Thursday, December 20, 2012

You the Gardener

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21).  

What are these wicked works that come from the mind of man, and from where do they originate?  Yeshua said that they come from the heart of a man: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23). 

As we know, when Adam was created the evil nature was not part of his inner being. Furthermore, Man was created in the image and likeness of the Creator and along with the rest of creation, was pronounced to be “very good”(Genesis 1:31)  All this occurred before Elohim planted the garden in which He placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (as well as the Tree of Life). Had that not been the case, we would have had to ask: How could He have declared anything that was evil to be “very good”?

YHVH ordered Adam not to eat of the deadly fruit of that tree.  Adam and Eve, of course, disobeyed the Almighty’s first commandment and suffered the consequences, as did all of their progeny.  The deception that led to their rebellion was in the form of a very simple question: “Did Elohim say…?”  Satan planted a seed called “doubt,” followed by a punch line: “For Elohim knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 emphasis added).  The great deception was countering the fact that Adam and Eve were already in the image and likeness of Elohim; they did not have to become “like” Him.  Satan’s small lie mushroomed into gigantic results, and Man began to take on the image and likeness of another spiritual entity.  Man’s heart/spirit became joined to the spirit realm of darkness and came under the dominion of Satan’s rule and authority. The human mind now kowtowed to Satan’s thoughts. Thus, we all were “once alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works.”  I’m sure that by now you are saying “I already know this and that is why our minds have to be renewed, “and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of  your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Elohim” (Romans 12:2).  But how do we do that?

 Recently I watched a DVD on the anatomy of the brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  That DVD is more than just a teaching on the physiology of the brain, it is also about the way that thoughts and emotions influence the brain and build memory.  Within the largest part of our brain, called the cerebrum, are millions of little dendrite trees.  These trees grow through a process of protein synthesis, and basically are develop and fed by every thought, every emotion, and every experience throughout life.  It is, in fact, a “garden” filled with trees.  In unregenerate man, whose nature is still tied to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from which he is fed, the cerebrum is thus made up of trees whose roots are connected to the original tree that YHVH said not to eat of.  Hence there are trees that look “good” having grown up from positive thoughts, feelings and experiences. But there are also trees that have been cultivated by bad or evil thoughts, feelings and experiences and they too come to ‘fruition’ in situations and relationships.

We, who have been redeemed by the life/blood of Yeshua, and through His death died to sin and have been reconciled to Elohim, have a new life in our innermost being (heart or spirit).  Now through this new creation life we are able to raise up trees of righteousness from the root of the Tree of Life.   The more we experience the Word of Elohim in thought, word and deed, the more we stop feeding the old trees of “good and evil” which then begin to wither and die. We, like Adam in the beginning, are assigned to tend the garden and are given another opportunity, under the guidance of the Spirit of Holiness, to grow and nurture new protein trees in the garden of our natural mind and brain.

In an exhortation to Egypt YHVH asks this question:  “To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness?” (Ezekiel 31:18).  Perhaps we can apply this query to ourselves: Which tree will we be likened to in glory and greatness, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or the Tree of Life? Let us not be deceived by the temptation to doubt YHVH’s Word, and lust after the lushness that may be produced by the “forbidden tree.”

Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before YHVH. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth” (Psalm 96:12-13).


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zalman's Dilemma

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

Last Friday we presented you with a description of a condition endemic to Judah, and also pointed out a biblical pattern that could be relevant to our day and age, by which Judah is ‘led’ to his place in YHVH’s redemption plan. This week, we would like to share something from Judah’s point of view, revealing a certain awakening that is taking place here in the land. Very often in the Israeli “scene,” certain popular lyricists and musicians become the voice of the nation, or of the “nation’s soul”, reflecting not only a “mood”, but also deeper realities of soul, spirit and longing. Such was, for example, Naomi Shemer, the writer and composer of Jerusalem of Gold (and many more very meaningful songs), as were several others who have passed away in recent years.

Last month we attended the opening event of a “Jewish festival” in the neighboring town of Kfar Sabah. The festival touched on Jewish themes, but was not centered necessarily on religion, which is what made it interesting and diverse. The opening was in a form of a musical performance by three musicians. One of those was popular songwriter and performer Kobi Oz. 
Kobi Oz often presents daily issues (dilemmas, social conditions and more) that mark our lives, and does so in his unique style. In spite of the serious subject matters, his songs are usually humorous, bordering on satire, the music is rhythmic and energetic while his stage personality is quite ‘mischievous’. He likes to perform in ‘clown fashion’ reminiscent, for example, of the clowns in the Shakespearean plays whose jesting is the means by which the truth is exposed in contrast to the other more serious but frequently blinded characters. Kobi is perhaps also the proverbial child who cries out, “the king is naked.” In the said event, among several other very powerful songs that he brought to the stage, there was one which was quite revealing as to a certain awakening that is happening at the moment among the people of “Judah”, an awakening that is mostly free of “rabbinicism” and in which there is a yearning for a purer truth. Whereas most are not necessarily alert and conscious of this undercurrent, those who are sensitive, like Kobi Oz, pick it up and bring it to the fore.

The song addresses a character by the name of Zalman (a derivative or version of Shlomo – Solomon – in several languages), a name that is associated with “nerd-ism,” if you will, but here the character is the ultimate “Everyman.” Kobi, in his typical way, had to weave in some humor and does so by the usage of this name. The lyrics are in every day speech, making use of some slang. While the translation is far from perfect, it is an attempt to “clue you in” to your brother’s heart.

Zalman That Ain’t You

Wondering in the world, not free of confusion,
Zalman asked himself, “who am I and what’s the conclusion?”
 “I am a farmer; I own lots of land,
I manage it all, without a lending hand.
I grow fruits and veggies and am in charge over all -
I cultivate, I water and am in full control.
Then a voice spoke to Zalman and said:
“That ain’t you Zalman. The “shemita” year is here
Without your work the fields are a-blooming, have no fear.”  
 You are not your land,
You are simply Zalman, and that’s where it’s at.

Zalman called around, here and there
Saying to himself: “Time is at my command,
All I have to do is pick up the phone
And every thing lines up, without a bone.
Reputation, career, shares and stocks
All’s ticking for me around the clock
Nothing will take me by surprise,
I am good and ready for any event 
But, oops… a voice suddenly was heard:
“It is not you Zalman
Behold Shabbat is coming to the world!
Time for you to take your rest,
As one of those who recite their prayers.”
You are not your status
Neither are you your land,
You are simply Zalman and that’s where it’s at!

Zalman took a good look at his virtuous wife
As if to protect her, together they had a very good life.
“I’ve been her husband for many years,
And we are still two peas in a pod
Our family is indeed something to behold!
Yes, she is a trooper, true and fair     
And who am I? I am her husband, sir!”  
A voice was then heard which said:
“Zalman that ain’t you!
You are greatly mistaken
If you think that she is by you taken
Your wife, she keeps nida
You are not her owner now
You are not her master
Nor are you your status or your land,
You are simply Zalman and that’s where it’s at!

Zalman lay in his lazyboy
Looking outside the window
He was filled with joy:
“My home is my castle
Where I am free of hassle”
Again that voice spoke quite loud:
Zalman that ain’t you, and don’t you be so proud!
Go outside and at the succah take a look
Don’t let your riches grab you with a hook.
The twinkling stars gazing from the sky
 Into the succah, should remind you Who reigns on high.
You are not your home,
Your wife you do not own
Neither are you your status, or your land,
You are simply Zalman, and that’s where it’s at! 

At his father’s bedside Zalman did ask,
“How can I define myself and my task?”
The wise sage answered him and said:
“You are my son,” and then farewell he bade.

The father in the ground was buried.
His grandson his name then carried
But Zalman was still in sore confusion
Desiring an answer or some resolution
And again the voice spoke out:
“Zalman you are constantly in doubt
You can’t tell the difference between ‘things’
And the very life that resides within
You must be able to distinguish
Between your work and the essence of your being
You are not possessions,
You are not success,
Neither are you your environment,
You are simply Zalman, and that’s where it’s at!

We can see that the lyricist was able to tell Zalman who and what he is not.
He is also able to place before him Torah truths, which point to YHVH’s reality as the One who is in control of land, time, the environment, family members, home, possessions etc. (through shmita, Shabbat, succah, nida).  However, it is clear that he cannot place before Zalman the “mirror” reflecting the “new creation man”; the only image that would ultimately clear away all of Zalman’s doubts and confusion and set him free.

Ephraim and Rimona