Happy Rosh HaShanah!

rosh hashanah

Rosh HaShanah begins Wednesday night at sundown.   It is observed for 2 days and will end Friday night and then we observe Shabbat.  So, in Israel we will have 3 days of Yom Tovs/Shabbat.  We want to wish you a blessed holiday.  Blessings

Please find below an article written by Baruch for the holiday

הימים הנוראים

The Fall Festivals

The Fall Festivals consist of The Day (or Memorial) of Sounding (Rosh HaShanah), The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). In this article, I will focus on Rosh HaShanah. According to Rabbinical tradition, Rosh HaShanah is related to creation. More specifically, to the sixth day of creation. The view is that the very first Rosh HaShanah was on the sixth day of creation. This is of course the day in which G-d made man. The question one should ask is, “What can one actually know about this holiday from the Bible?” The answer is that this festival is celebrated on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei). The first day of each month is called Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is observed with joy. Scripture reveals that families would get together and there also seems to be an indication that a special meal was observed (see 1 Samuel 20:18). Although work is not formally forbidden on Rosh Chodesh, it appears that there is a preference not to do work on this day, but other Shabbat restrictions were not applicable.

In the month of Tishrei, Rosh Chodesh is also Rosh HaShanah and is a High Shabbat. This is a festival day which must be treated as a Shabbat, even though the day may not fall on the seventh day of the week. The fact that Rosh HaShanah is in the seventh month also expresses a significant message. The number seven relates to holiness; hence, Rosh HaShanah must also be connected to this concept. Remembering that the Scriptural name for Rosh HaShanah is the Day or Memorial of Sounding, one must ask what is the relationship between the sounding of the Shofar (Ram’s Horn) and holiness? The Shofar expresses G-d’s provision of what is lacking. How does one know this? On Rosh HaShanah, Genesis 22 is read in the synagogue. This passage is the binding of Yitzhak (Isaac). G-d provided the ram, which was caught by his horns (Shofar) in order that Yitzhak would not have to die. This fact teaches us that HaShem looks to each of His people and knows through His examination of us, what we are lacking in order to be holy. There seems to be something missing. In Genesis 22, G-d provided so Yitzhak would live and in regard to Rosh HaShanah it was stated that HaShem will provide so His people will be holy. What does life and holiness have to do with each other?

This is exactly the message which this festival wants to reveal; namely that one’s life should be directly connected to holiness. True life is not simply the opposite of death. True life is living in holiness. Biblically speaking, there is a direct relationship between the purposes of G-d and holiness. This means that only when one is fulfilling the purposes of G-d is this one holy and experiencing true life. Although holiness can refer to a state of being, this state is an outcome of behavior. For many believers in Yeshua, holiness and salvation are almost understood as one and the same. This is not entirely true.

When an individual accepts by faith the provision of the blood of Messiah, shed through His death on the Tree (Cross), this person experiences salvation. This blood justifies the believer through the grace of G-d found in Messiah Yeshua. Whereas Yeshua had placed upon Him the iniquity of the world, because our sins were transferred to Him, the believer has transferred upon him the righteousness of Yeshua. It is this provision of Messiah’s righteousness which assures the believer of his or her place in the Kingdom of G-d. It can also be said that G-d sees the believer as holy (a saint) because of His provision. All of this however is declarative. What does this mean? We (believers in the Gospel) are declared Holy, Righteous, and Saved by means of the work of Messiah. This is our true and eternal condition before G-d, i.e. nothing can change this because it was established by and in the sufficiency of Messiah Yeshua’s work— to Him be all praise!

These facts however, do not necessarily say anything about how the believer actually lives; that is how he behaves. Naturally, there is a strong expectation that the one who is saved, will submit to the purposes of G-d; however, one’s salvation is not achieved by this submissiveness, nor is our salvation maintained by it.

The message of The Day (Memorial) of the Sounding, i.e. Rosh HaShanah is this. When a believer hears the sounding of the Shofar, he should remember what G-d has provided for him to live a life which fulfills the purposes of G-d. In other words, there is a connection between Rosh HaShanah and sanctification. Many people do not understand sanctification. In both Hebrew and Greek, this term is derived from the word “holy”. Sanctification, therefore, relates to a process whereby the believer becomes holy, not in the declarative sense, but in action and in deed. It is only by means of sanctification that      a believer actually manifests the glory of G-d. It is the manifestation of G-d’s glory that fulfills the purpose for which man (male and female) was created.

Sin of course made it impossible for man to manifest G-d’s glory. Creation, after sin entered into the world, could never fulfill G-d’s purpose. Isaiah the prophet knew this and when he heard the angels saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the L-rd G-d of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” he was highly disturbed and said, “Woe is me.” Isaiah knew that he could never be holy nor could his people in their current state. It was at the time Isaiah was lamenting that one of the angels provided atonement for him. This free atonement foreshadows the work of Messiah. It is only through the redemption, that Messiah Yeshua provides, that one can become a New Creation and have the potential to manifest G-d’s glory.

Therefore, on this Rosh HaShanah, as you hear the sounding of the Shofar, remember what HaShem has provided, Messiah’s life for our redemption. I do not think it was a coincidence that in the Torah, what we commonly refer to as Rosh HaShanah is actually called זיכרון תרועה (See Leviticus 23:24) and יום תרועה (See Numbers 29:1). The first Hebrew phrase is The Memorial of Sounding, while the second Hebrew phrase is the Day of Sounding. It is understood that the term “sounding” is referring to the Shofar. The ancient sages discussed the significance of the order. It seems more reasonable to mention the Day of Sounding first and then later, the Memorial of Sounding. However, such logic is according to man and not G-d.

It has already been stated that Rosh HaShanah relates to what G-d provides in order that His will might become a reality. As believers, we know that ultimately G-d’s greatest provision is His Only Begotten Son, Yeshua. When hearing the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah, it is His death that one should remember. In Hebrew, the term memorial actually is derived from the word “remember”. In other words, it looks to a past event, i.e. the Lamb of G-d Who was slain before the foundation of the world. The term Day of Sounding looks forward to the day when the Shofar will be sounded and Messiah will return. This is not to imply that Yeshua is going to return on Rosh HaShanah; rather, that on Rosh HaShanah we should proclaim the fact that He is going to return and provide for His people His Kingdom.

חג שמח לכולכם

Happy Holidays to all of you!

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Constanta, a Port City

The Ashkenazi synagogue in Constanta.  

Constanta, Romania, is a port city on the Black Sea.  It is the third largest port in Europe. It has a very interesting history, being the oldest city in Romania, and founded around 600 BC.  It has Romanian, Turkish, Greek, Roma (Gypsies) and Jewish people.  But, today the Jewish population numbers around 30.

This morning we walked to the synagogue.  It is beautiful on the outside, but is missing the roof.  If you look carefully at the pictures above, you can see sunlight shining through the top of the synagogue.  There is no money to make repairs.  The Jewish community here will be gone soon if some changes are not made.  The sad news is that there are fewer and fewer Jewish people in Romania to maintain and restore the precious synagogues and cemeteries.  The good news is that many of the Jewish Romanians and emigrated to Israel.

Yesterday and today, Baruch spoke at a congregation here which is focused on reaching the world for the L-rd.  They not only have their congregation, but they also have a ministry to the seamen who come to port and a school to prepare people for missions work.

We had the pleasure of touring their facilities for the sailors and it was wonderful.  They want to provide the sailors with a place to relax, study the Bible, use the internet and catch up on news and with family.

The students from the mission school attended Baruch’s teachings and I saw them taking a lot of notes.  Many came up to us to say how much they appreciated the teaching and we were also able to speak to the head of the school to make her aware of Baruch’s videos with Romanian subtitles.  She is very excited about using them.

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Baruch teaching and Florin translating, today at the service.

During this trip, we really saw a confirmation of prophecy.  The Jewish community which survived the Holocaust has mostly left Romania, with the majority going to Israel. We praise G-d for those who have returned to the land and pray for others to do likewise.

Shabbat Shalom! Two Parashiot

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Sheep walking along the highway in eastern Romania.

This week there are 2 parashiot:  Nitzavim and Vayelech.  Please find below a short commentary Baruch wrote on Parashat Nitzavim.

In this week’s Torah portion, the reader encounters an aspect of G-d that most people tend to ignore. What is this aspect? That the One True Living G-d will display vengeance at times!

“HaShem will not forgive him, for His anger and His zeal will smoke against that man and he will lay upon him all the curses in this book and will blot out his name under heavens.” Deuteronomy 29:9

When one reads the context for this verse he will learn that the outpouring of G-d’s vengeance will come upon all who do not obey the commandments of the Torah—perfectly! That means you and me. It always amazed me that the children of Israel did not cry out and say to G-d we will never be able to fulfill all the commandments of the Torah and therefore they look for another means to find favor with G-d.

A popular expression among one Hasidic sect is “We Want Messiah Now!” This short sentence expresses so very much. At the heart of the expression is a beseeching of G-d to do what Israel will never be able to do on her own—establish the kingdom of G-d. For this is the work of the Messiah. As unable as man is to bring about the kingdom, so are we unable to conquer of sinful nature and obey HaShem in total subjection. This is why Rav Shaul spoke of the necessity of becoming a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Within this verse is Rav Shaul’s favorite expression—“in Messiah”. These two words reflect a relationship that speaks to death and resurrection. This death is the outcome of G-d’s vengeance and the resurrection is the new life that is brought about through the redemptive work of Messiah. This new life is synonymous with what Rav Shaul was speaking about with the words, “a new creation”.

The point is that I, in my present condition, am without hope. It is only when I give up on my life and embrace by faith, the life of the Messiah (His personhood and work) that the very power of the resurrection causes me to become not just different, but someone new. This change and newness is also seen in this week’s prophetic reading from Isaiah. Here the prophet speaks of the change so powerful that the Jerusalem which was called “forsaken and desolate” will be transformed by redemption and be called “desired and ruled” (see Isaiah 62:1-12). Notice what this change reveals; that those who G-d desires He rules. One who is ruled over by G-d is blessed. It is a most desired position in which one can be. Someone who is a “new creation” has been created in a unique way so to be a ruled vessel of G-d. The problem is that all too often we want the benefits of being blessed by G-d, but we don’t want His L-rdship in our daily lives.

It is important that one see how Israel is the recipient of G-d’s redemption and love while Edom (see Isaiah chapter 63), who constantly wants to rebel against HaShem’s plans and purposes, receives the vengeance.  The vengeance does not just disappear, but Messiah can be the object of the vengeance and you and I can be the recipient of His redemptive love.

Arrived in Galati, Romania

Views of the synagogue in Galati, Romania.  The yellow building next to it is also owned by the synagogue, but we were unable to determine its use.  It looks like a building for the school, but we do not know its use today.

Today we drove to Galati, Romania.  It is hard to believe that in many of these towns and cities in Romania, the Jewish population at one time used to be anywhere from 25% – 50% of the total population!  Today, the cities have anywhere from 10 – 50 Jewish individuals remaining in most cases.

Before World War II, this community had 22 synagogues, a secondary school, two elementary schools for boys and one for girls, a kindergarten, a trade school, a hospital, an orphanage, an old-age home, and two mikvaot. In 1881–1919 Galati was the center of the Zionist movement in Romania.

The synagogue which remains today was totally renovated in 2013 and is beautiful and large on the outside (we were not able to go inside).  You can Google it to see pictures of the inside.

Here is a picture of one of the stained-glass windows.

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Tonight we are right by the Danube River, where several Jews were drown trying to escape the anti-Semitism in Galati.  It is very sobering.  Tomorrow we will visit the cemetery and then head down to Constanta, where Baruch will be teaching a Love Israel Conference.

We are traveling with another couple, Gavin and Karen, who are very knowledgeable about the Holocaust in Romania and we are so thankful to have them with us, for we have learned so much from them.

The Jews of Galati suffered from anti-Semitism and persecution well before the Holocaust. However, the vast majority of the Jews of Galati were not killed off like in most other Romanian cities. Although they were forced to endure many forms of anti-Semitism, most survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel. This is in no way to imply that Galati Jews were not murdered and tortured during this period, but not to the same extent of other Jewish communities.

Iasi, Romania

Today was a busy day.  We were able to visit 2 synagogues, the Jewish museum, the Jewish cemetery and some places which were monumental in the Iasi pogrom.  The Iasi pogrom was a series of pogroms launched by governmental forces under Ion Antonescu in Iasi against its Jewish population, resulting in the murder of at least 13,266 Jews.

During WW II, from 1940 to 1944, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany and embraced its anti-Semitic policies.  According to a report commissioned by and accepted by the Romanian Government, the participation in the pogrom was widespread.  It included Iasi police, SSI agents, and some Romanian residents as well.  Neighbors, students, etc., participated.

On June 29, 1941, the first thousand victims died outside the police station (below).

More than 13,000 Jews were murdered during nine days in the early summer of 1941 in Romania: in Iaşi (Jassy) and in two death trains. This pogrom is one of the most thoroughly visually documented events of the Holocaust in that members of the Romanian intelligence services photographed the continuing massacre that they themselves were coordinating.

Here is a monument to the victims of the Iasi Pogrom.

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Below is one of the synagogues still in use.  We were able to tour it and the museum next to it.

Below is the other synagogue (The Great Synagogue) which is currently closed for renovations.

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Finally, I wanted to share with you some pictures from the cemetery.  We were all amazed at the size of it.  It went on and on.

At the cemetery, there were 2 special monuments (pictured below); one for those killed in the 3 sadistic days’ torture where unspeakable atrocities were committed against the Jewish people. The second, for the discovery of a mass grave of 36 Jews: 15 men, 9 women and 12 children who were discovered in 2010 by a team of researchers from the Elie Wiesel National Institute. Their remains were found in the Vulturi forest, near Popricani township and brought to the Jewish Cemetery of Iasi.

“Looking for Synagogue, found Cemetery”

Tuesday, Birlad, Romania

Yesterday, we drove from Focsani to Birlad and then on to Iasi.  During the day, I was texting back and forth with one of my friends from Romania and she was asking me how it was going.  I texted her, “Looking for synagogue.”  Then “Found cemetery.”  She answered, “Well if that’s not the shortest summary of Jewish life here in Romania now, I don’t know what is!  Sad.”

We never did find the synagogue.  But here are some pictures from the cemetery.

Birlad is in the Moldavian region of Romania and very different from other Romanian cities we’ve visited.  It was not nearly as “modern” as cities such as Cluj and Bucharest.

Historically, Birlad had a thriving Jewish community, with eight synagogues a Jewish hospital and various Jewish schools leading up to the Holocaust.  There were also active Zionist groups. The Jewish population grew to as high as 5,883, but as of 2005, there were only 46 Jewish individuals.

 

Where are We?

Monday, Focsani, Romania

Yesterday, we arrived in Focsani, Romania.  We are traveling with another couple involved in ministry.  Our goal is to get a good grasp of the pre- and post-Holocaust Jewish communities in Romania.

When Elie Wiesel died last year, I was reading his obituary and discovered that he was Romanian.  I also learned about the Wiesel Commission.  Here, from Wikipedia, is the core of the findings:

International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, which was established by former President Ion Iliescu in October 2003 to research and create a report on the actual history of the Holocaust in Romania and make specific recommendations for educating the public on the issue. The Commission, which was led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel as well as Jean Ancel, released its report in late 2004. The Romanian government recognized the report’s findings and acknowledged the deliberate participation in the Holocaust by the World War II Romanian regime led by Ion Antonescu. The report assessed that between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were murdered or died under the supervision and as a result of the deliberate policies of Romanian civilian and military authorities. Over 11,000 Romani were also killed. The Wiesel Commission report also documented pervasive anti-Semitism and violence against Jews in Romania before World War II, when Romania’s Jewish population was among the largest in Europe.

This was a huge revelation, as the true history of the Holocaust in Romania had been suppressed during the communist period, and few Romanians were aware of the extent of involvement in the Holocaust by Antonescu and many others in the military, government, and broader society.

By studying the history of Focsani, we learned that there used to be 8 synagogues and 3 cemeteries.  In 1899, the Jewish community comprised 25% of the population.  As of 2004, there are 70 Jewish people in Focsani.

Only one of the synagogues remains and it is the one pictured above.  The cemeteries are now lost.  The tombstones from one of the cemeteries were placed engraving side down and used as steps for one of the churches!

Why is it important for us to know and see these places and events?  We are in Romania regularly to tape our television shows and also hold conferences.  It is important for us to know the people, their history, and the history of the Jewish Romanians who now live in Israel.

It is a very hard, sad history, but we are glad to know it and help to make sure it isn’t forgotten.

Later this week, Baruch will be teaching a conference in Constanta, Romania.