What is Shavuot? For being one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism, many Believers around the world know very little about this holiday, and why it is also important to their faith! In Israel, this holiday begins at sundown on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Sivan, and ends the following evening, and in the diaspora this holiday will last between the 8th and 10th of June this year. The holiday commemorates the end of the period of ‘Omer’, which is the 7-weeks’ time between Passover and Shavuot, as dictated in the Book of Leviticus. “Shavuot” means “weeks” in Hebrew, and delineates this period of time from when the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt, began their Exodus, and arrived at Mount Sinai. On the day of Shavuot, Moses receives the Torah from God, and thus the Jewish people as a nation are given their holy scripture and laws, which were studied, honored and glorified for the more than 3,000 years that followed. The word “Shavuot” also means “oaths”, as this granting of the Torah was a divine covenant between the Lord and his chosen people.
ELY Israel has had the privilege of aiding and supporting many new immigrants to Israel, especially those with unstable family situations and are facing crisis. We are privileged to act as the hands and feet of Messiah for vulnerable women and children through our Families Department. For many of these women who live in Israel, or have been through grueling circumstances to immigrate (make Aliyah), their future feels so unsure, but many find faith through the small acts that ELY can provide to know that God has a plan for them, for He “declares the end from the beginning”.
A recent testimony from one of the single mothers ELY has provided on-going assistance for was especially striking, as her whole journey was riddled with unknowns for her and her family. A few years ago, M made Aliyah to Israel with her young child. She was Jewish, but only on her paternal side, therefore her elderly mother was forced to remain in their home-country in Eastern Europe. The separation was agonizing, but everyone agreed it was necessary for M and her son to have a chance at a leading a better life. Time passed, and M received word that her mother had fallen seriously ill, and was at severe risk alone. In a panic, M made arrangements for her mother to be brought to Israel for better medical care. The stress of her condition became so heavy, as M was forced to take out loans to finance her mothers’ treatment. In the end, the financial debt she accumulated and the emotional burden was too much, so M, her mother and child made the fateful decision to return to their country of origin without future prospects to return to Israel.
Their hearts were broken to leave the land they loved, but feared that if they returned to Israel the debt M had accrued there would be crushing, and she may even be at risk of arrest if she reentered the country. However, as time passed, M realized she was willing to take the gamble, as she would rather sit in jail than never return to Israel. With only her faith propelling her forward, she knew the Lord had put Israel on her heart for a reason, and that His provision would be her solace. She thanks God that she was never arrested, but M still faced problems of finding work to pay down her debt. Once again she found herself facing the brink of no longer being able to remain in Israel when she was contacted by an ELY representative who delivered a miraculous message. ELY Israel wished to stand alongside M, to assist with her debt, help her prosper and provide for her family.
Immediate support included gift cards and vouchers for her to pay for food and necessities. It was the first month in such a long time that M did not have to worry about affording basic needs after her monthly debt portion had been paid off. Secondly, ELY Israel contracted a lawyer to advise M with her financial issues, and with the help of God, she was absolved of her debt within the year! Once she was out of crisis ELY Israel did not dissert her, instead they invested in M’s future with career counseling, which led to her receiving a scholarship for a tourism and travel agent training course. Today M is at the end of her studies, and is already working in her field of choice! She says that she feels the ultimate success was that she not only can provide for herself and her child with dignity, but she has also been liberated from emotional and financial burden. She is a living testimony of faith and liberation for at-risk women who see no realistic way of getting out of their current circumstances. M’s deepest appreciation goes to ELY Israel for “seeing my problems in all of their complexity, and helping to lift me out of my lowest point”. It is difficult to see that the Lord has a plan and a path to deliver us from our most difficult life circumstances, but with an abounding faith, and employees to show God’s love to those who are struggling, women like M have found better futures in the Holy Land.
(Names altered for privacy purposes)
“You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the festival of weeks to the Lord your God, contributing a free-will offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord your God. Rejoice before the Lord your God—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who are among you—at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes” (Deut. 16:9-12). Moses outlined for the Israelites the ordinances of the Festival of Weeks (Shavu’ot or Pentecost). This festival commemorated the harvest seven weeks and one day(50 days hence Pentecost)after the first Sabbath after the festival of Unleavened Bread. The festival was to be a celebration marked by a free-will offering, an offering “in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord.” The festivals and rituals that God gave to the Israelites served as reminders of His participation in their daily lives. Agriculture did not depend upon the farmer and his ingenuity or the luck of the weather; rather, God, Himself, blessed and provided for the daily needs of the people. The rituals and festivals functioned as reminders of God’s nearness and called upon the Israelites to give thanks, to rejoice. The Israelites celebrated Pentecost not only within their families but with their communities. Three groups of people are specifically identified as participating in the celebration of the festival—strangers, orphans, and widows. These three groups lacked a legal advocate within ancient Israel, which is why God often describes Himself, the just Judge, as the defender of these three groups. In the midst of the celebration, God calls on the Israelites to remember those on the fringes of their society and to bring them into the festivities. The basis for this action: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt.” You were once an outcast, someone at the bottom of the social world, so remember and bring those at the bottom of your world into your celebration of the Lord’s blessing. Do we see God’s provision and care in every facet of our lives? Do we celebrate it and remind ourselves to rejoice at His provision? Do we share our blessing and bring into our celebration those on the fringes of our society? This was God’s expectation of the ancient Israelites when they celebrated Pentecost. He expects the same from us.
Father, thank You for Your daily provision in my life. As a sign of my Thanksgiving, may I share Your blessings in my life with others. Amen.
“Then he [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they [the children of Israel] said, “Everything that the Lord said, we will do, and we will hear” (Exod. 24:7; emphasis added). This event occurs after Moses has been on top of Sinai and received the covenant from the Lord. When he comes down to the people and reads the covenant to them, they respond “we will do, and we will hear.”The phrases “to hear” and “to do” appear frequently within the Bible: “And now, Israel, listen unto the laws and statutes which I am teaching you, to do them, so that you will live, and enter and possess the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, gave to you” (Deut. 4:1; see also Deut. 5:1; 6:3; 7:12). Elsewhere we read, “Only, if you will certainly listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep and to do all of these commands, which I am commanding you today” (Deut. 15:5). The context of these passages indicates that the biblical authors drew a connection between hearing God’s word and doing it. In fact, that was their definition of obedience: to hear and to do. Often when we say that we “hear” someone, it does not necessarily translate into action. In fact, the phrase, “I hear you,” can serve as our response meaning a certain level of inaction. Yet, within the Bible, obedience required action, both parts were necessary. To not hear and do meant for the writers of Scripture that judgment was imminent. The author of Kings identified the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel as due to their disobedience: “Because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord their God, they transgressed His covenant and everything He commanded Moses—the servant of the Lord; they did not listen and did not do” (2 Kings 18:12). Failure to listen and do resulted in Israel transgressing the law of the Lord. In the New Testament, Jesus also emphasized our hearing and doing. He compared those who hear and do His words as like one who built his house upon a rock; while the one who only hears but does not do, he is like one who built his house on the sand (Matt. 7:24-27). Paul likewise states that it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous, but the doors of the law who will be justified (Rom. 2:13). Do we spend time listening to the word of God? And do we translate what we’ve heard into action? If we are going to obey as the Bible intended, then we must both hear and do.
Father, as I seek to draw closer to You, may I obey You by hearing Your word and doing it. May Your name be glorified through my obedient action to You and Your word. Amen.
Thus, celebration of Shavuot both commemorates the ending of the Omer period, as well as the sacred oath between God and the Jewish people. From sundown to sundown is a dedicated time for Jews of all persuasions, from ultra-orthodox to traditional, to study and revel in God’s word that was given on Mt. Sinai, and the teachings that succeeded it. It is a time for renewing the devotion and oath with God, as though He is newly granting us His word every year for the first time. The holiday begins with the lighting of candles, and a special prayer to usher in the evening of study. It is customary to stay up all night studying the Torah. Oftentimes there are special seminars, lectures and learning groups created for this night. Among many teachings, there are of course special synagogue services to recite and learn about the Ten Commandments.
Shavuot is also considered a harvest holiday, as during the times of the Temple, wheat loaves were given as an offering along with the first and most select fruits from the harvest (these are referred to a “bikkurim”). Another holiday observation is the eating of a dairy-only meal on the first day of Shavuot. Because the Jews were given the Torah on this day, the Kosher laws were also bestowed upon them, and they began their observance immediately. However, because the laws were given on Shabbat, the Jews were unable to slaughter animals, so the Israelites ate a meal of dairy alone, which is why modern Israelis and Jews across the world also observe this custom on the first evening of the holy day. In modern times, it is not a sacrifice though, as Jews have perfected their recipes for cheesecakes, pastries and other celebratory foods for the event. This custom has also become symbolic, with the comparison between the nourishing power of the Torah and the sustaining nature of milk.
CBN Israel was happy to support one of our many partners in hosting holocaust survivors for a special Shavuot event this week in Jerusalem. 127 beneficiaries attended a musical performance and a special rabbinical Shavuot service. The event was hosted at Christ Church near Jaffa Gate at the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem; the beautiful marble walls echoed with music and the charismatic imparting of the teaching. CBN provided food vouchers and a catered lunch for all attendees, to celebrate the coming holiday, and host a special social gathering for the elderly group. The event was a blessing to all, and beneficiaries left with smiles on their faces.
From Jerusalem, the CBN Israel team wishes everyone a blessed Shavuot. Whether Jew or gentile, it is a wonderful reminder to renew our devotion to God, and dedicate our lives more fully to living in accordance with His word, and his teachings.
Situated in the mountains of Northern Israel, only 40 kilometers from the Lebanese border, is the Karmi’El Messianic Congregation, aptly named Rivers of Living Water (RLW). A drive through the verdant winding landscape, which leads to this Northern town is a showcase of some of the most majestic landscapes in the Holy Land. Despite their distant placement, far from the country’s center where most the Israeli population resides, they have been able to facilitate enormous outreach efforts, and touch the lives of many. Named for Jesus’s proclamation during the Feast of Booths in the Book of John, this congregation is trying to live out their namesake. “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” (John 7:37). In this, Jesus is speaking of abundance in the Spirit flowing forth from his Believers, and being a source for others who are thirsty for divine love and revelation.
This congregation’s mission is clear, to be an overflow of God’s love, like Living Water, to those in need. Therefore, CBN Israel is proud to partner with this congregation in supporting holocaust survivors in the periphery. This week, RLW hosted one of their largest social events to date. Inviting nearly 700 holocaust survivors and their families, to attend a cultural theatrical event in Karmi’El. This was a monumental occasion, seeing as the local municipality allowed the congregation to utilize their performing arts center to host the event, and maximize their occupancy capabilities. This was a huge display of faith on the municipality’s part, as it is very uncommon for Israeli towns and cities to support or promote Messianic-run events, such as this one. The congregation leader, and host of the evening, Irene Friedman was beaming after the performance, and said “it is only God who can open doors like this, we do our best, but He is what makes the impossible possible”.
The performance was a combination of singing, dancing and short teachings from the Tanach. A violinist and accordion duet were a favored act, playing poignant pieces from Schindler’s list and other known compositions. The performance was special in that it catered to Russian and Hebrew-speaking beneficiaries, most of whom were born in the Soviet Union, and made Aliyah fleeing pogroms and the holocaust many decades ago. Through music and story-telling, they worked to illustrate a tale in which ‘God is the light within the darkness’.
As the lights transitioned to a pale hue, an image of Jerusalem was projected across the stage, and a harmony of voices snag out from the audience to sing a blessing over Jerusalem. Elderly voices hummed rhythmically, and a few tears were shed with the recognition of their deliverance, when so many were not as lucky. A slideshow and song accompaniment showed the establishment of the state of Israel, through war and peace. It displayed the state as a fulfillment of prayer and prophecy; Flashing forward to modern times, we see that The Land is still under threat from enemies of the Jewish people, but a hopeful note shows that together we can overcome, with the blessing of the God of Israel. Lastly, the show illustrated Israel’s numerous ‘aliyot’ (waves of immigration) and their technological boom, from agricultural successes in the Kibbutz movement to the Israel of today, which is a hub for start-ups and research and development.
CBN Israel was proud to provide 8 tour buses for transporting survivors from Northern cities like Tsfat, Nazareth, Nahariyya and others. There was such a large demand to attend the event, but many of the elderly are without means to travel outside of their homes very often due to lack of financing and physical capability. Events such as this one are celebratory milestones that are vital to mental and emotional well-being, which is why CBN and RLW feel so strongly that outreach efforts are critical to fostering a sense of support and community.
CBN has been in partnership with congregations like RLW to provide on-going monthly provisions to needy holocaust survivors throughout the Galilee region. Irene stated that, “[CBN] is providing food parcels to holocaust survivors in 6 cities in the areas of the North and Galilee, so it is through this that CBN really helps us establish connections and trust with many of the survivors, and many came to the event”. We are so grateful to find partners like Irene Friedman and Rivers of Living Water Congregation who also share a vision for blessing elderly holocaust survivors. Irene said that their mission is clear with this population, “This is what God has laid on our hearts, and because these are people who went through extreme hardships and need much comfort, we want to show them God’s love in this stage of life”.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. … For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37-38). How often do we find ourselves speaking for God? Have you ever thought about it? Often when we set ourselves as God’s mouthpiece, we usually place ourselves as the judge. It feels good sometimes to sit in a place where we can look at the world around us identifying and parsing all the wrongs. But Jesus called upon his followers to adopt a different posture: don’t judge, for in the manner you judge, you will be judged (Matthew7:1-2). Jesus believed that every person bears the image of God (Genesis1:27), and therefore, each person has infinite value and worth. At the same time, you and I are more like each other than either of us is like God, so Jesus concluded in the way I treat you, God will respond to me. In the manner I judge, I will be judged. In the manner I am merciful, I will receive mercy (Matthew5:7). And, in the manner I forgive, I will be forgiven. When we look at the world through Jesus’ words, there is no room for us to position ourselves as speaking for God, the Judge. I know that I need mercy; do I, therefore, demonstrate the same mercy I hope to receive? Do I want to be judged as I judge others? James, Jesus’ brother, echoes his brother: “Do not speak evil against one another. … He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge, He who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12).Do I have the capacity to save a life or destroy it? Am I worthy of judging another like myself? Jesus and James both taught that our job is not to sit in judgment of our neighbors, but rather be merciful and forgive, especially if we hope to receive mercy and forgiveness. Think about that a minute. God will treat me that way I treat others. How would that change how we treat others? Would that motivate us to be more compassionate and merciful, less judgmental? Such action may, in fact, profoundly impact our communities and the world around us.
Father, forgive me as I have forgiven. Be merciful to me as I show mercy. And, may I always err on the side of mercy in judgment. Amen
Do we allow ourselves to be disappointed with God? To give voice to our frustrations with Him? For many of us, even the thought of being disappointed or frustrated with God smacks of arrogance or a lack of faith. “God is always good; how dare we express disappointment with Him?” we reason. Yet, the biblical authors routinely expressed their frustrations and disappointments with God. Such honesty expressed the depth of their faith. Jeremiah often reflects the gambit of emotions regarding his relationship with God. In two instances, he articulates these emotions using the image of water. In chapter 2, he describes God as “a fountain of living water” (2:13) referring to the flowing water of a spring, which brings life and vegetation wherever it flows. Within the climate of the Middle East, Jeremiah notes that God is like a flowing spring of living water bringing life-sustaining water to lands and people that can suffer under the summer heat. Several chapters later, however, Jeremiah describes God much different: “Why is my pain unending and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, You [God] are like a deceitful brook to me, like waters that fail (literally, unfaithful waters)” (15:18; emphasis added). The topography of the landscapers the landscape of Israel with canyons that descend from the hills towards the coast in the west or the Jordan Valley in the east. As rain falls in the hills, gravity brings the water down these canyons, which means that during the rainy season these canyons will have water in them from which animals and humans can drink. When the heat of summer arrives, the water in these canyons evaporates making them dry stream beds. A weary, thirsty traveler wandering through this landscape will see water in these stream beds only to find them dry. Jeremiah uses this image of the deceitful stream bed that had water but when the traveler looks for it finds none to describe his feelings about God. On the one hand, Jeremiah feels that God is a source of living, life-giving, water: a never-ending spring of faithful water. On the other hand, he finds himself disappointed with God and feels that Heis a deceitful stream bed with unfaithful water. It doesn’t matter if Jeremiah’s latter description accurately describes God. What matters is that Jeremiah feels this way about God and expresses his disappointment with God. Do we allow that kind of honesty with ourselves towards God? Do we have a view of faith that enables us to be brutally honest with our frustrations and displeasure with God? The biblical authors did; in fact, that was a dynamic part of their faith. God often receives greater honor in the voicing of our honest frustrations than in dishonest praises. The Bible certainly encourages us to praise God in the midst of difficult and hard times, but it also encourages the honest expression of our frustrations and disappointments with God. And the expression of both is equally the voice of faith. In our personal lives and in our communities of faith, we need to allow both to be heard as part of our expression of our journey with the Lord.
The Lord promised the Israelites in Genesis 12:2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing”. With every year that has passed since 1948, Israel has celebrated its independence as a truly great nation. Israelis have always viewed the prosperity of their modern state as God making good on His promise, dating back to the Exodus, to prosper the Israelites. Independence is something that no Israeli takes for granted, especially as this holiday is preceded by Memorial Day 24 hours beforehand. With the looming memory of those who have fallen in the line of duty defending Israel, it is of extra importance to celebrate and honor those in active duty in the IDF. For this reason, CBN Israel was proud to both celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) and host the first open-house event at the new home for Lone Soldiers in the greater-Jerusalem area. This project has been months in the planning, months of execution, organizing and cultivating both the physical home space and the community cohort that will be its first inhabitants.
The celebration was a momentous occasion for residents to proudly show off the home to their friends and families, many of whom traveled from abroad to visit and support them. Soldiers proudly gave tours of the 4-floored building, giving special attention to each room, which was decorated by each house member in their own unique style. Now that pictures have been hung, the kitchen filled, and the initial 5 bedrooms all occupied, the home is something to behold. One resident stated in a self-guided tour that, “you can really sense that it is a ‘home’ for us, and not just a house. All week we sleep on closed bases, 10 or 15 to a room, so getting to come back to a huge porch with a panoramic view, a home-cooked meal, and our own beds is something very important”.
Around 70 people attended the event! The day began with an introduction and explanation on the home’s goals and purpose by ELY’s national director, followed by prayer for the success and continuation of the home. He stated the types of support ELY is providing, including: subsidized rent and meal costs, community programming, and logistical support for acquiring lone soldier benefits. Then everyone enjoyed a catered meal together on the house’s expansive balcony. It was a joyous festivity, and an amazing opportunity to watch active and former lone soldiers, ELY staff, and friends and family from near and far, connect over their common goal of supporting these young people in their military service.
Please help us pray for the success of the home for lone soldiers! We pray for a cohesive community, who are blessed to be a blessing during their military service, and to cultivate an environment of peace and rest amidst the obstacles they may face in their time of duty. Please also help us pray for Israel; that it will continue to be a ‘great nation’, as God called it to be; and that as the hands and feet of Jesus in the Land, that we may serve lone soldiers and other communities in need with the abundant love of Yeshua. From the staff of CBN Israel, and residents, friends, and families of the home for lone soldiers, we say thank you!
Have you ever wondered who was the first person mentioned in the Bible to be“filled with the Spirit?”The answer may surprise you. It wasn’t a leader like Moses or David. Nor a prophet like Samuel or Isaiah. Not even a priest, like Aaron. The answer: Bezalel, the artisan tasked with fashioning the vessels for the tabernacle in the wilderness: “I have filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts” (Exodus31:3). We generally do not think of a craftsman as being a very “spiritual” position. Our idea of being “spirit-filled” usually pertains to spiritual gifts and actions. Rarely do we see the common and ordinary parts of our lives as places where God’s Spirit can fill us. But biblical spirituality means living an ordinary life of extraordinary obedience to God. Bezalel was an artisan, a craftsman. How often do we see God’s Spirit as a dynamic partner in our creativity? We often focus upon God’s Spirit as empowerment for a witness, anointed preaching, teaching, or worship. Yet God filled a craftsman with His Holy Spirit, into whom He breathed divine creativity. Should not our lives as Spirit-filled people be marked by such creativity? Everyone knows the story of David’s confrontation with Goliath. David credited God with his victory, yet what did David do? He threw a rock in a sling. Something that shepherd boys did every day to corral and protect the flock, or simply to pass the time. David had probably thrown a thousand rocks in his slingshot during his days herding his family’s flock. And, quite frankly, had he not, he most likely would not have been successful when he faced the Philistine. This does not take away from God’s glory, but it teaches us something very valuable: our faithful preparation of ourselves in the common, ordinary tasks in our lives provides a foundation for God to build upon to bring glory to Himself in our lives and circumstances. Bezalel, a craftsman. David, a shepherd. Both of them prepared themselves for their tasks in rather common and mundane ways. Who would ever think about a craftsman being Spirit-filled, or a shepherd throwing a stone as glorifying God? But because both prepared themselves during the commonness of their lives, God’s Spirit partnered with their common abilities in a moment of time to bring God the glory. And that’s the core of biblical spirituality.
Father, help me today to be diligent in the tasks set before me so that they might be used for Your glory. Holy Spirit, animate my mind and life with Your divine creativity. Amen