Cleanse the unclean
PARASHAT EMOR (SAY)
VAYIKRA (LEVITICUS) 21:1–24:3
The Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) have a great deal to say about cleanliness. Nothing unclean could come before God, because He is holy. As I was reading this week’s Parasha (Scripture portion), two specific instances caught my attention because they connect to Messiah’s ministry of cleansing while He was on the earth:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the bread of his God. ‘For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. ‘No man among the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, is to come near to offer the LORD’s offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. ‘He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, that he may not profane My sanctuaries. For I am the LORD who sanctifies them.’” So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel.
In light of these above verses, it’s quite astonishing that Yeshua reached out and healed those who, on the outside, had some type of a “defect”; He healed the blind, the leper, the lame, etc. While the restriction was specifically against the Priests, there is an important spiritual principal at work here. Yeshua healed people so that they could be clean and made whole before God the Father. He makes us all worthy of coming before a holy God to offer our lives as a sacrifice.
It is also interesting that an animal with any defect could not be offered to God as a sacrifice:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering —for you to be accepted — it must be a male without defect from the cattle, the sheep, or the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you. And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow, or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the LORD. In respect to an ox or a lamb which has an overgrown or stunted member, you may present it for a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. Also anything with its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut, you shall not offer to the LORD, or sacrifice in your land, nor shall you accept any such from the hand of a foreigner for offering as the food of your God; for their corruption is in them, they have a defect, they shall not be accepted for you.’”
When reading the above scriptures, I am reminded of a well-known story from the book of John, chapter 5:
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Yeshua saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Yeshua said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
Yeshua went up to Jerusalem since this was one of the appointed times to offer sacrifices before the LORD. The account tells us of the pool of Bethesda, which in Hebrew means “the house of grace”, and was located near the Sheep Gate. The location of the pool is significant because sheep and goats were offered as sacrifices, so there is a connection between the cleansing pool and the sacrifice. And, as we read before, if the animals had any defect, they could not be offered as a sacrifice.
Yeshua came to this specific place to perform an amazing miracle of healing a man who was lame for 38 years. This man could not physically go and offer sacrifices, and was anyway forbidden from entering the sanctuary. The fact that Yeshua had compassion on him and chose to heal him shows His heart for making a person worthy before God Almighty.
Yeshua’s blood cleanses and heals us so that we may be worthy to come before the Almighty! As our High Priest, He is constantly interceding on our behalf, and presenting our lives as a sacrifice to the Father. I am so grateful for His sacrifice and His work on my behalf. I hope you are too!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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Things are temporal but lives are eternal
My grandfather was a brilliant man who stepped in to help raise my brothers and sisters after my father passed away. I was only seven when my father died, so my grandfather had much to teach me. He taught me to fish, he taught me right from wrong, he taught me to be a gentleman, and he taught me about G-D. He made sure that I attended synagogue regularly and that I went through Hebrew School and that I became a Bar Mitzvah.
Because of my grandfather, I know many things. Because of him I was raised to put great value in education. But the most valuable lesson my grandfather taught me was that you can only have a truly great life if those around you were a part of your great life. He taught me that Torah taught us to Love G-D with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It takes both for us to have the full-blessed life that G-D wants us to have. We must love G-D as Torah teaches us in Deuteronomy 6:5: Love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. We must also love our neighbors as we read in Leviticus 19:8.
We as believers often put much of our effort into loving G-D through worship, and we tend to put our effort into loving our neighbors through charities, such as outreaches, food pantries, and clothing drives. But my grandfather said that meeting the physical needs of those around us through charity is actually still a part of loving G-D. That loving our neighbor was not about meeting physical needs but actually opening our hearts and lives to them. Not just being friends but truly welcoming them into our lives. Because as he said you can have a large house with all the best furniture, You can have a new top of the line car. You can have the best clothing and jewelry. But you will not have a great life until you welcome life into it. Everything in our world falls into two categories: They are either objects or lives. We can fill our world with objects and never have happiness or peace, or we can fill our world with lives and find great happiness and peace. My grandfather taught me that things are temporal but lives are eternal. That is why the two greatest commandments are about loving that which is eternal: G-D and People.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.
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Reflections of redemption in Nisan, Part 5
The Second-Chance Passover (Iyar 14)
The first time Israel celebrated Passover in the wilderness, some unnamed people were barred from offering Pesach sacrifices because of ceremonial uncleanness (contact with a human corpse). Moses consulted with God and received instructions for them to observe a substitute Passover on the 14th of the second month, with its duration shortened from seven days to one evening meal (Num.9:6-12). It is marked on the Jewish calendar as Pesach Sheni (“second Passover”). However, God makes it clear (v.13) that this provision is not an optional replacement for the original Passover; anyone who can keep the latter but doesn’t “will be cut off from his people [and] will bear his sin.”
The Torah passage is interesting for several reasons. In God’s response, He adds two categories that were irrelevant to the petitioners (v.10): “If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey….” Moreover, the original word order (changed by translators) reads like a single addition, and one that seems to address a spiritual distance like estrangement: “Each man who will be unclean for a dead person, or on a far road to you or to your generations…” (literal Hebrew).
From this, the sages derived a teaching that Pesach Sheni symbolizes God calling for the wayward Jew to repent/return to Him, even if it seems too late. But Torah records that these people had to protest being excluded before God provided the alternative; so it also symbolizes God waiting for His chosen people to cry out for the Redemption they are missing.
And what made those first Israelites cry out (v.7)? The sight of others feasting and rejoicing before God, while they could not participate because of uncleanness. In a word, jealousy. Paul writes (Rom.11:11-14) that those redeemed by Messiah from all the nations will provoke Israel to jealousy. This situation is in turn a fulfillment of Torah (Deut.32:21, quoted in Rom.10:19).
As the “second-chance” Passover approaches, we examine an ancient Passover tradition that was dismantled some 18 centuries ago, for no other reason than its unmistakable resemblance to Yeshua. Perhaps our people will become jealous enough over this lost heritage to belatedly reclaim it.
The severed link: Passover and Isaac
It’s universally accepted that Akedat Yitzhak, the Binding of Isaac (Gen.22), is associated with Tishrei 2. The idea appeared in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16a) and today it’s firmly embedded in the shofar blowing and Torah reading for the second day of the rabbinically mandated New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
Few know that this tradition was invented by post-Temple rabbis in order to destroy an earlier one. The original place of the Akedah in the Jewish calendar was Nisan 14, Passover Eve. Historical evidence for the switch was documented years ago by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer (“Torah Reading as a Weapon: Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah”).
During the time Talmudic teaching was developing (40-500 AD), the entire life of Abraham’s son of promise was intertwined with the Passover story. Rabbis Eliezer and Yehoshua, two leading Talmudic sages, agreed that Isaac was born on Passover (Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a). The near-sacrifice of Isaac was elsewhere compared with the sparing of the Israelite firstborn sons in the tenth plague – both occurring on Nisan 14. The only connection to Tishrei at that time was one Midrashic tradition that Isaac’s birth was foretold on Tishrei 1.
Kaunfer noted that in the Mishnah (Megillah 3:5), the Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah (Tishrei 1, no second day) was not Genesis 22, the Akedah story; or Genesis 21, the birth of Isaac; but Leviticus 23, the command to blow the shofar as a memorial on Yom ha-Truah. The Mishnah’s discussion of this holiday never mentioned the Akedah.
In contrast, the Jewish book Jubilees (dated around 150 BC, considered Scripture by Ethiopian Jews) tells of the Akedah taking place in Nisan (Jub.17:15–18:19). Prince Mastema, a fallen angel, challenges God to test Abraham, which He does on “the 12th day of the first month.” On the third day after that (Nisan 14 or 15, depending on how one counts the days), Abraham and Isaac reach the mountain, where Isaac is bound and nearly sacrificed.
Kaunfer: “Following that ordeal, Abraham institutes a 7-day festival called ‘the feast of the Lord.’ The account in Jubilees ends with: ‘And thus it is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets concerning Israel and his seed to observe this festival seven days with festal joy.’ This holiday is likely Passover.”
Kaunfer cited scholars who suggested that the Nisan Akedah tradition dates back even before Jubilees. Several agreed that “the Akedah narrative was assigned to the holiday [of Tishrei 2] relatively late,” and that attempts to present this as a first-century custom were probably later insertions. That (sort of) answers the question of when the Akedah was uprooted from Nisan – but not why.
Why the Akedah was relocated
According to Rabbi Kaunfer, the connection of the Akedah and Pesach was deliberately broken after the destruction of the Temple, in an effort to erase its powerful association with Yeshua’s sacrifice:
The selection of Genesis 22 as the reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah reflected a conscious decision by certain of the Rabbis to move the Akedah away from its original calendrical home: Passover.
This transfer was completed in order to distance the story of the Akedah with [sic, from] a time of the year that was increasingly associated with another martyr/sacrifice narrative, that of Jesus.
The transfer of the Torah reading to Tishrei represented but one strategy on the part of the Rabbis to combat the Christological associations with the Akedah….
This liturgical development, which may have occurred as early as Tannaitic times [70-200 AD], gave the Rabbis a ‘weapon’ used to eject early Christians from the synagogue.
Regarding that last statement, another well-known rabbinic “weapon” designed to drive Jewish followers of Yeshua from the synagogue was the curse against “Nazarenes and heretics” embedded in Birkat Ha-Minim. It was composed 90–100 AD by order of Rabbi Gamliel II, who apparently realized that the Nazarenes were not “heretics” (hence, two separate targets for cursing). These measures show how far post-Temple rabbinic leaders were willing to go in defacing Torah Judaism to fight a perceived threat to their authority. The author’s implicit admiration for their “effective set of tools” shows that for some rabbis, these priorities remain justified to this day.
Nevertheless, the strategy was only partly successful, as Kaunfer admits: “The association between Passover and the Akedah, while absent liturgically, remained in certain midrashic formulations.” Indeed, passages like the following (dated 900-1000 AD) preserved the original Nisan teaching (emphasis added):
After the Holy One (blessed be He) had chosen His world, He established the order of the new moons and the new years. And when He chose Jacob and his sons, He established the new moon of redemption, in which Israel was redeemed from Egypt, and in which they will in the future be redeemed…. This [Nisan] is the month in which Isaac was born, and in which he was bound. (Exodus Rabbah 15:11)
The atoning Passover son – who came first?
Logic would expect rabbinic scholars to claim that Isaac as an atoning sacrifice was a rabbinic teaching copied by the Nazarenes. Oddly, Rabbi Kaunfer insisted the opposite:
The other, equally daring move [besides transferring the Akedah from Nisan 14 to Tishrei 2] was to reappropriate the martyrology imagery of the Jesus narrative and read it back into the Isaac story. Taken together, these two moves offered the Rabbis an effective set of tools in battling to distinguish Judaism from Early Christianity.
Rabbinic adoption of Yeshua’s message would certainly be “daring” – and self-defeating! An atoning sacrifice by the son of Abraham not only fails “to distinguish Judaism from Early Christianity,” it cements the similarity between them. And regardless of rabbinic intentions, the similarity grew over time.
For example, the 4th-century Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael reinforced the association between Yeshua and the Akedah by describing a blood atonement. Commenting on God’s promise in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood [of the Pesach lamb] I will pass over you…” the Mekhilta stated: “I see the blood of the binding of Isaac.” This was apparently drawing on another tradition handed down in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, which said that although not actually sacrificed, Isaac gave a quarter of his blood as an atonement for Israel. (“Vayera: What Happened to Isaac?” Israel National News, 21/oct/10)
And that’s not all.
The atoning Passover son, resurrected
More astonishing are the Jewish sources that spoke of Isaac as having been really sacrificed, and then raised from the dead. The Shibbolei HaLeket (Avraham Harofeh, 1230-1300) recorded this resurrection tradition: “When Isaac was bound on the altar and reduced to ashes, and his sacrificial dust was cast onto Mount Moriah, the Holy One, blessed be He, immediately brought upon him dew and revived him.”
Two centuries earlier, Rashi argued that God had only asked Abraham to “offer” his son, not to sacrifice him – thus, He never would have allowed Abraham to act on that misunderstanding. Yet when commenting on Gen.22:14 (“….as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it will be seen”), Rashi interpreted this verse to mean: “On the mountain God will look upon Isaac’s ashes heaped up and standing for atonement.” He was relying on still earlier sources, like Pesikta Rabbati (850 AD) and Midrash Tanhuma (600 AD).
The contradiction here is every bit as troublesome as the claim of a crucified Messiah who lives forever. The author of the above-mentioned INN article (Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple) quoted these sages but felt compelled to criticize them for diverging from the written Torah… a glaringly anti-rabbinic position.
The Isaac paradox may well date back to second-Temple times, since the book of Hebrews also refers to it (11:17-19): “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…. He considered that God is able to raise even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type [lit: in a parable].” In fact, Rabbi Kaunfer made a scholarly case that Isaac’s death and resurrection “was a concept existing pre-Christianity.”
But Kaunfer himself was unable to digest that reality. “Even if it did” predate Yeshua, he credited the post-Temple rabbis with wisdom for using it as “direct competition to the figure of Jesus.” In other words, this striking oral tradition about Isaac circulated for centuries without any relevance for the Jewish people… until it became useful to shield them a real-life illustration of itself.
Equally revealing was Kaunfer’s other rationalization: “The death and ashes of Isaac and his subsequent resurrection can be reasonably understood as an attempt to enrich Judaism with a figure that was as colorful as the one known to Christian exegesis.” This “one” must be fearful competition indeed. Observe that after 2000 years, rabbis still cannot risk naming Him and “resurrection” in the same sentence!
“On a far road”
The Akedah may be exiled six months away from Nisan, but it still carries its original Nisan message. The Amidah prayer for Rosh Hashana refers to Isaac being bound “for his seed,” while the Musaf service begs God to grant us justification by remembering “the son who was bound” and “the merit of the innocent one” – without naming Isaac.
Instead, another name is spoken.
The name that generations of Hebrew-speaking rabbis have avoided with the euphemism, “ha-ish ha-hu.” “That man.”
The name is invoked only once, in a silent whisper, during the first shofar blowing on the second day. It’s printed in the tiniest type size possible for Hebrew prayer books. But it bypasses all of church history by honoring Him with an elegant Midrashic title unknown to Christians: “Yeshua, Sar Ha-Panim.”
No one knows how this micro-pointer to the Nazarene got into the synagogue. But there are others. They are proof that for those who missed Him during Israel’s appointed Day of Salvation, God has ordained a Pesach Sheni.
(to be concluded)
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
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Love your enemies – Jesus is not joking
Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash
Jesus was not interested in messing around with normal levels of niceness. He was starting a whole new revolution called “Love your enemies”… and challenging us to join him.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than anyone else? Even the pagans do that, don’t they? Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Keeping the Law of Moses was challenging enough, but “be perfect”? Come on! Be reasonable. And love our enemies? Seriously? Who does that?
Jesus was introducing the New Covenant, not based on good behaviour, but based on the powerful blood of his own self-sacrifice. Only God incarnate has the power to rescue and redeem, to save and transform. But the amazing thing is that it’s true: Jesus living in us really can give us power to do the impossible. To love the unloveable. To forgive the unforgivable. This fact is proved by his disciples all around the world, all the time.
Jesus living in us really can give us power to do the impossible. To love the unloveable. To forgive the unforgivable. This fact is proved by his disciples all around the world, all the time.
“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you.”1
These are the words of Reverend Roshan Mahesen from Sri Lanka after 28 people from his church were murdered and another 70 were injured by Islamic extremists. He added:
“Jesus Christ on the cross, He said, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say for the Lord to forgive these people.”
It is only the experience of the inexhaustible love and forgiveness of Jesus that can free us to act in this way. Reverend Roshan Mahesen’s reaction was similar to words we have heard from the bereaved families of those 20 Egyptian Christians executed on the beach by ISIS.2 Even children in Iraq who know and love Jesus have extended love, forgiveness and prayers to their persecutors.3 This is the real mark of a disciple of Jesus. They know they are forgiven, and they know that they are destined for eternity with Jesus and their lost loved ones. They know they cannot lose… but that their enemies are desperately lost.
With the constant violence and atrocities happening all around us, we may be tempted to forget the revolutionary ways of our Messiah. He was not just noble – he was self-sacrificial towards those who hated him. He was not just kind to his own company – his heart broke for his own tormentors. This radical enemy-love was not just a nice theory – it was a real expectation. He personally led the way, leaving us not only with a perfect example, but with his own Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus – to help us to do the impossible.
When Jesus told us to love our enemies, he meant it.
 ‘We love you and we forgive you:’ Sri Lanka pastor has powerful message for radical terrorists, Caleb Parke, April 30 2019
[2} Sat7 Network – relatives of slain Egyptian Christians forgive
premier.org.uk – TV anchor stunned after Egyptian Christian says she forgives her husband’s killers
 Sat7usa.org – Iraqi child forgives ISIS
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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Restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Part 2)
“The Third Dimension of the Apostolic Commission”
Read Part 1 HERE!
When the disciples asked Yeshua in Acts 1:7 if the kingdom would be established in Israel at that time, He did not say it would not happen. He said they could not know when. In that sense Yeshua affirmed the biblical plan for the kingdom of God in Israel. However, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel would happen at the end of the gospel period, not at the beginning.
The kingdom will be restored to Israel, when the king returns to Israel. This happens at the second coming, not the first. The finale of the great commission ends up with Yeshua’s return. “This Yeshua who was lifted up from you into heaven will certainly come in the same manner as you saw Him go up to heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Yeshua’s disciples had expected:
- Establish the kingdom to Israel
- Extend the kingdom to the nations
Yeshua changed this to:
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit
- Preach the gospel to all nations
- Establish the kingdom at the second coming
- To Israel
- To all nations
The kingdom of God includes both Israel and the nations. It is not Israel without the nations; nor is it the nations without Israel.
The kingdom of God is first spiritual and inward, then outward and governmental. Ultimately, Yeshua will return; His kingdom will be established on earth with peace and prosperity for all nations, with its capital in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2, Isaiah 9, Micah 4, Ezekiel 40-48, Matthew 23, Matthew 24, Luke 21, Revelation 20, etc.)
The kingdom came first spiritually to the disciples in Israel. Then it was to spread to all the nations. During that time Israel had to be exiled and dispersed among the nations. As the message of the kingdom spread to all nations, so was the international church (Ecclesia) established in all nations.
Now this multi-ethnic Ecclesia is coming to realize that the time for Yeshua’s return is near. He will come back to Israel (to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem) to establish His kingdom on earth. The Ecclesia is now to pray for the kingdom to be restored to Israel, and thereby pray for the kingdom to be established in all the world.
The kingdom is restored to Israel in several stages:
- Regathering the people to the land
- Reestablishing the state and the capital
- Restoring the Messianic remnant
- Revival in Israel
- Return of Yeshua as king and messiah.
As every human being has three dimensions: spirit, soul and body; so too does the kingdom of God. We desire to see the fullness of the gospel message in all of its three dimensions: infilling of the Holy Spirit, witness to the nations for the salvation of souls, restoring the kingdom to Israel. The original apostolic commission cannot be fulfilled unless it includes the third element: restoring the kingdom to Israel.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, May 1, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.