The month of December has a Jewish festival of lights called Hanukkah. Over the course of eight days, 43 lights are lit. A new light every day. This means that one light is lit on the first day and one more light is lit on each of the remaining days thereafter. The holiday commemorates a brutal and bloody war against Israel.
And just like with any war, you commemorate your loved ones and fellow citizens who have been murdered. You also celebrate the moment the war stopped. With mixed feelings of sadness and joy; and of uncertainty whether something like this would never happen again.
A brutal warlord, Antiochus IV, attacked Israel in 168 BCE. Thousands of Jews were murdered. Antiochus then issued a series of harsh decrees against the Jews. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were seized and burned. Shabbat rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were forbidden under penalty of death.
There was only one refuge left and that was the hills of Judea with their caves. Remember Zechariah 14. But even there the Syrians pursued the faithful Jews, and many Jews were martyred.
Mattithiah knew that Antiochus would be furious when he heard what had happened. He would certainly send an expedition to punish him and his followers. Mattityahu therefore left his village of Modiin and fled to the hills of Judea with his sons and friends. The famous story of Hannah and her seven sons took place at that time.
After his death, Judah the Strong One, a follower, became his successor and general of this Jewish army. He was called Makkabi, a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’elim Adonai, “Who is like You, O G-d.” The Maccabees won the war and traveled to Jerusalem to liberate it.
They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on Kislev 25, 164 BC. When they went to light the candlestick, a replacement for the stolen gold menorah, they found only a small jar of pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest Jochanan, sufficient for only one day.
By a miracle from G-d it continued to burn for eight days. That miracle proved that G-d had once again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, our sages established these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for the lighting of lights.
We like to follow our sages, especially in these times! Festival of Lights, but with death on our heels. The Eternal intervenes and ensures His victory: Am Israel Chai.
Go to: https://is.gd/Qp7FPV for the longer version.
Our September-October 2023 Blog
The month of September is richly filled with the feasts of the Eternal. These are Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and the beginning of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). The entire Bible focuses on the relationship between the Eternal and human beings. And that initiative comes from the Eternal. From the beginning there is a disturbed relationship. It was created by a crisis between Adam the man and his wife, Adam the woman, the Chava. Both are Adam: men and women (Genesis 1:27). They were going to blame someone else for a mistake they made themselves.
That is still a common trick that drives people apart. Even the Eternal Himself was reproached for failing the Chava, the partner Adonai had given to the Adam man. But mutual misunderstandings are also a cause of disturbed listening, which can lead to disturbed contact. If we don’t have a perfect system of communication between humans, how can we trust that we can hear Adonai’s voice properly and undisturbed? The shofar, trumpet, on Rosh Hashanah is intended, among other things, to blow our ears clean. The noise is also meant to throw you off balance. Spiritual growth can only take place when the status quo is disrupted.
When you clean your mouth and teeth by brushing your teeth, you are actually disrupting the bacteria that were just comfortably settling in and multiplying. That has to be done regularly. For example, we often need to be disturbed in our peaceful comfort, physically and mentally, to avoid sour muscles and ingrained religious beliefs. The endangered relationship between people and between people and their Creator regularly stalls, fades, loses its liveliness and inspiration. Anyone who does not see this happening is at great risk. And how can we be helped to keep our eyes open for it? By going through the Day of Atonement.
We’ve grown apart. We love and like each other less. We need reconciliation. After that unpleasant refresher, complete with not eating food and not drinking water and other liquids, we’re somewhat sobered up. Fasting is also intended to provide a fresh break in our digestive system. That disruption is necessary to experience on that physical level that we have to detach ourselves from the earth. So does the mikveh. Also detach from our own stupidities. And then we look for the tabernacle, as we lived in the camp of Sukkot, when we had just fled from Egypt. Experience the exodus again. But now with new insights and freshly disrupted certainties. Then we can grow together again. Good and sweet.
Rosh Hashanah: Celebration of your creation!
!שנה טובה ומתוקה
Shana tova umetukah!
A good and sweet year for 5784!
Our Summer Blog: filling holes!
Vacation time! The word vacation has to do with the words vacuum and vacancy, which leads to this short study! Vacuum: an air and material empty space. That seems ideal, because a sterile room seems like a clean room. But a vacuum is constantly looking for filling.
Looks a bit like the water level in the Netherlands. Constantly pumping has to be done in the lower parts to ensure that no water flows over our land. That never ends. Something similar happens in a person who wants to get rid of his or her old way of life and old nature and behaviour. You focus on removing your old habits. This creates a vacuum that threatens to fill up.
If we don’t very consciously fill every day with new behavior and new ways of reacting, then that vacuum will fill up with something else, which is often the old familiar. Anyone who realizes that a new attitude to life awaits us tries to abolish the old nature. But what’s new? We should put up some kind of advertisement, a vacancy, with a detailed description of exactly what we are looking for in terms of news.
We humans are the descendants of the first Adam, the first humans on earth. We are part of that line. Therefore the Hebrew name for a man is ben adam: in the line of Adam. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Adam is: 45. That number expresses that we are a being, moving from the sphere of 40 to the sphere of 50. We are on our way, hopefully.
The number 40, together with 4 and 400, is an expression of the earthly: the four wind directions (“corners”), the 40 years on the road from Egypt to the Land of Israel and 400 years of living in Egypt. Man is in that line of 40, from the earth. On the Feast of Weeks, which we reach after seven weeks, 49 days, the 50 dawns. Moses, who skillfully guided Israel away from the world of 40, must soon step down from his leadership.
Just before Israel enters the Promised Land, a new leader fills the vacancy. His name is: Joshua (Yehoshua), whose full name is: Yehoshua Ben Nun. That literally means: Joshua In The Line Of The 50. Because the Hebrew letter nun has numerical value 50. And “Ben” is more than son. The elaboration of the Feast of Weeks, 50 days after Pesach, has come within reach through Moshe.
But Moses, the ben adam of the 45 and of the world of 40, saw his task come to an end. The Eternal ended it. Moses had to make way. His successor was Yehoshua Ben Nun, the man in the line of 50. Both men deserve our great respect and our great thanks. Moses showed what a high level of spiritual insight and action he had. He heard the Eternal and he saw Him, he contradicted Him and accepted Gd’s answer. Moses was able to bend nature to his will, such as with his staff turning into a tannin, a snake, or perhaps a crocodile. And as with the ten blows (plagues) which were real miracles.
Joshua was a capable general and spiritual leader, having a unique upbringing (see Exodus 33:11). Under his leadership, Israel grew spiritually. As a result, the spies in the city of Jericho were able to bring spiritual insight to the later great-grandmother of the Messiah, Rachav. Namely, that the G-d of Israel is not only G-d in heaven, but also on earth (see Joshua 2:11). We exchange, with great respect for both leaders, the Ben Adam (Moshe, 40) for the Ben Nun (Joshua, 50). Whereby we realize that 50 is the product of 7 x 7 + 1, as 8 is the product of 7 + 1. Seven as the number of the earthly time measurement of 7 days and eight – and also 50 – the number of extra-terrestrial, heavenly.
Back to the vacuum. If you begin to discover in your soul an empty space, a missing relationship with your creator, not only for the first time, but after your faith has begun to sag, look for the voice and presence of the Eternal. He is not only in heaven, but also on earth. He can give that emptiness, that vacuum, the filling you really need. He wants us to change: from being Ben Adam to Ben Nun. He can fill your vacuum and quench your thirst with the water of life, evaporating that thirst and unrest and unfulfilment. You have been busy in your life with various kinds of interpretation.
But hopefully your earthly, mortal mind and consciousness, bounded by the 4, 40, and 400, is beginning to crave spiritual fulfilment. You become a Ben Nun, a man or woman in the line of 50. And you begin to drink of the water of life. As Yeshua puts it: Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. For the water I give becomes a spring of water producing eternal life. Then your search is over. Then you possess the weekly desired peace. Then you come home.
Enjoy the summer!
Our May 2023 blog
Around the sunset of May 25, at 9:25 PM, Erev Shavuot, the beginning of the Feast of Weeks, begins. We are then counted out, after 49 days of counting Omer. Counted seven weeks, Pesach started on the second day, so Pesach and Feast of Weeks are connected. It seems that we can appreciate and spiritually appreciate the Torah even better after going through the misery and suffering of our Passover exodus in a profound way.
Not suffering through your own wrong choices, but above all undeserved suffering. Because the Bible was written from there. Each author in it has contributed from his or her experience, in times of tension, persecution and self-inflicted suffering. Perhaps the Counting of the Omer is, among other things, dedicated in that light in Leviticus 23, verses 15 and 16. Namely: facing a different aspect of pain, bitterness and disappointment every day and trying to let that go.
The time between Pesach and the Feast of Weeks can be compared to a rocket that is going to make a space trip and must first try to free itself from the earth’s gravity. Israel was then a people who lived in slavery. That will stick to you and strangely difficult to untie. Celebrating Passover is working out your own disconnection and liberation, learning to see through your own grip and excuses. Such as turning perpetrator and victim around, or listing physical complaints.
Liberation is then: no longer turning the blame around and no longer coming up with your medical story or something like that. Passover is the festival when Israel moved horizontally to flee the realm of bondage and attraction. Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is the festival of vertical movement. Gathering treasures in heaven, against gravity, prepared therein by Pesach.
The more you know how to let go, the higher you rise with Shavuot. Israel was so capable of that. Everyone said in unison, i.e. the same words at the same time: He [Moses] took the scroll of the covenant and read it to the audience. And they said, All that Adonai hath spoken we will do, and to it we will hearken (Exodus 24:7).
In the same unanimous manner as just before, see Ex.19:8. That unanimity was possible because Israel was detaching herself from the earthly pull and thus from all the tricks that had become second nature. On the evening of May 25, we counted 49 days. Like the countdown on a rocket launch. Are you ready to start your space journey?
!נסיעה טובה וחג שבועות שמח
Have a safe journey and happy Feast of Weeks,
Our April 2023 blog
The month of April of this year 2023, also 5783, has two special events. One is the Pesach Seder, on the night when Nisan 14 turns into Nisan 15. This year it is on April 5. The second is the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, on Iyar 5, Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, on April 26.
Israel’s 75th anniversary is a direct confirmation of the Pesach Seder. The deliverance from Egypt was not an isolated act directed by Adonai. This included the calling of Moses, the preparations at the Egyptian court invisible to us, the willingness of the people to travel along and not to drop out along the way.
Also the choice of landing place for Adonai on Mount Sinai to meet Moses and the taking and displaying of all Temple tools. This included the growth in ingenuity of Israel to recreate the unique meeting of Adonai and Israel through the services in the Tent and the Temples; and, after the destruction of the Second Temple, in the synagogues.
For the latter, the once scattered altar religion had to be centralized in the Temples. And from the year 70 of the common era spread and decentralized again. Because that is how Israel could hold her services anywhere in the world, including Beth Yeshua Amsterdam. And 75 years ago, Israel was able to celebrate her precious Independence.
Everything depended and still depends on the involvement and persistence of the participants in all these eras. So from around 3500 BC until now! The call to be there yourself also relates to this: “when I went out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8). It is not only about the cozy and liberating experience of a Seder, but also about giving your involvement a new impulse.
It is not only about that liberation from the past, but also about your own liberation now. And it is not only about your own liberation, but also about that of your brothers and sisters in your congregation, your fellow believers. Pesach gives you insight into the causes of lingering in your personal old affairs for far too long.
And gives you insight into the experience of the then leaders in training who celebrated Pesach together with Yeshua, in order to share that experience. You come to know your own rebelliousness and your resistance to face the facts, just as Israel learned at the time. Again, Israel’s 75th anniversary is a direct confirmation of the Passover Seder.
חג פסח כשר ושמח!
Happy and Kosher Pesach!
Our March 2023 blog
Purim is the celebration of Jewish victory over a mass terrorist extermination attempt. This drama took place in Persia, during the reign of Achashverosh (Ahasuerus, that is, King Xerxes) and his Jewish wife Hasdassa who called herself Esther to hide her Jewish identity. The events we encounter in the Scroll of Esther took place between the years 483 and 473 BCE. After the Babylonian exile in 539 B.C.E. permission was given to Ezra by the then king of Persia, Cyrus or Cyrus, to travel to Jerusalem and restore the Temple and the city.
But a significant number of Jews continued to live in Persia for more than a hundred years, including Mordecai and Esther. Why we still celebrate this is partly because of the biblical command to do so. In the Scroll of Esther it says: “Mordecai wrote these events. He has sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, in all the regions of the empire of the Persian king Achashverosh. In it he obliges them to observe annually both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of the month of Adar, because these were the days when the Jews were given rest from their enemies; and because this was the month which turned for them from sorrow into joy, and from mourning into a festival day” (Esther 9:20-22).
It was decreed that this should be remembered and celebrated literally every year: “The Jews have decreed and made a statute for themselves and for their descendants and for all who should join them, that they, without ever omitting these two days, should celebrate annually, as it was written to them” (verse 27). That attack is not an isolated incident, given the fact that this type of terrorism is still taking place. Young children are taught early on in being combative, for example read this article: https://is.gd/vRo8OJ.
The topic is current. At that time in Persia, a high-ranking minister named Haman gave this order. Haman was a descendant of King Agag, then king of the Amalekites, see 1 Samuel 15:20, 33. Haman had a religious vocation to destroy Israel; his name could in fact be a priestly title. Haman’s opponent was Mordecai, family of Esther. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. Hadassah, later Esther, was the daughter of Mordecai’s uncle.
Mordecai gathered secret intelligence, which enabled him to learn what Haman, who deceived the king, really intended. Among other things, what Mordecai discovered was the date on which the mass attack on the Jews would take place. It was determined by lot, in Hebrew: pur, plural: purim. That was the way Haman worked. Thus the battle became a spiritual war between the god or gods of Haman and the G-d of Israel of Mordecai and Esther.
Hence Mordecai’s remark to Esther: “For if you remain silent at this time, salvation and deliverance will come to the Jews from another side. But you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows if you have not obtained the royal dignity precisely in view of this time” (Esther 4:14). Compare the ruthless casting of lots by cruel Haman with the fragile and noble method of Mordecai, who has an eye for the hand of the Eternal who uses times and opportunities.
King Achashverosh gained insight into the wickedness of Haman and his assassination plans just in time. He could not stop those plans, because Haman had issued a law of the Medes and Persians. They couldn’t be canceled. But the king gave the Jews the opportunity to defend themselves. A total of at least seventy-five thousand men charged at the Jewish population. And just like the Ukrainian population that in our time knows how to defend itself valiantly against the power-hungry Vladimir Putin and his rival Yevgeni Prigozhin, the Jewish population has defended itself.
Result: seventy-five thousand anti-Semites lost their lives in old Persia, with help from the “other side” also being called for. Just like the unexpected help from the Western countries for the Russians, which Putin had calculated would keep them divided and aloof. The royal family of Achashverosh (Xerxes I) and Esther had a son. They gave him the name of his grandfather, Darius; thus became Darius II, a king with a Jewish mother.
And we, what do we learn from this history, after we’ve been partying again? That we also learn to get an eye for the other side. That we keep our eyes open for religions that have achieved their goals with weapons and crusades. And that we will understand Hadassa who, fearing dictatorships that would ignore vulnerable minorities, had effectively adapted her name to her environment by calling herself Esther. Even the Eternal had hidden himself in this dramatic story. Concealed and invisible, but actively involved.