The Festival of Shavuot (Weeks)

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Below is an article Baruch wrote concerning Shavuot.  This would be a great addition to your studies over the holiday!  

This Festival is also known as the Feast of Pentecost. In this article, I want to focus on the primary message of this Holy Day. More than any other festival, Shavuot requires significant preparation. It is significant that no date is given for this day. One must observe the first day of Unleavened Bread and on the day after the Shabbat which immediately  follows, is Resheet. Resheet, which means “first”, is the day that one begins to count the Omer (Sheaves of the spring harvest of wheat). This is also the day on which Yeshua rose from the dead. It is on this day that one begins to count both seven weeks and 49 days. The next day is Shavuot.

Hence, the name Pentecost means 50, as a full 50 days must pass from Resheet to the Festival of Shavuot. Most believers know that Shavuot traditionally commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai and the Holy Spirit to believers at Jerusalem. Although no date is provided in the Torah for this Festival, it must fall on the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday.

Once (see John chapter 5), Yeshua went up to Jerusalem to celebrate a festival. Although the exact holiday is not mentioned, most commentators assert that it was Shavuot, because in John chapter 2 Yeshua was there for Passover and in John chapter 7 Yeshua was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. These three festivals, Passover, Shavuot, and Tabernacles are called the three pilgrim festivals because the Torah requires every Jewish man above 20 years of age to go to Jerusalem to observe these Holy Days.

In John chapter 5, although Yeshua goes up for the Festival, it is the Shabbat before when He heals a man that was paralyzed for 38 years. In other words, this man could not walk. In the Hebrew language, the term walking relates to the concept of Jewish Law. When the Scripture deals with a man who is unable to walk, the message the reader should receive is that this one is not serving G-d. The truth of the matter is that in our natural state of being, we cannot serve G-d properly. We are lacking something.

During the period from Resheet to Shavuot, one must count each day and the number of weeks. Counting signifies an expectation. What should one be expecting? In the passage immediately following the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20, HaShem comes before Israel to provide to them a change. What was this change? To cause them to have a miraculous experience where they would know the will of G-d and not be able to sin. Unfortunately, Israel rejected this provision and stood at a distance from G-d.

Although the first disciples of Messiah Yeshua came to faith after Yeshua appeared to them after His resurrection, this does not mean that they were fully equipped to serve G-d. This is why Yeshua commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through Him, i.e. the Holy Spirit, that a believer is provided the One Who is lacking, in order to serve and worship HaShem properly. Within the number 50 is the number 5. In the Bible, five expresses the concept of “lacking”, while the number 50 relates to freedom or liberty. The message of Shavuot is that through the Holy Spirit the believer has a G-d provided freedom and liberty.

Recently, I saw a post which someone uploaded about grace. Although grace saves when we receive it by faith, grace is not the final objective of one’s faith. The problem with the post is that it took a very negative stance on obedience. While it is most true that one is not saved by obedience, we were in fact saved so we could be obedient to the will of G-d. I believe that there is a dangerous trend happening among many believers. It is based in a wrong understanding of grace. While one should indeed be greatly thankful for the forgiveness of sins that G-d’s grace provides, as well as for salvation that comes by grace, it is highly problematic for believers to see obedience to G-d as insignificant. The post did not deal with a salvation experience, but lifestyle issues. It was as though one’s behavior was not all that important, because G-d’s grace is always available. In a similar vein, I heard a tele-evangelist state that sin is not all that important because Yeshua has dealt with all of our sins. Although it is true that Yeshua’s blood does indeed forgive all of our sins, there is also an earthly outcome to sin. This speaker took a very casual position in regard to this by simply pointing out that when a believer sins, the outcome teaches him not to do so. However, this speaker ignored altogether that one’s sins can effect others who were not the source of the sin. The outcomes of sins are not just in this world, but can also effect eternity.

As we prepare for Shavuot, let us pray with expectation for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives to produce obedience to the Glory of G-d.

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Shavuah Tov!

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Lovely flowers on a tree today.

This is an exciting time at LoveIsrael.org.  We see G-d’s hand moving, as He connects us with people who are interested in 2 particular ministry opportunities we are working on! We have not mentioned anything, yet the L-rd continues to have people come to us with a burden to reach people in these two groups.

Please pray for us that we will be organized and be able to bring all of the people together in order to be more effective in reaching people with the life-transforming Word of G-d.

Also, Tuesday night begins the holiday of Shavuot.  I plan to write about it tomorrow and also share an article Baruch wrote about this important holiday.  It is customary to stay up all night studying the Torah.  This Tuesday night, we will be meeting at our study center at midnight and reading, learning and praying until 6:00 in the morning!  If you have something you’d like for me to pray about, send me a message tomorrow only on the LoveIsrael.org Facebook page.  I will write them all down and pray on Tuesday night.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Beautiful scenery during my walk.

Shalom from Israel!  This week is the Biblical holiday of Shavuot.  I will be posting an article by Baruch in a couple of days.  But for today, I’d like to share a commentary by Baruch on this week’s Torah Portion, Bamidbar.

This Shabbat we begin the fourth of the five books of the Torah. In English it is called Numbers; while in Hebrew it is known as “In the Wilderness”. The English title is derived from the fact that the number of men from each tribe is listed. In actuality, it is not each tribe, for the tribe of Levi is not counted here:

And the Levites, to the tribe of their fathers were not counted among them.”

Numbers 1:47

Why were not the Levites counted among the rest of the Sons of Israel in this passage from Numbers? The answer is because it is emphasized in this text that the Levites had a special calling—to serve HaShem. Serving the L-rd is not dependent upon the physical. Rather it depends on the willingness of one to accept his call and respond in obedience. Whatever may be lacking or insufficient, physically speaking, G-d will make up. A good example of this occurred during the days of Elisha. The king of Aram wanted to capture Elisha and sent his army to capture him in Dothan. When the man of G-d’s attendant saw the large army surrounding the city, he feared greatly and cried out to his master and said, “What shall we do?” Elisha remarked to him, “There is more with us than with them.”

Obviously in the physical domain this was not true, but those who serve HaShem do not reside only in the physical realm. Elisha prayed and asked the L-rd to open up his attendant’s eyes to the spiritual realm, i.e. reality; and saw that the mountain by the city was full of horses and a chariot of fire was all around Elisha.

G-d will supply whatever is needed to complete the tasks that He calls us to do.  We only need to follow in obedience, which is the outcome of a Biblical faith. This is what the end of the first chapter of Numbers reveals. One reads:

And the Children of Israel did according to all which HaShem commanded Moses, thus they did.” Numbers 1:54

This verse seems to be redundant, but it is not. The first time the verb ויעשו appears it relates to the Children of Israel’s effort. The second time עשו appears, it relates to HaShem assisting the people to complete the service. We cannot serve the L-rd without the participation of the Holy Spirit, and with His help, all things are possible.

Yom Yershalayim

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Gorgeous flag captured on my walk today.

Yesterday was Jerusalem Day, commemorating the reunification of the great, holy city of Jerusalem after winning the Six Day War in 1967.  This year was the 50th anniversary.  It is a national holiday in Israel and also has a religious significance, as it restored access by Jewish people to the Kotel (Western Wall).

The crowds in various locations, especially the Kotel, were huge this year.  People expressed their joy in being able to worship freely again at the Wall.

Speaking at the Knesset Wednesday during a special session in honor of Jerusalem Day and the 50th anniversary of the city’s reunification, Prime minister Benjamin Netenyahu declared that Israel will never give up control over the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem.

However, as we celebrate this great holiday, we are confronted with the consequence of compromise.  Back in 1967, Israel compromised and let Jordan retain administration of the Temple Mount.  Israel at times has had to go up there to clear out terrorists and rock-throwers.  They should never have allowed Jordan to retain any power or presence there.  It is an important lesson that if we compromise on G-d’s Word and promises, we will suffer consequences.

A Very Special Memorial Day

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An Ethiopian Jewish man.  Photo from Pinterest.

I would like to draw your attention to a very important Memorial Day here in Israel which many people do not know about.  Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel is celebrated on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar, which begins tonight.

“A mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews (“Beta Israel”) took place in the years 1980 – 1984, from their villages in the area of Gundar and through Sudan. Many of them, who dreamt for many years of making Aliyah to Israel, managed to flee Ethiopia and arrive at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where they waited in provisional camps to make Aliyah. The passage through Sudan was made possible by an unspoken agreement, only known to a few senior officials in Sudan. Agents of the Mossad awaited the immigrants at the Sudanese border and instructed them to hide their Jewish identity.

In their escape and in the Sudanese camps, they suffered from disease, hunger and acts of harassment, rape, and violent robberies. The families, with their elderly and younger members, walked for long periods of up to several months and were forced to wait in refugee camps in Sudan for up to two years.

Approximately 4,000 members of the community perished on the way and in the camps, in their attempt to arrive at Israel.”  This quote is from the official Knesset website.

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The Ethiopian Jews are a vital part of the fabric of Israel and everyone should be very thankful for them.  They serve many times in the most dangerous positions in the military, they have unparalleled skills in these positions, and they add such a vibrant aspect to the Israeli culture.

Just as a side note, I was so glad to hear that during Operation Moses (1981-1984), to save these Jewish people, Alaska Airlines used some of their planes to participate in this heroic saving of these precious lives.

It is also a bit of trivia that during the follow-up airlifts, Operation Solomon in 1991, the world’s record for the most passengers on an aircraft was achieved.  1088 people were on one flight on an El Al Boeing 747 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Tel Aviv.

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Let’s please remember those Ethiopian Jews who lost their lives while seeking to return to their promised homeland–Israel.

Cherkassy, Ukraine

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Irises, seemingly the unofficial flower of Ukraine! (they were everywhere)

The trip to the Ukraine and the Conference were very memorable.  We made arrangements to take a bus from Keiv to Cherkasy (Conference site) , which never showed up.  So we had took a taxi (3 hours) which thankfully turned out to be not so disastrous ($105). We had a driver who spoke very little English.  It was such an interesting drive there, as the cars going both directions swerved back and forth across the center line, as they avoided large potholes.  We were hanging on 🙂   Also, the police stopped our driver to check something out, we were never sure exactly what.  It was interesting to see the driver tugging at his license, trying to get it back from the officer. In the end, no problem, and we  arrived there before the bus.

The people in Cherkasy were wonderful.  They prepared meals for us, they gave us gifts, and were very attentive and appreciative of the conference.  The translator, Oksana, did a wonderful job and had such a good command of English and its grammar. Baruch remarked that she needs to give him English lessons.

We had two friends with us who enjoyed the people of Cherkasy as much as we did and were equally moved by the growing faith of the fine people of this town.  While we ate on Erev Shabbat after the first evening of the conference, Pastor Vadim told us of some of the persecution that took place in Cherkasy against the Jewish residents.  There was a ghetto there during WWII and several Jewish people were thrown into wells where they all drowned; some, simply because there was not enough room for all the people to be on the surface and others over the many hours in the water struggling to live. What a horrible thing.

On Shabbat, after the conference ended for the day, Oksana and two of her daughters gave us a walking tour of the city.  Some of the things most memorable were:  the beautiful buildings, the view from a hill with a huge statue overlooking the river, and coming across one of the former synagogues. There used to be 13 synagogues in Cherkassy and a thriving, educated Jewish community.  Now, there are 2,000 Jewish people left in the city.  One Jewish family who left there, and immigrated to Israel, now attend Bible studies at our study center!

We also saw a memorial to the soldiers who have died so far in this recent conflict with Russia.  Thus far, Russia has taken approximately 10% of Ukrainian land. One of the pastors of the church that hosted the conference, who was from the war torn area, remarked that Russia is slowly taking more land.  At the memorial, there was a man from a nearby village, who brought his little girl to see the memorial and the picture of a young man from their village who was killed.

This is a very difficult time for the Ukraine.  They were under communist rule from the end of World War II until 1991.  Now, they have Russia invading their border.  Let’s pray for them during this difficult time.

On Sunday, as we were leaving the city, we drove past a small parade.  Some of the people we recognized from the conference.  They were marching in support of the Christian community in Cherkasy.

Getting to the Ukraine

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One last view from Prague.

Yesterday we said “so long!” to Prague and flew to Kiev.  It is a short flight, about 2 hours. We arrived in time for a small dinner and this morning headed to Cherkassy.  Baruch had reserved tickets for a bus, which never arrived.  However, we were able to improvise and made it to Cherkassy in plenty of time for the Conference.  We are now in our hotel, which is simple, and very clean.  It is great (and has wifi)!

Tonight there are 2 sessions.  The first one is “Moses Called into Service” which will explore Exodus 3:9-22 and the second session is “Moses’ Near-Death Experience”, dealing with Exodus 4:19-31.  We are looking forward to the evening.  Afterward, they are providing dinner for us.

Tomorrow there will be 5 sessions:  “Moses–A Confused beginning (Ex. 5:22-6:9), “The Beginning of Pharaoh’s Hard Heart (Ex. 7:2-14), “Answered Prayer May Harden Your Heart” (Ex. 7:22-8:15[in English]), “Sin Harden’s One’s Heart (Ex. 9:22-35) and “Forgiveness Can harden a Heart” (Ex. 10:12-20).

Sunday there will be one session, “Signs and Wonders Can Harden a Heart” (Ex. 11:1-10).  We wish you could all be with us!

May you have a blessed Shabbat!