Tag Archives: Jerusalem

A New Chanukah Miracle

chanukah

As you are probably aware, Hanukkah (or Chanukah or lots of different transliterated spellings) is coming up. This year it will be commemorated from sundown on Tuesday, December 12 to sundown on Wednesday, December 20.

I was reading Rabbi Kalman Packouz’s commentary on Chanukah earlier and of course, re-evaluated my relation (if any) with the observance. I mean it’s difficult to objectively insert myself as a non-Jew into a purely Jewish historical event complete with miracle from Hashem.

Of course since today President Donald Trump formally recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel barely a week before Chanukah, I suppose this too is a sort of miracle and one relevant to the entire world.

(The real miracle would be if the realm of news and social media wouldn’t have a total anti-Semitic hissy fit and meltdown over it, but I suppose that’s asking too much.)

I read somewhere (I can’t find the source now) that historically, the world has tried to destroy the Jews in two different ways, physically as a people (genocide, ethnic cleansing) and by assimilation into general culture (eliminating Jewish identity and uniqueness). Purim is the Jewish celebration of victory over the former and Chanukah the commemoration of victory over the latter.

But what does any of that have to do with non-Jew? In both cases, it’s non-Jews who are the problem, not the solution. Even those of us to are linked to the Jewish community one way or the other (okay, I’m married to a Jewish wife, but that only links me to her, not the community) and who are pro-Israel weren’t involved in either original event, so what do we have to celebrate, except perhaps in solidarity? It’s not our commemoration.

I visited the closest thing I can find that might hold any sort of answer at AskNoah.org to see what they had to say. Granted, they won’t recognize my devotion to Rav Yeshua as having any sort of legitimacy, but people like me inhabit a sort of spiritual and theological “no man’s land” anyway.

According to the article “Noahides may light Hanukkah candles without a blessing,” not only can we light the menorah to announce the miracles of God (minus the blessings since we are not commanded to do so), we can…

…still mark the days of Hanukkah this year in some of the additional customary ways. This includes the option to say the chapters of Psalms (Psalms 91, 67, 30, 133, 33), reading and thinking about the history and messages of Hanukkah, and enjoying some traditional recipes. You can also attend public lightings of outdoor Hanukkah menorahs that might be taking place near you during the festival.

The article even provides us with this:

The following recitation paragraph, adopted from the Jewish traditional liturgy (version of the Ari Zal), can also be said during the days of Hanukkah:

“In the days of Matisyahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, the wicked Hellenic government rose up against the people of Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for the people of Israel to this very day. Then the Israelites entered the shrine of Your Holy House, purified and rededicated Your sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Hanukkah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.”

Granted, none of this takes into consideration our “Judaically aware” perception of Rav Yeshua and our being allowed to partake in some of the New Covenant blessings based on the merit of our Master and our discipleship, however meager in my case, to him. Still, for lack of any better template, this will have to do.

trump jerusalem
President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It is true that Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday, so there’s not a lot to get worked up over, but for me, this is what happens every time my Gentile faith in the Jewish Rav intersects at all with some aspect of Judaism.

All that said, I suspect the real role of people like me/us in the days to come will significantly eclipse Chanukah. As the world challenges the Jewish right to call the City of David Israel’s capital and hates the American President for recognizing the fact (of course, if Trump said he liked to eat steamed carrots, suddenly eating steamed carrots would become totally evil because, well, you know, just because), we will be called to stand up and stand with the defenders of Israel against her enemies.

The majority of the world, that is, all Gentiles everywhere, are going to oppose Jerusalem vehemently. We must shoulder the burden of standing against our parents, our children, our spouses, our friends, our neighbors, because we will be the few among the nations who stands with Israel.

May Chanukah be a time of miracles and may Hashem continue to protect His people and nation Israel. May He also grant us among the nations the privilege of joining the righteous.

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Passover Arrived But Not The Seder

Moses called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Draw forth or buy for yourselves one of the flock for your families, and slaughter the pesach-offering.”

“It shall be that when you come to the land that Hashem will give you, as He has spoken, you shall observe this service. And it shall be that when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is a pesach feast-offering to Hashem, Who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but He saved our households,'” and the people bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. The Children of Israel went and did as Hashem commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they do.

Exodus 12:21, 25-28 Stone Edition Tanakh

PassoverToday is the first full day of Passover. Jews and a good number of Christians all over the world held their home and community seders last night.

My home wasn’t one of them.

For some months, my wife has been planning on visiting our daughter in California. She left early Sunday morning and won’t be back until midday on Thursday. My grandchildren are with their Mom for the next two weeks, so it’s really only my two sons and I at home. They weren’t exactly clamoring for their old man to dust off our haggadahs and start a lot of cooking.

Passover just sort of crept up on me and suddenly it’s here.

Pesach hasn’t felt this chaotic since the Uninspired Seder of 2012 or the Unanticipated Seder the following year.

And given my comments in my previous blog post, initiating any sort of response to Pesach as a Gentile believer is beyond the scope of my obligations or my rights.

It’s been a difficult time. My Dad is slowly dying of cancer. My Mom’s cognitive abilities continue to dwindle. And as the old time actors used to say, “I am between engagements,” and have been since last Friday. One of my sons had his car engine blow up on him, and the other is buying a house, which sounds wonderful (and in many ways it is), but also introduces different stressors.

I decided to at least do the readings for Pesach I, but when I couldn’t remember where to find my Tanakh on my bookshelf, I realized it has been a really long time since I’ve read the Bible.

That can’t be good.

A friend found a piece of furniture for my son’s new home (since his ex took most of their stuff), so driving over to the gentleman’s house to pick it up, I saw a number of “Jesus loves you” bumper stickers and messages of a similar nature. I figure everything that’s happening to me now is God’s way of getting my attention.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

“This too is for the good.”

Or as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin put it:

No person can know what is really good for him in the long run.

We lack peace of mind because we feel anxious and worried about what has happened to us in the past, or what might happen to us in the future. But the reality is we can never know in advance the ultimate consequences of events. Being fired from your job, or being forced to find a new home could likely lead to events that will be beneficial for you.

Today, try to recall a time when a “bad” event turned out for the “good.”

I can remember when bad events ultimately resulted in a good outcome, but I also remember the pain involved in dealing with the bad part, and the lengthy time period between bad event and good outcome.

It can be a lonely road from the bad starting line to the good finish line.

But then as long as we live, there never really is a finish. We’re never done contending with life, with other people, disappointment, loss, anxiety, desperation, the works.

I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. I need to gain perspective and to get a handle of everything that’s happening to me right now. I probably should be doing more constructive things, such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, scouring job boards and the like, but I’m not.

On Friday, I initiated a flurry of activity post my “between engagements” experience earlier that morning, but over the weekend, the shock had worn off. I had my grandchildren with me, and since they require a lot of attention, that provided a distraction.

But then they left to return to their Mom Sunday afternoon, and I realized just how empty I felt inside.

Okay, God. You got my attention. Now I just need to find a way to change my focus, to even have a focus. A seder last night would have been good timing, which is why I’m puzzled that Hashem arranged for it not to happen.

My wife and my daughter are together, so I hope they had the opportunity to attend a community seder, perhaps at the Chabad.

jumpstart
Found at racingjunk.com

The quiet finally got to be too much for me, so I started listening to “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” by the Bill Evans Trio. It was recorded live in New York City on June 25, 1961 (my daughter’s birthday, though she wasn’t born until decades later).

Over a month or so ago, I wrote about trying to jump start my faith, and as you can see, things haven’t gone so well up.

The prodigal son is still struggling on the path that leads to home.

At the end of each seder, the last words uttered are, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For me, I’d settle for “Next year at home with my family.”

Okay, God, you’ve got my attention. Now what?

Atonement, The Temple, and Tisha B’Av

Animal offerings aided the atonement process, as they drove home the point that really the person deserved to be slaughtered, but an animal was being used in his/her place. The offering also helped atonement in many mystical ways. But we should not mistake the animal offering for more than what it is. It was an aid to atonement; it did not cause atonement.

“Atonement Today”
from the Ask the Rabbi column
Aish.com

One of the questions Christians sometimes have about Judaism is how religious Jews expect to make atonement for sins without the Temple. The traditional narrative goes that God allowed the Temple to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE because He had annulled the system of animal sacrifices, the system of Levitical priests, and all of the promises and commands about them that God previously said were eternal.

Christians tend to believe that God sent Jesus to replace the Temple sacrifices and to be our permanent, once in a lifetime atonement, as opposed to having to make an animal sacrifice every time a Jew committed a sin.

I can only believe Christians imagine that there was a perpetual line of Jews in front of the Temple waiting their turn to make a sacrifice. If that were the case, if every time a Jew committed a sin of any kind they had to make the journey to the Temple, they wouldn’t be able to go anyplace else.

Praying ChildIn contrast, for a Christian, every time he or she sins, they can pray to God in Christ’s name where ever they are and whatever they’re doing, and it’s all good.

Well, that’s not how it worked.

First of all, not all sacrifices had to do with sin and even those that did were specifically for unintentional sins, that is, an act someone committed they didn’t know what a sin. When they discovered that they had sinned unintentionally, then they offered the appropriate sacrifices at the Temple.

That probably wasn’t all that common.

But the quote above speaks of the animal being a substitute for the person offering up the animal, that the person knew he or she should be the one to die instead. What about that?

The verse says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalms 51:19). This teaches us that a person who does teshuva is regarded as if he had ascended to Jerusalem, built the Temple, erected the Altar, and offered all the offerings upon it. (Midrash – Vayikra Rabba 7:2)

When a person transgresses a mitzvah in the Torah, he destroys some of his inner holiness. He cuts himself off from the Godliness that lies at the essence of his soul. When a person does teshuva — “spiritual return” — he renews and rebuilds the inner world that he has destroyed. On one level, he is rebuilding his personal “Temple” so that God’s presence (so to speak) will return there to dwell.

-ibid

If we can understand not only the Psalmist David but the Rabbi correctly, it would seem that teshuvah, or sincere repentance is what draws us nearer to God on a spiritual level. That’s as true today as it was thousands of years ago when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and further back still when the Mishkan or Tabernacle went with the Children of Israel through the wilderness.

So why make animal sacrifices at all if the true sacrifice is a broken spirit?

What inhabited the Tabernacle and later the Temple?

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35 (NASB)

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

1 Kings 8:10-11

shekhinaThe Shekinah, often referred to in Christianity as the “Glory of God,” filled and inhabited the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s Temple.

Prayer and true repentance brought any Jew, no matter where he or she was, spiritually closer to God. An animal sacrifice was required to allow the Jew to come nearer to where the Shekinah dwelt physically.

The Aish Rabbi doesn’t say that exactly, and I must admit the idea isn’t my own. I simply can’t remember where I learned it. If it was from anyone reading this, I’m not trying to rip you off, I really can’t recall the source of this information.

This year, Tisha B’Av or the Ninth day of the month of Av, the solemn commemoration of the many disasters that have befallen the Jewish people, begins this coming Saturday at sundown and continues through Sunday.

Jews all over the world will fast, and pray, and turn their hearts to God. I don’t mean to say that the Temple isn’t important, even vital to the lives of the Jewish people. Jews will weep over the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av as well as for many other tragedies.

The Jewish people long for the coming of Messiah who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the sacrifices and the Priesthood.

So am I saying that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) is irrelevant to Jews, that they can pray to God and be forgiven of sins without acknowledging Yeshua?

That’s complicated.

For we non-Jews, our access to the God of Israel is the direct result of our faith in Yeshua and all he accomplished, but I don’t believe for a second that he replaced anything. We non-Jewish disciples of our Master require our Rav in order to benefit from any of the blessings of the New Covenant.

The advent of Messiah was the next logical extension of the all the promises of God to Israel we find in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and then to the rest of the world. Yeshua came the first time as the forerunner of how God would fulfill the New Covenant promises. That includes his being the forerunner of the total and permanent forgiveness of all Israel’s sins as it states in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:34; Romans 11:27) When he comes again, it won’t be as a preview but the main event.

I can’t believe that God out of hand rejects all Jewish people who didn’t convert to Christianity and believe in the Goyishe King. That would include the vast majority of Jews who have lived and died over the past two thousand years. God would never abandon His people Israel this way, nor expect them to violate the Torah mitzvot for the sake of eating a baked ham on Easter.

Tisha B'Av
photo credit: Alex Levin http://www.artlevin.com

I do believe that a Jew who acknowledges Yeshua as the sent Messiah, the Jewish King, Rav Yeshua, not to draw them away from Jewish praxis but to intensify it, crystallize it, bring that practice into sharper focus relative to the entry of the New Covenant into our world a bit at a time, is acknowledging Yeshua’s role as the mediator of that covenant, the living representation of the permanent forgiveness of sins, and the one who will rebuild the Temple at the end of these “birthpangs of Messiah” we currently experience.

Starting at sundown this Saturday, after the conclusion of Shabbat, there will be many tears shed by the Jewish people in their homes and their synagogues for all they have lost. But there will come a day when He shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) and return joy and fulfillment to His people Israel through Messiah.

And when God has restored Israel, then the nations will be healed as well.

Afterword: I’m fully aware that I’m no expert on the Temple or the sacrifices, and I wrote this blog post on the fly rather than doing a lot of research (as I probably should have), so if you find any errors I’ve made, let me know. Thanks.

Gentile Access to the Herodian Temple: A New Opinion

Two millennia ago, the block served as one of several Do Not Enter signs in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, delineating a section of the 37-acre complex which was off-limits for the ritually impure — Jews and non-Jews alike. Written in Greek (no Latin versions have survived), they warned: “No foreigner may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure. Whoever is caught, on himself shall he put blame for the death which will ensue.”

-Ilan Ben Zion
from the article “Ancient Temple Mount ‘warning’ stone is ‘closest thing we have to the Temple’”
Times of Israel

I found a link to this article on Facebook and it’s really very interesting. It suggests that Gentiles may have had more access to the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem than was previously believed. I’ll let the article speak for itself, quoting what I think are the most relevant sections, and I encourage you to click the link I provided above and read the entire story yourself.

Contrary to the recent New York Times report, which stated that Herod’s Temple was “surrounded by partition walls that were meant to separate gentiles and Jews,” the warning was meant to protect “not the whole Temple Mount, but the inner sanctuary, the inner courtyard,” Price said. The modern notion “that the entire area is somehow holy is contrary to the original purpose and status of this huge plaza of the Temple Mount.”

Gentiles were not only welcome to ascend the Temple Mount, they were also permitted, if not encouraged, to donate animals for sacrifice. Josephus recounts how Marcus Agrippa, Emperor Augustus’s right hand man, visited Jerusalem shortly after the Temple was built and offered up a hecatomb — 100 bulls — as a sacrifice on the altar. Likewise daily sacrifices paid for by the Roman state were offered up for the welfare of the emperors. Philo records in his Embassy to Gaius that on no fewer than three occasions “we did sacrifice, and we offered up entire hecatombs, the blood of which we poured in a libation upon the altar, and the flesh we did not carry to our homes to make a feast and banquet upon it, as it is the custom of some people to do, but we committed the victims entire to the sacred flame as a burnt offering.”

The article states that Herod may have engineered a more lenient policy about Gentile access to the Temple, with only most holy areas being forbidden, not just to non-Jews but to any Jew not ritually clean.

“It was not ethnic or race as much as [ritual] purity,” Price said. “Jews who were not purified or ritually impure could not pass the soreg either.” Unlike gentiles from across the Roman Empire, Jews were expected to know better than to enter the holy sanctum when impure.

And…

Herod changed that. He wanted to exhibit the grandeur of his compound, the largest temple in the ancient world, but not enrage his Jewish subjects.

“The exclusion of the gentiles, according to the inscription, is a kind of compromise between allowing them into the Temple but still excluding them from the inner temple, which is the properly holy ground,” Orian said.

“Reality necessitates compromise in different aspects of Jewish law,” he said. But “even if they were not viewed as impure, they would still be excluded from the [inner sanctum] of the Temple.”

TempleWhat Herod changed, at least according to this article’s writer and his source, Matan Orian, a PhD student at Tel Aviv University, was the perception, based on one interpretation of Numbers 18:7, that Gentiles were “intrinsically impure”. This interpretation may be the reason even Rav Yeshua’s (Jesus’) Apostles, including Peter, typically viewed and treated Gentiles as “unclean”.

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”

Acts 10:28 (NASB)

I’d have to guess that Peter may have been operating from the perception that all Gentiles were “intrinsically impure,” and yet, the Almighty showed Peter in a vision that the Gentiles should not be treated as “unholy or unclean.”

Of course, as the article states, this didn’t mean Gentiles, even among the Jewish Yeshua-followers of “the Way,” would have accepted in every area of the Temple, even if they were considered to be clean. There was a point on the Temple grounds where it would have been an outrage if a Gentile were to enter.

When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.

Acts 21:27-29

Of course, Jewish understanding of the presence and role of Gentiles on any part of the Temple grounds has changed over time.

Despite the Herodian-era status quo, in which gentiles and Jews mingled atop the Temple Mount, most rabbis today maintain the tradition that the entire complex is holy ground and Jewish entry is forbidden. That ban stems from uncertainty over where precisely the Holy of Holies stood.

JerusalemThe information in this article hints at a greater Gentile involvement in the Herodian Temple than most of us might have imagined, and further suggests that this was manipulated by Herod for political/social reasons, rather than theological insight. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to consider the possibility that in the Messianic Age, non-Jews visiting Jerusalem may also be granted, while not completely free access to the Temple, a greater measure of mobility on the Temple grounds, as well as the opportunity to offer sacrifices via the Aaronic and Levitical Priests.

I don’t have any special insights into all this. I just read the article and it sparked a thought or two. Mainly, I just wanted to share.

Next Year in Jerusalem

With Pesach beginning this Friday, April 3rd at sundown, I thought I’d interrupt my reviews of Pastor Chris Jackson‘s book Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, and say something about how I’m experiencing the approach of Passover and Easter this year.

Last year, I called the association of Easter and Passover a collision, although I did urge Hebrew Roots and Messianic people not to throw Christianity under a bus for celebrating Easter as their most Holy day.

However, this year, I’m getting nervous. No, I’m not feeling anxiety about Passover or even Easter, but about how the status of the state of Israel is changing. A few days ago, The Jewish Press published an op-ed piece called “Obama Declares War on Israel”. Unfortunately, they’re not wrong. American President Barack Obama’s negative attitude toward Benjamin Netanyahu and his recent victory in winning the election in Israel, coupled with Obama’s disastrous policies toward a near-nuclear Iran, indicate that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is at its weakest point ever.

We are about to join the ranks of those nations who are enemies of Israel, and we know from scripture that all the nations that will go up against Israel in war will be defeated by God, and their survivors will be compelled to pay homage to Israel and her King.

On a much smaller scale, I read a story about some comedian named Trevor Noah, who is taking over Jon Stewart’s job as host of “The Daily Show”, making a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel “tweets” on twitter.

Here’s two of his more vitriolic tweets:

Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn’t look b4 crossing but I still would hav felt so bad in my german car!

South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.

Fortunately, according to the story, he suffered a strong and immediate backlash for his comments. However, his tweet in response was hardly repentant:

To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.

So far, I don’t find him particularly funny.

I’m just listing two examples of a much wider body of information indicating how the world is continually turning away from the nation of Israel and is being willing to victimize Jewish people up to and including murder. Even American Vice President Joe Biden publicly admitted that Jews in this country can only rely on Israel and not on the U.S. As anti-Semitism continues to rise in our nation, are we going to start looking like Europe in how we treat our Jewish citizens?

It may not be too soon for American and European Jews to start making Aliyah. That gives the statement “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which we say at the conclusion of every Seder, a new and poignant meaning.

burning star of davidIt’s not just President Obama who has declared war on Israel and the Jewish people, it’s the entire world.

Yesterday, Derek Leman posted (or re-posted) a blog called Passover, Resurrection, Constantine which is a fabulous history of how Easter came to be in the Christian religious calendar.

In the second century, the congregations of Yeshua-believers were dissociating themselves from Jewish origins. Ignatius of Antioch famously said, “It is monstrous to talk of Christ and practice Judaism” (Letter to the Magnesians 10:3). The Jews had been in two wars with Rome (66-70 and 130-132 CE). Yeshua-believers, who had originally been seen as a sect of Judaism, had originally been protected under Roman law — free from obligation to show devotions to Roman gods and Caesars under the Jewish exemption — by being regarded as Jews and proselytes to Judaism. Now being Jewish carried with it the worst social stigma possible in Roman society.

But a controversy arose between the main congregations and some Asian bishops (the Roman province of Asia, in modern Turkey). Specifically Polycrates, claiming to be keeping up the practice handed down to him from Polycarp, kept a fast (vigil) until the 14th day of the month (apparently the Jewish month, Nisan) and then held a feast (likely a Passover Seder). But the other congregations at this point held a vigil on Saturday followed by a feast on Easter Sunday. The people in this dispute like Polycrates, who kept their feast on the 14th day, were called Quartodecimanists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartodecimanism).

They were some of the last hold-outs, Yeshua-followers who kept some of the Jewish customs of the early believers. There would be philo-Semitic (Jewish friendly) Christians well into the fifth century (as Chrysostom preached sermons against them). But in the second century such friendliness with Judaism was already well on its way to being considered a departure from true faith.

I think we still suffer under the legacy of those days and, even in the secular world, Jews and Judaism have historically endured the disfavor and displeasure of the people of the nations (to put it mildly).

Recently, the Sojourning with Jews blog posted a missive called One New Man-ity challenging the traditional Christian belief that God’s “Old Testament” particularity toward Israel was replaced by a “New Testament” universalism that exchanged the Jewish people for the Church. As a non-Jewish wife married to a Jewish husband, she defines the Gentile role in relation to the Jewish people thus:

God also says He will discipline His people and that they will be scattered out of the land and suffer terribly from the nations for a very long time. They will “dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar….” But “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5. Other places say He will rescue Jacob from “hands that were too strong for him.” I juxtapose that with Jesus saying his followers are to love and care for even the least of his brothers and so, I see that I have a calling of my own and the overarching purpose is to love God, and my neighbor as myself.

According to the historical record, if all Christians had understood this, there would have been more to stand in-between the Jews, and the nations that repeatedly sought their blood.

As far as I’m concerned, she is definitely “preaching to the choir.”

Passover and the Week of Unleavened Bread commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from under the harsh slavery of Egypt and God, through Moses, leading His nation to Sinai to establish them as the head of the nations, giving them His Torah.

In his commentary on Passover this year, Rabbi Kalman Packouz says:

People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a “slave” to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!

passoverWhat has kept the Jewish people free and united them as a people for over 3,500 years when an entire world continually tries to destroy them, is cleaving to God’s Torah and maintaining their Covenant distinctiveness from the nations around them.

Passover, for the Jewish people, is a time to celebrate freedom, not just from slavery and tyranny, but from the spectre of annihilation, assimilation, and dissolution.

Several days ago, my wife and I were discussing the sad state of America and how our President seems all too willing to throw Israel to Iranian wolves. In a fit of pique, she said she’d consider giving up on the U.S. and making Aliyah.

A momentary surge of joy welled up in me at the thought, but I realize she wasn’t making a serious suggestion. According to my spouse, Israel is looking for younger families to make Aliyah, not a couple approaching retirement.

But this made me realize that while I would hate leaving my children, my grandchildren, and my parents behind, it’s more important to me to support the Jewish nation and the Land of Promise than to tolerate my own country, which seems to be in a moral and ethical nosedive destined to crash and burn at the conscience of the King.

The weight of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hate weighs heavily upon my shoulders as I contemplate this year’s seder, just a day away as you read this (and as I consider Easter as well). But if I have faith in God at all, then I know what He has promised Israel, to be the head of all the nations, to be a Land of everlasting peace and prosperity, will come to pass. And not all the Barack Obamas, Trevor Noahs, or anyone else can stop Him from ushering in the Messianic Era and blessing the Jewish nation of Israel.

At my family Seder tomorrow night, when we all declare “Next Year in Jerusalem,” may that “next year” come soon. May it come soon for all Jews living in the diaspora and for all those who love them.

Freedom is the responsibility to fill our lives with meaning.

-Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

It Takes a Child to Build the Temple

Yehuda Glick, head of the LIBA Movement for Freedom of Movement on the Temple Mount, expressed his satisfaction that “for the first time in three years the Temple Mount has been opened to Jews on Tisha b’Av.”

“300 Jews have already come, including MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli (Jewish Home). Afterward, we went to Commander of the Old City, David Avi Biton, and expressed our appreciation of the wonderful work the police were doing today,” Glick added.

Earlier this morning, masked Arabs arrived at the Temple Mount throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces. Police entered the area and dispersed the rioters. There were no casualties, and the police have remained in place to maintain order.

Last night the Jerusalem District Police arrested 27 Arabs suspected participating in the rioting in East Jerusalem.

Thus far, 457 suspects have been arrested for rioting, of which 160 have been served indictments. Additional arrests are anticipated.

“Temple Mount Open to Jews on 9th Av for First Time in 3 Years”
-found at VirtualJerusalem.com

I hadn’t planned to write on Tisha B’Av but the above-quoted article plus something else inspired me. To understand why, read this:

Tisha B’Av night we sit on the floor and read from the Book of Lamentations. In a mournful voice we chant “Alas, she sits in solitude! The city that was great with people has become like a widow. She weeps bitterly in the night and her tear is on her cheek.”

We grieve for our Temple that was destroyed. We recall a once golden Jerusalem that now sits in darkness, abandoned. The streets of the city run red with rivers of blood. Lamentations describes a glorious nation being led out in chains as the fires of destruction fill the air. We cry “for Mount Zion which lies desolate, foxes prowled over it.”

-Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
“Making Tisha B’Av Relevant”
Aish.com

Tisha B'Av
photo credit: Alex Levin http://www.artlevin.com

Observant Jews mourn the loss of both Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples on this date as well as commemorate many other tragedies that have occurred in Jewish history employing very specific practices. Personally, I’ve decided to fast but not to employ all of the traditions involved in Jewish observance to avoid giving the impression that I’m fulfilling the mitzvah. I fast, pray, and study in solidarity with the Jewish people, but I must consider their losses as theirs, not mine.

But while Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, it is also a day of hope. The very fact that the Temple Mount was opened to Jews on Tisha B’Av for the first time in three years makes me want to smile, even though that is inconsistent with a state of mourning.

I did have to smile at the following, though:

My son was on the lookout the minute the plane touched down in Israel. I could see the ignited light in his little four-year-old eyes on the entire car ride from the airport as he viewed the Holy Land for the first time. He was a tiny man on a mission, to see the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Jewish Temple, he was always hearing about.

He learned in school the common Jewish notion that each mitzvah (good deed) a Jew performs adds a “brick” to rebuild the destroyed Temple. And he was expecting to see the third Temple in the process of being rebuilt, brick by brick, mitzvah by mitzvah. You can imagine how his face fell and heart was broken when we arrived at the site of the Kotel, the Western Wall.

-Beth Perkel (as told to her by R.S.)
“Searching for the Third Temple”
Aish.com

Some among Israeli Jews believe the Third Temple should be rebuilt right now, while others (including me) think when the Messiah comes (returns), he will build it.

But the wonderfully innocent audacity of a four-year old little boy expecting the bricks of the Temple to miraculously appear one by one as Jews all over the world perform mitzvot is an obviously literal interpretation of midrash and also the perfect faith only a child could have.

“Mommy, this is it?”

“What do you mean this is it?”

“Where is the Beit Hamikdash? All I see is a wall Mommy, where are the bricks we have been working for, where are all the extra bricks?”

“They are coming precious child, someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, they are coming.”

But my answer wasn’t enough. He stood transfixed, woefully unsatisfied, hoping somehow that the bricks would miraculously appear. When they didn’t, he wandered around, the only one moping at the Kotel during the precious moments of our short visit there.

Ultimately, this searching Jewish child actually did find the bricks to the Temple at the Yad La-shiryon tank museum at Latrun, or more specifically, in the memorial wall, in which each brick is a representation of the mesirat nefesh or the self-sacrifice of the soldiers who died defending Israel.

“Mommy, this is it! We found the bricks! These are the bricks for the Beit Hamikdash!”

It brought tears to my eyes. Somehow, his soul had understood something so deep on this very spot where soldiers throughout Jewish history, from the time of the Tanach onward, had died glorifying God’s name, defending the Jewish homeland and helping us take steps towards our destiny. I could see the radiance on his face. He had found it – the bricks that showed him that God’s promise of redemption was on its way.

Kotel
photo credit: Chabad.org

What will bring (back) the Messiah, what will rebuild the Temple, is hope, even during the darkest periods of life. That’s what Tisha B’Av is, hope in the darkness. Even as Jews study Lamentations by candlelight sitting on short stools (as is the custom), with some eyes welling with tears, there is always hope.

Hope is what has enabled the Jewish people to endure as a people for so long. Hope is what recreated the modern state of Israel from the sand and ashes of “Palestine”. Hope is what keeps the prophesy of Messiah alive and all that he will do to return the exiles, redeem God’s people, and restore the nation to its former glory.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

Our hope is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. That is the Jewish hope but it must be the hope for the rest of us, otherwise we have nothing, for “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Hope is a four-year old boy who sees the “extra” bricks for building the Temple in the memorial of Israel’s honored fallen heroes.

May you have an easy fast.