“How could you get pregnant again after already having two children?”
It was supposed to be a routine pregnancy checkup. But it turned into an attack on my wife. She had to endure the aggressive complaints of her nurse. It wasn’t cool with her that a young woman, in her late 20s, was having a third pregnancy.
So, you planning any more children?
“So, you planning any more children?” That’s a question I hear often. And I often struggle to find the words to answer it. For me, it’s a non-starter. How do the words “planning” and “children” find their way into the same sentence? And why is that sentence always phrased as a question?
Sure, I can see how it makes sense to people. But to me it seems that that question only makes sense when you’ve already accepted a package of social norms that that question fits nicely with. Social norms that put children lower on the list of priorities than they should be. How about this: can I ask you to please put those social norms aside for a moment, and imagine a world in which having children is not a question? Where human life is so valued that a family wouldn’t think twice about bringing life into the world?
I think that’s worth saying again – can you imagine a world in which a family wouldn’t think twice about bringing life into the world?
Does that sound like a fantasy to you? Well, as long as it does, society isn’t going to change much.
Parenthood is “irresponsible”
Is it irresponsible to bring children into the world? My wife’s nurse certainly thought so. There’s so much social thinking that discourages parents from having children. It’s as if it’s only OK to have children if certain factors are set in place. Things like income, job security, community, etc. And if the child in the womb has a defect or risk of impairment? Again, you are warned for having that child, and encouraged to terminate the pregnancy.
Well, we haven’t seen that nurse for a while. I don’t know what she would say if she saw us today, as we are now at eight children – eight. The average birth rate for our country (Israel) is 2.64 children per family.* So we have over three times the amount of children that our country’s society is set up for.
Parenthood is blind faith
Is this irresponsible? I don’t think so. It’s an act of blind faith in human life. Remember that someone paid the price for everyone – those born and those yet to be born. That was an act of blind faith in human life – there was no guarantee that anyone would accept or honor His sacrifice.
And no, I’m not talking about putting your faith in humanity – humanity will always let you down. Humanity is frail, broken, and evil. But human life is not. Human life is… life. Life only comes from one source. Life is worth being valued, as the Author of life is worth being valued.
Irresponsible or not, having children is exactly the thing that taught me responsibility. Yes, it would have been great to know what I know now when I was a new father. But I just don’t see how that could happen without first putting blind faith in becoming a father. You just can’t get to the destination without the journey.
Parenthood has conditions
Our family lives on a hill atop the valley of Ben Hinnom in Jerusalem, Israel. Today that valley has a pretty green park, a cinematheque with a nice restaurant, and a municipal music center. It’s also flanked by some nice cliffs that are a draw for weekend rock climbers.
But in biblical times, it was called Tophet: the place where people sacrificed their babies to the gods Molech and Baal. Yes, that same place. It all sounds so barbaric and archaic. People today are much more enlightened, aren’t they? People don’t do stuff like that today, do they?
Here’s what today looks like – today there is a culture that values bringing human life only under certain conditions. Otherwise, it’s irresponsible. It’s socially unacceptable. Which means it’s just plain unacceptable. So unacceptable that parents are encouraged to terminate pregnancies if these conditions aren’t met. Is this not barbaric as well?
There is only one true condition required for responsibly bringing life into the world. It is the binding and exclusive commitment of a mother and a father. After that condition is met, why then should it be a question?
And even if that condition isn’t met, that doesn’t mean that you can’t rejoice and be happy over the creation of new life. Nothing’s stopping you from treating that child as if he or she were just born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Parenthood is the best thing you can do in life
So why did we bring eight children into the world? Because the value of bringing a human life into the world to me was greater than any cost I could list. And I’ve listed those costs. Those costs were great. I feel them every day. But they just don’t add up to more than the value of bringing a human life into the world.
Children are a responsibility. Pets are a responsibility. Plants are a responsibility. Every form of life requires commitment in order to survive and grow. And today’s culture spurns commitment. Because commitment limits your options. But what are those options worth without a proper concept of value, starting with the value of human life?
The best thing you can do is be a father or mother. And if you’re not in a family setting, it doesn’t mean you can’t act as a father or mother for those in need. You can still reach out and care for children in need of a father or mother. You can give your time and resources to support other parents. You can choose for yourself to reject those social norms that don’t give proper value to human life.
Yeah, those are all commitments. Maybe it would be irresponsible of you to jump into a commitment like that. But I don’t know any other way to start the journey that teaches responsibility in a way you just can’t learn otherwise. In other words – I don’t know any other way to just plain grow up.
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
“Let there be light…”
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holidays, this week we study the weekly Torah portion, “Parashat Miketz,” and we also are celebrating Hanukkah. First of all, I want to talk about light. Hanukkah is a holiday that focuses on light, it is about triumphing over darkness and of victory for the weak over the strong. In fact, light was the first element created in the world, as it is written:
And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good… – Genesis 1:3,4a [NIV]
Light is typically thought of as a pleasant and enjoyable notion. It represents wisdom and enlightenment, beauty and love, joy, holiness, and sanctity. Light is also a tangible means of expression to mark the positive and good aspect of life; it points to an essence that has quality.
An example of this can be seen with Shabbat candles, which symbolize family peace and unity. In the Bible, the light is used as a symbol of grace, goodwill, and of a welcoming countenance, which can be found in the following verse:
…the Lord make his face shine on you… – Numbers 6:25a [NIV]
The Torah is also correlated to light:
For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light… – Proverbs 6:23a [NIV]
The light of the Torah is found in its moral and social values.
The Hanukkah candles that we light on the windowsill remind us of the miracles of God, and by their merit alone we stand here as the people of Israel in the Promised Land.
Joseph Was a Light in the Darkness
Yeshua commanded us to produce light, that our lives and actions will illuminate our surroundings. Now I’d like to discuss Joseph who remained in Egypt and illuminated his environment with the help of his faith.
It is very noticeable throughout Joseph’s story that he repeatedly mentions God, who was always standing beside him, directing his way and his morality.
We already saw this at the end of last week’s Torah portion – Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and he refused. He could control himself because he was afraid to sin before God:
…How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? – Genesis 39:9b [NIV]
Before that occurred, Potiphar himself bore witness to the fact that Joseph was a believer, and that his strong faith made him a successful person.
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did… – Genesis 39:2,3 [NIV]
Verse 3 emphasizes to us that Potiphar sees the faith and the success of Joseph.
Later on, Joseph was thrown into the Egyptian prison. However, even then he continued to brighten his surroundings. He found favor with the guards and the prisoners around him.
Now we come to our parasha, “Miketz”, that begins with Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph is brought out from prison and must stand before the king of the empire, who was the world superpower. At that moment, Joseph did not forget his faith, he declared to Pharaoh:
‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’ – Genesis 41:16 [NIV]
Further, during the interpretation of the dream, Joseph repeatedly said:
…God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. – Genesis 41:25b [NIV]
My point is that Joseph emphasized in front of everyone that God was the one who was at work within him – to the extent that Pharaoh himself said before his people:
…Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God? – Genesis 41:38b [NIV]
After that he said to Joseph:
…Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. – Genesis 41:39 [NIV]
In the course of the parasha, Joseph met with his brothers, and before them he also declared:
…for I fear God… – Genesis 42:18 [NIV]
Our faith in Yeshua as Messiah makes us a lamp and servant of Yeshua. We serve as a menorah, where we sit on the windowsill and shine our light to the world. This is so we can show that there is hope, a way, a truth, and a light.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 [NIV]
In order for illumination to take place, a ray of light must reflect off of a surface.
In other words, we can not illuminate an empty space at night if we simply aim our flashlight at the sky, the flashlight will not succeed in lighting our way. However, if a flashlight shines on a surface, like a wall, the rays of light will bounce off of it and brighten the way for us.
So too Yeshua calls us to be reflectors, that the light of the Torah and gospel will reflect off of us, so that we can light up the highway of the King. With this thought I would like to invite you to light the Hanukkah candles.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah, December 17, 2017, and reposted with permission.
In Part 1, we saw how Abram went from lying about Sarai being his wife, to walking in the favor of God. In Genesis, chapter 12, when he goes to Egypt, he is afraid that Pharaoh will kill him and take Sarai for himself. So, they tell Pharaoh that they are brother and sister and still the favor of God rests on Abram. Even in his lack of faith state—God blesses him.
Then, when he and Lot decide to separate, he tells Lot that he can have whatever area he wants. Abram had learned that it just didn’t matter. If God declares blessing, then Abram could have raised cattle in the desert!
Taking on Five Armies—No Problem
Now, he has a much bigger test: a king named Kedorlaomer is gobbling up territory in Canaan, building himself a nice mini-empire. The king of Sodom, where Lot lived, and three others decided that they didn’t want to be under this dude’s thumb any longer, so they set out to defeat him.
However, things didn’t go according to plan. They were defeated. And Lot, Abram’s nephew, was taken captive.
In reading Genesis 14, it doesn’t appear that our man even flinches:
“When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.” (Gen. 14:14-16)
Abram was no general. He had no army. It says his 318 men were trained, but how trained could they have been? Until now, we don’t see Abram as a conquering king. They were probably trained in defending the flocks against marauders. And Damascus, do you know how far that is from Sodom? Over 200 miles and most of his men had to have been walking. But Abram, the friend of God, knows that it doesn’t really matter if he has 3,180 men or 318 men or 31.8 men; God would give him victory.
Rejecting Riches from a Wicked King
And then he has this little conversation with the king of Sodom:
“The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” (Gen. 14:21-23)
Now put yourself in Abram’s place. You just saved this guy’s kingdom. He wants to bless you with riches. Wouldn’t you be tempted to take the booty? Even if you knew it was wrong, human nature would start trying to figure why God really wants me to take this stuff. I have certainly been there. In fact, I failed.
“I am going to give you a Honda Accord”
When I was in my early 20s and had no money and no car, the Lord spoke to me over and over again, during August of 1987, that He was going to give me a Honda Accord. And then one day, my dad calls me and says, “Is your sister home? I am bringing her a car.”
“Really, what kind of car?”
“A Honda Accord?” I quizzed.
I knew that was my car. My sister didn’t like it and he was going to return it to his friend, who owned a used car lot, in the morning. Because of my faith, he was committed to not helping me. And this is where I blew it. Instead of just letting God do what He promised, I went to my father and said, “You know, if she doesn’t want it, I’ll take it.”
(You have to understand that at that time my father really didn’t like me. I went from being one of the most hyperactive, irresponsible, drug-using, law-breaking kids to being a Jesus Freak. I was an embarrassment on so many levels, and I wasn’t always tactful in the way I shared my faith. I thank God that today my Dad is my best friend. It really is a miracle. Now I am trusting God for him and my mother to come to faith!)
I walked away dejected. I went to take my laundry out of the dryer about 30 minutes later and the Lord spoke to me, “Are you done? Will you let me work now?” Just then my father yelled my name to come to him in the TV room. I honestly thought that he was going to mock me about my faith (this was during the time that Jim Bakker was exposed and it was in the news). As I walked through the door, keys were already in the air, coming my way.
“You can have the car,” he said with an almost defeated tone.
Now, I rejoice in that testimony, but it would have been so much sweeter if, like Abram, I was walking so close to the Father that I knew He could do it without my help.
Walking in God’s Favor
Abram didn’t want money from Sodom. He wanted the world to know that he came from nothing to riches through the hand of God alone. I am sure he knew of the immoral ways of Sodom, and didn’t want his name connected to the evil king. He wanted to walk in the pure blessing of God! Me too! How about you?
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, November 28, 2017, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
Editor’s note: On Dec. 16 the Jerusalem Post published an article about negative attitudes toward Jewish believers in Yeshua, Will Israel Ever Accept Messianic Jews? The following post is a response from a leader in Israel’s Messianic community.
The question “what is truly Jewish?” needs to be asked. Is rabbinical Judaism the true Judaism for the Jewish people? Has rabbinical Judaism given itself divine authority that God never gave rabbinical Judaism? Is the rejection of Messianic Jews the heart of the matter? Or is the absolute rejection of the person of Yeshua of Nazareth as being the true Messianic Heir to the throne of David the fundamental issue?
Rabbinical Judaism firmly took root in Israel after the destruction of the second temple and after the final conquest of Judea by the Roman emperor Hadrian. There needed to be a way to keep the Jewish people together in the dispersion since there was no longer a temple and the priesthood could no longer function and since the nation had been exiled from The Land of Israel and scattered among many many nations.
This tragic situation afforded the rabbis the space to replace the Judaism of the Bible with the new form of Judaism that had already begun to develop before the destruction of the temple and before the exile of the Jewish nation, but now it alone remained and it alone needed to develop in order to replace the biblical faith of Israel. It invented the story that when Moses was on Mount Sinai God gave two Torahs. The one Torah was the written Torah that we now call the five books of Moses and the other so-called Torah that is known as the “oral Torah” that was handed to Moses.
This in fact means that both Torahs have their origin in God and have been given by God. In this way the rabbis have claimed and given themselves divine authority which has enabled them to be universally accepted by the Jewish people as a whole, as having divine authority, the same authority or even greater authority, then the written Torah has.
This is what is called forgery. The person of Yeshua has been excommunicated and excluded from the house of Israel by the rabbis. They have put him under a curse, though he is the true Heir to the throne of David.
The Talmud, which is essentially a multitude of discussions and arguments between rabbis concerning certain legal questions about the law, has now been labeled “Torah.” Multitudes of other commentaries surround the rabbinical commentaries and have also been added and labeled “Torah.”
It can be argued that it was necessary to find a way to keep the dispersed Jewish nation from disappearing. It was, however, certainly unnecessary and even extremely dangerous and even heretical for the rabbis to claim divine authority. The greatest tragedy of all was and is the total exclusion of the true Messiah and Redeemer from the people of Israel.
The reason that Messianic Jews are not considered to be Jewish has to do with the fact that it is Yeshua who has been entirely rejected and disqualified by the rabbis. It is true that the church historically has been very hostile to the Jewish people and persecuted us in many different ways. This however in no way disqualifies the person of Yeshua. No matter what the church has done, Yeshua remains and always will be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the eternal and the unique Son of God.
Another big problem for the religious establishment is the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God without having to convert to rabbinical Judaism. The day will come and is not far away when Israel as a nation will acknowledge and fully receive Yeshua as Lord and Messiah. This is sure because he is the one he says that he is and this is irrevocable and irreversible.
God himself is always greater than all opposition to him, even Israel’s opposition to him since he is God and though Israel is his people we have once again gone astray. The battle will continue and more and more Jewish people will continue to come to the faith in Yeshua.
The prophetic destiny of Israel is entirely dependent upon our receiving the true king that God has sent to us. Many will be ashamed and will mourn when they see him and many will greatly rejoice when they see him coming in glory. As we continue to follow him let us remember, as the angels said to Abraham and Sarah, “Shall anything be impossible for God?”
Let’s endure in love and in long-suffering, in mercy and in forgiveness as the Lord has shown mercy and grace and his great love and forgiveness to each one of us.
Benjamin Berger is the son of Orthodox Jews who immigrated to New York from Europe after many other family members were lost at Auschwitz. After a period of spiritual study and searching, he left the practice of Orthodox Judaism when he came to know the God of his fathers, and recognized Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. Today Benjamin represents the Israeli Committee on the International Leadership Council of Toward Jerusalem Council II (TJCII). He and his brother Reuven lead “Kehilat ha’seh al Har Zion” (The Congregation of the Lamb on Mt. Zion). The congregation, made up of Hebrew speaking Jews, Arabs, and Gentile Christians, meets at Christ Church in Jerusalem located at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City.
This situation is nothing new, as the article makes clear. Before my wife and I got married (and before we were believers in Jesus), we went to speak with a progressive rabbi — liberal beyond Reform Judaism (I was raised Conservative). She (who is not Jewish) asked him who is a Jew. He said that anyone that wanted to be a Jew could be one. She said that she didn’t believe that, but that a Jew is one who has the DNA: someone might convert to the Jewish religion, but that did not make him/her a Jew. The rabbi said that’s not so: “anyone could be a Jew that wanted to be, as Ben-Gurion said!” Then I asked about those Jews who believe in Jesus (such as the organization Jews For Jesus), and say that they are still Jews. His face changed…..and hardened: “You cannot be a Jew and believe in Jesus Christ!”
I grew up thinking that a Jew who became a believer in Jesus was either not a Jew anymore, or, at the least, was a bad Jew. My father and mother never reconciled with me still being Jewish after I became a believer. I say that I was born Jew-ish and was born-again a Jew! All this to say, I am not attempting to have Judaism accept me as a Jew. Whenever any Messianic Jew has gone to the Israeli courts to try to prove that they are still Jews for the purpose of aliyah, they have always lost, and brought more difficulty on the others, making aliyah of Jewish believers more difficult. But still, the Lord is bringing some over, including some with big names. Judaism will not accept us; some Jews will. Just like Islam will never accept Israel; but some Muslims might.
The particular story of this woman is really tragic, and only brings shame to our government and nation. Our hope is in Yeshua, also despised and rejected, and thrown out of the vineyard. We, too, must go outside the camp where He is and bear His reproach.
A friend named Sam recently wrote me that it does not not appear logical that one’s Jewishness is determined by others to be dependent on who one believes to be Messiah. He says that there are sects of Jews in various parts of the world who have believed their head rabbi is likely the Messiah, and there are Jews who believe in Buddha, or other eastern religions, or maybe even atheist, but they are not stripped of the title.
The Jewish people follow(ed) false messiahs, but none of them claim(ed) that they are the Son of God and that God was their personal Father. This is what brought the charge of blasphemy against Jesus, and what is still the core problem to the unbelieving Jewish mind (and, sadly, to some who also claim to be believers): that ‘that Man’ is God in the flesh, and all that that means. So, there is a logic to it, even if we now know that it is based on believing the lie rather than the truth. The battle is spiritual, not logical/carnal. And, yes, it is the spirit of the antichrist and false prophet, so we continue to pray and to preach the gospel to our people that they might repent and believe, calling on the name of the Lord for salvation.