Continents stream through the gates of Jerusalem,
converging rivers of faces pumping life’s blood
through chambers of this heart of all cities,
pilgrim faces black as Sudan and white as Sweden,
bronzed as Ishmael and Isaac regathered,
yellow as China and Japan and red as Jeronimo
stepping the ancient stones of Jeremiah,
ethereal as Jacob’s angel and fierce as Cain,
naïve as Eve swerving the mysterious
narrow passageways of pulsing antiquity,
tides gushing through the gates of Damascus
and Jaffa and Zion in flowing currents
of curious quest for the most elusive Source,
the Amazon and Euphrates and Columbia
and Nile join here in holy confluence,
not a face among them the same in wonder,
mine one in the churning global heartbeat!
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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The need to make a dent in the universe
Do you feel the need to make a dent in the universe? I think we all do. But what about our other needs, like food, water, shelter, money, love? Which needs are more important than others? Can we really make a dent in the universe if we have nothing in the bank account? Maybe we can at least make a dent in making a dent in the universe…
In dreams begins responsibility. Adam Lee Rosenfeld, of the indie rock band Har Adonai, shares his lifelong pursuit of finding and creating beauty and truth. Check out more episodes here
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Zionism and justice
Ten or so years ago I walked into an airport bookstore and saw Jimmy Carter’s (then) new book on Israel and the Palestinians. At the time, there was been quite a commotion over this book. Carter used the word ‘apartheid’ to describe the potential of Israeli policies – I feared the worst. What I found was a rehashing of the same ideas as the “peace now” groups in Israel: Israel should pull back from the “West Bank” and return to the 1967 U.N. accepted borders. Minor adjustments could be made for security, including keeping some settlements. This would entail trading some land on the Israel side of the old border (the green line). Really, this was not much different than the Barak negotiated plan offered to Arafat in 2000. Carter’s book sadly had a tone of blaming Israel for the present stalemate. I found it to be over the top. Many factual errors were documented by reviewers such as Harvard University’s Alan Dershowitz.
For the sake of our readers then and now, I think it is important to have a short and solid statement of response. Messianic Jews are Biblical Zionists. Zionism is the view that it is important for Jews to return to the Land of Israel and that this is a just and right cause. Biblical Zionists add that this land has been given to the Jewish people as their homeland, which is a Scriptural teaching. There is a clear promise of a returning to the Land repeated again and again throughout scriptures. The question remains, where should followers of Yeshua stand, both Jew and Gentile?
Does God Have a Say?
Most justice commentators and policy makers today ignore the most important point: God is the owner of the whole earth, He has the right to allocate land as He sees fit. Eventually all land will be allocated by God, but as a precursor to this just allocation, God challenges the world to accept His allocation of one very small piece of property, a property the size of New Jersey. Although former President Carter means well, and does claim to be representing Christian values, his unwillingness to embrace God’s Word on this matter places him strictly within the camp of secular humanism.
The most important thing for us as committed disciples of Yeshua is God’s will. This is always the first justice issue. Looking back on the 19th century, England was influenced by the Bible and had embraced as their national destiny the role of restoring Israel as a nation. God was allowed to speak. What a difference a century makes!
But what about Palestinian rights?
Some say that the Palestinians have been displaced from land they had occupied for hundreds of years and this is unjust. It is crucially important to break the deception of this argument. First, we must ask at what point a people cease to have claim to their land? Let us say that one nation displaces another and then occupies that land for ten years. Can the former people who were displaced come back and justly retake their land? Most would say yes. What about in fifty years? What about in five hundred years? An absolute right is not given to keep possession of a land that was obtained by expelling the original occupants, even many years after the fact. Native Americans lost most of their land but now seek compensation after hundreds of years. We think that such arguments are credible; otherwise we would say that the occupation of the land by Europeans for hundreds of years nullifies any claim. Justice issues cannot be solved by this argument, especially since God has spoken on this issue.
In addition, most of Israeli land was not gained by pushing Palestinians off their land. From the 1880s to 1948, the Jews returned to a desolate land that was sparsely populated and purchased the land for their settlements. State owned land passed from the Turkish Empire to Britain and then to Israel. In the 1948 and 1967 wars, Israel did displace some Palestinian occupants, but many of these were for security reasons.
On the basis of the justice issues, the U.N. voted to form the state of Israel in 1948. For a brief period, the world entertained the just cause of the Jewish people. The countries of the world had proven that they could not be trusted with the protection of their Jewish minority. Therefore the U.N. voted to give the Jews their own state on land they reclaimed from desolation as well as land purchased from Arab owners who gladly sold the land in exchange for the funds they received.
Two of the wars fought after this decision led to border changes, these were in 1948 and 1967. Throughout history justice was played out this way: the aggressor rightly loses land and is penalized if defeated in war. This principle of historic justice is ignored by U.N. resolutions. Aside from reference to God’s promise, Israel has a justice issue to have their own country in their own land. This is the most outstanding claim of justice in history. This is a claim that should be recognized by the whole world in the light of Jewish historical suffering.
In her classic study “From Time Immemorial,” Joan Peters debunks the idea that most Palestinians are from long term landed descendants. She uses census figures from the Turkish Empire to show that the majority of the Palestinians are recent 20thcentury immigrants to the land.
The Palestinians do have one justice claim. It is the claim of the stranger in the midst of Israel. They are to be treated generously and with justice. However, this refers to a category of people who are willing to live in a land they accept as having been given to the Jews by God. This is not referring to a people that seek to destroy the Jewish State! The big justice issues are all on the side of Israel (we could refer to them as macro-justice issues). The Palestinians do have some micro-justice issues as “strangers in the midst”. The Arabs have property in the Middle East that is so extensive that the justice issue is made even clearer.
The Bible indicates that there will be a great return to the land of Israel before Israel comes to faith in Yeshua. We see this in Ezekiel 36 and 37 as well as Matthew 23:37-39. Only after this return will Israel be filled with the Spirit. Until then, there will be ups and downs.
Why does the world oppose Israel?
So why is the world so against Israel? Among the Arabs, the issue is not really empathy for Palestinians. The Arabs prove they are more than willing to murder each other in Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza. The issue is spiritual. It is the pride that the land was under Moslem government and therefore should always so remain. The loss of Jerusalem strikes at the heart of the pride of Islam: that is, Islam has superseded Judaism and Christianity. The rest of the world wants to have peace by appeasing the Muslim world. This is sheer foolishness. They fail to realize that Islam’s intentions for world conquest cannot be appeased. All the nations seek a world order that excludes the God of the Bible, who is the God of Israel. But God will not allow this. Israel, even in her unbelief challenges this view, but will fulfill that role completely when she comes into her fullness of faith through Yeshua Hamashiach.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, May 3, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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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.