Friday, February 10, 2017

Thornes



“…cursed is the ground because of you;  in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Bereishit/ Genesis 3:17b-19


I remember the first time I heard the words of the Torah mentioned above. I was just a kid that couldn’t sit still to save her life but all of a sudden I heard them loud and clear. Not from some angel or special revelation as one might suspect, but through an old man than was reading these verses in the most monotone voice you can ever imagine. Still, I heard them. And I remember thinking “Why curse the ground? The ground did nothing wrong…” It all sounded like a break-up, so … final. 

When I grew up and starting following after Adonai, I tried to understand it for the longest time. One might say, ‘It’s plain as the day is long what these verses mean, what didn’t you get?’ My dear all-knowing reader, I think you’re expecting a more academic explanation than ‘because I’m slow’, but that’s all I can tell you. 

In Hebrew thought there are 4 ways of interpreting the meaning of a text. Pshat (surface, simple, plain, direct meaning), Remez (hints, hidden, or symbolic, beyond the literal meaning), Derash (inquire, seek – finding similar occurrences) and Sod (secret – mystical meaning given through revelation).
 
While I did get the Pshat, I wanted to know what it meant deeper than that, and more importantly what it meant for me. I don’t claim to have found some secret meaning, but I will share some thoughts.


‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Bereishit/ Genesis 1:27

Adam had the ability to know HaShem’s heart because he was made in God’s image. But Adam was created from the ground. When Adam broke Adonai’s heart, Adonai could have killed him right then and there, but instead He cursed the ground.
Adam was Adonai’s ground. He worked it and cared for it and instead of bearing good fruit that lump of earth, whom HaShem loved, gave thorns. So HaShem basically told him, ‘You know what Adam? From now on you get to feel My pain. You get to see what it’s like to work on something and give it everything it needs and still be torn when instead of rewarding your labor it will give you nothing.”

And man carried on living. And history went on. And Adonai then chose a nation out of faithfulness to Avraham and Adonai gave them a land. And that land was blessed and beautiful and if you don’t believe me go visit Israel in spring, it will melt your heart with its beauty. 

But according to the covenant HaShem made with Israel, if they were obedient and followed in His ways, the land would be prosperous, but if the people strayed from HaShem’s ways, then living there would be agony. And you can read it time and time again throughout the Scriptures how the nation of Israel struggled when they turned away from God. The very ground was mimicking them. Acting just like them. They got to work it and see no reward. 

There is a prophecy in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 49 about Mashiach. In verse 4 Mashiach says “I have toiled in vain…” 
 
Yeshua is HaMashiach. Jesus is The Christ. The Anointed One. He came as a promise to make a way back to HaShem, He is The Way back to HaShem. 

He is Adonai’s beloved Son in whom He is well pleased, yet Adonai treated Him like He should have treated Adam. He allowed Yeshua to work on people’s hearts as if it was soil, and at the end of all His labor, they gave him thorns… literally. And as the Second Adam, He took the punishment for all mankind. At the cross He ended it all. He made peace between us and Adonai once more. And when He fulfilled His plan, Yeshua declared “It is finished!” – No more Him working and getting no reward. Because all those that believe in Him, are a new creation. A new type of ground. One that is not bound to give back thorns and thistles but bare good fruits. And those that believe in Him are known according to their fruits. Every time you bring forth fruit, He sees the reward of His labor. 


Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה



Monday, January 23, 2017

Here I am

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my favorite author is Jonathan Safran Foer. He's no theologian by any means, but I like his writing style and more often than not, his insights. I will post another passage of his book 'Here I am', because I find it inspiring:

"God’s test of Abraham is written like this: “Sometime later, God tested Abraham. He said to him,‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ Abraham replied.” Most people assume that the test is what follows: God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But I think it could also be read that the test was when He called to him. Abraham didn’t say, “What do you want?” He didn’t say, “Yes?” He answered with a statement: “Here I am.” Whatever God needs or wants, Abraham is wholly present for Him, without conditions or reservations or need for explanation. 
That word, hineni—here I am—comes up two other times in the portion. When Abraham is taking Isaac up Mount Moriah, Isaac becomes aware of what they are doing, and how (crazy) it is. He knows that he is about to be the sacrifice, in the way that all kids always do when it’s about to happen. It says:
 “And Isaac said to Abraham, his father, ‘My father!’ and he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ And Isaac said, ‘Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘God will see to the sheep for the offering, my son.’”
 Isaac doesn’t say, “Father,” he says, “My father.” Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, but he is also Isaac’s father, his personal father. And Abraham doesn’t ask, “What do you want?” He says, “Here I am.” When God asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for God. When Isaac asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for his son. But how can that be possible? God is asking Abraham to kill Isaac, and Isaac is asking his father to protect him.
How can Abraham be two directly opposing things at once? Hineni (Here I am) is used one more time in the story, at the most dramatic moment. “And they came to the place that God had said to him, and Abraham built there an altar and laid out the wood and bound Isaac, his son, and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham reached out his hand and took the cleaver to his son. And the Lord’s messenger called out to him from the heavens, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do nothing to him,
for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from me.’” - Jonathan Safran Foer - Here I am

 In Hebrew to say I am here you would say Ani po. The difference between hineni and ani po is like the difference in English between I'm here and Here I am.
One would express location while the other the availability. To say hineni to Adonai, is to say you're there for Him. Regardless of what He'll ask or promise, fully aware that there's a possibility that He'll ask the impossible of you.
We all want and crave that close relationship with Adonai, but I wonder if we realize what that entails. That it might just mean to be split right down the middle for a long time or in some cases for the rest of your life. To be put in a position like Abraham offering his God and his son what could not be offered to both: “Here I am.”
To be close to Him is more than an awesome feeling of intimacy you get while you sing to Him and pray or meditate upon His word. It's to be there for Him.
When I was younger I thought 'Ask me anything my King, anything... I'm here for You!' But then He asked and I resented Him for it. I am fickle like that... I was too proud and thought my love was real, but it was untested. And I failed Him. Many times. I got to a point where I thought, 'Can't You ask something normal of me, like more money, or to read more, fast more, pray more, learn more. Must You always ask for what I cannot give? Send me to die for You and I will... must You ask for the impossible?' I have learned just how the rich young ruler felt when he approached Yeshua (Matt. 19:16-22). I was so sure I have done it all. That He can ask me for anything and it would be His. But  He asked for that one thing that I treasured most.
The rich young ruler went away sorrowful for he had great possessions. We all do. We all have things that are dear to us. So dear in fact that we're there for them like Abraham was there for his son. And then you're asked to give it all up. You're asked to be there for Him more than you're there for whatever you treasure most. And you have a choice. To be like the rich young ruler and leave or to be like Abraham that said to Adonai, hineni and told his beloved son hineni , and in his mind and heart one didn't nullify the other, but in the end he chose to be there for Adonai even as he held that knife to his son's throat.
It might sound unfair that He gets to ask these things.
Relax, I'm not saying that God asks the impossible out of everyone. All I'm saying is that if He calls out to you and you feel like you can tell Him, Here I am, then know He has the right to test your words. And He will. But you know what? When the test is over and you can still say Here I am, you'll hear Him say in turn I AM here for you.
The test is not easy on Him either. He risks everything when He asks you for that treasured thing. He runs the risk of losing you if you turn out to be like the rich young ruler. But maybe, just maybe, if you turn out to be like Abraham... then it's worth it.
Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cover your brother's nakedness



And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard.  Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.
 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.  But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. - Bereishit / Genesis 9:20-23


There are many believers that act like Ham, meaning they see a flaw in another and they’re so stricken with that, that they feel the need to share it with everybody else, devaluing and shrinking that person in the eyes of the others.
Noah was someone that Adonai has chosen and his sons knew that, they have seen Adonai working through Noah. But that didn’t make Noah super-human, he was still a simple man with fleshly flaws. And Ham sees his flaws and he despises his father as if that flaw is all what Noah is. He goes so far as to share the information with his brothers. And he got cursed because of the way he chose to view his father.
Adonai doesn’t use perfect people, because there is none that is perfect. Following that logic, you can’t just overlook all the good things that Adonai has invested in someone just because you have a keen eye for their shortcomings and failures. Adonai doesn’t do that with you so you have no right to do it with your brothers either, regardless how condemnable their imperfections might seem. 

For those that love to think in absolutes, please understand that I am not referring to sin, so don’t bother to bring up all the scriptures that speak about how one is to rebuke a brother. Thanks.

To me, people that come up to tell me ‘did you hear what that Pastor/leader said? Have you heard what that Rabi did?’ are just as cursed as Ham.
When Ham told his brothers about their father’s nakedness, Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father.
When a ‘concerned’ brother comes to tell you about another brother’s nakedness in order to expose his flaws, try to not look at them and try to cover him so others don’t see his shame. You already know that man is not perfect, it’s not necessary for you to contemplate his imperfection. Focus to see Yeshua in him and that will help you to stop despising whatever it is that has left him naked in the eyes of others. And his King and yours will see your heart and bless you even more than Noah blessed Shem and Japheth. 
Just saying...
 

Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה



Friday, January 6, 2017

Love is struggle

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favorite authors. I love his writing and the way he views life and love and everything in between. I would not recommend him to Christians because ... well...he's too Jewish (LOL) and tends to be either too blunt or unedited in his views, but like I said I like him.

In his book 'Here I am' I found a passage that I will share here simply because it's brilliant:

"Max’s portion was Vayishlach, in which Jacob—the last of the patriarchs—is assaulted by an unknown assailant in the middle of the night. Jacob wrestles him down and refuses to let go, demanding a blessing of him. The assailant—an angel, or God himself—asks, “What is your name?” As Jacob holds on to the man with all his strength, he answers, “Jacob.” (Jacob means “heel-grabber”—he grabbed the heel of his older brother, Esau, as he was being born, wanting to be the first out.) Then the angel says, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel—which means ‘wrestles God.’”
(......) “Jacob wrestled with God for the blessing. He wrestled with Esau for the blessing. He wrestled with Isaac for the blessing, with Laban for the blessing, and in each case he eventually prevailed. He wrestled because he recognized that the blessings were worth the struggle. He knew that you only get to keep what you refuse to let go of.
“Israel, the historical Jewish homeland, literally means ‘wrestles God.’ Not ‘praises God,’ or
‘reveres God,’ or ‘loves God,’ not even ‘obeys God.’ In fact, it is the opposite of ‘obeys God.’ Wrestling is not only our condition, it is our identity, our name.”
(....)
“But what is wrestling?”
(....)
“There is Greco-Roman wrestling, WWF wrestling, arm wrestling, sumo wrestling, lucha libre
wrestling, wrestling with ideas, wrestling with faith … They all have one thing in common: closeness.”
(....)
“You only get to keep what you refuse to let go of,”(....)
(.....)
“Closeness,” he said, surveying the congregation. “It’s easy to be close, but almost impossible to stay close. Think about friends. Think about hobbies. Even ideas. They’re close to us—sometimes so close we think they are part of us—and then, at some point, they aren’t close anymore. They go away.
Only one thing can keep something close over time: holding it there. Grappling with it. Wrestling it to the ground, as Jacob did with the angel, and refusing to let go. What we don’t wrestle we let go of. Love isn’t the absence of struggle. Love is struggle.”
- Here I am, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tzal Shadai (Shadow of The Almighty)



He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Tehillim / Psalms 91

Back in Romania, I have a quote on one of the walls and it says in big glitter letters, ‘You were not born to fit in, you were born to stand out.’ I don’t know who said that but I love it, mainly because I have always felt like I stand out like a sore thumb and one day I have decided to embrace my weirdness and have taken those words to heart, glitter letters and all. That wasn’t the only quote I have embraced. I had things like ‘why be normal when you can be extraordinary?’ down to a mantra. Positivity and motivation does wonders for the brain doesn’t it? 

You can’t ever have too much positivity, can you? I use to think so, but then I met people. The kind that don’t know much about the Bible but they do know by heart all the verses that proclaim them conquerors and God forbid that you should feel down in their presence because they will teach you the ‘right path’ in 2 minutes. I use to envy those people… in a way I still do but mostly I am afraid to even dare to think of being anything but positive when I’m around them … You just don’t mess with their faith and their theology. God wants good things for you so you better do whatever you need to do in your mind to get it right!

It’s really easy when everything in one’s mind is either black or white and every possible conclusion that they reach is an absolute. The problem comes when they encounter a paradox, a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. There are many such paradoxes in HaShem and His reality. He’s both Lion and Lamb, fire and water, Judge and Savior, etc. 

One of my favorite such paradoxes is the fact that He promises unmeasurable things to one who will abide in His shadow. One may assume we all are by default in His shadow, but no. Some are in the light, very much so in fact. It doesn’t say that those that are in the light are not blessed, but there is a special blessing and a special promise for those that abide in His shadow. The entire Psalm 91 is a blessing for those who abide in His shadow. And I am not talking about shy people, or introverts, or those working behind the scene for a conference, or are part of the staff for who knows what evangelist. I will explain in a minute what I mean by shadow, but before that, I’ll focus on the word abide.
 Now, English is not my first language and I thought abide meant something like dwell or lodge, so I double checked just to make sure (I’m not a nerd), and it turns out it means to withstand, endure without yielding, bare patiently, to accept without objection, to remain stable or fixed in a state.  His shadow is not pleasant. His shadow is not a place of praise and worship and deep study in a hidden place. His shadow is endured not enjoyed. 

You see, due to sin, our reality has been distorted so not everything that appears Light is Light, and not everything that appears dark is in fact dark. Sometimes hasatan (the enemy) appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and sometimes Adonai, blessed be His Name forever, appears like the enemy. Sometimes the least painful road is not the best and the least bitter medicine is not the cure. 

Often the word ‘tzal’ (shadow) appears in the Scriptures as a symbol of death, like in Psalm 23 when it talks about tzal mavet (shadow of death). The human mind cannot understand how is it even possible for The Father of lights in whom there is no shadow (James 1:17), no darkness, to not only cast a shadow but for one to abide in it. 

Regardless what some might think, faith is tested. And I know that those that enjoy Adonai’s light, feel blessed when they look at other believers struggling with doubts in shadows. They assume those who are in shadows are in sin… for surely they did something wrong that attracted whatever calamity they are facing. If you’re one of those fortunate to be in the light, be grateful because it’s just His grace shining His light upon you. And on behalf of all those that have ever been in His shadow, do us all a favor and SHUT UP. You're about as useful as Yov's friends.

To preserve one’s faith in oneself, in God, and in mankind during the bleakest of moments is terribly challenging, and we cannot judge those who feel it impossible to do so. But when everything is taken away from us – that, ironically, is when hope is needed most. That is when you need to squeeze your eyes shut and go by faith and not by sight. I know it is scary and the more you look at things or even at Adonai, the more distorted everything is, so close your eyes. 
Yeshua said that His sheep know His voice and don’t follow a stranger for they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:4-5). Believe you’ll recognize His voice and keep going. Ignore those that tell you this is punishment. It’s not. It’s Hashem trusting you that you love Him enough that even if you can’t see His Light; even if all you see is shadow and every instinct tells you to run, you will abide in Him. That yes, you love His beauty, but if you’ll see only His shadow, you’ll love Him through it. For better or for worse. Not everybody gets to see His shadow. Giants of righteousness fell when they were faced with His shadow. It’s bone crushing, soul tearing, mind numbing pain… If you’re faced with His shadow it will either make you or break you. Like the Angel fighting Yaakov. He’ll act like your enemy… or so you’ll think and you’ll end up as confused as Yov (Job) asking over and over again ‘what did I do wrong? Why are you treating me like this?’

These are not nice words you read in a Psalm because it promises a lot of great things. All those words are true. But only for those that not only endure His shadow but at the end of it they say “Here I stand Adonai! I am scared. I want to run because you seem like my enemy right now and I really don’t want to fight You. But I will, because You’re mine! Just as much as I am Yours , You are mine! And I will fight You if I must. Like Yaakov… Because even though I know I am no match for You, I trust You! You will not kill me! I don’t care that Your shadow scares me out of my mind… I trust You! You are my refuge! I trust You, do you hear me? So do whatever You need to do and I will do what I must and by the end of this, if I am still breathing, You don’t get to leave until you bless me!’

And I'll tell you what, if you live to tell the tale then I guarantee you will make history.


Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה