Preparing for Passover

We are getting ready for Passover! The holiday begins on Friday, but preparations are moving full steam ahead.

During Passover, the Jewish community refrains from eating leaven and eat what is known as matzah during the eight day holiday, as Moses and the nation of Israel fled Egypt in haste, not having time for our bread to rise and so we eat unleavened bread as a reminder of our leaving Egypt in haste.

Matzah

Matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten during Passover

For seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a foreigner or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread (Ex 12:19-20).

As the Jewish community prepares for Passover, each family removes leaven from the home and stores – especially in heavily Jewish areas remove leavened products from their shelves. Then, during a ceremony called Bedikat Chametz, immediately before the first night of Passover and the first Passover Seder, we conduct a final search for leaven throughout the house, gather it together and throws it all out or burn it, symbolizing the house is purified or kosher for Passover.

Paul uses this understanding of the Jewish practice as the background to his statement in1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The community of Corinth evidently demonstrated a tolerance for gross immorality. Paul compares sin to leaven and commands the congregation at Corinth to clean out the sin from their midst in the same way the Jewish community removes leaven from their homes during Passover. Just as leaven permeates an entire lump of dough, sinful behavior affects the entire life of an individual and congregation. If the congregation at Corinth did not deal with the wicked behavior in their midst, then this behavior would defile the entire community.

When my wife makes challah, the traditional Jewish Festival bread, she puts a small amount of yeast into the dough. This small amount of yeast makes the entire loaf of challah leavened. In the same way, sin affects the entire life of a person. We cannot compartmentalize our lives and isolate sin to a particular area. Sin in one area affects all areas of our lives. We deceive ourselves when we think the small or hidden sins in our lives will not creep it’s way into our entire soul. Even the small and hidden sins will permeate and corrode our entire being.

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)

Therefore, we should pursue righteousness, since our Messiah has removed the chametz, leaven, from our lives. Rabbi Saul (the Apostle Paul) describes those with leavened lives as depraved and wicked, but reminds his readers that those who are pure in motives and upright in character behave as if they are without leaven. The person free from leaven does not have a hidden or secret life. The preparation for Passover reminds us of the unrighteous behaviors we tolerate in our lives. If we tolerate immoral thoughts or actions, they will begin to affect our spiritual lives and ultimately destroy our soul.

We only deceive ourselves if we think that what we look at on the Internet, watch on television or do when others are not watching will not have any affect upon our spiritual life. We simply cannot behave badly towards our spouse or children, be dishonest in business or mean to at work if we are serious about honoring God. If we are going to have a healthy spiritual life we cannot tolerate our hidden and secret sins…the ones we only we know about, as the Lord knows them too1

In the spirit of Passover, let’s remove sin from our lives, so that we are kosher for Passover and can experience the joy that only godly obedience, in light of the redemption we have through Yeshua, can bring to our souls.

Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; For the man of peace will have a posterity. But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.(Psalm 37:37-38)

For more on Passover click on http://tinyurl.com/no7r8l8

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Prayer for Elections in Israel

Mitch Glaser

The Key Players & the System

Today in Israel, twenty-six different parties are competing for 120 parliamentary seats. These parties represent the broadest spectrum of Israeli society from far-left to far-right. This is a very important election for Israel, as Netanyahu faces possible defeat, something that can be very dangerous for Israel and the free world. Dangerous because other PM’s might be more willing to accept a deal with Iran, a country whose leadership has openly called for the destruction of Israel, murder of Jews and the downfall America.

For Benjamin Netanyahu to win his party must win at least 3.25 percent, which equals 4 seats, in order to secure representation in the Knesset. Even then the parties that receive more than 3.25 percent of the vote are not guaranteed to win, as in Israel’s history no party has ever received an overall majority win. It is the best coalition that most likely ensures an overall win.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy, which means that the Israeli voter selects from amongst lists of parties and the leader of the party with the most Knesset (Parliament) seats becomes the Prime Minister. Also, the whole country of Israel is considered one constituency and the 120 Knesset seats are divided proportionately between the votes that each party wins.

Netanyahu faces Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party which is led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, whose shares some views with the PM, but is running on a platform which emphasizes the economy and settlement issues. His biggest opponent is the Zionist Union, which is a collation party of the Labor party, one of the oldest parties in Israel, and a few newly formed parties (Yachad and Kulanu). Zionist Union’s platform is focused on addressing social and economic inequalities, as well as diplomatic and foreign policy issues. Other opponents include a Jewish non-Zionist party, an Arab majority party, a few more newly founded parties, some far-right religious parties and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) comprised of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who leans heavily towards right-wing and nationalistic positions.

The Issues

Historically, Israel has a large voter turn-out. According to some sources, during the January 2013 election 68 percent of eligible voters went to the ballots. Israelis are engaged. This election has two main issues that the voters are asked to consider, and in turn that the Israeli voter is genuinely worried about. First is the security of the land – the platform of PM Netanyahu, and the second, the economy – the platform of his most viable opponents.

The high cost of living is a central issue for Israelis, especially as it continues to rise. Many claim that buying the basics is becoming difficult as housing prices soar. Netanyahu’s primary focus has been security and his opponents have used this opportunity to pledge to the Israelis that they will work on fixing the economic problems of the Land. For Netanyahu it is the existential threat posed by Iran that is of the utmost importance.

Israelis are somewhat torn. The younger generation wants a chance to succeed and provide for their families. Some in the older generation say, “What point is there in having a good job and a full fridge if you’re dead.”

What will it take to form a coalition?

Because no one party is expected to win a majority of seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the party that wins is the party that can put together a coalition with a majority of seats (at least 61). The two leading parties, Likud (Netanyahu) and the Zionist Union (Herzog and Livni) are neck and neck in the polls; each suspended in eagerness around 24 seats. The real question is: “Which one can form the winning coalition?”

Jerusalem Post reported:

An internal Likud poll has shown for the first time that a majority of Israelis do not believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, a Likud source said Monday. On March 9, the Likud’s data showed that 62.3% thought that Netanyahu would form the coalition and 19.9 % thought that Zionist Union leaders Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni would form the government. On Monday, for the first time, the number believing Netanyahu would form the government fell to 49.6 %, while 30.4 % thought Herzog would form the coalition. It marked the first time since the election campaign began that the number dipped below 50 percent. The polls are taken by McLaughlin and associates, the American Republican strategist working for the Netanyahu campaign.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute observes,

With a rightist government, Netanyahu should be able to get a core group of about 53 seats (highlighted in darker blue). As the numbers now stand, the Netanyahu-led coalition would fall just short of the 61 seats it needs should either Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) or Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) refuse to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, as each has threatened.

Netanyahu must work hard to garner votes, as his party is neck and neck with Likud, and be wise in who he sides with. In my opinion it would be wise to join forces with the Kulanu party (All of Us), led by former Likud member Moshe Kahlon. Kulanu is campaigning on promises of lowering the cost-of-living, bridging economic inequalities and fixing the housing crisis.

The Impact for the Gospel

Whoever the winner is, he or she will need to closely monitor Lebanon and Syria, and keep an eye on Hezbollah activities in the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as Hamas in Gaza and Fatah. Yakkov Lappin, writing for the Jerusalem Post observes,

By the time the results of the elections in Israel are clear, and the next ruling coalition emerges, Washington and Tehran might complete a deal that will leave Iran in possession of a large chunk of its uranium enrichment assets, all of its missiles, and all of its regional terrorist proxies and networks intact.

In the midst of all this upheaval and uncertainty, Israelis, especially secular Israelis, are not only responding to the Gospel, but asking for it. Our Tel Aviv based worker reported that many young secular Israelis are seeking out believers to discuss faith, God, and the Messiah Yeshua.

Please pray for the people of Israel and the work of Chosen People Ministries at this crucial time. Thank you.

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Response by the Baptist Press to Netanyahu’s Speech

David Roach, writing for the Baptist press, prepared an excellent article that is very appropriate for this first day of the Jewish festival of Purim. He elaborates on the parallels between the book of Esther, Netanyahu speech and the relationship of Iran (ancient Persia) today with the Jewish people in the modern state of Israel. Though I don’t do this often, I am including David’s article in full as it better articulates all I would have to say about this dire challenge that faces not only Israel, the entire world. a nuclear armed Iran is more frightening for the Jewish people and  our global community then an out of control Haman!!

Netanyahu: Iran’s threats parallel OT Esther story
by David Roach
Date: March 04, 2015 – Wednesday

WASHINGTON (BP) — A genocidal chapter in the ancient relationship between Israel and Iran could be the result of a nuclear agreement the United States may sign with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress March 3.

Threats by the modern Persian state of Iran to annihilate Jews, Netanyahu said, are frighteningly reminiscent of the murderous Old Testament plot hatched by the Persian viceroy Haman — whose plan to kill all Jews was foiled by the Persian queen Esther, a Jew, and recounted in the biblical book bearing her name.

Iran’s threats could translate into horrific violence if a nuclear deal reported widely in the media is signed, the prime minister said, noting that the day following his address, Jews would begin celebrating Purim, a feast commemorating their deliverance under Esther.

“Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews that oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology,” Netanyahu said, lamenting that the “very talented” Iranian people were “hijacked” by the “religious zealots” of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Khamenei tweeted in November, “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” In a separate tweet, Khamenei said he was not suggesting “the massacre of the Jewish people,” but he advocated arming Muslims in the West Bank to fight Israel.

Netanyahu told Congress that striking a nuclear deal with Khamenei’s regime would not inspire Iran to decrease its aggression toward Israel and that the specific deal under consideration “would all but guarantee” that Iran obtains nuclear weapons — “lots of them.”

The nuclear deal being considered by Iran, the U.S. and five other nations would allow Iran to keep around 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges while limiting development of more efficient centrifuges. It also would limit stockpiles of material that could be developed into nuclear weapons and subject Iran’s nuclear facilities to inspection, as described by the Washington Post. The agreement likely would last 10-15 years, and a March 24 deadline has been set for establishing the framework of a final accord.

Not “a single nuclear facility” would be demolished under the agreement, Netanyahu said, and Iran could amass a “full arsenal” of nuclear weapons legitimately after the accord expires. He urged legislators to press for a “much better deal” that would:

— Further restrict Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.

— Maintain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program until it ceases aggression toward Israel and other neighbor states.

— Demand that Iran stop supporting terrorism around the world.

America must secure a “better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live — literally,” Netanyahu said.

President Obama, who did not watch the speech but reviewed a transcript, said Netanyahu’s demands are unrealistic and would cause Iran to walk away from negotiations with an unchecked nuclear program, the New York Times reported. A senior administration official told the Times that Netanyahu is inconsistent to insist that Iran change yet simultaneously portray its government as unchanging.

<b>Evangelical reaction</b>

Evangelical commentators said Netanyahu’s comparison of modern Iran with Haman of the Old Testament was appropriate.

Jim Sibley, a professor of biblical studies at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel, called the timing of Netanyahu’s speech “remarkable.”

“The day following Netanyahu’s address to Congress marks the beginning of the Feast of Purim, which celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from an Iranian anti-Semitic plot to exterminate them. At that time, God raised up Esther, who was willing to breach protocol in order to plead for their deliverance,” Sibley told Baptist Press in written comments.

“Iran and others who turn against Israel have fallen under the curse of Genesis 12:3 and may well be paving the way for the great end-times enemy of Israel and God,” Sibley said. In Genesis 12:3, God promised to bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants and curse those who curse them.

Sibley added, “God is dealing with the Jewish people on the stage of current events, drawing them back from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel. This, together with the rapidly growing number of Jewish believers in Yeshua [Jesus], increasingly amplifies the cognitive dissonance inherent within any view that claims that Israel no longer occupies a unique role in God’s purposes.”

Mitch Glaser, a Jewish follower of Jesus and president of Chosen People Ministries in New York City, agreed that Netanyahu’s citation of Esther was appropriate.

“The story of Esther provides a very obvious and powerful parallel for the modern Hamans of Iran who are incessantly trying to destroy Israel through arming Hezbollah, Gaza and others seeking the destruction of Israel,” Glaser told BP in written comments. “The prime minister pointed out the blatancy of the religious leadership of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.”

<b>Israel & ancient Persia</b>

Not all of the Persian Empire’s Old Testament dealings with Israel were as destructive as those recounted in Esther. The Persian king Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 B.C. and allowed Jews to return to the Promised Land and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). After a break in construction, Jews completed the Temple under the Persian monarch Darius I, with Darius funding the project, protecting the builders and donating animals and other materials for Temple sacrifices (Ezra 6:6-12).

Daniel began his ministry under Babylonian rule, but it continued under the Persians. He prophesied their rise to power (Daniel 5:1-31), and King Darius placed him in a significant position of authority within the Persian Empire (Daniel 6:1-3). Although Daniel was cast into the lions’ den when he prayed to God rather than the Persian king, Darius announced upon Daniel’s miraculous rescue, “I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26). Later, the Persian king Artaxerxes allowed his Jewish adviser Nehemiah to lead an effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, guaranteeing Nehemiah’s safe passage to Judah and providing timber for the project (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

At the height of its influence, the Persian Empire stretched from Egypt in the south to southern Russia in the north, from Greece in the west to India in the east. The empire fell to Alexander the Great and the Greeks in 334 B.C. However, Persian influence continued in the New Testament, as when Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), using a word for heaven derived from the Persian term for “park.”

Relations between Jews and Persians became more strained in the seventh century A.D., when Muhammad founded Islam and Muslims conquered the region inhabited by Persians. Because most Jews did not accept Islam, Muhammad grew hostile toward them, beheading at least 600 in Medina in 627 and executing others elsewhere, according to a classic Muhammad biography published in English as “The Life of Muhammad.”

<b>Israel & contemporary jihad</b>

Netanyahu told Congress that contemporary Iranian aggression is a continuation of Islamist jihad. The main difference between ISIS and the Iranian regime, he said, “is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”

Fred Fleitz, senior vice president for policy and programs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, agreed with Netanyahu’s reservations about the nuclear accord being considered by the U.S. and Iran. Fleitz told BP the deal is a “giveaway.”

“Iran is a radical Islamic state,” Fleitz said. “It is pushing Islamic supremacism. It is trying to push its brand of Shia Islam around the world, and it sees the United States and Israel as enemies.”

Some in Iran, like past president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fleitz said, believe that a messianic figure known as the “12th Imam” is alive today and will reveal himself at the end of time. Known as “Twelvers,” those who hold this belief think the 12th Imam’s return will be precipitated by a series of cataclysmic events that presumably could include nuclear war.

Although Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful, Fleitz said there is “no conceivable way” the nation’s uranium enrichment activities are merely to produce nuclear power. There is “every possibility” Iran is lying in nuclear negotiations because it has violated past agreements multiple times.

“We should be trying to work cooperatively with Iran, but the price the Obama administration is trying to pay to get a deal is simply too high,” Fleitz said.

The U.S. demanded in the past that Iran give up centrifuges and plutonium reactors and answer questions about its military activities, Fleitz said. But America has wrongly conceded those demands in recent negotiations.

An acceptable deal would be to sell Iran discounted nuclear fuel rods to power its nuclear energy program and convert the nation’s enriched uranium stockpile into fuel rods. In exchange, Iran would abandon its uranium enrichment capability, Fleitz said.

That recommendation aligns with the views of Netanyahu, who contrasted the U.S. Constitution’s celebration of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with the Iranian regime’s celebration of “death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad.”

Netanyahu closed his address by applying Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31:6 to Israel and America’s relations with Iran.

“Be strong and resolute,” Netanyahu said. “Neither fear nor dread them.”
The original story can be found at: http://www.baptistpress.com/44328/netanyahu-irans-threats-parallel-ot-esther-story

DISCLAIMER: Baptist Press should be credited for any reprinted stories that originate with BP.
Suggested credit line: Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Please note that Baptist Press periodically carries stories from other sources by permission. Individuals interested in reprinting non-BP stories should contact the entity where the story originated to seek reprint permission.

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Prayer for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech before the US Congress

Tomorrow morning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United States Congress. We believe he will argue against the United States joining a number of major European powers in signing an agreement with Iran that would temporarily limit the development of nuclear grade enriched uranium and allow for the production of non-nuclear grade material.

Netanyahu views this agreement as simply putting off the inevitable, which would endanger Israel, the Middle East and beyond. However, it might be better to wait for the speech and not put words in the prime minister’s mouth.

The speech comes in the midst of what has been a virtual firestorm of unraveling relationships between two great historic allies – Israel and the United States. In particular, there has been an unfortunate erosion of relationship between Netanyahu and the American President, Barak Obama.

Augmenting the intensity of the discussion are a number of internal political issues. First of all, the invitation for Netanyahu came from Republicans through Senator John Boehner and not from the president’s office, which caused the US Democrats to view the speech as being used by Republicans for political gain. Additionally, the Israeli general elections are scheduled for March 17, where Netanyahu is running for his third term as Prime Minister and is facing considerable opposition on the home front. The timing of his trip and the speech is viewed as Netanyahu using the moment to show that he has influence with a broader coalition of Americans beyond the current president.

Jewish critics in America and Israel are concerned with Iran’s nuclear proliferation, but are also worried about the relationship between the United States and Israel, and see the speech as potentially causing further political damage.

Netanyahu is calling upon the United States to adhere to the agreement made in 2006, UN Security Resolution 1696, which demands the dismantling of the infrastructure for creating weapons grade enriched uranium. Our president agreed to this resolution, but is now wavering on implementation.

According to the New York Times, the American President has argued that the current “deal on the table” would help rather than hurt Israel,

Mr. Obama has maintained that a nuclear deal with Iran can help assure Israeli security, particularly given that neither the United States nor its European allies in the Iran negotiations are interested in military action to halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Kerry said that Israel is safer because of the short-term agreement that world powers reached with Iran in 2013, and that the United States is trying now to get an improved deal.[1]

It is also true that some American Jewish groups are also concerned about the speech as well.

It is very hard for everyday Americans and everyday American Messianic Jews, like myself, to know how to respond to this very difficult situation. So, let me try and help my fellow average person know how to pray for this difficult situation that concerns so many of us.

First of all, we do affirm that the Scriptures tell us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9)

I believe this appeal is primarily spiritual and the Psalmist wants us to pray for God’s shalom to rest upon the chosen people, whether scattered or in the Promised Land. So, let’s pray that Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama, John Kerry and even Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who has been at the heart of these negotiations, would hear from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and make decisions leading to the peace of Jerusalem and most of all, to the Lordship of the Messiah of Israel in this and every other situation of life.

I am not debating whether or not these men know the Lord as their Savior, as only God knows their hearts. However, we must still pray that they submit their hearts to His will in this particular instance and that ultimately, each one answers to God for his choices.

We must pray for God’s guidance to fall upon these leaders and for their ears to be open to hear His voice.

Further, we should pray for the protection of God’s chosen from hostile nations, including Iran which is a primary supporter of terrorism against Israel, through arming those who seek the destruction of the Jewish state and Israelis in general, whether they live in Israel, Argentina or elsewhere.

It is so important for believers to pray intelligently and to rise above the everyday politics that are part of the democratic political process in both the US and Israel. We are grateful for free elections and certainly candidates everywhere will assert themselves in ways that will help them win elections or gain favor with their constituencies. This is part of our process and is always a matter for prayer.

May I also remind all of us of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Timothy 2:1-3,

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

We must accept the encouragement of the great Rabbi Saul to pray for our leaders and for the leaders of other nations as well, that we may live a life that enables us to focus on bringing the Good News to all: Americans, Jews and Gentiles, Iranians and Israelis.

I pray the speech goes well and that Americans will continue to support the modern state of Israel and oppose those who seek the destruction of the Jewish people; and to do so as loyal citizens of our great country!

 

[1] NY Times by Helene Cooper and Michael R. Gordon March 1, 2015

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Serving Holocaust Survivors in Israel

I just returned from a quick trip to Israel where I had the opportunity to visit Sderot, an Israeli town which is located about a mile and a half from the Gaza border. This little city of almost 30,000 people has been hit hard over the years by rockets and missiles unleashed by Hamas. The citizens of Sderot are primarily Russian Jews who emigrated during the last couple of decades from the Former Soviet Union. Many are elderly and moved to Israel after the fall of the USSR, as they wanted to live out the rest of the years in a Jewish country.

The lives of Jewish people living in the Former Soviet Union were marked by difficulty and discrimination. The move to Israel for many of these Russian Jewish people was an opportunity to finally live someplace where they could no longer be mistreated for their Jewish heritage and to find some peace and security for the rest of their days.

However, this has not been the experience of the Russian Jewish immigrants living in Sderot. For more than a decade their lives have been anything but stable. The small town of Sderot is known for having bomb shelters 10 seconds apart because there is so little time between the launching of a rocket and the moment of impact. Over the last number of years, the government of Israel has retrofitted most of the apartment buildings with its “safe rooms.” So as long as these elderly residents remain in their apartments they are safe.

However, if they happen to be walking around outside of their homes then they are often in harm’s way, especially during seasons of intensive attack as was just experienced during this past summer. There were days when 30–40 rockets fell on Sderot. During this time, the elderly Russian Holocaust survivors stayed in their apartments isolated for days and weeks on end.

During my brief visit I spent quite a bit of time with two Holocausts survivors. One of these elderly ladies left her village in Ukraine for Russia where she was safe from the Nazis throughout the rest of World War II. The other was only five years old when the Jewish people in her village were massacred. She survived and was taken care of by a Gentile woman who raised her. After Perestroika, both women, one in her late 50s and the other in her early 70s, left Ukraine and moved to Israel.

Sderot was a good option for them since it was inexpensive and had a strong Russian speaking community. Moving to Israel at an elderly age, these women felt it was better to be around other Russian speakers as they knew it would be very difficult to learn Hebrew.

Both of these remarkable women are part of a network of Holocaust survivors in Israel. There are currently fewer than 200,000 survivors and unfortunately tens of thousands of these dear people are passing away each year. Many are poor and living on government assistance, some are receiving repatriation funds from Germany and quite a few – especially if they do not have children living in Israel – are very lonely and in great need of companionship.

For so many of us, including myself, they remind me of my grandma and grandpa – my bubbe and zayde (a little Yiddish!). Our ministry has supported these Holocaust survivors by taking them on trips within Israel and to other countries, giving them opportunities to celebrate the Jewish holidays, providing substantial amounts of food staples and much more.

It is also understood that it is against Israeli law to try and “persuade” those we are providing with material support of a different religion. We easily abide by these rules as eventually once relationships are built, these precious people ask a lot of questions about our faith in the Messiah and we are free to speak to them – as long as it is not during a time when we are distributing foods or other types of goods to them.

Many of the survivors have become moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas for so many on our ministry team. These relationships have become quite close and we have developed a very deep sense of love for one another over the last 10 to 15 years, as we have gotten to know one another.

While driving one of these elderly women from Jerusalem to Sderot we had a long conversation in the car about God. This very bright, 90+ year-old woman, who has participated in many of our trips and local events told me that she believes that Jesus is the Messiah in her heart, but is struggling to understand this with her mind. I was a bit stunned by her telling us this since I had not really asked her the question – she took the initiative. We had a great discussion about the meaning of faith and I do hope and pray that she will continue in her pilgrimage. Personally, I believe she is much closer than she thinks!

We have invited one of our Israel staff members to come to New York City and join us for a Hanukkah-Christmas Fellowship Banquet on Saturday night December 6 at the beautiful Canoe Studios on the West Side of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. We will be raising funds that evening for the work we are doing to help these elderly Holocaust survivors in Sderot and in other cities in Israel. I could use your help in getting the word out and so please feel free to send the website along to both Christians and Jewish people you believe might want to attend.

If you live close by, I hope you will consider attending. This will be an especially wonderful evening as Marty Goetz, a well-known Messianic Jewish recording artist, will be performing his original songs as well as traditional Hanukkah and Christmas music. It is going to be a spectacular evening and I hope that we are able to continue to raise considerable funds to help improve the quality of life, both physically and spiritually, for these Holocaust survivors.

Please visit: chosenpeople.com/holidaybanquet for more information.

 

In Messiah,

Mitch

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The Ten Days of Awe

We are in the midst of the Ten Days Awe which began with the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  The other name for this season is the Ten Days of Repentance as the traditional Jewish belief for this season is that God will judge our hearts and actions during this period of time and determine our future.  The culmination of the ten days is the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which begins this coming Friday evening.

I have written a series of devotionals on the themes of atonement and forgiveness and hope you will read them.  The following is the text of the first devotional…

We are about to observe the Civil Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which literally means, the “Head of the Year.” The festival is one of the seven great festivals, appointed by God to be celebrated on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, Tishrei. All seven of these Holy Days are found in the Bible in Leviticus chapter 23, as well as in a number of other passages in the Pentateuch/Torah. There is also a vast amount of rabbinic material describing the festivals and how they should be observed.

The Holy Days are prophetic in nature and over the course of the year provide a roadmap to redemption; Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, the New Year, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles. The holidays are similar as each one involves a rest from labor, worship, offerings and usually a reminder of a great event in the history of Israel. Oftentimes a holiday is also tied to the agricultural season and in one way or another is connected to the harvest.

It is important to note the Hebrew word translated as “holiday” in Leviticus 23 is better when understood as “appointments.” God asks Israel to remember what He did for them in history over 150 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. He set up these “appointments” (or “appointed times”) to help His people commune with Him and “remember” His good works in their history. Each of these Holy Days was established by God and revealed to the children of Israel by Moses, who received the calendar as part of the Sinai revelation.

I also believe that every one of these festivals (“appointed times”) was fulfilled in the person of Jesus the Messiah and, along with many scholars, believe the first four Spring festivals pointed to His first coming and the latter three in the Fall are related to His second coming.

These holidays have a variety of themes and customs and are observed in a similar manner by most Jewish people, whether they be Ashkenazic (Eastern European decent) or Sephardic (primarily from Spain and North Africa)—New Yorkers, Brooklynites or Israelis. The major themes of the Jewish New Year are Kingship, Remembrance and the Blowing of the Shofar.

Over the centuries, our rabbis and sages have complied a book entitled the Machzor, which is used in the synagogue as the prayer book and service guide for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (See Leviticus 23: 23- 25; Numbers 10: 10; 29: 16 for the biblical details).

Rosh Hashanah is the first of three great festivals to be celebrated in the Fall. The other two are Yom Kippur, (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).

The great theme of Rosh Hashanah is repentance and the overarching theme of the High Holiday season is forgiveness. In fact, the first day of Rosh Hashanah begins a season of ten days of repentance, often called the Ten Days of Awe by the Jewish people. The observance of the Day of Atonement concludes these ten days. It is understood by most Jewish people that repentance is the path that leads to salvation and the forgiveness of sin, which is secured at the closing moments of Yom Kippur.

Though it is difficult to explain the difference, forgiveness is stressed in the Jewish community far more than personal salvation, especially as understood by most Christians. Jewish people are not as apt to think about personal salvation or a secured future beyond the grave in the same way Christians do.

However, Jewish people do think about forgiveness during this time of year and are usually eager to repent before God and reconcile with whomever they may have offended as well. But, forgiveness is viewed as temporal, needing annual renewal and received on the basis of God’s grace as well as our repentance and willingness to be obedient to His Law found in the Five Books of Moses. At least this is the traditional Jewish teaching on the subject.

The Ten Days of Awe or the Ten Days of Repentance are observed during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Jewish tradition calls upon us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others as one vital part of receiving God’s forgiveness at the conclusion of the ten-day period.

The Purpose for the Devotionals:

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we will be providing our readers with ten devotions, one for each day.

These devotional thoughts will hopefully be a blessing to you and help sensitize you to what your Jewish family and friends are observing as well. We also will present a passage or two from the Bible for you to meditate upon and will allow the Lord to speak to you through His word during this important season of the year.

The Apostle Paul suggests the importance of understanding and even experiencing the Jewish festivals in his letter to Timothy. He writes,

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Scripture Meditation:

I have found the above verses to be very helpful and practical in understanding the role of the festivals in the lives of believers in Jesus the Messiah.

In using the term Scripture, Paul is referring to the entirety of the Old Testament. Certainly, we can infer that this is also true of the New Testament, but specifically Paul has the Hebrew Scriptures in mind. Every part of the Bible is useful to us in the process of growing to spiritual maturity. This would include the Jewish holidays.

Paul is not suggesting that we must keep these festivals in any particular way nor is he suggesting that we are under obligation to keep them! Rather, he tells us that every verse in every one of the 39 books of the Old Testament is helpful and may be utilized for spiritual benefit. This would be true of the festivals outlined in Leviticus 23 and would include the three Fall events; the New Year, the Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.

Therefore, learning more about these “Feasts” is helpful for your spiritual journey. And for me, the emphases of the first two holidays on repentance and forgiveness create a magnificent backdrop for understanding the work of Jesus the Messiah, who died that I might live.

To read the rest of the devotional go to:

http://www.chosenpeople.com/main/index.php/holidays-and-festivals/836-ten-days-of-awe-devotionals

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Pray for those who persecute you

Shalom from the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn, where I have been part of a prayer meeting with our staff at the new Charles Feinberg Messianic Center. As you will see from the attached article, the religious Jewish community is well aware of our presence in the community, and they are responding in a variety of ways.

One group sent out a video opposing our work, and this same group rented space nearby in order to counter our efforts. Another group, we recently discovered, also rented space across the street from our Center in order to oppose our efforts to tell Jewish people about our beloved Messiah Jesus.

This is to be expected!

So, how do we feel about this intense and very public opposition?

I believe the words of Jesus speak loudest in this instance, as He told us,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

We are blessed, and our burden has deepened for our fellow Jewish people to open their hearts to the Messiah. We understand that our people do not really understand the message of Jesus.

It is hard for most Jewish people to distinguish between the historic bad behavior of nominal “Christians” who treated the Jewish people so poorly throughout the ages and authentic Gentile Christians who love the Jewish Messiah and the Jewish people. My people simply do not know the difference between the two.

And more importantly, they do not understand that Jesus is Jewish, His earliest disciples were Jewish and that believing in Jesus as the Messiah is not only acceptable for a Jewish person, but the right thing to do!

The question I want many people to think about is not whether it is permissible to be Jewish and believe in Jesus – but whether or not Jesus is the true Messiah of Israel. If my fellow Jews come to this conclusion, then they will choose to follow Him – as I did.

So, please pray for the Jewish people with us!

We are not upset or angry or feeling competitive as described in the article. There is only one Messiah, and we believe with all our hearts that it is Jesus and that He is the One sent from heaven to save us from our sins. My hope and prayer is that my people will be drawn to this loving, forgiving Messiah and find salvation in Him.

We are about to begin the Jewish High Holidays, starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) beginning Wednesday evening. Please pray with us that during this time, when the Jewish people think seriously about atonement and forgiveness, that the Lord would open the hearts of our Jewish people – especially those who oppose us – and reveal to them that Jesus is the promised Messiah for both Jews and Gentiles.

Please read the article, which we feel is balanced and accurate in describing the situation… but of course not a true reflection of our heart and motives for establishing the Charles Feinberg Center in the heart of Brooklyn.

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