Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A JEWISH WEDDING IN JERUSALEM!




 This description of a Jewish wedding in Jerusalem is excerpted from a Jewish friend's email. She lives there, and her observations are beautifully recorded in her emails to friends. As a relative by marriage to the groom, she was invited. She has given me permission to share this:

                "The groom is the oldest of fourteen in an Haradi (ultra orthodox religious family, his father being a Rabbi and scribe, also the head of a yeshiva, and his mother a leader and teacher in that community as well.)  The wedding was called for 7 p.m. and would likely last until at least 2 a.m.  There was much tradition that I wasn't fully familiar with, and I wasn't really looking forward to being there, but it was 'required,' as was a head covering, which I dutifully donned.
                 At weddings here [in Jerusalem] the ONLY gift given to the bride and groom is money.  A wedding 'gift' as we in the west thought of it, would be an item, but here those gathered know that they are attempting to make the young couple's way ahead of them as easy as possible for that first year in particular.  The economy here is so different than in the west for the most part, and 'community' is very important in supporting one another in every way, so it is 'natural' that the community would give into the support of this young couple. 
                There were perhaps 500 people present (often weddings draw over 1,000) to bless the union and ALL of the little children come and are welcome too!  They were dressed like tiny princesses and princes, and none of their 'disruptions' were considered annoying. In other words, it was really one big family, blessing the noisy little ones who ran along the wedding area, which is the chuppah [or canopy], the covered area where the vows are made. The children were 'messing' it with their small feet, doing cartwheels and dancing around, and no one was at all critical or disturbed by this.  Considering how formal the wedding area was, that impressed me, and I thought back to the days when Yeshua and His family went up to Jerusalem to the feast. Only after three days did His parents seek Him among the procession of family and friends.  At this wedding I totally understood why they were comfortable with not seeing Him for three days!  I SAW what it was for our one year old and three year old granddaughters to be cared for by the entire extended family, the safe feeling that there was. There was real 'care' for all of the little ones; it was a comfortable and natural feeling.  I learned a lot by watching this. 
                As the family and friends mulled around visiting, the bride sat on a 'throne-like' chair, set apart, and received guests [see photo above].  The entire time she was praying and reading her 'bridal prayer book'.  I watched as guests would come up and pray along with her as they embraced.  At one point my dear three year old Maya came and sat on my lap.  We talked about the color 'white' and about 'brides' and 'clean things,' and I asked her if she would like to go and 'see the bride.'  'Oh yes, Tata!' she answered, so hand in hand we went.  Although I had been watching the bride- Rivka- pray, it wasn't until I approached that I was jolted by the intensity and reality of her prayers.  She seemed to me nearly in a trance…NOT an 'occult trance' but a rapture of seeking God, and intensely she was crying out 'Shalom bayit!  teni lanu shalom bayit, ana Adonai!'  I was taken aback, nearly to tears.  'Shalom bayit' is literally 'peace home,' but the meaning is very deep in its short description of a 'peaceful home' - peace and order between all members of the family, initiating from God, through husband and wife to the children and beyond, an undisrupted peace in the home.  She was praying, 'Shalom bayit!  Give us shalom bayit!  I beseech you, Adonai!' Over and over she prayed, clutching her prayer book.  As friends would approach her she would grab them, and they would agree with her, 'Shalom bayit!  Amen!'  She was so intense in her 'beseeching' that one friend or cousin or sister came to pray, and she literally beat her chest! Yes, I was taken aback, because it WASN'T a 'show.' She WAS beseeching The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with all of her heart.  She was not participating in the festivities, but she was seeking God. Little Maya saw the pretty dress and smiled shyly. 
                I did not see the groom and do not know what the groom's preparation is, but I am now curious.
                A middle eastern group of musicians played the exotic instruments. The groom stems from a French Algerian Jewish family.  'Traditions' are probably as varied as the places on earth that we were all dispersed to from Jerusalem to the four corners 2,000 years ago! 
                A call to the 'minyan' was made (a 'minyan' is at least ten elderly men who were to stand together to pray the set prayers of preparation).  Probably 30 gathered, many elderly rabbis among them, and the groom's father. 
                The wedding began with the groom 'kidnapping' the bride from her 'throne,' and then the young men dancing him up to the wedding chuppa.  He is soon followed by the bride, accompanied by her mother and grandmother.  The three of them encircle the groom seven times and then leave her there by his side for the ceremony, which has now begun. 
                I don't know if there are ever any two weddings 'alike,' but this one had at least three rabbis officiating and several different cantors (singers of the prayers).  Three of the bride's young friends moved noisily in front of me, blocking most of my view, but their ongoing commentary actually 'helped' me to understand some things, as they strongly disapproved of much of what the rabbis said! (Is it that way in Churches?  I am often so na├»ve.)  Indeed, the Rabbi DID say many things that I had not heard at a modern wedding. For example, Jews do not celebrate birthdays like the Gentiles do, because it is the MARRIAGE that is the creation of a new person through a covenant, and this is a true 'birthday' of a new being.  The friends did NOT agree.  Nor did they agree when he spoke of the dowry of 500 shekels that had been given, 'according to scripture.'  There was (I believe) discussion of the 'evidence of her virginity' presented and accepted, making them a holy household in Israel.  I had not heard that before and will confirm it with my daughter. 
                All through the ceremony the small children played joyously on the podium; only under the chuppah they were not allowed.  I felt as if I was peering into a different world than I had known before.  There is so much that none of us know and understand about one another.  Lord help me to be HUMBLE and DISCERNING and to walk as YOU walked…"A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth." Isa. 42:3 and Matt. 12:20 
                As always, the center of religious Jewish weddings is Jerusalem and the temple. 'If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!  If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth— If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.'  Psalm 137:5,6 was read, the admonition being that our chief joy is not to be 'one another' but to have HIS chief joy FIRST…considered to be Jerusalem and the Temple…God with us…Emmanuel!  God dwelling in the midst of His people! [See photo above for ending of the ceremony when the groom smashes a glass to indicate the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Even at a time of greatest joy, the Jews must remember the glory of the temple era and also its destruction.]
                With the ceremony ending and the joy breaking loose, it was about 10 p.m., WAY past my bed time!  The little ones were dancing around, unaware that they were exhausted, but I knew that I had faded and made my way through the two-cheeked kisses and the 'Mazel tov! Brachot!' wishes. I was all too aware that I was indeed exhausted, and that my next morning would be arriving soon." 

(The next blog will explore the meaning of the Jewish wedding as it relates to the Messiah and His bride, the Church.)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Recalling the Miraculous Rebirth of Israel in 1948



What a thrill to visit this historic site, Independence Hall, a few weeks ago in Tel Aviv. It made me think of the poem that God gave me on June 1, 2015, "A Nation Born in a Day." I included it in my book, "The Honeycomb is Waiting: Poetic Devotionals." By posting this poem and devotional on my blog today, I am beginning an early celebration of the 70th anniversary of Israel's rebirth on May 14, 1948. Here is the devotional and poem from my book:

20.    Miracle-Working God

“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children” (Isa. 66:8).
            The very survival of the Jewish people throughout history is nothing short of miraculous. Because so many evil rulers have tried to stamp them out, they should have disappeared long ago. The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, stated it best: “A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.” A miracle-working God is the only possible explanation for the continued existence of the Jewish people. Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof that God exists. Pascal answered: “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”
            The United Nations Partition Plan to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state was passed on November 29, 1947. There were 33 votes for, 13 against and 10 abstaining, including Britain, who had the Mandate since 1917 to establish a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. The turning point came when U.S. President Harry Truman’s former Jewish business partner flew to Washington and begged him to vote for the plan. When America cast her vote, other nations followed. It was a miracle, and the Jews in Israel danced in the street! On May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion declared Israel a free and independent nation. Only eleven minutes later Truman called Ben Gurion to give U.S. recognition of the new government in Israel. The fact that the nation of Israel has been reborn in our day proves that we have a miracle-working God who keeps His promises!

A NATION BORN IN A DAY
(Isaiah 66:8)
A land flowing with milk and honey
Was born in a day, but the day wasn’t sunny.
The Jews would regain their ancient land.
Truman said, “Sign it!”  It was an ordained plan.
For Jews and for Arabs the land was divided –
The Jews rejoiced, but the Arabs derided
The U.N. body that gave them a nation.
They couldn’t get along with their blood relations.
The Arabs said “No!” because they wanted it all.
And they would fight; they delighted to brawl.
Then before the Jews could lose all hope,
Ben Gurion called an assembly to vote.
He declared the State of Israel official.
The Jews celebrated, but the Arabs bristled.
Ready to attack the very next day,
They had gathered five armies to join in the fray.
The Jews had only a rag-tag band,
But determined like Maccabees, they would make a stand!
Jews were six-hundred thousand, Arabs eighty million strong –
Who was in the right, and who was in the wrong?
And how did it end, when the dust had settled?
Israel won the war and had proven her mettle!
God had shown He was on their side –
Angels were busy, knocking down Arab pride.
Miracles abounded, and the whole world was shocked!
Scripture was fulfilled, and mysteries were unlocked.
Revelation twelve paints the story of this war:
The woman was Israel whom the dragon stood before,
Ready to devour the nation soon as born,
Fragile as an infant, but it would not be torn.
God would keep His covenant with all of Jacob’s tribes.
His chosen people Israel in victory still abides.
Isaiah sixty-six, verse eight foretold this day,
Nineteen forty-eight the year, the fourteenth day of May.
Truman was the first to call and praise this tiny nation,
The Holy Land and people God had chosen, His creation!

The Jews won their War of Independence on January 7, 1949. Israel has continued to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in all the subsequent wars after her rebirth, because the God of Israel makes her victorious. “Like birds flying about, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it; passing over He will preserve it” (Isa. 31:5). And the Lord will also defend you with His miracle-working power. When you are under attack, call on Him and expect a miracle!  Think of a time when God delivered you from harm, and write it in your journal. Praise Him!
Prayer: Almighty God, You are all-powerful, and I know I can trust you to defend me when the enemy attacks me, whether physically or spiritually. My only hope is in You, and You will uphold me.

Drawing more water: Ex. 14: 13-14, 30-31; 15:1; II Chron. 20:1, 15-22; Rev. 12.


(If you would like to order my book, The Honeycomb is Waiting: Poetic Devotionals, look at the side bar.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

TOUR OF ISRAEL, December 3-12, 2017

My friend, Janice Bell-Lewis, and I toured Israel on December 3-12, 2017, with the Dugit Messianic Outreach Ministries in Tel Aviv. It was their Living Stones Tour, an outstanding tour. We met many wonderful people in our group and also got to visit with friends in Jerusalem - Lars Enarson, John Enarson, Doron Keidar, and Pamela Suran. The downside of the trip was that Janice got sick on the 6th day of the tour, when we were at the Dead Sea. This limited her sightseeing until the 10th day, but she made it fine on the flight home. My sightseeing was limited for a day or two, but what I did see and learn about was very enriching. This was my 9th trip to Israel and Janice's 3rd.

HIGHLIGHTS of the tour were - 1. Being in Jerusalem the very day that President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! What a blessing. The resulting riots were very limited, and our guides steered us away from potential trouble spots.  2. Going to Sderot, the Israeli town that borders Gaza. It is called the "Bomb Shelter Capital of the World!" When the residents hear a warning siren of an incoming rocket from Gaza, they have 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter! We were blessed to meet Pastor Michael and Dina Beener and hear him speak in his church/bomb shelter. Then we got to pray on the Gaza border.  3. Witnessing (sometimes in Hebrew) to several Jewish people! This was my favorite activity. God opened up the conversations, and it always flowed with grace-filled words. Sometimes I would be able to give them my personalized tract. These people were very congenial, even though one lady continued to politely refuse to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. We are watering the seeds we planted with prayer.

Here are some photos of the trip:
Leaving from Petrey, Alabama

Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv

Avi Mizrachi, head of Dugit, in V.I.P. Prayer Tower


Avi and Chaya's daughter Devorah telling about the
documentary and book she is writing
concerning her Bulgarian ancestors, Jewish believers,
and their protection from deportation to concentration camps

View from the V.I.P (Very Important Prayer) Tower 
in the heart of Tel Aviv


Independence Hall where Israel was declared a nation May 14, 1948


Outside - Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister


Dugit (little boat) - the building just purchased in the heart of Tel Aviv
where Avi Mizrachi was once an evangelist 30 years ago - his ministry 
has come full circle, and they now OWN the building, something unheard
of, that Messianic Jews actually own property for their evangelistic ministry!


Avi showing plans for renovation of the building


Outside the building

Devorah on the bus, telling us "war stories." She was a commander
of scouts in the IDF. Once she was given an assignment in which
she could easily be killed! She described how she KNEW people
were praying for her at that exact moment! She was successful in pulling
back all the scouts under her command and saving their lives!

Sderot, the "bomb shelter capital of the world," on Gaza border

Chaya Mizrachi, telling about ministering to the children
in the bomb shelters

Devorah interpreting for Pastor Michael Beener

Nancy with Pastor Michael Beener. He told us that Sderot is
growing! The people are determined to stay, even though Hamas
continually shoots rockets from Gaza into their town!

Devorah points out the border with Gaza, and we pray.

Next on to Shepherds Field near Bethlehem where the angel announces to
the shepherds that the Messiah is born. 

Inside the grotto are beautiful murals. 

This sign is outside the Friends of Zion Museum, and this is the day
President Trump makes his startling declaration of Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel!

This is a small part of our tour group who elected to go to this museum.

As we approach the Western Wall to pray, it begins to rain!

We take refuge in a cafe - the pastor of our group is Jeff Henderson.


IDF soldiers make us feel very secure, as they prepare for
possible riots after Trump's announcement!

Lars Enarson picked up Janice and me at the hotel in Jerusalem and
took us to his new ministry center, HaDerech (The Way).

They were blessed to be able to rent rooms in this historic building
which was once the residence of Orde Wingate, the famous Gentile
Zionist who formed what later became the Israeli Army!


Lars, his son John, and me - we have been friends since
1997 in Columbus, MS, when Lars brought his family from
Sweden to translate a book for a Columbus pastor. Lars soon
developed a worldwide prayer ministry, The Watchman International.

View of the Old City's Eastern Gate, where Yeshua HaMashiach
will one day make His entrance!

Church of All Nations beside the Garden of Gethsemane (across
from the Old City)

A service was in progress. The mural depicts Jesus praying
at a rock in the garden, and the supposed rock is there!

Our guide Kiera explained that these olive trees in the garden have
branches growing together up from the roots and appear to be
trunks, but they are not. They are the branches, each one growing up from the
root! Her teaching made Romans 11 come alive!

The Garden Tomb, one of the two sites purported to be
the burial place of our Lord. This one fits the biblical description
better than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City.

It was an extremely cold day.

I report to you, "HE IS NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN!"

While Kiera took our group on a tour of Yad VaShem (the Holocaust
Museum), Janice and I took refuge from the cold in the cafe there
and had a wonderful visit with Pamela Suran, whom we had known
since 2003, when she took us on a private guided tour of Jerusalem!
Since then she and Shmuel have spoken in both our churches, and
they lodged with Janice and Jack in Elba. They have a ministry called
Jerusalem Vision and have raised up many strong ministers. Pamela
is also an excellent artist.

Kevin & Penny Spencer from Colorado - we introduced them to Pamela. They
were very interested in her ministry to Christian Iraqi refugees in Jordan.


On Mount Scopus overlooking Jerusalem with our guide Kiera

Our whole tour group. The lady in the wheelchair is Rhoda Goldsby,
92 years old. She was baptized in the freezing water of the Jordan River!

Ruins of the Essene community at Qumran on the Dead Sea

See the hole (center left) where in November 1947, a Bedouin boy found a jar
with the Dead Sea Scrolls (preserved by the Essenes)! Wow! Just to think
that happened at the same time the United Nations was voting on the Partition
Plan to give the Jews a state in Palestine! (Of course, the Arabs could have had
a state then without firing a shot, but they refused it! They preferred to go to war
the next day after Ben Gurion declared Israel a nation on May 14, 1958!)

The gorgeous Dead Sea is dying! Drying up a tiny bit each year.


En Gedi on the Dead Sea where David hid in caves 
when Saul was chasing him.

The Sea of Galilee viewed from our place of lodging at the Ein Gev
Holiday Resort.

We had a two-bedroom cabin with kitchenette - nice.

Janice had been sick but began healing at this beautiful place
on the Sea of Galilee.

Looking back down as we drove up the Golan Heights

View from the top - snow-capped Mt. Hermon, the highest
point in Israel.

An Israeli soldier and American pastor told us about their ministry to Syrians
INSIDE Syria! Undercover and dangerous. They bring medical help and
plant churches. Our tour pastor, Jeff Henderson (right) is on their board.

Looking across the border into Syria


Leaving the Golan Heights - of all things, Nimrod's castle! (Gen. 11)

Banias (Caesarea Philippi) where Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do men
say that I am?" Peter said, "You are the Son of the Living God," and Jesus said,
"Upon this rock (his identity) I will build My church, and the gates of hell
will not prevail against it!" Well, look at the "gates of hell" on the mountain here!!!

We got to look into the "gates of hell," the grotto of the god Pan!

Here is what the temples to Pan once looked like, and now
there are only ruins.

The sun was going down on the Galilean hills on the other side
of the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) as we returned to Ein Gev.


This is our last day in Israel. Leaving Ein Gev to go to Tel Aviv.

We stopped at Mt. Carmel where Elijah had the contest with the
prophets of Baal. They lost, and he slew them!

At Mt. Carmel, we had a panoramic view of the Valley of Megiddo.
It was bitter cold with a strong wind blowing.

Where Armageddon will take place. A picture doesn't capture the
vastness of this plain, the Valley of Megiddo. God will gather the
nations to battle here, and Yeshua will conquer them all!

Back at the Gilgal Hotel in Tel Aviv where we started from.
Avi Mizrachi is explaining the Chanukkah service.


Chaya and Devorah led us in some Hanukkah songs.


Avi lights the first candle of Hanukkah. Then we have a marvelous meal.
We will soon be boarding the plane for home. 


Passing through the lobby, I admired the mural of Ruth gleaning in the fields.
That is who I am in my role as a Mizpah for Israel - the Gentile bride of my
Kinsman Redeemer. Ruth identified herself with her Jewish mother-in-law 
Naomi and vowed, "Whither thou goest I will go; wherever thou lodgest 
I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God ..." 
(Ruth 1:16).
Yes, may all Christians identify with their "parents" in the faith and realize
that we are wild branches (Gentiles) grafted into the Jewish olive tree!
We have Jewish roots. Like Ruth supported Naomi, we should love and support the
Jewish people and the Jewish state of Israel! The main reason we should
do this is because we have a Jewish Savior and Lord, Yeshua!

SHALOM!