“Chanuka” by Marty Goetz

Happy Lord’s Day, my friends!  At times on Sunday I like to take us into Messianic worship of Yeshua (Jesus) our Lord.  Since we are in the midst of the joyful Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, let’s turn to a beloved Messianic Jewish worship leader, Marty Goetz, to take us to a different place today!

Listen as Marty explains Hanukkah (as only a Jew can!), then blesses us with the Hanukkah song.  (Be sure to listen to his explanation beforehand to understand the Christian meaning behind the song.)  Worship the Lord, dear friends, and may this song be your prayer!

Assembling the Outcasts: Ethiopian Jews Returning to Israel!

Image result for assemble the outcasts

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the remnant of dispersed outcasts who will be gathered from the four corners of the earth back to the land of Israel.  Over the years, droves of Russian and European Jews have made aliyah (return to the homeland), in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:12.

However, did you know that Jews from Ethiopia are returning as well?  In June, I wrote of a planeload that arrived in Israel, thanks in large part to the work and support of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Check out the jubilation here:

 

A few days ago I participated in a conference call with Nicole Yoder, Director of ICEJ Aid, who shared more about ICEJ’s part in bringing Ethiopian Jews home, and the challenges that must be overcome.

Consider this: Israel is a modern, high-tech society with a relatively high cost of living.  Ethiopia is one of the poorest third-world countries on earth, and most Ethiopians do not have the luxury of significant education.  They are often communal for the sake of survival.  Yet, when they enter Israel, they have no community (other than family members), they speak an entirely different language, they have no job skills commensurate with job opportunities in a new country, groceries and essential items are far beyond their ability to pay, and they find themselves in a culture almost diametrically opposed to what they know.

Thus, you get a sense of the challenges Ethiopian Jews face when they reach their homeland.  What is the answer to the dilemma?  In the US, we turn to government-funded welfare, but Israel has other ideas!

This is where caring organizations such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem come in.  On our conference call Wednesday, Nicole revealed the lengths that ICEJ goes to help assimilate new immigrants.  Not only do they finance airfare to bring many of them home, they also provide assistance in very practical ways once they arrive.  In the early days of an Ethiopian family’s time in Israel, ICEJ and other organizations provide essentials such as housing and household items, and food.

However, they also begin right away helping those families plug in to language-learning and cultural immersion programs (called “ulpan”) to help them assimilate.  Recognizing the human need to “connect,” they also provide opportunities for them to meet and develop relationships with other immigrants.  But one of the most impressive services they provide is a mentor who helps bridge the cultural gaps.  Mentors are trained Israeli social workers who visit at least weekly to help families learn to grocery shop, find a school for children (or adults in some cases), prepare for a job, and just carry out everyday functions of life.

We were told this is routinely be a 5-10 year process.  Wow…can you imagine!  But throughout it all, ICEJ is there to lend assistance and support.  Thankfully, not every group has hurdles as difficult as the Ethiopian Jews.  But consider the “less needy.”  Russian Jews are often well-educated and may have specialized skills such as physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc.  But just think…if you are a doctor, you and your patient must be able to understand the same language!  You must also be licensed to practice in your new land.  There are significant hurdles, even in the “less difficult” aliyah situations.

Often, when we hear about Jews returning to their homeland, we underestimate the commitment necessary for those making aliyah AND for the Israeli government and social services that must integrate them.  It is a monumental undertaking…yet God’s Word promises that He will draw His people back to their land!

As you consider year-end giving, why not partner financially with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)?  Aliyah is actually only a tiny part of what ICEJ Aid does, and ICEJ Aid is only one of many functions of ICEJ!  However, I hope this tiny bit of information has given you an appreciation for what they do.  I personally know some of the staff at ICEJ (both in Jerusalem and in the US) and can attest to the diligence and commitment they have to Israel and the Jewish people.  Your gift is well-invested in the Kingdom of God!

Contribute to ICEJ

(Where allowed, gifts are tax-deductible if directed through the branch in your country.)

Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth.
~Isaiah 43:6

May God richly bless you this Christmas season!

Dreidels, Latkes and Sufganiyot

Happy Hanukkah!  We’re now two days into celebration.  Time for the really fun stuff!  Hanukkah is characterized by the joyous traditions associated with it.  Remember, it is a joyous occasion…and Jews don’t need much prodding to have a good time!  So let’s explore a few traditions.

Womens Participation in Hanukkah

Traditionally, women play a major role in the celebration of Hanukkah.  In the Middle Ages, Hanukkah became almost sacred for women and they were typically granted a reprieve from housework following the evening lighting of the candles.  In fact, according to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, because women took part in the original miracle, they are to light the Hanukkah menorah each evening, proclaiming the miracle.

Dreidel

It is customary for Jewish children to play dreidel during Hanukkah.  They are given chocolate coins (called “gelt”) or some other form of chips to be played during the game.  A dreidel is a spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each of 4 sides.  Those letters make up an acronym which means “a great miracle happened there” (in Hebrew: “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” thus commemorating the Hanukkah miracle.  Here’s a short tutorial on how to play dreidel:

Latkes

What in the world is a latke?  Well, this Jewish festival features certain kinds of food, namely those made with oil.  Again, oil is a reminder of the miracle…one day’s supply of Image result for latkesolive oil, used for lighting the menorah, lasting 8 days!  So, it is only fitting that oily foods would be part of the celebration!

A latke is a potato cake fried in oil!  (Yum yum…my kind of treat!)  Latkes are served during Hanukkah as a reminder of the miracle of oil.  Latkes are fairly simple to make.  Here’s how to make the perfect latke for Hanukkah:

PS: the key to keeping them from falling apart is to be sure all the moisture is out of them before frying!

Sufganiyot

Image result for sufganiyotSufganiyot seem to be more popular in Israel than latkes are.  What are they, pray tell!?!  Sugar-covered jelly doughnuts!  Again, a fried food, made with oil to commemorate the miracle! Most of us in the US would just run to the nearest doughnut shop for our Hanukkah sufganiyot.  However, if you wish to make your own, or any number of other deliciously fried Hanukkah treats, check out these Recipes for Hanukkah!  (In Israel, really good sufganiyot are to die for!)

I hope you are enjoying this Hanukkah season!  To all my Jewish friends around the world: Happy Hanukkah!  To all my Christian friends, remember: “No Hanukkah, no Christmas!”  So thank a Jewish person for the enduring heritage and “Never say die” hardiness of the Jewish people.

PS: If you missed the previous posts regarding Hanukkah, you will find them here:

What do Hanukkah Blessings tell Us About Christ?

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying a little bit of Hanukkah as we join with our Jewish friends in celebrating the miracle that happened!  We’re in the midst of a series of posts about Hanukkah, so if you don’t know what that miracle was, please review:

We know that lighting the candles of the Hanukkah menorah is the focus of the celebration.  It happens each evening for 8 days, and in between placing the candles and lighting the candles, blessings are pronounced.

There are three blessings.  One is given only on the first night, but the other two are repeated each night.  As with most Hebrew blessings, they are typically sung, not said, so I’ll share those blessings in audio!  (Each is only about 30 seconds long and I’ve transcribed them in English below!)

Blessing #1:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing #2:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

Blessing #3 (given only on the first night):

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us
and enabled us to reach this season.

Beautiful, aren’t they!  But what are the “take aways” for a Christian?  We talked yesterday about Jesus being the Light of the world, which these blessings allude to. (See that discussion in yesterday’s post.)

Secondly though, I think it is significant that each Hanukkah blessing begins with praise to God, and acknowledgement of Him as Ruler of the universe!

Though Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist between Hanukkah and Christmas!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity timewise, light plays a significant part in each, both commemorate supernatural miracles, and many other similarities.  Not to mention the fact that Hanukkah celebrates the failed attempt to eliminate the Jews and their culture. No Hanukkah, no Christmas!

But back to the idea of Jesus being the Ruler of the universe, the Old Testament clearly prophesied of One who would come as a Ruler:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders.
~Isaiah 9:6a

And New Testament passages quoted and confirmed those prophesies:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

Jesus, of course, was the fulfillment of those prophecies!  Jews acknowledge the Ruler of the universe in their Hanukkah celebration, while Christians celebrate the birth of the Ruler of the universe in our Christmas celebration!

Jesus is also the fulfillment of these truths expressed in the blessings as well:

Hanukkah blessings are steeped in truth about our Lord.  How many more can you find?

Happy Hanukkah!