14 November 2013

Celebrating Miracles of the Past...

Who needs an excuse to light candles as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop? But if you do, then Hanukkah is a great opportunity to light lots of candles every night for 8 days! In the Hebrew calendar, the day begins at sunset, so the 1st day of Hanukkah this year, begins at sundown on 27th November. Hanukkah celebrates two miracles - a surprising military victory against all odds and a miraculous supply of oil to enable the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. 

The Macabees, a small group of Jewish men led by Mattathias and his five sons, were able to defeat the much more powerful and experienced Greek-Syrian army that had invaded Israel and forbidden the Jews to worship in their Temple. The Hebrew word 'Hanukkah' means dedication and after the Macabee's victory, they rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem and were once again able to worship freely. This all happened during the time between the Old and New Testaments.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. Each evening, candles are lit on an eight branched menorah called a 'Hanukiyah'. On the first evening, one candle is lit. On the second evening, two candles are lit and so on until the eighth evening when all eight candles are lit. 

Traditionally, each candle is supposed to be left until it burns out. This creates a wonderful opportunity to take time each evening to stop our usual routine and dedicate this time to thinking about the miracles, large and small, that have taken place in our own lives over the years. Just as the Temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated to the Lord, Hanukkah reminds us to re-dedicate our own lives also.

In the Hanukkah story, the one day supply of oil needed to keep the Temple menorah alight, lasted for a miraculous eight days, (the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of sanctified oil), and so, Hanukkah is celebrated with edible goodies cooked in oil. In Israel, the favourite Hanukkah treat is 'Sufganiyot' - round doughnuts with a myriad of toppings and fillings. 

Cook up some fried goodies, gather the family and discuss together the symbolism of oil in the Bible. Think about the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us and transforming us to be more like Yeshua. 

Here are some traditional Hanukkah recipes but feel free to be creative!  Click the links below:

... by Working for a Better Future

Each night, after the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, children are traditionally given coins, which adds to their sense of excitement about the holiday.

09 November 2013

Just Married: Israeli Style

Joy and rejoicing were the order of the day. A wedding was about to take place. The bride was getting herself ready and the guests were arriving excited and expectant. Avi and Chaya Mizrachi's daughter was about to wed her childhood sweetheart. 

Israeli weddings are large, vibrant events full of feasting and dancing. The whole event: ceremony and reception usually takes place in a large banqueting hall, beautifully decorated for the celebration. As the guests arrive, hors d'oeuvres are cooked before their eyes on half a dozen small table-stations. People wander from station to station, trying the delightful nibbles. On one, stir fried vegetables and noodles sizzling in a wok are served onto tiny square plates. At another, spicy chilli con carne is wrapped in mini-tortillas. Each one of the varied selections are beautifully displayed on mini-dishes. The guests mingle and catch up with old friends. The Bride and Groom will not arrive until later.

It's not unusual for groups of guests to arrive in coaches that have brought them from various locations around the country. Karen and I joined with the group from Tel Aviv. As we entered the crowded, bustling Wedding Hall, we had hardly walked a few steps before we were greeting old friends we hadn't seen for years both from Israel and from around the world. Cries of "Wow, you are here, how great to see you!" and "How many years has it been since we saw each other!" flew around the room. I was reminded of another wedding banquet that we will one day attend in heaven - what an awesome reunion that will be! Our hearts will be full as we are greeted by those who have gone before us from all over the world!

During all the excitement we notice that the wedding party has arrived. Slowly, the crowd moves towards the other side of the hall where a 'Hupa' (Jewish Wedding Canopy) has been set up.

01 November 2013

Walk with Me

‘As they pass through the Valley of Baka (Valley of Tears),
    they make it a place of springs...’

As we sat and listened to Ahuva* share her heart and vision for the terrorised families she works with, we saw a woman who knows from first hand experience, what it has been like to walk through the Valley of Tears, and see it become a place of springs – even springs of hope! 

Ahuva works with around 70 families, all who have also had first hand experience with terror – acts of violence committed against a family member by people wishing to incite fear and terror, often motivated by a political or religious agenda.  Today’s media labels these kind of people ‘terrorists’.  And the violated ones become terror victims, individuals and their families who are detrimentally changed from that moment on.  

Because of her own experiences, Ahuva well understands the difficult journey after such an event, and began working with some of these women and their families. For almost 10 years now, she has been helping them find their way again after suffering such devastation.  The trauma of having ones personal safety torn away, often leaves the victim in a death like trance, unable to handle basic daily functions like cooking meals or paying bills, surrounded by fear and devoid of hope.  Through the organisation of Springs of Hope, Ahuva has been able to facilitate healing and restoration to these families, by forging deep relationships and providing practical opportunities for them to ‘learn how to live’ again.  “I believe it is transition time for these women.  They have come so far.  It's time to move from being ‘victims’, to be more than ‘survivors’, but now to become ‘overcomers’!”

Jerusalem Marathon
To give practical demonstration of this kind of transition, Springs of Hope is organising a sponsorship event called