Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
Loving greetings to each of you in The Name of The Lord Yeshua h’Meshiach, Jesus Christ. May HE who has brought us back to The Father be glorified in each of us. May He be blessed and honored and glorified, and may you be blessed and edified.
The above scripture convicted me this morning during my devotions! I had defended my “orneriness” (for those who don’t know this American word: snippy, short temperedness. Probably the opposite of the above scripture. Maybe even mean) to my husband last night during dinner as being due to my exhaustion. (I climbed into bed, fully clothed, at 7:30pm!)
But The One Who told me to make NO provision for the flesh, and to be renewed in the spirit of my mind, also made ALL provision for me to walk in HIS strength, courage, and Spirit. I repented. HE cleansed me. I asked forgiveness of my husband and am so thankful that His faithfulness is NEW EVERY MORNING.
What a great gift repentance is, and in this first letter of 2018 I want to remember that repentance is a moment by moment walk, keeping short accounts before The Lord. ALWAYS!
Of course here, our new year is not according to the Gregorian calendar, but according to the Hebrew calendar, sort of. The Lord told us that we were to count the beginning of the year from Passover (in the month of Aviv, which is in the Spring). We count it now from Rosh h’Shana, the head of the year, which is really “the feast of trumpets,” in the fall.
DO NOT ASK ME TO EXPLAIN THIS PLEASE. For us the year is 5,778 and December 31 – January 1 passed as regular work days for us. This felt odd 23 years ago when we made aliyah, but it now seems normal, just like Saturday being our Sabbath.
The second of January was a most interesting day however, if not tiring. First, I had my much anticipated ‘trom netuach’ – or pre-surgery meetings, in FIVE intense hours.
No, I still do not have the date for the surgery, but I will soon get a call and be told.
Medicine in Israel is generally a team effort. I was seen by 5 sets of medical personnel for screening, exams, questions and re-questions in numerous languages.
One particularly fun and interesting exam was done by 3 residents, who would be on the surgery team. They were cute and nervous! I was already tired, having been interviewed by an Arab anesthesiologist whose Hebrew was heavily accented and difficult to understand, a fast speaking nurse, and several others. So at this interview I began with, “I THINK that we can do all of this in Hebrew, but is it a problem if I need to explain something or understand something in English?”
They all laughed. “We have here among the 3 of us 5 languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French and English. Hebrew and English are the ONLY languages that we ALL speak well, SO ENGLISH IS FINE!”
I was tired by then so we proceeded in English and I do think that everything was understood. By the time I left, I was really quite confident in the team and like this system of checks and balances that assures the ego takes a back seat. It is all in The Lord’s hands anyway, but it was an interesting and intense morning.
And I was CLUELESS how I would now get through the long EVENING ahead and to work the next morning. We were going to the wedding of our son-in-law’s brother.
I have explained before how our son in law is the oldest of 14 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 7pm and would likely last until at least 2am. 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 of me. Plus, I dutifully donned a head covering for the wedding.
I learned much there and thought of you all as I observed many things, wondering how I would translate them to be understood. May The Lord be my translator to your hearts because I had a window into a place that most of you will likely not otherwise see. There were things worth seeing.
At weddings here the ONLY gift given to the bride and groom is money. A wedding gift as we in the west think 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 support for this young couple.
There were perhaps 500 people present (often weddings draw over 1,000) to bless the union. 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, (c)huppa’ [or canopy, the covered area where the vows are made.
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 3 days. I SAW what it was for our 1 year old and 3 year old granddaughters to be cared for by the entire extended family. There was a safety for all of the little ones. 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. 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 3 year-old granddaughter 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 who came to pray, she literally beat her chest. Yes, I was taken back 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. She was seeking God. Little Maya saw the pretty dress and smiled shyly.
A Middle Eastern group of musicians played their exotic instruments. My son-in-law 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 4 corners 2,000 years ago.
A call to the “minyan” was made. (A “minyan” is at least 10 elder men who were to stand together to pray the set prayers of preparation. Probably 30 gathered, many elderly rabbis among them and our son in law’s father.
The wedding began with the groom kidnapping the bride from her throne. Then the young men danced him up to the wedding (c)huppa. He was soon followed by the bride, accompanied by her mother and grandmother. The three of them encircle the groom 7 times and then leave her there by his side for the ceremony, which then began.
I don’t know if there are ever any two weddings alike, but this one had at least 3 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.
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 confirmed it with my daughter.
All through the ceremony, the small children played joyously on the podium. They were not allowed under the canopy. I felt as if I was peering into a different world than I had known before.
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!
With the ceremony ending and the joy breaking loose, it was about 10 pm, 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!’ All too aware that I was indeed exhausted and that my next morning would be arriving soon.
And the next morning also held a new experience for me.
My boss has been relying very heavily on me since his illness and the loss of the vision in one eye and he became quiet anxious about me leaving for surgery. It became my job to find a temporary replacement and to train her. This is NOT something that comes easily to me. I waded through the applications and ended up calling a 53 year old who seemed to be the right one.
I was in for another humbling experience.
Her name is Shulamit and I do ask for prayer for her. She is a superwoman!
When she asked about the hours that she would be expected to work. I said 7:30-2.
She said that would be fine but that we needed to know something. Her daughter-in-law had just died. She and her husband had just moved to Beitar (this is probably 1/2 hour drive outside of the city). It was next door to their son as the 8 small Grandchildren were suddenly left without their Mama. They needed to help get them off to school and so forth. She ALSO has a job in a Yeshiva for the other 2 mornings weekly.
She spoke all of this with no look asking for pity and confidently looking us in the eyes.
I was taken aback.
This woman IS a superwoman!
As I sat training her we naturally asked about one another’s backgrounds.
Shulamit made aliyah from Holland when she was in her early twenties to marry the son of a famous Rabbi. She was one of 9 children and was raised in Jewish school in Holland. She told me that her Mother awakened them an hour earlier each morning to teach them Hebrew and the prescribed prayers and order of prayer before school.
Shulamit and her husband have 7 children and at 53 they have THIRTY GRANDCHILDREN. She is likely the fastest learner I have ever trained. She is fluent in 4 languages and kindhearted and compassionate and I would like to ask for prayer for her. Because with all of this she doesn’t yet know her Messiah. I would simply ask for prayer that He would come to her and to her family in the midst of their grief.
Again, it is community who takes care to do what they can to fill the place of the Mama for this little family. I asked her if her son had help and she was surprised. “Of course! The community is right there. They are all mothers and brothers and sisters. We raise them together now.”
Why am I here Lord? Why have You brought us here? What is my purpose? Am I being and doing what You want? Am I learning what You want? Am I being poured out UNTO YOU? This is so big, and I am so small. May I be in the year ahead blended into the incense that is a sweet aroma to YOU ALONE! And may my brothers and sisters in the nations also fulfill their purposes…may we be ground together into one for Your glory alone! AND MAY THIS PEOPLE ISRAEL HAVE THE SCALES PULLED OFF THIS YEAR!
your sister J