24 September 2015

Rejoicing In Huts

No sooner has the sun gone down on the solemn Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), than the sound of hammers can be heard as families throughout Israel construct temporary shelters for the week long Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew: סוכות sukkot). These flimsy structures are roofed with branches often from the palm tree and decorated with harvest or biblical themes.

According to the book of Leviticus, this temporary hut or sukkah (Hebrew: סוכה‎) commemorates the time God provided for the people of Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness. In building their Sukkah, each family remembers that it is God who is the provider of their daily needs. The sukkah symbolizes the fragility and transience of life and our dependence on God, our provider. During the week of Sukkot (Tabernacles), Jewish people invite friends and neighbours to come and eat with them in their Sukkah, Some even sleep in their booth - the idea is to spend as much time in them as possible.

The Feast is a joyous occasion with much eating and rejoicing. To find out how to make a Sukkah and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles at home CLICK HERE

They come in all shapes and sizes - here are a few examples:

Ready to welcome guests - a Sukkah on a balcony
Children's Sukkah in Tel Aviv

Set up outside a restaurant for customers to eat in

17 September 2015

Are you in a state of Onement-ness?

Onement - no not a typo!  Did you know that in the early 16th Century, the word ‘one’ was used as a verb?  The closest we might come in common usage to that today is perhaps the concept of ‘oneness’, being ‘at one’ with others.  As you might correctly have guessed, it was a word used to describe the concept of unity, influenced by the Latin adunamentum.   In today’s verbiage, we recognise the word ‘atonement’, very much like the original ‘at one-ment’, and used primarily to describe our reconciliation to God through the ‘atoning’ work that Jesus did when he was crucified and resurrected.  In simple terms, it describes how we can be in unity with God after being cut off from His holiness by sin.  Atonement, being at one with God.

The evening of 22nd September this year marks the beginning of the Day of Atonement in the Hebrew calendar.  It is considered to be the most holy of all the holy days, the day historical Israel was given the opportunity of having all their sins taken away so that they could be in unity with God again, at one-ment with Him.  In Leviticus 16, the original Hebrew word used is ‘kipur’, meaning literally ‘to cover’.  In the context of Yom Kipur (the Day of Atonement), concepts such as appeasement, cleansing, forgiving, being merciful, pacify, pardon, purge, put off, and reconciliation all come into focus, giving a beautiful overview of all that was in the Father’s heart when he gave instructions for this event.

Most of the Hebrew calendar events God instituted are known as Feasts, days of celebration, rest from work, and definitely lots of food!  Yom Kipur however is different.  It is not a feast day but a fast day.  Instead of celebration and rest there is much repentance and soul searching as the individual seeks at one-ment with God, forgiven, cleansed and reconciled.

For followers of Jesus today, the New Testament letter to the Hebrews is a wonderful guide to explaining some of the ceremonies of Yom Kipur as a pattern of the atoning, unifying work He carried out on our behalf.  Instead of a High Priest, we have Yeshua, the Son of God.  Instead of the blood of animal sacrifices, we have the very blood of our Messiah and Saviour.  Instead of entering the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies to be in God’s presence, Yeshua entered God’s very throne room, as Paul affirms in Romans, “Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

The Day of Atonement is a poignant time in God’s calendar.  Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to stop and take stock of our own lives, bringing into the light things that we need forgiveness for and giving pause for our hearts to come back into alignment and unity with the heart of Jesus, but it is also one time of year when Jewish people world over pack into their synagogues and prayer houses.  In the same way that many ‘secular Christian’s will pack into churches for Easter and Christmas, Yom Kipur is the day that many secular Jewish people will attend their synagogue services.  Please pray for them, that as they seek at one-ment with God, they will have a revelation of Yeshua,  their High Priest and Messiah!

10 September 2015

5776 Straight A-head!

“On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.”   Numbers 29:1

 "The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of Sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’”  Lev 23:23-25

Got your shofar ready?  Rosh HaShanah is coming, and along with it are food celebrations, shofar blasts, white clothes and a public holiday - not to mention a new calendar year!

Now you may note that the verses above clearly say this important Feast is on the first day of the seventh month - the month of Tishrei in Hebrew.  So how can it be a new calendar year?  Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question.  Jewish tradition calls this day ‘the head of the year’, or ‘Rosh Hashanah’ in Hebrew, and was thought to refer to the beginning of the agricultural growing season, or arable calendar.  In Jewish tradition, it is also thought to be the day Adam and Eve were created, the day The Flood waters dried up, Enoch was taken by God, the day Sarah, Rachel and Hannah conceived and the day Joseph was freed from prison by Pharaoh.   Some have suggested God marked this day as a representative of the Shabbat/Sabbath, being the 7th month so sacred to God like the 7th day.  Although the beginnings of the tradition to celebrate this Feast as a new year began in the first century, the reason why this developed is not known for sure.  Various teachers have various opinions and scriptures to back up their points of view, but history does not record exactly when or why it became the new Jewish calendar year, only that it is the day the numbers roll over.

So what’s it all about?

Firstly, it’s a sacred day, a holi-day, a Shabbat where no regular work is done.  It is the first of day of the ’10 Days of Awe’, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the coming of Yom Kipur/Day of Atonement.  The bible only gives one day for this Feast, but tradition holds that one day is not enough for all the searching of the heart that is called for and in modern culture the Shabbat continues for two days.

Another key element to this sacred day is to do with the sounding of the shofar, an animal horn used to produce blasts as on a trumpet, and in English, we refer to this date as ‘The Feast of Trumpets’.  The original Hebrew in Leviticus says ‘zikhron t’ruah’ (זִכְרֹ֥ון תְּרוּעָ֖ה), literally translating as ‘memorial fanfare’.  Tradition dictates the shofar is blown with a variety of long and short, multiple blasts, being a summons to become alert and awake, to enter this period of reflection and repentance with the seriousness such introspection requires.  It is also customary to wear white at this time, to symbolise purity and a desire to be close to God, as it says in Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

Although a sacred day, Rosh HaShanah, or Feast of Trumpets, is not a time of fasting.   And as with several other Jewish commemorations, there are plenty of good things to choose from!  Apples and honey are a favourite of all, the apple to express hope that the coming year will be fruitful, and the honey, that the coming year will be a sweet one.   The pomegranate has usually come into season at this time and is eaten to remind us of God’s commands and the desire to fulfil them.  Often a fish head is present on the family table during the meal, accompanied by a blessing from Deuteronomy 28:13 saying “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never

03 September 2015

Who Would Have Thought!

From the short time I was able to know them, I learned that both of my grandfather’s were good people.  Kind, God fearing men, taking care of their families and others in need that crossed their paths from time to time.  But what would you do if you found out that your grandfather had been a sadistic murderer, or a malicious torturer, or someone who just stood idly by while acts of hatred and brutality were committed in front of him?  God willing this will not be your experience, but for a group of young Germans, it was!

March of Life give flowers to Holocaust Survivors
Around 30 young people from the March for Life group in Tubingen, Germany, came to Israel this summer.  Their purpose was to show support and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people, and through the organisation of Helping Hand Coalition, they were given opportunities to meet with elderly Holocaust Survivors around the country.

The March for Life group came to Israel on a voyage of reconciliation, spending much of their time interacting with the survivors and visiting with them at their Shalom House meetings.  They shared meals together, and the young German believers sang songs and performed Jewish dances for their elderly hosts.  They also expressed great sorrow for the actions of the generations that had come before them, asking for forgiveness for the persecution of the Jewish people and their culture, which they now embraced.  The Survivors were deeply touched.  “We have travelled in Israel and seen many things, but we have never been to touched and so encouraged.”  “Because of their faith in God, we see that these young Germans have the right mind regarding us as Jews.”  Who would have thought!

Sharing a meal
Two of the young Germans in particular, shared how they learned of the evil actions their great grandfathers had committed during World War II, and how they themselves, were the first members of their family that had come to ask the Jewish people for forgiveness.  These were not easy things to express to people who had lost families and homes as children, and some that had even spent time in the Concentration Camps.  But at the end of the evening, the leader of the Shalom Home declared, “We survivors have met together for 21 years, and this is the first time we have experienced such a touching meeting and had such a time of rejoicing together.  We’d like you to come back again!”