Tag Archives: Iran

The Bread of Faith; The Bread of Healing

At the first seder my father would be brief, (In his explanations of the Haggada, etc.) in order to eat the afikoman before midnight. On the second night, however, he would expound at length; he began the seder before 9 p.m. and ended at about 3 or 4 in the morning, dwelling at length on the explanation of the Haggada.

The Alter Rebbe declared: The matza of the first evening of Pesach is called the Food of Faith; the matza of the second evening is called the Food of Healing. When healing brings faith (“Thank you, G-d, for healing me”) then clearly there has been illness. When faith brings healing, there is no illness to start with.

-Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory.
Chabad.org

As I write this, it is still Friday morning. I have to admit, I’m a little nervous. I haven’t had a chance to practice with the Haggadah yet and given my work schedule, I doubt I’ll have the time after I get home before the seder begins.

Of course, there will just be four of us, but still, it’s important that the telling go smoothly.

In deference to the holiness of Pesach, I’m publishing this immediately after I write it, since the next opportunity won’t be until Monday the 6th.

I know I posted this in a comment my previous blog post but I want to draw more attention to these words:

Just before Purim, a non-Jewish woman asked me about the holiday. After I explained a little bit about Haman and his plan, she asked, “so Hitler wasn’t the first?” They really have no idea.

We read in the Haggadah, “for not only one has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”

-Rabbi Yaakov Menken
“Not Just Once”
Project Genesis

Dry BonesAlso, on twitter, cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen (@drybonescartoon) wrote something quite similar:

Happy Passover! Hag Sameah! “In every generation they rise up to destroy us”, and this generation is no exception!

I just finished reading an article written by Sally Quinn called From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive. The subtitle is “Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.”

I’m a little different. Passover with Family. Easter with no one. And the imminent threat of Israel’s annihilation intensifies my faith that God will save and preserve His Holy Nation and His eternal and beloved Jewish people…people like my wife and children.

The Alter Rebbe declared: The matza of the first evening of Pesach is called the Food of Faith; the matza of the second evening is called the Food of Healing. When healing brings faith (“Thank you, G-d, for healing me”) then clearly there has been illness. When faith brings healing, there is no illness to start with.

Faith and then healing or healing then faith?

In her article, Quinn attempts to reconcile Passover and Easter, but I’m not so sure that’s even possible. I’ve heard it said that after every Passion Play there is a Pogrom. I once naively believed that was a thing of the past, but now I fear it’s not. Is it any coincidence that the U.S./Iran Nuclear Deal was sealed yesterday during Holy Week (Maundy Thursday), a deal that Al Jazerra chastises Israel for condemning?

One person commented on the Al Jazerra news story:

The Iranian People are a good people… Not like the Zionist..,, Thieves, deception kings and down right liars.

I think that sums up the attitude of their readers, their reporters, their supporters, and, Heaven help us, perhaps President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as well.

I’ll admit to needing some healing just now. But before I can be healed, there must be faith. Passover is the story of Jewish survival in the face of overwhelming odds. At the Reed Sea, when Israel saw the Egyptians pursuing them, they were terrified (Exodus 14:10). I must remind myself of what Moses said, for it applies to every moment of Israel’s existence:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB)

PassoverIn Israel, the start of seder night is fast approaching. Here in Idaho, it should begin around 7:15 p.m. with candle lighting being at almost eight.

Easter is the story about the resurrection, the risen Messiah, who came to take away the sins of the world. What Christianity totally misses is that the hope and good news of Messiah isn’t just the promise of personal salvation, but of national rescue and restoration of all of national Israel as it is said:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

The reason there is any meaning in Easter at all is because of what Messiah will do for his people Israel. It is my hope in the faithfulness of Messiah that Israel will not be destroyed.

But for me, faithfulness and healing is depicted more clearly in the Passover. Rabbi Menken finished his essay this way:

As the Haggadah tells us, this is the same ancient, irrational, murderous prejudice that has existed since Esav sent his son to murder Yaakov — and since Lavan, Yaakov’s father-in-law, plotted to destroy him. And that is the message of the Haggadah: keep the faith. Do what Jews have done since the beginning of our history, and “the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”

G-d took the Jewish People out of Egypt to be His, to be close to Him and promote His vision for the world. On Passover we relive that departure from Egypt, the liberation from bondage. We break free from human limits to belong only to G-d. We know that the plans to destroy us today will not succeed, as they have failed in every generation. The Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands!

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman at Chabad.org said something similar:

We are limited by the very fact that we have human form. There is no freedom in following our whim, or even our most reasoned decisions. As a prisoner cannot undo his own shackles, so we remain enslaved to our own limited selves.

And so Moses was told, “When you take the people out from Egypt, you shall all serve G‑d on this mountain.”

What makes us free? Simple deeds done each day, as agents of the One who is absolutely free.

in chainsI’m only human. I’m very limited. I cannot free myself and am a slave to my human nature.

Except that in serving God, I can be free. That’s why Hashem, Master of Legions took His people Israel to Sinai and gave them His Torah.

The Passover Seder is a service of the heart, a service to God in obedience to the commandments. And while I, a non-Jew, am not commanded to observe the Pesach seder, as the head of a Jewish family, the duty falls to me. In the shadow of nuclear genocide, reciting the haggadah reminds me of the faith of a nation, reminds me that I must also be faithful, and reminds me of the faithfulness of Messiah.

May the Almighty heal my faith and my heart. May He continually save and fight for His nation Israel and His Jewish people.

Chag Samach Pesach! Next Year in Jerusalem!

Purim: Death in the Presence of the King

hadassahWho [but Moses] ascended to heaven and descended? Who else gathered the wind in his palm? Who else tied the waters in a cloak? Who established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name if you know?

Proverbs 30:4 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

On that day at the turning of evening he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the sea.” They left the crowd of people and took him in the boat that he was in, but other boats followed him. A great, stormy wind arose, and the waves were flooding inside the boat to the point where it was almost full. He was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat, so they woke him up and said to him, “Rabbi, are you not worried about us? We are perishing!” He woke up and reprimanded the wind, and he said to the sea, “Hush and be silent!” The wind calmed down, and there was a great silence. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Why are you lacking faith?” They feared with a great fear and said to each other, “Who is he, then, that both the wind and the sea listen to him?”

Mark 4:35-41 (DHE Gospels)

Faith in the face of certain disaster is at least “difficult” for most of us. We struggle to maintain our faith in God when “ordinary” trials and troubles confront us, but when the difficulty is extreme and death or severe hardship seems absolutely unavoidable, where is our faith then? Moments like those are times of extreme testing and most of us, myself included, hope and pray we will never have our faith tested like that.

And yet, at this time of Purim, we see before us that faith is tested and tested harshly. Yes, the story of Esther is known and realizing that it has a happy ending takes some of the tension out of her situation, but that’s not how life works for us. That God knows the ending of our life of troubles before it begins does nothing to comfort us when we are in the midst of terror, injury, disease, and grief.

Only Esther could save her people from the evil decree of Haman, but to approach the King when he has not summoned you could lead to death. Could Esther risk her own life for the sake of the Jewish nation in exile as they rapidly approached extermination?

Then Mordechai said to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!”

Esther 4:13-14 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

While in the Jewish world, Purim is a time of joy and frivolity, a time of wearing costumes, children’s plays, candy, cakes, and a little of the “hard stuff” (for the adults), what lessons can we learn, Jews and Christians alike, from Esther’s example?

How should we understand this give-and-take? Was it simply a matter of Esther fearing for her life, while Mordechai urged her to put the plight of her people first?

Their argument, explains the Nesivos Shalom, was much more fundamental. Esther had accepted the fate of her people. She argued that they had reached such a spiritual low that they were undeserving of Divine deliverance from Haman’s decree. The Al-mighty has rules, and the people had broken them and were sealed for extinction. Mordechai countered that the situation is never hopeless. We will be saved “some other way,” one that defies all rules. G-d has a profound love for us and will break the rules of His kingdom, even if we don’t deserve it. If we reach beyond our limits for Him, He will go beyond His limits for us. Go into the palace against the rules, he said, and demonstrate how our love for Him also transcends all limits.

Purim encourages us to live in this plain that overlooks our natural limitations. Walled in by physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, we often fall short of our potential for greatness, accepting that some things are just impossible to achieve. Some things are indeed impossible, but never are they hopeless. The Al-mighty has limitless love and help waiting for us, and with Him all is possible. With that in mind, we can have the strength to attempt and hopefully achieve the impossible.

-Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
“Beyond the Law”
Commentary on Esther and Purim
Project Genesis

symmes_chapel_churchIt is said that we should maintain our hope in God, even when our death seems certain, “even if a sharp sword is resting on [our] neck” and the decree against us is final, that through prayer, the mercy of God may still be aroused. We read the story of Esther at Purim. We dress in silly, brightly colored costumes and participate in plays where, when Mordechai’s name is said, we cheer, and when Haman’s name (may it be blotted out forever) is mentioned, we boo. We eat and drink as if we had been a prisoner on death row who, in the final seconds before the fatal injection was to be given to us, we were miraculously pardoned and set free.

But we must always be mindful that there are still prisoners.

“[A]fter all of these pressures, after all of the nails they have pressed against my hands and feet, they are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ.”

Pastor Saeed Abedini
from a letter he wrote as a prisoner in Iran

Pastor Abedini is still a captive in Iran and his jailers continually demand that he deny his faith in Christ and “return to Islam.” I don’t normally “get political” on this blog nor was I intending on writing a commentary on Purim or for that matter, on Pastor Abedini, but I think God had other plans. In faith, we pray for deliverance when times are difficult. But it is trust and hope that drives us to pray when the sword is in motion, falling toward the back of our necks, and death is certain.

I raise my eyes upon the mountains; whence will come my help? My help is from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Who is it who has gathered the wind in his palm? Who is He and what is the name of his Son? Who is he, then, that both the wind and the sea listen to him?

Pray that the God who created us all liberate Pastor Abedini soon and that his faith and hope does not falter. Pray that none of us will be put to a similar testing, but if we are, pray that we are strengthened and can endure.

Pray that the King finds favor with us and welcomes us into His Presence.