My L’Chaim for Tonight

I’m going to let you in on my “secret” for the next few hours.  As we sit down for Shabbat, when the blessing over the wine is made we pause and share good news with each other.  Everyone has the opportunity to share a SHORT blessing from the week that we’re concluding and if it’s a long story, we share a highlight so we can talk about it over dinner.  It’s not that we try to keep them secret, but it’s exciting to be able to share news of a new job, about a particular blessing, or some other wonderful news when every one is together and can celebrate with us.

So, my “L’Chaim” this week is this (it’s SO super awesome!!!), shared by a friend in Israel: Continue reading

What to DO part 2

I am encouraged today.  After the blog post I shared late last week, What to DO in times like these? I’ve been seeing quite the uptick among my friends.  I honestly don’t think it’s all because of anything I’ve said, but I do believe that what I’ve said has been part of what has helped to make that change.  I’ve seen friends who have been relatively quiet about their position on Israel – based on the Scriptures as well as those who base their support of Israel only on what could be held up in a court of law (according to the world’s post-religious perspective) – start to share their perspectives and DO something.

Our family attended a Solidarity with Israel rally on Sunday with a few friends.  This rally was put together, partly, in response to a very hateful and obnoxious anti-Israel rally the weekend before.  On Friday the rally was organized and announced, and on Sunday the rally was to be held in a small park in the middle of Seattle, amidst road closures and heavy traffic and on a cloudy cool day.  I anticipated somewhere around 200 people to participate, at least that was what I hoped a large city could pull together.  I was very pleased to be one of a crowd that numbered somewhere around 650 people.  All peaceful, all respectful, all standing together to show their support for Israel – for whatever their reason.  At the time that rallies like the one we attended were being held in major cities around the globe, the haters were holding their rallies as well.  Some of them drew thousands of people!  Do you ever wonder how these things work out in a spiritual sense – how the scales are balanced or tipped in one direction when we DO something, or when we don’t?

Like I’ve been saying, I know that there are more of “us” than the haters, more of “us” than there seems to be.  I am wholly confident that had others in our area known about this rally sooner, had the weather been nicer, had the roads not been closed and traffic not so incredibly frustrating, that there would have been twice the number of participants than we saw.   Continue reading

What to DO in times like these?

It seems that with each passing day that things get a little dicier.  We’ve all heard the reports that tell us that anti-Semitism is on the rise around the globe, that our current times mirror those of pre-WW2 days, and that Islamic terror groups are doing some horrible things all over the globe.  Recent events regarding Gaza has opened the floodgates of all manner of hateful activities and accusations.  Hate is on the rise and it’s using it’s sister, ignorance, to overcome a growing number of people.  While we live in a “post-religious” culture and want to view things as merely political, the rest of the world acknowledges that the struggles that are engulfing the globe are all of a religious nature.  And at the heart of this religious struggle for global control is Jerusalem.  It is just as the Prophets said and just as our Master told us it would be.

The other day on FB I posted a few messages pleading with people to stop being silent and to DO something.  This raised the question, what are we to do?  So I sat down to brainstorm some suggestions about what we can do.  Everyone can do something and the trick is to understand how many of “us” there are out there.  You see, we live in a Judeo-Christian society.  Our morals and laws are based on the Holy Bible.  While our cultural values and morals may be crumbling around us, the foundation is still there and anyone who tells you that murder is wrong and taking care of the needy is right still holds to the values taught in the Bible.  I’m convinced that there are more of “us” than there are “haters” out there.  I’m also convinced that while we are the majority, we are a sleeping silent majority.  It’s time we wake up.  The haters may be loud and obnoxious, but that’s how they get their way.  They are bullies and they intimidate, but we far outnumber them.  We don’t have to fight or be obnoxious like they are, even a silent show of numbers is enough make a point.  While we need to stand together, we must not become like them.

Whatever the differences may be between “us”, we have much more in common with every Christian and Jew around the globe than we don’t.  If we can begin to stick together and stand strong, we can make a difference.  But that difference needs to start with us – with you and with me.  We need to begin to make the changes in our own lives and our own homes before anything larger can be seen.  I know people care, but I also know that they’re uncomfortable with the reports coming in from around the world and in our own back yards.  Instead of turning a blind eye and becoming part of the growing problem, let’s DO something.  Apathy is not having much emotion, interest, or concern.  We must not become apathetic. So, here are some simple ideas to get us DOING something, together: Continue reading

I’m Baaack!

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I’ve saved this meme on my computer and on my phone hoping it would inspire me.  It’s been there for, well, more than 6 months I’m sure!  Actually, it began to be a sign to me that I did have some hope left in me somewhere, even if I couldn’t find it. I was lost in a pit of despair.  I didn’t know how to get out and then later, I didn’t care that I couldn’t find my way out.  I was too exhausted from the struggle.

Continue reading

Three Weeks of Sorrow

Beginning this evening at sundown begins a period of time known as “the three weeks.”  These three weeks begin with the Fast of Tamuz (on the 17th of Tamuz) and concludes on the 9th of Av.  History has been particularly difficult for Israel on the 17th of Tamuz.  For example, it is the anniversary of the day that Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mt Sinai and saw the people worshiping the golden calf.  Moshe was so angry that he broke the tablets that contained the terms of the covenant between G-d and Israel.  As history progressed it is the same date that King Manasseh, one of the worst of Judah’s kings, had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple (2 Kings 21:7), and it is the same day that the daily sacrifices were stopped because of the Babylonian siege, the day that Jerusalem’s city walls were breached by the Romans.

In modern history it is the day that edicts were issued against the Jews condemning them to death or for the confiscation of their property, the day that Jewish communities were looted and burned in various places in Europe and in various years, it is when WWI began, and the day that the Kovno ghetto was shipped off to death camps. Historically this has been a very difficult day for Israel.  This is why there is a fast on the 17th day of Tamuz.  This fast has nothing at all to do with a Babylonian god or any pagan rituals and should not be confused with “weeping for Tammuz” which we read of in Ezekiel 8:14.

The fast in the month of Tamuz is to recognize, to remember, that on this day throughout history the Jewish people have suffered through some very difficult things.  The 17th of Tamuz marks the beginning of a three week mourning period that culminates on the 9th of Av, the date when Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and, interestingly, the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans centuries later.  Yes, both of these events occurred on the same day – the 9th of Av.  The 9th of Av has no equal as far as a day of mourning and sadness.
3weekssorrow4 Continue reading

Why Israel?

Not too long ago I had a conversation with a friend about “Who am I, really?”  We pondered aloud whether other people in our circles really understood who we are, as individuals, and if we are clearly representing what is most important to us.  Based on that conversation I’ve looked at my Facebook wall and noted what the majority of my posts have been about for the last several months, long before this conversation.  I began to wonder how others view my posts and the things I share, what does it say about me and are things being clearly communicated?

I noticed that with only a few exceptions, all of my posts are about Israel, Torah, or character development.  This wasn’t a shock as those are the biggest topics on my heart, beside my family.  But I’m not sure people understand why.  I wonder if people ask themselves, “Why Israel?  What’s the big deal?”  I wonder how many of my friends have hidden my posts from their news feed because they don’t understand, or they don’t care about what the big deal is.

So, in an attempt to answer such a question, I thought I’d write out why Israel is such a big deal to me.   Continue reading

Discipline and Ethics, and a Surprise!

In my daily Bible reading last week I read a verse in Proverbs that drew me to look up the Hebrew word that was translated as “discipline”.  When I found the word, it was “mussar“.  My first response was to wonder why I hadn’t looked for mussar in the Hebrew text before, and my second response was to read all of the verses that contained “mussar” in them to get a better understanding.  Here are a few thoughts to share:

  • My concordance defines mussar as:  discipline, chastening, correction.
  • Mussar is the modern Hebrew word for ethics (morality, standards, principles of right vs wrong).

The two may not make much of a connection in your mind just yet, but I think you’ll see the connection shortly.  I’ve described the tradition of mussar to my friends as “spiritual character development”.

The first use of this word in the Scriptures is in Deuteronomy 11:2b-3a:

…consider the discipline (mussar) of the L-RD your G-d, His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, His sign, and His deeds that He did in Egypt…

The next earliest uses are in Job where those passages speak of discipline that intends to bring one back from their error, a chastisement.  But what really piqued my interest was the next group of uses.  The book of Proverbs uses the word mussar a lot.  In Proverbs 1, for example, is this:

2 To know wisdom and instruction (mussar), to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction (mussar) in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity…

7 The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (mussar).

Discipline and instruction – these two certainly work together.  As we grow our parents instructed us and sometimes that included forms of discipline.  At the same time, as we grew we developed a self-discipline through our parent’s continued instruction.  We would not learn without the two being partners – discipline and instruction.   Continue reading