the month of Aviv, and keep Pesach to ADONAI your God; for in the month of Aviv, ADONAI your God brought you out of Egypt at night.
2 You are to sacrifice the Pesach offering from flock and herd to ADONAI your God in the place where ADONAI will choose to have his name live.
As mentioned above, just before the New Covenant / New Testament era, the name of the first month was changed to “Nisan” which is still in use today.
7 In the first month, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh, they began throwing pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman every day and every month until the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.
1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artach’shashta the king, it happened that I took the wine and brought it to the king. Prior to then I had never appeared sad in his presence.
I must admit that while I was reading up about the month of Aviv in the Torah, I was surprised to read the first section of Deuteronomy 16:1 “Observe the month of Aviv” (emphasis added). I don’t recall focusing on the word “observe” before. As we are required to observe the month of Aviv and this being the 1st month of the Biblical year, the idea of “Rosh Hashanah” (רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה) being the new year in the 7th month is then biblically incorrect as the Torah is very clear in Exodus 12:2. Also, the first day of the 7th Month (called “Etanim”( הָאֵתָנִים) in 1 Kings 8:2) is Yom Teruah ( The day of blowing of the Shofar / Trumpets as instructed in Leviticus 23:24: דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שַׁבָּתוֹן–זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ.).
Furthermore, Aviv / Nisan is obviously also a special month because of the next part of Deuteronomy 16:1 which commands us to keep Pesach / Passover.
When I read up about Biblical Truth and compare it to all of the misinformation being taught (in some cases for centuries and millennia such as Rosh Hashanah), it makes me think of these 2 verses:
Every word of God’s is pure; he shields those taking refuge in him
You are close by, ADONAI; and all your mitzvot are truth.
I hope that you will observe the month of Aviv and Pesach/Passover as we have been instructed by ADONAI, The Almighty Living God of Israel to keep these. On a personal note, I always look forward to Pesach as it always reminds me of when my mother and I attended our first messianic Seder together hosted by the Jews for Jesus organisation many years ago. (Please note: I’m not affiliated with this organisation nor any other organisation).
I hope you and your family will have a blessed and peaceful Shabbat!
The Aaronic Blessing:
22 ADONAI said to Moshe,23 “Speak to Aharon and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra’el: you are to say to them,24 ‘Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha. [May ADONAI bless you and keep you.]25 Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekka. [May ADONAI make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]26 Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom. [May ADONAI lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’27 “In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra’el, so that I will bless them.”
Shabbat Shalom, friends!
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we read about “the thorn” (a messenger from the Adversary) in Sha’ul’s flesh:
7 Therefore, to keep me from becoming overly proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the Adversary to pound away at me, so that I wouldn’t grow conceited.8 Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me;9but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness.” Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me.10 Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf of the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong.
In verse 10, we read about Sha’ul being “well pleased” enduring his hardships and difficulties. I have been reflecting on this particular verse for a while as I’m have been experiencing issues in my life and I must admit it’s hasn’t been pleasant. I think to myself that, what I’d like to call : the “Entitled Me” is overly upset and this “Entitled Me” is really trying to dominate. The “Entitled me” wants me to ask whether it is really wrong to feel upset about the situation? Is it or isn’t it?
To ward off this “Entitled Me”, I was drawn to Psalm 19:12 -13:
12 Who can discern unintentional sins? Cleanse me from hidden faults.13 Also keep your servant from presumptuous sins, so that they won’t control me. Then I will be blameless and free of great offense.
After “meditating” on these two verses for a while, I turned to Psalm 20:1 and these words: May ADONAI answer you in times of distress, may the name of the God of Ya’akov protect you”.
Thus, I pray:
ABBA (אבא), The Almighty Living God of Israel, in the name of Yeshua ha Mashiach (Yeshua the Messiah), please hear my prayer. Thank you, ABBA (אבא) for everything You do in my life – all Your grace You have given to me. May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in Your presence. I have sinned. Please cleanse me. Please forgive my sins. Please protect me. I ask this in the name of Yeshua ha Mashiach (Yeshua the Messiah).