Tag Archives: pray

What Can You Do For The Land Of Israel?

I wanted to take a few minutes this morning to emphasize how important our presence is in the land to the Israelis. (By ‘our’ I mean people living outside the land – whether Jew or Gentile.) So many people I spoke with feel alone, that the world doesn’t care. And what they see the world saying is that all the trouble in Israel is their fault.

Now, I am saying we take the place of God. But aren’t we, as followers of the Messiah, called to be the hands and feet of Hashem in this world? Isn’t it part of our job to love his people and support them? Isn’t that what Paul emphasized?

-Ro Pinto
“We Must Let Them Know”
Journey to Messiah

I suppose you know by now that Israel is suffering from the latest plague of terrorist attacks against its Jewish citizens. I also suppose you aren’t surprised that the news and social media are saying (again) it’s all Israel’s fault.

Given the nature of my blog, I can only believe that most of my regular readers are pro-Israel and support the defense of the Jewish people against their aggressors. Ro, in the blog post I quoted from above, suggested that one of the things we can do in support of Israel is to visit the Land, just as she did a short time ago (and about which she blogged prolifically).

So what can we do? Most of us aren’t in a position financially or in terms of our schedules, to hop a transatlantic flight and vacation in Israel for a couple of weeks. How else can we show our support?

seven things israelI read Ro’s blog when she originally published it to the web, but didn’t consider passing along her message until today when I read an article from the Chabad with the title 7 Things You Can Do for Israel.

This list is definitely written for religious Jews, so not everything applies to the rest of us, but here it is (click the link I provided above to get the full details):

  1. Take Up a “Call to Arms”
  2. Share the Power of Light
  3. Check Your (Spiritual) Security System
  4. Pray
  5. Be Financially Supportive
  6. Nurture Your Faith
  7. Get a Letter

Some items on that list may seem pretty obscure so I’ll expand on them a bit.

The “call to arms” is to help any Jewish man or boy over age 13 put on tefillin. That’s not something we non-Jews get much of an opportunity to do, nor is it something non-Jewish males typically perform (with a few exceptions, or so I’m told).

Sharing the power of light is lighting the Shabbos and holiday candles and encouraging Jewish girls and women to do so. Again, not something most non-Jewish believers tend to perform and we typically aren’t in a position to suggest to Jews that they do so.

The “Jewish security system” is the mezuzah. Because my wife is Jewish, we have a mezuzah attached to pretty much every doorway in our home (bathrooms are the exception). I’ve been told that when a Jew sells his or her home, they leave the mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) in place if another Jew is buying the home, and remove them if a non-Jew is the buyer (because it won’t be a Jewish home anymore).

prayerPraying for Israel is the first item on the list that’s freely accessible to any religious person, and we can certainly encourage others to pray for Israel and the Jewish people as well.

The Chabad article has various links to charitable organizations anyone can donate to for the benefit of Jewish victims of terrorism. You can also do your own research and determine for yourself where you want to give your tzedakah (the word translates commonly as “charity” but also means “justice”).

Nurturing your faith has to do with a Jewish person encouraging more religious observance and acts of faith with their own family and friends, specifically as it relates to a Jew’s connection to Israel.

While we non-Jews don’t have the same connection to the Holy Land, it would be inaccurate to say we don’t have a connection at all. Hashem established Israel for the Jewish people but He also commanded the Jewish people to be a light to the world. That light comes most strongly from Israel and from our Rav, Yeshua (Jesus).

Further, in His grace and mercy, Hashem has extended the promise of the resurrection, eternal life, and the Holy Spirit even to the Goyim, so how could we not be attached to Rav Yeshua, whose symbolic, sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection have opened the door to redemption for any who would repent and come to faith.

We can encourage our own family and friends to embrace their faith in our Rav by expressing clear support of Israel in any manner we have available to us. No congregation that pays homage to Yeshua, which includes any Christian church, should fail to support the nation of the Jews in any way.

torah up closeGetting a letter is unique. Special Torah scrolls are being written in Israel, and the Chabad article says that any Jewish person may purchase a letter being written in a scroll. The way the form is set up, asking for the Jewish name of the person for whom the letter is being purchased, as well as the Jewish mother’s name and so on, I don’t think a non-Jew would be permitted to do this.

On the other hand, we can certainly pass along this information to any Jewish people we know who we believe would be interested.

The article finishes up with the suggestion that we pass this along in social media or anyplace else that Jewish people might see it and act.

I’m writing all this not to make any non-Jew reading it feel discouraged by what they can’t do for Israel. After all, Chabad is in the business of drawing Jewish people to Jewish faith and observance, not Gentiles (though I suppose they’d have an opinion on what a Noahide could do).

I’m writing today to show that we do have options in supporting the Land and the Jewish people. As Ro suggested, we could visit Israel and show our financial (by purchasing goods and services during our visit), emotional, and spiritual support. If we are in a position to do so, we can find some way to support any Jewish people in our local communities who we may know, to greater levels of Jewish observance. We can certainly pray, donate to Israeli charities helping terror victims, and encourage other believers to support Israel as an act of our faith (the last being a great way to educate others at your church or congregation).

Non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua call ourselves Christians, or sometimes believers, followers, or even “Messianic Gentiles.” We are who we are. We are not Jews and we are not Israel. But we can stand by Israel, even if we don’t know a single Jewish person, and do something to support a Land under attack, not just by human terrorism and world-wide public condemnation, but by ancient forces of spiritual evil.

I don’t often write about “supernatural forces” but let’s face it. Our physical world is an extension of a spiritual reality and of powers and events long foretold by the Biblical prophets. We know that bad things are coming for the Jewish people, for Israel, and ultimately for the whole world.

IsraelThis is as good a time as any to stand up and be counted on the side of good…the side of God.

Tag. You’re it. Pass this along.

This is just the short list. For more, read 54 Ways You Can Help Israel and find out which ones you can do…and then do them.

Addendum: Just saw this link on Facebook about helping victims of terrorism and thought I’d share.

The Torah viewpoint is that the Almighty constantly creates the entire world and everything in it for each individual. This concept has the potential to give a person immense pleasure. Think about it for a moment. The Almighty — Creator and Sustainer of the universe — is constantly creating for you the sun, the moon, and all the other worldly phenomena. He is constantly bestowing upon you life, and every single second He supplies you with your needs.

(see Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel; Tnuas Hamussar, vol.3, p.202; Gateway to Happiness, p.36)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Choose Hope Today

At each moment of every day, you choose your thoughts, words, and actions. You even choose your feelings by choosing your thoughts, words, and actions. So say, “Just choose wisely now.”

The more frequently you choose wisely, the more this choice will become second nature. You probably know what happens to a person who keeps making wise choices of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. They live their life much more wisely.

“But what if I don’t always recognize the wisest choice?” Just saying, “Just choose wisely now,” won’t guarantee that you will always choose the wisest choices. But it will still be much better than saying, “Choose the stupidest choice!”

(from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Conversations With Yourself”, p.139) [Artscroll.com])

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift #185: Just Choose Wisely Now

As I’ve mentioned before, the path of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption is not a straight line where one walks along each day making steady progress. I’ve used metaphors to describe this process such as birds and ladders but it can also be a lot like one step forward and two steps back, or maybe like running on a string of spaghetti all curled and twisted in a bowl…in the dark. Sometimes you can’t even make heads or tails of where you are or how you’re doing. You just know you’re running (and sometimes, running scared).

But every step you take whether straight and narrow or to the left or right requires a choice, even if it doesn’t seem that way. As Rabbi Pliskin writes in the above quoted set of paragraphs, you may have made bad choices in the past but you can make a wise choice now. That doesn’t erase the past, but nothing can do that. You can’t change what has happened but you can change the future by acting in the present.

But it’s not easy. It is said (supposedly by Samuel L.Clemens [Mark Twain]) that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” This is true up to a point but it doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of change. It’s easy to tell yourself that your future will be what your past has been. But if that’s the case, is there hope?

“In whatever way a person chooses, therein is he led” (Makkos 10b).

We tend to disown those thoughts, feelings, and actions that we dislike. Something we saw, read, or heard upset us, we like to think, and caused us to think, feel, or act in a certain way. We forget that we have considerable say in what we choose to see or hear.

Psychiatry and psychology have contributed to this abdication of responsibility. Their emphasis on the impact of early-life events on our emotions has been taken to mean that these factors determine our psyche, and that we are but helpless victims of our past.

We forget that if someone puts trash on our doorstep, we do not have to take it in; even if it was put into the house and filled it with an odor, we have the option to throw it out and clean up. Similarly, even if early-life experiences have an impact, the effects are not cast in stone; we can take steps to overcome them.

A man once complained to his rabbi that alien thoughts were interfering with his prayer and meditation. The rabbi shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know why you refer to them as alien,” he said. “They are your own.”

If we stop disowning feelings and actions, we may be able to do something about them.

Today I shall…

…try to avoid exposing myself to those influences that are likely to stimulate feelings and behavior that I think are wrong.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky
Growing Each Day for Kislev 13

I guess that means the first step in the journey is to own up to the thoughts, feelings, and actions that resulted in our current situation and need for repentance. We can’t very well take out the trash if we don’t admit that we created it in the first place. Well, I guess we could, but we’d always by “mystified” by the fact that no matter how often we take out “someone else’s” garbage, more shows up in our trash can.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

So connecting what Rabbi Twersky said to the statement made by Rabbi Pliskin, we need to make different choices, first by admitting that our prior choices are our own, and then changing the choices we make now, eliminating “those influences that are likely to stimulate feelings and behavior that” we think are wrong.

And if not now, then when? (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14).

Hillel’s famous statement is a bit enigmatic. The simple answer is, “Later.” Why can’t we take care of whatever it is some other time? Granted that procrastination is not a virtue, why does Hillel imply that if not now, then it will never be?

The Rabbi of Gur explained that if I do something later, it may indeed get done, but I will have missed the current “now.” The present “now” has but a momentary existence, and whether used or not, it will never return. Later will be a different “now.”

King Solomon dedicates seven famous verses of Ecclesiastes to his principle that everything has its specific time. His point comes across clearly: I can put off doing a good deed for someone until tomorrow, but will that deed, done exactly as I would have done it today, carry the same impact?

The wisdom that I learn at this moment belongs to this moment. The good deed that I do at this moment belongs to this moment. Of course I can do them later, but they will belong to the later moments. What I can do that belongs to this moment is only that which I do now.

Today I shall…

…try to value each moment. I must realize that my mission is not only to get something done, but to get things done in their proper time, and the proper time may be now.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky
Growing Each Day for Kislev 14

You’ve probably heard the saying, “There’s no time like the present,” attributed to Georgia Byng and that seems to be what both of these esteemed Ravs are telling us. Once you’ve recognized that you are the one making decisions in your life, that they are bad decisions, and that they are causing harm, the next step is to determine what good decisions are and start making them right now.

Jeff stood before the Wall, and made up an atheist’s prayer. He looked at the stones and said:

“God, I don’t believe in You. As far as I know, You don’t exist. But I do feel something. So if I’m making a mistake, I want You to know, God, I have no quarrel against You. It’s just that I don’t know that You exist. But God, just in case You’re really there and I’m making a mistake, get me an introduction.”

Jeff finished his prayer, and one of the yeshiva students who happened to be at the Wall, saw Jeff and thought, “Perhaps he’d be interested in learning some Torah.”

He tapped Jeff on the shoulder, startling him so much that he jumped three feet in the air. Jeff whirled around and shouted,

“What in the blankety-blank-dash-bang do you want?!”

“I’m sorry. I just want to know if you’d like to learn about God.”

That question hit Jeff like a 2-by-4 right between the eyes. He had just finished asking God for an introduction, and immediately someone was offering to introduce him to God.

“Prayer of an Atheist”
from the Ask the Rabbi column

I encourage you to click the link above to get the full context of the article, but I included this quote to illustrate just how powerful prayer, even one uttered by an atheist, can be to remediate a person’s life.

The young Jewish fellow in question studied Torah in Jerusalem for the next six weeks following his encounter at the Kotel, continued his studies and coming to faith after returning to his home in the United States, and eventually married a devout Jewish woman.

But up until he prayed that one prayer at the Kotel, his life was heading in a very different direction.

Of course Jeff’s decision to pray at that moment wasn’t random:

Jeff had been in Norway, visiting his Norwegian fiancée. And he decided it was now or never: either he is going to come to Israel or he’ll never make it.

So he headed for Jerusalem and the Western Wall. He figured he would stop by the Wall to see some old stones. Yet upon his arrival he was amazed. He felt something heavy. He was moved.

Jeff stood before the Wall, and made up an atheist’s prayer. He looked at the stones and said…

white-pigeon-kotelSomething about being a Jew in Jerusalem and at the Kotel got through to Jeff. More accurately put, God got through to Jeff using the holiness of Jerusalem as a catalyst.

God uses all manner of events and circumstances to motivate human beings, Jews and everyone else. Although I’ve been quoting from Jewish sources throughout this blog post, the advice is just as applicable to the rest of us. If the Jewish people are supposed to be a light to the nations, then this is one way they are accomplishing their mission.

Jesus (Yeshua) said that he was the light of the world (John 8:12), which I take to mean that he is the living embodiment of Israel’s mission to the nations, the best personal example of Israel shining a light on the path allowing the people of the nations to find God. But he also said to his disciples that they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) indicating that they were to assume his mission and continue to shine the light for the rest of us to follow. Eventually, we Gentiles become that light as well, but only once we have achieved a level of spiritual achievement and discipline to live a life worthy of that light.

It all comes down to the choices we make. It also means that even if we make bad choices, they don’t have to determine the course of the rest of our lives. We have free will. We can make different choices. We can choose differently now, today, this morning.

I always like the “I’ll be back” line because it is a great philosophy for life. Life isn’t all successes, it is also defeats. But you can always be back. No matter what, just like the Terminator. You’re not a loser when you fall. You’re only a loser if you don’t get up. Winners get up and come back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Get this straight: The secret behind success is knowing how to fail. Failures are people who fail once. Successes are people who fail thousands of times—and pick themselves back up each time. Like little kids learning to walk. Like Babe Ruth, who held the world record for home runs—and also held the record for strike-outs.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

For more on this topic, please read On Choosing God.

What I Learned in Church Today: Pray for Jerusalem

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—
An ordinance for Israel—
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there thrones were set for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Psalm 122 (NASB)

Not that the sermon wasn’t good or the Sunday school class wasn’t stimulating, but this is the best thing I learned in church today (yesterday as you read this). Pastor Randy returned from being away for several weeks in California and led the congregation in an impassioned prayer for Israel in these trying times. Randy lived in Israel for fifteen years and still has many Jewish friends there. One of his friends calls Randy every three days or so and gives him an update on what is really happening there, events you’ll never see reported on CNN or MSNBC.

The Iron Dome missile defense is working but when a missile was intercepted directly over the home of Randy’s friend, they heard the loud explosion followed by the rain of shrapnel hitting the roof. The missile alarms go off daily prompting everyone to go to the shelters.

The friend’s adult age daughter’s boyfriend is an officer of an elite ground unit in the IDF. This officer was leading his men (in the IDF officers don’t tell soldiers to go and do something while sitting back, they always say “follow me” and then lead their troops) through one of the thirty-eight known Hamas terrorist tunnels in Gaza when a booby trap bomb blew up literally in his face.

The three men behind him died but amazingly, this man survived. A number of bones on his face were broken, bomb fragments are in both eyes, and he’s lost the hearing in one ear.

He will regain his sight eventually but will always be partially deaf.

Randy was insistent that we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem. He also said this:

And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.

Genesis 12:3 (NASB)

Not only did Randy speak of blessings but of curses, and he even invoked these curses against all of Israel’s enemies.

He also recited Psalm 122:6 in Hebrew and wished we could read and speak it in Hebrew as well:

שַׁאֲלוּ, שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם

Remember the second half of that verse:

May they prosper who love you…

Which strongly implies the opposite to those who hate Jerusalem.

terror tunnel discoveredFrom my point of view, loving Israel and cherishing Jerusalem is a “no brainer,” but after all, my wife of over thirty years is a Jew and I have learned a deep-seated compassion for the nation and the people whom God has called His “priests” and the “apple of His eye”.

I also consider it spiritual suicide to not love Israel for in the end, God Himself will defend her against all of her enemies in war, which sadly I fear, includes the nation in which I live.

This topic wasn’t supposed to spill over into Sunday school class but when Charlie was asking for prayer requests, I mentioned that Randy fulfilled my typical request in a much better way than I ever could. That started a discussion and one fellow, who tends to have a “sparky” temper at times, inserted the “there are two sides to every story” argument.

I didn’t mind, and in fact I agreed with him, when he said that the Arab non-combatants in Gaza are as much victims of Hamas as the Jewish Israelis, but he then downgraded Israel and her current Jewish population saying they are guilty of doing many wrongs as well.

I can’t speak for the actions of every individual in Israel, but I can see that God didn’t promise to fight off the enemies of the “Palestine,” He will defeat the enemies of Israel. To stand against Israel now, even in the slightest degree, isn’t only standing on the wrong side of history, it’s standing on the wrong side of God.

I wasn’t the only one to come to Israel’s defense in class, and shortly afterward, this fellow seeing “both sides” got up and left, followed a minute or so later by his wife.

I actually feel bad about that because on many other levels, this person does love Jesus and sincerely serves him (he just returned with a group from our church who went on a short-term missions trip to the Philippines and Thailand). It’s just that so many Christians are blind as to the true focus of Christ’s love and what Jerusalem means to him.

I mentioned before that I thought John MacArthur’s current battle against the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over PCUSA’s support of “marriage equality” was something of a Red Herring, not because MacArthur isn’t sincere (he’s always sincere), but because the center of God’s attention is always Israel.

This isn’t to say that missions trips or the many other fine endeavors of the Church are “Red Herrings,” but we can’t let all of these other activities make us take our eye off the ball, so to speak, lest we lose the prosperity that comes of loving Jerusalem and praying for her Shalom.

The rest of the world, and particularly Europe, are attacking the Jews over perceived Israeli injustices in Gaza. Sometimes those attacks include physical assaults against Jewish people. How long before European nations start marshalling their armies and physically attack the nation of the Jews: Israel?

Here in America, we have lost our way as well and can no longer see the moral chasm between Israel and Hamas (that last link leads to an article written by General James T. Conway, who retired in 2010, and was the 34th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps). Most of us, including many in the Church, swallow the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propaganda being pumped at us by the mainstream news media as well as social media venues. We pay attention to secular “wisdom” and abandon the Word of God. More’s the pity.

IsraelRandy said that in the days of the Temple, many of the songs of ascents would be sung by those who were going up to Jerusalem, to the House of the God of Jacob, He asked us to imagine going up the steps with Psalm 122 on our lips. Imagine the Levitical priests singing the songs as you entered the Temple court. Imagine the anticipation, the grandeur, the beauty, the thrill of approaching a tangible encounter with God in the only place in the world He has placed His Name.

I reminded my Sunday school class that in modern Judaism, you can pray the Psalms for different occasions. This is a good occasion to pray Psalm 122 for the peace of Israel.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love you will be serene. May there be peace within your wall, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and my comrades, I shall speak of peace in your midst. For the sake of the House of Hashem, our God, I will request good for you.

Psalm 122:6-9 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

“Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

Revelation 21:9-10 (ESV)

One last cautionary note. Verse five of Psalm 122 says, “For there sat thrones of judgment.” There will be a judgment against those who do not seek Israel’s peace. Choose a blessing and not a curse. Choose life.

Praying for Oklahoma

oklahomaA mammoth tornado carved a trail of destruction through the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, killing at least 51 people, including some children, and ripping apart two elementary schools today, local authorities said.

“It is absolutely devastating, this is horrific,” Oklahoma Lt. Gov Todd Lamb said. “We’re going to have fatalities. … We’re going to have significant injuries. … We just don’t know what those numbers are. Schools have been hit, a hospital has been hit, businesses have been flattened, neighborhoods have been wiped away — we don’t have the numbers in yet but it is going to be significant and it is going to be horrific.”

-Lauren Effron and Dean Schabner
“Oklahoma Tornado: At Least 51 Dead, ‘Horrific’ Damage”
ABC News

One word meditations:

Pray. Donate. Give. Care. Love.

Doing Joy

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Therefore, first of all, man ought to be happy and joyous at all times, and truly live by his faith in the Lord who animates him and is benignant with him every moment. But he who is grieved and laments makes himself appear as if he has it somewhat bad, and is suffering, and lacking some goodness; he is like a heretic, Heaven forbid.

Igeret HaKodesh 11 (Kehot)

Apparently, I struggle with joy. I suppose it’s part of my nature or my personality to do so, just like I struggle with everything else, including God. I don’t have an easy relationship with joy. It’s like my relationship with all those religious and spiritual people who seem to be so happy and carefree all the time. I just don’t see how they can be perpetually “warm and fuzzy” (kittens, puppies, John Lennon quotes) and still manage to relate to those of us who seem to need to keep a toe or a foot in the real world.

Was that cynical?

While I have recently acknowledged joy, I have even more recently mourned its lack in my life. But I have still managed to say something hopeful about joy.

I can only conclude that joy, like love, is a verb; it’s something you do, not something you feel. We can love by performing acts of love, such as feeding the hungry, hugging a crying child who just skinned his knee, helping an elderly, infirm person across the street, or visiting a sick person in who is in the hospital. But how to you do joy?

This morning (as I write this), I realized that last night I actually did joy. I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time. That means I actually do joy more often, much more often than I thought I did.

Here’s what happened.

On Tuesday evenings, my son and daughter-in-law take a class and they ask my wife and I to watch our grandson Landon while they’re out. Last Tuesday night, my wife had to work late, so when I dropped off my son at his place after work (we commute to and from work together), I took Landon home with me (oh, he’s three-and-a-half years old, just so you know). My daughter was home and cutting up lots and lots of organic and recently picked apples on the back patio as part of her latest culinary masterpiece project (cider, I believe). The sukkah was still up, which should help set the scene for you.

Oh, one more thing. Rabbit and Alley. We have two hand puppets that we acquired (I don’t remember the details) when our own children were small. One is a rabbit and the other is an alligator (hence, “Rabbit and Alley”). Landon adores Rabbit and Alley (or “Raddit and Alley” as he calls them). They are his very close friends, almost as close as “Baby” which is his favorite stuffed toy (a giraffe).

When we got to my place, he saw that his aunt was out back and he wanted us all (Grandpa, Rabbit, and Alley) to play outside so we could be with her. My grandson is a picky eater, so he didn’t want to have dinner with me. He did sit beside me and we chatted while I ate. After my hunger was sufficiently assuaged, we proceeded out back.

Landon consumed a lot of (Auntie provided) fresh apples between periods of playing in the sandbox. Rabbit and Alley (and I) watched him as he transferred sand almost endlessly from one container to another. He put sand in a small bucket and pretended that he was planting (alternately) “pretty flowers” and tomatoes. Rabbit received the honor of watering the “plants” (pouring more sand in the bucket). He gave Rabbit and Alley “flowers” to put in their “pockets” and fed them imaginary tomatoes, since Rabbit and Alley like their vegetables (Landon, not so much).

When the sun went down sufficiently, I turned the lights on that are mounted on the sukkah, and we went inside. Landon ate more apples and asked me to read the Hebrew that is on two walls of the sukkah. I can’t read Hebrew, but was able to point out the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Landon was a little confused when I mentioned that David played a harp because his Dad (also David) plays the drums. I had to explain that one is a King and the other is his Daddy.

We ran around the outside of the sukkah “hiding” from each other. He hid behind bushes. He picked up a “pretty rock” and carried it around for a while. I’m pretty sure I was wearing Rabbit and Alley on my hands the whole time. I tend to forget they’re actually on my hands when I’m playing with him, unless I need to take them off to turn the pages of a book I’m reading to him, or some similar activity.

In fact, when the sun went down, we did go in and I read him two books, one about an adventurous young penguin, and the other about a duck who likes to make soup.

His parents came to pick him up and, as is true with most children who are in the middle of having a good time, he didn’t want to go. So, to encourage Landon to go to the car, Rabbit, Alley, and Grandpa went out to the front to see him off. After he and his parents left, I went back inside and only then remembered to take off Rabbit and Alley and place him in their seat of honor near the fireplace.

I woke up this morning and realized that playing with my grandson was “doing joy”. It’s not that I had been emotionally ecstatic and overwhelmed with mind-bending happiness, but I recalled, looking back on the evening, that I had been quietly, pleasantly happy. I’ve mentioned before that one of the acts of love we are able to perform is to hug a crying child who has just skinned his knee. If that’s love, then joy must be playing “Rabbit and Alley” with a small child who on some level (even though he sees me put the puppets on and take them off) believes that Grandpa, Rabbit, and Alley are his best friends.

Love and joy are playing with your grandson. The next time you can’t find the Spirit of God within you and you feel lost, abandoned, and arid inside, play with someone you love. There, you’ll find joy and every other gift that God provides.

When man has moved away from the Divine, the only rectification is for man to move back toward God. Therefore the Zohar concludes that repentance is the key to heal the rift, which caused the destruction of the second Temple. This would also explain the Midrash cited at the outset — Moses knew that the absence of the Temple necessitated man’s movement toward God; therefore, Moses instituted thrice daily prayer, in order to remind man constantly, in all his experiences, that he must not forget God, rather he should take every opportunity to stand in front of God.

Furthermore, prayer is described as “service of the heart.” Evidently the heart, the emotions are crucial for this return.

But the Zohar insists that repentance coming from the heart full of love is needed to return the Jews to the level which should have been reached via the first fruits offerings. When this happens, joy will become a reality — everlasting and complete joy.

-Rabbi Ari Kahn
“Joy: Commentary on Torah Portion Ki Tavo”
(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

I’m beginning to think that Moses should have instituted thrice daily play times with small children to remind us constantly that we must not forget God.

Turn away from feeling lost and lonely by cherishing whoever God gives you to play with, and your heart will return to Him. Go do love and joy.

In Your Prayers

PrayingMoshe was going to die before entering Eretz Yisroel. Yet, his tefillos were answered, and he was given permission to view the holy land, and to see a vision of the land and the history of the Jewish people. When this consent was granted, the verse seems to use a double expression. First, Moshe was told “lift up your eyes”. This directive was followed with the instructions “and see”, which apparently is the obvious purpose of his having lifted up his eyes.

One of the objectives of tefillah is for a person to arrive at an understanding that “the ways of Hashem are correct”, and that everything Hashem does is for the best. This appreciation is realized when one’s prayers are directed toward building a relationship with Hashem, a devotion based upon trust. When a person seeks out Hashem, he arrives at a state of (Tehillim 34:11): “those who seek Hashem will not lack any good.” Finally, through prayer a person achieves the ability “to see – וראה ” and to feel a sense of tranquility and satisfaction in his heart to truly accept all that Hashem does as perfect.

When Moshe ascended to the mountain and looked across at Eretz Yisroel, this might have seemed as if his prayers were not fulfilled, contrary to what the Gemara says. Yet, at this point, Moshe’s degree of perception of the will of Hashem was complete. He now felt totally accepting of the decree for him not to enter the land, and he perceived how this was for the best. He was now satisfied that there could be no better answer to his prayers other than to obey the command for him to remain on the east side of the Jordan, and not to enter the land.

גדולה תפילה שהרי משה נענה … שנאמר עלה ראש הפסגה
“Davening – Lift your eyes and see”
Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
Berachos 32

What I’m going to say has been said before, I’m sure. In fact, I’m sure that at some point, I said all this before, too. And yet, to read this “insight” on Berachos 32 and to consider the life and impending death of Moses is just to precious and important not to share.

I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak Moses must have experienced at being allowed to view the entire Land of Israel, and yet knowing that instead of being allowed to lead his people into the Land, he was going to die. He was going to have to let Joshua take over his work. Most of all, he was going to have to trust God in a way that he never had before.

Think about it.

All of the times when God was about to wipe out the Children of Israel, Moses was there to intervene on their behalf. When tens of thousands were dying of a plague or poisonous snake bites, Moses prayed. When the Children of Israel were at war and losing a battle, Moses prayed. The Children of Israel survived down to the last man, woman, and child because Moses was there to protect them, even from God.

And now he is looking across the expanse of the Land of promise and he knows that whatever happens after this point, he won’t be there to protect his people anymore.

What a bitter day it must have been for him.

And yet, according to the Midrash, Moses was able to finally arrive at a sort of peace about everything. After all, what choice did he have? But then, what choice to we have?

I’ve talked about trusting God before and I’m sure I mentioned that it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy when you desperately need a job and you are trusting God to provide sufficiently for your family until you find suitable employment. It isn’t easy to watch your wife undergo yet another round of chemotherapy, never knowing what the outcome will be and if the tumors will shrink or grow. It isn’t easy living a life that presents only the illusion of control over every critical detail, and realizing that an invisible and almost always silent God is the one who opens His hand and provides for your every need.

But when Moses looked over the Land of Israel for the first and last time, knowing his lifespan was measured only in minutes, he understood and was “satisfied that there could be no better answer to his prayers other than to obey the command for him to remain on the east side of the Jordan, and not to enter the land.” If only that sense of satisfaction and grace could be experienced by the rest of us.

A person who learns to pray properly can understand what the words of the Chazon Ish in “Emunah Ubitochon”:

“When a person merits becoming aware of the reality of the Almighty’s existence, he will experience limitless joy. His soul is enveloped in sanctity, and it is as though the soul has left the body and floats in the upper Heavens. When a person transcends to this level, an entirely new world is open to him. It is possible for a person to be momentarily like a celestial being, [while at the same time] in this world. All of the pleasures of this world are as nothing compared to the intense pleasure of a person cleaving to his Creator.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Cleave to the Almighty in Prayer, Daily Lift #565”