Happy Memorial Day!

I started the day with a surprise call from our Army Ranger grandson, Jonathan, this morning! It was so good to hear his voice. I think he will be coming home in July — I think. He can’t even tell us where he is, what time it is or what the temp is. Secret mission.

My kids came over today and we took family pictures. Mostly the Original Six. We looked at old family albums and reminisced. We talked about the grandson we lost to cancer almost two years ago. He was 24. How we miss him! He told me the day he was diagnosed that he hadn’t even begun to live. He hadn’t even started yet. But at least I know where he is and that I will see him one day … soon.

We watched old videos. The adults haven’t changed much – but the KIDS!!! Their hair styles were hilarious!

Years ago our family visited my old hometown in Colorado, a little place in the foothills of the Rockies where my maternal grandparents had a ranch. My grandfather was born in 1854. He was a tough old guy! Lost his first wife during the birth of their 4th child. The baby girl died, too, and was buried in her mother’s arms. He came out west to make a new life, met my grandmother, married her and spent their first year in a “dug-out” at Elk Springs. It was simply a cave dug out of the side of hill and had one log wall in the front where the door was. They had two children. The baby was my mother. Grandpa was 66 and grandma was 44 when my mother was born.

They lived 75 miles from town and made the trip twice a year. It took a week. Three days to get there, one day to shop and three days to get home. My mother remembers the Nez Perce Indians being ‘herded’ to a reservation up north. They were starving. Grandma gave them all the meat and dry foods she could spare. Grandma was tough, too. She was born in 1877, wanted to be a doctor, learned all she could about medicine and was the local mid-wife and health care giver. Once a hired man, chopping firewood, chopped his big toe right down the middle!. He hobbled up to the house and Grandma got his bloody boot off, filled the cavity with sugar, wrapped it up with strips of a flour sack and poured turpentine on it. You know, it healed with a barely visible scar! I read not too long ago that sugar is a great healer.

Back to our visit to my hometown
. It was Memorial Day. The town, like all do, had wonderful customs. Memorial Day was no exception. In the morning, the whole town had a Sidewalk Sale. The residences and the businesses! A parade followed and ended up at the town cemetery up on the hill. (Our town is full of rolling hills and horses – a wonderful place to grow up.) Every body brought a picnic lunch and went to their family plot to sit on the grass and eat. The little children ran around the tombstones, having a great time. I wasn’t sure what to think of that!!! But at least they were there. How many of us take time to really spend any at our cemeteries?

After lunch, we gathered at the big Memorial Wall and a strange looking group of old soldiers marched up carrying flags. They were old veterans wearing any part of their old uniforms that they had left. One had an army jacket and overhauls, one just his khaki colored hat. They looked so awful, ancient and rag-tag! But they were proud Americans. They stood straight and tall and saluted as the town council read the names of all the boys that had lost their lives in the Wars.

My uncle was a hero who made it home. I can still see the big blue star in the window showing Grandma had a son in the military serving his country. She had a big scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about him. He was in most of the big name battles. He passed away last year. My dad enlisted after Pearl Harbor and spent almost four years in the South Pacific in the Army Airforce as a supply sergeant. I have his dog tags. He is still my hero!

My husband and I sat near my grandfather’s grave with it‘s home made tombstone! My mother insisted we MAKE grandpa’s tombstone once when we went back to visit. I was shocked and appalled when she first suggested it. Whoever heard of such a thing? She finally made me realize how fitting it was – and we did it! We took the bottom out of a cardboard box and poured about 6 inches of cement into it. I wrote grandpa’s name and dates in it while it was still damp. I also drew his cattle brand on it and lined the edges with tiny pretty pebbles. His registered cattle brand was called “Bar S Rafter”. It consisted of a line (called a bar) at the bottom, an “S” for Spurgin, his last name, over it and a rafter over the top ofall that. (Sort of like a wide inverted V.) Grandpa would have been proud! Last summer a grandson went through my town, stopped at the cemetery to see the tombstone there. It was a good thing.

Life is so precious. We need to enjoy each other and make the most of every day. The old saying from a plaque on my grandmother’s wall said:

“Only one life, ‘Twill soon be passed.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

So think about your blessings this weekend and cherish your loved ones. Life as we know it isn’t going to last forever! Remember those who have gone on and especially let’s appreciate the one’s who gave their lives for us. Not only the soldiers but the martyrs and most of all let’s thank Y’shua for shedding His blood for all of us!

Well, I need to go and take flowers up to our grandson’s grave…… But I’m going to eat here first!

Happy memories!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Mr. White

Rebecca’s shady uncle lives back in Haran, where Abraham lived for a while on his way to the Land. Laban – Lavan in Hebrew – means “white”. He turns out to be pretty black!

Jacob goes to Haran as his father ordered, to find a wife. He ends up at the house of Mr. White, sees Rachael, falls in love and asks for her hand. He works for seven years to gain her for his wife and after a very merry wedding ….. ends up the next morning with not Rachael, but her older sister, Leah! Not good. He ends up working another seven years to pay the dowry for his true love. He works many more years to get his livestock, being cheated on every hand. At the end of the day, he has two wives, 2 concubines (means second wife) 12 sons and one (recorded) daughter.

After 20 some years, Jacob is told to return home – back to the land promised to Father Abraham and his descendants. He gathers his family and all his accumulated wealth, no thanks to Uncle Laban, and starts for home unbeknowst to Mr. White. When the discovery is made that Jacob has pulled out, Laban is enraged and takes off in quick pursuit. G-d prevents a disaster and a peace treaty is made after Laban finds Jacob and his daughters. They continue their journey and Laban goes home never to be heard from again.

Next week – Jacob and Esau, together again!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Had your BANANA today?

After Reading THIS, you’ll NEVER look at a banana in the same way again!

Containing three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber, a banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes. But energy isn’t the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills—eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.
Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect way to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: (Hopefully we will never need THIS one!) One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness:
Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Overweight and at work
? Studies at the Institute of Psychologyin Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a “cooling” fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool! temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
: Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body’s water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around. So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, “A banana a day keeps the doctor away!”

Go Bananas!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Hebrew History – Amalek

Abraham’s decendants have to be great!
G-d said they would be! Even if they aren’t Jews, they still are making a great impact in the world today. It looks like the greatest enemies of the Jews come from right within their own family. The worst enemy the Jewish people have ever had is the house of Amalek, the grandson of Esau. These people symbolize evil and G-d commanded them to be completely annihilated from the earth – which never happened – hence all the troubles caused by them down through the ages. The nation of Amalek has a pathological hatred for the Jews. Hamen, the villain from the book of Esther, was from Amalek. I wonder what other world leaders have Amalek blood?

I think the lesson for us today is: “Find out what G-d wants you to do and then DO IT!” If He commands us to do something, it’s a lot easier on us if we do just that. If we don’t we will pay for it over and over. Two plus two is always going to be four – you can count on it!

G-d commanded Saul to kill all the Amalakites. He just wouldn’t listen. Why didn’t he?

Not to equate myself with G-d … in any way… but as a personal illustration: I asked our adult son to get me some dirt which was about 350 feet away down the road at the neighbor’s. I said for him to take his car and put the two planter bowls in the back seat and then he could fill them with the dirt and drive back here. We’re talking about two terracotta planter bowls about 16 inches across and 10 inches deep. But, NO! He didn’t want to do that! He said, “It’s not that far – I’ll just walk over and get the dirt.” I tried to get him to listen to me, but to no avail —– he grabbed up the bowls and walked over there. A long while later I looked down the road and here he came, packing the two bowls in from of him. His face was all red and he was walking pretty slow. When he got closer, I could see that he was forcefully exhaling and each time he did, his cheeks puffed out. It was quite a sight. You could tell that it was way too heavy for him to carry. He put the bowls back in their place and came in the house, red as a beet! He was a little upset and as he was drinking two glasses of ice water … he said, “I forgot it had been raining! That stuff is MUD! It must weigh 50 pounds!” He just knew he could do what I asked him to, but he wouldn’t listen to how I said it should be done. What is a person to do? You don’t want to say, “I told you so!” and yet, you wonder why on earth people don’t listen. G-d has to deal with this problem all the time – with all of us!

Back to Amalek – the bottom line is that ever since before Jacob and Esau were born, G-d has stated “Esau I have hated, but Jacob, I have loved.” Not because He decided that and made it happen – but because He KNEW what the outcome of their lives would be and could make that distinction even before birth because He knew exactly what Esau’s mind was made up to do. Now along comes Esau’s grandson and makes the lives of the Jews miserable ever after!

Next Shabbat = Mr. White
Shalom, Sharaka
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The Disciples & What Happened to Them

There are many versions of these stories. Hopefully, these are the most acurate ones.

Simon Peter = Shim’on Kefa, a fisherman and native of Bethsaida was crucified head down on the top of Mount Vatican in Rome and buried in the Vatican

Andrew, his brother, the first one chosen. He introduced his brother, Simon Peter, and later Philip, to the Master. He is the one who brought the boy with the five loaves and two fishes. His parents were Jonah and Joanna of the Galilee. “Jonah” means fisherman. It was the family business. He was first a disciple of John, the Baptist. It is said Andrew ministered in Russia. He was crucified on an X shaped cross. There are at least three different versions of his death and location of it.

James, the son of Zebedee = Ya’acov, James was the older brother of John, the beloved disciple and the one we know least about of the Inner Three. He and his brother, John, were partners with Peter and Andrew and had a thriving fishing business. He was the first disciple to die for his Lord – beheaded – about 44 AD.

John = Yochanan, son of Zebedee and Salome who was most likely a sister to Mary, the mother of Y’shua. He and his brother were called the “Sons of Thunder” because of their short tempers. John was the last to die, peacefully, around 100 A.D. in Ephesus.

Philip, from the tribe of Zebulon
, had a Greek name, probably from Philip, the Tetrarch of Galilee, who was probably named after Philip, the father of Alexander, the Great, who conquered all the known world by the age of 33. He had tremendous influence on the Land of Israel. The name means ‘lover of horses’. He had much knowledge of Greek things and perhaps it was thought he would make a good missionary to the Greeks. He spent time in France and Galatia. (the two cultures are related) He was stoned and crucified in Phrygia.

Bartholomew = Bar-Talmai, who has only one reference in the Scriptures, was of the house of Naphtali.
Many believe Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. It is said he preached in India and Armenia. One source says he was placed in a sack and cast into the sea. Another one says he was beaten and flayed alive. There is a description of him that states: He has black curly hair which covers his ears, white skin, large eyes, straight nose, with a long and grizzled (?) beard. He wears a long white robe with a purple stripe.

Thomas = Toma, whose other name was Didymas, meant ‘twin’. We know nothing of who the twin was or of what gender. He was a native of Galilee and a fisherman. He is still known today as ‘doubting Thomas’. He seemed to be a man of melancholy nature who struggled with a pessimistic attitude. He preached in India and Babylon, where he started many churches. He was martyred by a lance after being stoned. There has been more written about Thomas than almost any of the other disciples.

Matthew = Mattityahu
, also called Levi was a brother of James, the Less, and son of Alphaeus. An educated man with knowledge of Greek, Aramaic and Latin languages, he was a bureaucrat who served Rome. He was scorned by the Jews who felt tax collectors were unfair (so what has changed?…)

James, son of Alphaeus = Ya’acov, Ben-Chalfai, or sometimes James, the Less or James the Younger,
He was a brother to Matthew. H was also from Kafer Nachum in the north. It is said James and Matthew were from the tribe of Gad. However with a name like Levi, it is highly unlikely. He most probably came from the Levite tribe. Matthew left his Levitical heritage and became a hated tax collector, while James had a more responsible position with the righteous people. There were many called “James” in the Brit Chadesha. James, the brother of Y’shua and president of the Council in Jerusalem was one of them. However, he was not one of the disciples.

Jude Thaddaeus = Yehudah ben Ya’acov, Judas is the Greek form of Yehudah, probably the most common name among the Jews. Jude is the Latin form. In the Scriptures, this guy has three names: in Matthew, he is called “Lebbaeus”. (10:3) Mark calls him “Thaddaeus”. (3:18) and Luke refers to him as “Judas, the son of James”. (6:16 and Acts 1:13) He was the grandson of Zebedee. The other Jude in the Bible who wrote the book of Jude, was also the younger brother of Y’shua. Jude ministered in Armenia, which became the first Christian Nation in the world.
Jude was thought to have been martyred in Syria.

Simon, the Canaanite = Shim’on, the Zealot, also answered the call from Y’shua at Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with the other fishermen disciples. It is said he went as far as Britain to preach around A.D. 50, where he may have been slain – supposedly on May 10th. London was founded in 43 A.D. and was well-known by the peoples of the Mediterranean. He also ministered to Egypt and North Africa.

Judas Iscariot = Yehudah from K’riot, Ish means “man” in Hebrew and Keriot was a city in the southern part of Israel. He was the only one of the 12 who was not from Galilee. His father’s name was Simon. He was the treasurer of the twelve and Y’shua called him a devil. (John 6:70) He was, indeed, a very greedy man. Remember when Mary poured the ointment on Y’shua’s head, he was upset because it could have been sold and given to the poor? That, or he wanted to make off with some of the money. It is thought that he dipped his hand into the common purse more than once.

Brings me to lottery tickets, sweepstakes and gambling in general. The Scriptures tell us if a man doesn’t work – he shouldn’t eat. That’s not talking about people with disabilities, that’s talking about people who love “get-rich-quick” schemes. People who want something for nothing. There is no “free lunch”. I want nothing to do with things of that nature. Somebody else always collects the bulk of the money and you are left wondering what happened!

Matthias, the mysterious add-on! Not much is known about him. The New Jerusalem is to have ‘twelve foundations” – one for each apostle (disciples). No doubt the twelfth one will be Matthias! He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist, he was one of the earliest followers of Y’shua. He was probably one of the “seventy” and was hand-picked by G-d to be a disciple….. After all, they chose by lots, thereby giving G-d, Himself, the choice. Casting lots was a perfectly Biblical way to do things.

Disciple = one of the 12, the 70 or any follower of Y’shua. In other words, a student of Y’shua.

Apostle = one of the twelve disciples, one of the 70 sent out by Y’shua, one of the earliest Christian missionaries. Other apostles were John Mark, Barnabas, John, the Baptist, Luke, Lazarus and Paul.

All this according to DR. Steuart McBirnie, Ph.D. in “The Search for the Hidden Apostles”

See you next time!
Shalom Sharaka
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Who Were the Disciples?

Were the Disciples saints?
They walked and talked with the Lord on a daily basis for three and one half years. They observed firsthand what we can only read about. But to answer the question – they were only humans like us and every Believer is just as much a saint as they were! Notice they were called by their first names? They were not even addressed as “Rev. So-and-So” or even “Brother So-and-So“. They were just plain old Peter and James and John! Not to diminish their great service to our Lord. They were worthy men who accomplished great things and all suffered immensely for the cause of Y’shua. What I’m saying is – they didn’t try to distinguish themselves – why should we try to distinquish ourselves?

Y’shua was always trying to teach them so they could teach others. I’m sure they gave Him lots of grief – remember Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane and his denial in Jerusalem? We give Him lots of grief as well.

Who were these guys and what kind of men were they? We need to remember that they were well acquainted with the history of their people, their geography, the Hebrew language and culture, the Biblical Feasts and also the pagan cultures around them – which they were to avoid at all costs! We would do well to learn these things also. How can we expect to know how top live the lifestyle that Y’shua did if we don’t understand what it was? The authors of the Bible, who were Jewish, assumed we would know these things. They couldn’t be expected to repeat all the simple little things that everybody already knew and practiced. We, today, are two thousands years and thousands of miles away from these events. It is so important to understand all we can about their living conditions and culture so that we can begin to understand their thought patterns.

Bethsaida, a little town near Kafer Nahum (Capernaum) on the northwest end of Lake Kinneret, was the hometown of five of these disciples. The name means “home of the fisherman”. The population, at that time, consisted of about 200 families engaged in fishing. These people were pious Jews, not big city sophisticated Jews who were hellenized like they were farther south. They were simple people with a great faith in G-d who were waiting for their Messiah. They segregated themselves from the surrounding pagans as well as the pagan Romans as best they could. I am convinced they wrote their gospels in Hebrew and perhaps we will find the originals one day.

Y’shua chose men who would adapt to His ways and accept His teachings. If we see these men as just people like ourselves who made mistakes and had to be forgiven, we can let Y’shua be our example and not the disciples. Let’s honor them but not “saintify” them. All but one – John – died a horrible martyr’s death. They never gave up, gave in or gave out!

Y’shua prayed a model prayer for us which should be called the Disciples Prayer rather than the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s live that prayer and become His true disciples! Keep up on your studies …

Tomorrow – their names and what happened to them.
Shalom, Sharaka
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Recipe – Mystery Cake

House-cleaning is fun!!!

I came across a yellowed old half sheet of paper in some boxes I was cleaning out today and found it was one of my mother’s favorite old recipes called Mystery Cake. I remember being fascinated as a child to watch her make this cake. I haven’t tried it yet, as an adult, but I’m going to be brave enough to share it with you and maybe we can make it together!

Set your oven to 350 degrees and get out a 9 X 13 inch baking pan

1 cup margarine
2 cans – are you ready? Tomato Soup
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp soda
2 cups chopped nuts
Raisins, if desired

Cream oleo (that’s what it says! they mean margarine) and sugar
add tomato soup

Sift remaining ingredients and add to mixture, blending in well.

Bake 1 hour & 15 minutes.

Happy baking! See you next time.
Shalom, Sharaka
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A Tale of Four Weddings

In these days of rampant divorce and remarriage, I think it’s time for a good story of a lasting relationship – even if it is my own!

Our first wedding was in June of 1957. It was the first day of summer – and my mother’s birthday. She was thrilled that we had chosen her day. I didn’t realize until too late that there would be a yearly, well struggle is too strong of a word, but how to make a nice birthday for Mom and get away by ourselves for our anniversary did take a bit of effort! And didn’t always work. It was a wonderful day. I had wanted a huge church wedding, with all the frills, bridesmaids, bells and whistles there could be. My dearly Beloved wanted to elope to Couer d’Alene, Idaho to the Hitching Post for a very quiet, personal ceremony. Compromise is a good word – sometimes – so we had a quiet family wedding at his sister’s house. A Maid of Honor, a Best Man and a candle lighter were our attendants. There were about 60 present, mostly his side of the family, since I didn’t have one. Just my Mom. I realized years later to my great joy, that the candelabra was a menorah! We went to Harrison Hot Springs in Canada for a short honeymoon. We were young and poor but very much in love and very, very happy.

We spent our 25th wedding anniversary
at a local Hawaiian restaurant. The owners (a man and wife from Hawaii) closed their restaurant and let us have it for the evening. We both got a perm and my hair was very long. What a sight! We had a great time with our family and friends, all wearing muumuus and sarongs and Hawaiian shirts. We had leis around our necks and garlands in our hair. Hawaiian music kept us in the island atmosphere and it was quite a memorable occasion. Our Best Man and Maid of Honor, my Mom, four children and four grandchildren were with us.

Our 30th anniversary was coming up and I wanted to do a re-enactment of my dream wedding…. We planned and planned and had our church, our invitation list and everything put together EXCEPT, our children didn’t think much of the idea. One son wasn’t married and thought weddings were …blah, one son had a new baby and was working many hours overtime to catch up on expenses. One daughter was having very severe marriage problems and the idea didn’t set too well with her, the other daughter didn’t like the spotlight, and we had wanted all four kids to have a major part in the ceremony. At the last minute, we chucked it all and eloped to Couer’d’Alene where a pastor friend of ours had a church. We kept the Hawaiian theme and had a lovely ceremony at the altar. My mom was there, and our pastor and his wife and several of their children attended. They were there visiting our pastor friend who happened to be their son. Our friends who owned the Edmonds Bakery, baked us a beautiful little wedding cake and I carried it on my lap all the way to Idaho! Our kids couldn’t believe it! They had finally accepted our wedding idea, unbeknownst to us, and were disappointed that we eloped without telling them. But we had a great time pulling it off! We kept going east, taking Miss Mulligan, our little poodle puppy with us, for a second honeymoon.

By the time our 40th anniversary came around, we were attending a Messianic Congregation. What a wonderful time to have a Jewish wedding! We planned one for after the morning service on the Shabbat closest to our anniversary date. My husband wore a tallit and kippah and the theme of the day was Victorian. Everyone dressed accordingly and the women wore hats! My daughters accompanied me to the altar and we stood under the chuppah which was held by our four eldest grandsons. I got dizzy as I circled my groom seven times, as the tradition goes, and my Beloved did a good job of smashing the glass after we shared the wine. Our relatives and friends got a good look at Jewish tradition and Messianic worship since they all attended the Shacharit (morning) Service before the wedding. It was such a glorious day!

Six years later, and still in the wedding mode …. We decided to – what else? – have another wedding! This time it would just be the three of us. G-d, my Beloved and me! I took excerpts from some Jewish wedding ceremonies that I found on the internet and added the words to “A Wedding Prayer” from our original wedding song. We chose my father’s birthday this time and we stood out under the arbor in our front yard at high noon. We wore white wedding clothes and I had a flower garland in my hair. He wore a white kippa. We shared the wine and bread and exchanged simple golden wedding bands in the Jewish tradition. They wear them on their right hands. No diamonds, no decorations, just gold. Pure and simple. It shows all are equal before G-d. Then we made a Salt Covenant. My Beloved added his little bag of salt to mine and we poured it all together into a decorative jar that now sits on our fireplace mantle. No one or no thing can separate the grains back the way they were – into two little bags of salt! We renewed our wedding vows. As long as the salt remains mixed together, our covenant of love will last. That was G-d’s original plan! One man – one woman – together forever. With His love and guidance this has been possible.

Our wedding song, by Ferne Dunlap, goes like this:

“Heavenly Father, hear us as we pray.
Here at Thine altar on our wedding day.
Show us the path that Thou wouldst have us take.
Help us to follow Thee and sin forsake.
In Thy sight, Oh God today,
We come to pledge our love and unity.
And keep us one throughout eternity.
And when life’s sun shall set beyond the hill –
May we go hand in hand – together, still!

What a marvelous testimony to G-d’s love and care. Through the years, the hard times and the great times, the near fatal illnesses, the loss of our parents and a baby, two miscarriages, family divorces and a host of major and minor problems, G-d has held us together through it all and I give Him all Praise and Glory for it.

Well, there’s only one thing left to do! Our anniversary is coming up –
let’s plan another wedding!

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Hebrew History – The Twins

Hebrew History

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Isaac marries his shirt-tailed relative and she gets pregnant with twins. It was a difficult pregnancy – and her only one. The twins are constantly fighting in the womb. Rebecca goes to G-d to find out what the problem is …. and He tells her! They are definitely not identical twins! Appearance and personality are completely different.

The Church has given Jacob (Ya’acov) a bum wrap for years, in my opinion. The Scriptures tell us he was a “plain” man. That means a quiet, peaceable, fellow who minds his own business. He was a student and a scholar. His mother favored him because he was “bookish” while Isaac favored his big, hairy, robust son who loved to fight and kill things. OK, he was a hunter, and that was necessary, but I don’t much go for that – I’ll take the kid in the library!

Esav (Esau) was the oldest by a few minutes. But those few minutes made all the difference in the world. The right of the first born, for instance. He was the one to receive the bulk of the family inheritance as well as the family spiritual leadership. Esau doesn’t care about the spiritual part of his inheritance, but he sure wants the power and the money! Abraham left a legacy – who would fulfill it? Not Esau.

When Isaac was old and supposedly dying – he calls his sons in for their blessing. You know the story. When Jacob comes disguised as Esau, Isaac says, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Jacob.” Bresheet (Genesis) 27:22 That was because, according to R’ Spiro, the voice symbolizes the power of the intellect, and the hands symbolize the power of action and might and of sword. Here we see that Esau, through his descendants, will give rise to the Roman Empire! The Bible calls it Edom. The Roman Empire became the seat of the universal Catholic Church which later divided into two powers – including the Eastern Orthodox group. Still later, the Protestant Christians split off from the Roman Church.

This struggle of the twins is no less than a world-wide fight throughout all history! It started in utero and has continued down through the corridors of time until this very hour. One thought is that Rome, the end result of Esau, gives rise to our Western culture and continues its battle against the Jewish people. All the descendants of Abraham can only become great – by G-d’s design. As in the days of yore, Rome will always be the stronger – in the physical sense while Israel is stronger in the spiritual and intellectual sense. Look how many Nobel prize winners there are that are of Jewish descent! How many great inventions are claimed by the Jews. Look at your phone book – how many Jewish doctors and lawyers are there? G-d has given the Jewish people a marvelous intellect – you can see it in their eyes. When one travels in Israel, you can’t help but immediately see the difference in the Jewish neighborhoods and those of the Arabs. You can see it in the way they care for their children, in the cleanliness of their streets and the graffiti or lack of – on their buildings. I know there are many wonderful Arab people. And G-d has blessed them, too. There is a place in His Kingdom for all of us.
Anyone who calls upon His name shall be saved…..

Next week we will look at the greatest enemy of all time of the Jewish people – Amalek! The nation G-d hates.

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Yom Hulade Sameach! (Happy Birthday!)

Today, May 12, 2005/5 Iyar is Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israeli Independence Day!

May 14, 1948 on our calendars and 5 Iyar 5708 on the Jewish traditional calendar marks the birth of the nation of Israel – or should I say – rebirth! After 2000 years of exile, the Jewish people have come home to establish a sovereign State. No one can believe the comedy of errors that occurred all during these early times.
The Israelis fought with pop bottle rockets dropped out of their few planes and other non-conventional materials due to lack of money and arms. G-d was truly with this rag-tag army and victory was theirs under horrendous odds!

Israel has lost more than 20,000 soldiers since the formation of the Jewish State. Yesterday, the Nation remembered these fallen heroes with sirens and silence. . . The Memorial Day is called Yom HaZikaron. It comes the day before Independence Day. One cannot celebrate great joy without counting the tremendous cost

But today is a day for joy and celebration! Here’s an exerpt from one Israeli news source:
On the occasion of Yom Ha’atzmaut, several leaders from around the world send their wishes to president of the State Moshe Katsav. The list includes the Queen of England, the King of Sweden, of Luxemburg, the governor of Australia and the president of the USA. (Guysen.Israël.News)

We are still instructed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem so let’s make a special effort to do that now. In so doing, we are calling for the appearance of the Prince of Peace – Sar Shalom! May He come quickly and in our time.

“Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim!”

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israeli Independence Day!

Tomorrow, May 12, 2005 is Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israeli Independence Day!

Today, the day before Independence Day, we observe Memorial Day. It is a day to remember our fallen heros. Please take a moment and reflect on their sacrifice and what we would have done without them!

In celebration of Israel’s 57th birthday, we present our readers “Ways You Can Help Israel”. Here are the first four. Go to the website for the rest. This was written three years ago, so there are 54 ways… think of three more yourself!

http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/54_Ways_You_Can_Help_Israel.asp

1. Buy Israeli products and services.
With the Israeli economy suffering, go out of your way to support Israel’s export trade. www.shopinisrael.com, www.usaisrael.org, and www.israeliwishes.com allow you to but Israeli products directly. www.shorashim.net is on online tourist gift shop. When in the grocery store, look for brands like Elite, Telma, Osem, and Ahava beauty products — even if you have to pay a few more dollars for Israeli products. Ask the supermarket manager to order these items specifically. Buy Israeli wine to bring as a gift when you visit friends. Home Depot and other stores have many made in Israel products — especially plastics. www.israelexport.org lists the names of products sold in the USA.

2. Speak out!
The next time you hear something that puts down Israel, don’t wonder to yourself, “What is anyone going to do about it.” YOU say something. Be a roving ambassador for Israel by explaining the true facts to everyone you meet. Even the cashier in the supermarket needs good information. You never know how your contribution may affect someone else’s views. The possibilities are endless. The worst thing that one can do is to remain quiet in times like this. So do something

3. Get the facts.
The Internet is a great resource for getting an accurate picture of what is really happening in the conflict. For daily news, visit the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com) and IMRA (http://www.imra.org.il). For crucial background information, read “Israel: A History” (by Martin Gilbert), “From Time Immemorial” (by Joan Peters), and “Myths and Facts” (by Mitchell G. Bard) — online at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html.

4. Pray.
Pray to God to bring peace to the land. Pray for Israel’s leaders who need wisdom. Pray that they continue to do what is best for Israel in spite of international pressure. Pray for the safety of Israeli civilians who are targeted by suicide bombers. Pray for the protection of IDF soldiers as they root out every last terrorist. Ask God to heal Israel’s wounded soldiers and civilians and to thwart future terrorist attacks. And pray for the Arabs to realize the true nature of their leadership and doctrines that teach hate and murder. Regardless of your level of observance, you can add a request for Israel to your regular (or even irregular) prayer regimen. No prayer goes to waste. You can send prayers via the Western Wall at www.thewall.org. Cry out for God’s compassion — because the gates of tears are never closed. And remember: God is in ultimate control. He has done miracles before and will do them again.

Happy Birthday, Israel!

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Shavuot – Celebrating a Double Blessing

“Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your G-d by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your G-d has given you…” Deut. 16:10

Have you ever really considered this Scripture before? We are to come with an offering – not our tithe, this would be over and above our tithe. I finally got a handle on this and I keep a little tzadaka box in my kitchen window sill. Every quarter I come across goes into the box. I’ve been known to ask for quarters from family and friends from time to time…. Do you realize how many quarters you can come up with in a year? It really works – try it or come up with some plan of your own. Never again will I come to celebrate Shavuot without an offering.

I have a Stone’s Chumash and I see some valuable reading there. It’s NOT Scripture, but greater minds than mine have put a lot of prayer and thought into it and there is much to learn. As long as it conforms to Scripture, I am happy to read and accept it. I found an interesting piece (under V’Yikra (Leviticus) 23 concerning holy convocations: [page 683] BTW = a “holy convocation” is a gathering together of His people to worship Him. You can’t fulfill this mitzvah by staying home – so best you find a place to go and go prepared with an offering!

“The Festivals are days on which the people are “invited” (commanded, actually!) to assemble in prayer and thanksgiving and to celebrate with fine clothing and festive meals……….The purpose of the festivals is spiritual elevation and the special foods and festive clothing are to help people achieve that goal. By giving honor and distinctiveness to the day, we focus our minds on it and thereby foster a realization of the opportunities it offers us, if we but utilize them properly.”

Did you notice that “fine clothing”? How can we come to meet our Master, the King of the universe in less than our best? Let’s dress up and look like we really care about what we are doing! Let’s have a festive meal! We can use our best dishes and serving pieces and go all out with preparation of some extra special recipes for this very special occasion! It does matter.

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.” Egypt is a symbol of sin. When we were in sin, we were lost and undone. We that have accepted His salvation have escaped the Egypt of sin in our lives and we need to be ever so grateful for our deliverance. So let’s keep His decrees and do our best to follow all that He has to say regarding this very special holy day.

Since the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai is equivalent to a betrothal, it is “wedding time”! What a wonderful time to dress up, bring an offering, a festive dish and enjoy a wedding atmosphere! We can celebrate two major events – G-d’s special personal Word to us and His gift of the Ruach HaKodesh!

Oh, and do you have any extra quarters?

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Shavuot – a Double Blessing

D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:10-12 = “Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your G-d by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your G-d has given you. And rejoice before the Lord your G-d at the place He will choose as a dwelling place for His name – you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and your maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.” (Leaving Egypt is the same as leaving the sin of this world)

Next Shabbat (May 14th, 2005) will be the celebration for the early Feasters and June 13th for the traditional calendar observers. Shavu’ot (shaw-vu-OAT, as pronounced by the Sephardic Jews and is the national language of Israel) is one of the three pilgrim festivals that were to be celebrated in Jerusalem – the place where G-d has chosen to put His name. All men were to travel to the City to wave their two loaves of leavened bread before the Lord. This was a public testimony of the Lord’s provision for His people. It is a celebration of the abundant spring harvest. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the emphasis has changed from animal sacrifices and agricultural aspects to celebrating the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai. This day became the legal birth of Israel as a Nation.

Messianic Believers can also celebrate the gift of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit which occurred on the same day. Christianity calls this day Pentecost, which means “50”, because it occurs 50 days after Passover, and considers this day to be the birthday of the “church“. We know that the “church”, actually the “called out ones” or ecclesia/congregation/kehelot were called out at Mt Sinai where G-d betrothed Himself to His people. That was the true birthday of the “church”.

“The festival of Shavuot arrived, and the Believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roaring of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which separated and came to rest on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4 Complete Jewish Bible

Y’shua gave His disciples the Holy Spirit on the day of His resurrection (First Fruits) but He told them not to leave Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Father. (Acts 1:4-5) Throughout the Bible, fire has been a symbol of G-d’s presence and His covenant. The burning bush in the desert, the pillar of fire in the wilderness, etc. Fire is considered a symbol of the presence of the Ruach. Fire came down on the day of Pentecost (Greek word for 50)

As Believers, we can celebrate Shavuot as the giving of G-d’s instructions for daily living (the Torah) and as the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) the power and enablement to be bold witnesses in the world we live in. We are to take the gospel to the world with miracles of healing. We are to make disciples of all nations and teach obedience to G-d’s commandments. Somebody once said, “Without the work of missions and evangelism, Pentecost (Shavuot) is just so many goose bumps!”

To quote “Special appointments With God”, a book prepared by Cedar Park Assembly of God:
“Pentecost (or Shavuot) represents the work of God in a new dimension in our life. It stands in contrast to the work of God in salvation. In Salvation, Jesus is our Saviour but at Pentecost He is our baptizer. In salvation, the Holy Spirit comes into our life while at Pentecost the Spirit is released in power. Salvation comes from the resurrected Christ, while Spirit Baptism comes from the glorified Christ. Regeneration is the in-breathed Spirit while baptism is the out-poured Spirit. Salvation brings us into relationship with God while (Spirit) baptism is meant to bring us into a new relationship with the world. Salvation is God in you, whereas Pentecost is God released through you. Salvation and Spirit Baptism are as different as Passover is from Pentecost.”

Let’s begin to prepare our hearts to receive all G-d has for us while we do our best to keep His Torah.

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Mother’s Day thoughts …

I can’t say I agree with R Lapin on this — but neither can I disagree! Let’s think about this for awhile and see what happens… I admire Daniel Lapin and I have told him he is my second favorite rabbi! You know who my favorite rabbi is….

Why our Family Doesn’t do Mother’s Day.
by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Mothers’ Day is sacrosanct. It is almost a law of nature. Nobody dare disparage the purchase of those boxes of chocolate and the saccharine-flavored greeting cards that accompany them. Few would dissuade from dragging mom out to a crowded restaurant for that obligatory Mother’s Day meal. It is behind us now. Had I questioned its value as a revered date on our calendars last week, I would have been excoriated for blasphemy. This week however, my musings can be welcomed as, oh say, research.

You see, here is what bothers me about it: Whether you like it or not, most would agree that the Ten Commandments lie at the core of Western civilization. Why, even retaining our seven-day week in place of what would be a vastly more convenient calendar based upon a five-day week, is only on account of the fourth Commandment regarding the Sabbath day. Without that pesky fourth Commandment, we could reuse our calendars year after year since every year would be identical.

Well, the fifth Commandment doesn’t instruct us to honor our fathers and mothers only on two special days each year, does it? No, the Commandment is valid for 365 days each year and 366 in leap years. My wife and I have always suspected that observance of an annual Mother’s Day or Father’s Day actually diminishes observance of the fifth Commandment. Not wanting to run the risk of that happening, we just declared from our children’s’ infancy that in our home, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day was everyday!

To my relief, our children accepted this, but on growing a little older, they inquired about another verse found early in the 19th chapter of Leviticus, “Everyone should fear his mother and father.” Contrasting this with that fifth Commandment which did so much for our family’s lifestyle, they asked, “Why reverse the order?” In Exodus, honor your father and mother but in Leviticus fear your mother and father? Does the Bible instruct us to honor our fathers more than our mothers but to fear our mothers more than our fathers?

Of course not! The Bible never asks us to do the easy and the natural. In fact, its very greatness is how it introduces us to the revolutionary idea that makes Western civilization possible. Namely that it is not only possible, but vital that we overcome nature, particularly our own. Toilet training a young child is the first time this lesson is administered. Don’t relieve yourself when it would be natural to do so, just as animals do. Be unnatural. Hold it in until an appropriate time and until you’re in an appropriate place. Behaving naturally is not the goal, dominating our nature is.

Although many in America consider it uncivilized to eat without first saying a blessing of gratitude for the food, it would be hard to find instructions about grace before meals in the Bible. However in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy we are clearly instructed to give thanks after eating, “And you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God.”
Ancient Jewish wisdom assures us that most of us feel considerably more spiritual and holy when hungry. (This dictum must be related closely to the one about no atheists in foxholes!) Fasting is necessary to observe the Day of Atonement because it puts us in the mood to atone. Since hunger induces piety, it is completely natural for all sensitive humans to say grace prior to satisfying their hunger. Thus, we can be counted on to do so without instruction. What is unnatural is for the satiated diner with bulging belly, to pause prior to staggering away from the table in order to express profound gratitude to the Creator. That is an amazingly unnatural feat and it is precisely what is demanded of us.

Similarly, most of us feel a natural respect toward our mothers while we feel a natural fear of our fathers. I know that as a child, I much preferred my frequent mischief to be discovered first by my mother. Thus the fifth Commandment teaches us the unnatural. Honor your father as much as you would naturally honor your mother. Then, in Leviticus, fear your mother just as much as you naturally fear your father. In other words, always strive to be far better than nature dictates. Mother’s Day may be part of nature, but it is unnatural and far more desirable to make today and tomorrow, and yes, everyday, just as much a Mother’s Day as was last Sunday.

This article originally appeared in National Review Online.

Author Biography:
Rabbi Daniel Lapin is president of Toward Tradition.- Mercer Island, WA. (Seattle )

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Simple Truths – Deep Meaning

Ed Note: Many have seen some of these before, but anytime is a good time to take them, slowly, one at a time and really think about it. Do they reflect our lifestyle or does our lifestyle need reevaluation!

Man’s way leads to a hopeless end — God’s way leads to an endless hope.

A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.

He who kneels before God can stand before anyone.

Don’t put a question mark where God puts a period.

Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to church for a faith-lift.

When praying, don’t give God instructions – just report for duty.

Don’t wait for six strong men to take you to church.

We don’t change God’s message — His message changes us.

When God ordains, He sustains.

Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory position.

Suffering from truth decay? Brush up on your Bible.

Exercise daily — walk with the Lord.

Never give the devil a ride — he will always want to drive.

Nothing else ruins the truth like stretching it.

Compassion is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back.
He who angers you controls you.

Worry is the darkroom in which negatives can develop.

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

What we do in life echoes in eternity….

Read the Bible — It will scare the hell out of you.

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Hebrew History – part 4

Ishmael

After Abraham arrives in the Promised Land, he thinks he has a problem. No son! G-d had promised him a son when he was already old and he had already waited so many years. Sarah, always the dutiful wife, has thought about this a lot and she comes up with a bizarre suggestion. She figures maybe G-d wants Abraham to father a child in another woman. She asks him to take Hagar, her Egyptian maid, as wife number two and perhaps they would have a child. Sarah would adopt the child and all would be well – or would it?

Sure enough, a man-child was born and he was named Ishmael. Ish means “man” and “El” is one of the names of G-d. Abraham must have hoped with all his heart that this child would truly be “G-d’s man”. Not so! Just the opposite. When we take matters into our own hands, anything can happen and what happened had world shattering consequences. Ishmael didn’t carry out G-d’s plan for Israel, he went on to found his own nation. G-d said, “You shall call his name Ishmael … and he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and everyman’s hand against him; and he shall live in the presence of all his brothers.” He married a woman from Egypt and had 12 sons, leaders of nations. From this what I would consider, tragedy, another great monotheistic, but erroneous faith would appear. Islam.

Isaac

Isaac is promised to Abraham and Sarah, and he is miraculously born when they are 90 and 100 years old! This Family is now in the 18th century BCE or about 3700 years ago. They set out to be a light to the nations. Isaac is said to have been 37 years old at the time of the incident on Mt. Moriah. Can you imagine a grown man of that age bowing to the wishes of his aged father? He could have easily overpowered him and disappeared…. But he was taught at an early age to honor his father and obedience was the order of the day. He makes a good type of Y’shua, doesn’t he? Willing to lay down his life at the request of his father.

Whatever the parents do – it better be right because the children will come up right along after them and do what they do… Bresheet (Genesis) 20 & 21 relate the story of Abraham’s journey to the land of the Philistines and the problems he encountered there. Their king wanted to take Sarah to wife. Abraham told them she was his sister. This was not a lie –she WAS his half sister. It turned out well for everyone… Sarah must have been a remarkably beautiful woman to attract a king at her advanced age!

BUT the same thing happened to Isaac some years later. He also spends time with the Philistines. (Maybe they should have all stayed home?) And this time the king wanted Isaac’s wife. This caused a well problem …

That seems to be a history repeat: Jews enter any country, the country prospers, the powers that be grow to dislike the Jews and throw them out. Their economy falls flat. This has happened over and over again down through history. And why are the Jews hated and thrown out? There’s never been a reason I can see. Jealousy, perhaps?

Shabbat Shalom!
Sharaka
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A Dozen Things to Teach Your Child About Table Manners

Question: At what point do you begin to teach your child table manners?
Answer: When the child learns to speak English.

You can begin with simple things like teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” and go on from there. Tell your children that table manners are more than about proper eating, it’s about being kind and considerate of others. Also, tell them although you know that they are smart and wonderful, other people will judge them on how they appear. Having proper table manners is one way people judge others, and they wouldn’t want people to think they’re some kind of rudies, do they?

Whether in a restaurant or in a home, here are some basic table manners:

1. Eat with a fork unless the food is meant to be eaten with fingers That would be chicken, corn on the cob, artichokes, asparagus, pizza, and a few more. Other than that only babies eat with their fingers!

2. Don’t stuff your mouth full of food, it looks gross, and you could choke.

3. Chew with your mouth closed. No one wants to be grossed out seeing food being chewed up or hearing it being chomped on. This includes no talking with your mouth full.

4. Don’t make rude comments about any food being served. It will hurt someone’s feelings.

5. Always say thank you when served something. It shows you care.

6. If the meal is not buffet style, then wait until everyone is served before eating. It shows consideration.

7. Eat slowly, don’t gobble up the food. Someone took a long time to prepare the food, enjoy it slowly. Slowly means to wait about a few seconds after swallowing before getting another forkful.

8. When eating rolls, break off a piece of bread before buttering. Eating a whole piece of bread looks tacky.

9. Don’t reach over someone’s plate for something, ask for the item to be passed to you.. Shows consideration.

10. Don’t pick anything out of your teeth at the table, it’s gross. If it bothers you that bad, excuse yourself and go to the restroom to pick.

11. Always use a napkin to dab your mouth, which should be on your lap when not in use. Remember, dab your mouth only. Don’t wipe your face or blow your nose with a napkin, both are gross. Excuse yourself from the table and go the restroom to do those things.

12. When eating at someone’s home or a guest of someone at a restaurant, always thank the host and tell them how delicious it was, or make some kind remark (but don’t lie). Do this even if somebody else already did. Again, someone took time, energy, and expense to prepare the food, show your appreciation.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says manners are one of the differences between man and animals. He says use them and prove evolution wrong! We are not animals, let’s don’t eat like them.

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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About the Counting of the Omer

Today, May 5th, is the 12th day of the counting according to Hallel’s calender. It is day 41 if you are a barley-watcher. It is also the American National Day of Prayer and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Scriptures command us to count the omer. Why? No one really knows and if they do they haven’t told me! We are told to count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot even though the number of days never changes. The word for “number” in Hebrew is mispar. Its root could be closely related to the word for “story” — sipur. What is the relationship between the two?

A collection of events becomes a story — as opposed to a random string of events — when there is a beginning where the characters are introduced, a middle where conflict takes place, and an end in where there is resolution. (Sounds like our lives!)

Our lives go by so quickly that we frequently lose awareness of the awesome power of our own living stories. As each day flows into the next, we lose consciousness of beginnings and endings.
Nevertheless, we each have many stories to tell. The commandment to count opens our hearts to hearing stories.

One important story is of G-d’s people as they, at last, left Eygpt, when they gained their physical freedom and watched it turn into spiritual freedom at Mt. Sinai. Why didn’t G-d give the Torah to the people as they left Egypt? Because they were not ready to receive it! They had been slaves for 400 years. All the stories passed down from many generations were ones of a slavery mentality. They knew nothing of personal freedom. They needed 50 days to prepare themselves to recognize and accept spiritual freedom.

I believe they (and we) were told to count each day as a form of anticipation. When you count days to a special occasion such as a birthday, a vacation, etc. you count down, not up. For example – “Only 14 more days until my birthday.” But for the coming of Shavuot – we count upwards, from one to 50. Each day brings us closer to the Big Event! In this case mature, spiritual freedom.

Barley is the first harvested grain and it was food for the common man as well as fodder for the animals. Barley was the sacrifice at Passover. (the physical always comes first) The story of Ruth has her and her mother-in-law returning to Israel at the time of the barley harvest. Early spring. Passover. Ruth is the story of a poor woman who made good – marrying Boaz, one of the richest men in town. This happened during or just after the wheat harvest. Summer = Shavuot. Spiritual freedom. Wheat is a later harvest and was eaten by the wealthier folks. Anyone can eat barley, but wheat was used to make the finest bread. Wheat harvest = a better harvest. Shavuot, the giving of the Torah is a spiritual freedom. Spiritual is better than physical. And the physical always comes first.

The omer was “the first sheaf of grain cut during the barley harvest and presented in the Temple as an offering during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Omer also refers to a dry measure, one tenth of an ephah.” according to FFOZ. The omer is counted as we wait in anticipation. We have no Temple, except the one we live in. We have no measure of barley but we can still wait in holy anticipation for better things to come.

See you next time.
Shalom, Sharaka
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Dwellings in Bible Times – Part 2

One room houses:
After Israel had lived in the Promised Land for many years and left their nomadic lifestyle, they turned to houses instead of tents. The average home was a one-roomed structure with a flat roof and a small courtyard. Houses were not built with the idea of staying indoors for the majority of the time. The weather was mild enough that the outdoors was still the place to be – enjoying G-d’s world. The house was for safety and for protection from sandstorms and cold, rainy weather. The Hebrew word for house – bait – primarily means “shelter“. No effort was made to make its appearance attractive. It was purely functional.

Floors: The floor of houses was usually packed earth. Sometimes lime was mixed with water and dirt and it made a harder surface. Occasionally, a house was found with cobblestones or stone shavings mixed with lime for the flooring.

Walls:
The walls of these houses were often made of bricks. Really sun-baked mud. My uncle in New Mexico lives in a hundred-fifty year old adobe house with walls made of sun-baked mud bricks 18 inches thick. They serve as insulation from winter’s cold and summer’s heat. And one plus from that is every window has a window seat! This is the Mexican way of house-building, common in all hot countries. Sometimes the walls were constructed of rough sandstone. They would be of irregular shapes and sizes and put together with mud. Only the well-to-do or the kings would be made from hewn stone. The Western Wall or the Kotel in Jerusalem is made from such hewn stone. The stones from Herod’s time are out-lined with a pattern, somewhat like a picture frame.

Roof:
Beams were placed from one wall to the opposite wall and covered with mats of reeds or thorn bushes. Over that would be a coating of clay earth and that was covered with sand and pebbles. A stone roller was used to make the surface smooth and help shed the rain and it was left upon the roof to be used as needed.
(in the case of my southwest uncle – the custom was to put horse manure as the last coating. It would harden and become waterproof. Every fall, another layer is added. Quite interesting!)

A low parapet, fence or wall was constructed around the outside edges of the roof as a safety precaution. Deut. 22:8 commands it. The roof was used by so many and for so many things that it was necessary to save lives. Grass would grow on the dirt and one could have a rather pleasant place to come to read, to meditate or just get some privacy. You can imagine this roof would leak during the rainy season. Made sleeping very interesting as the inhabitants moved from dry spot to dry spot during the nights. One disadvantage of such flimsy walls was that thieves could dig through and come in to steal. (Matthew 6:19)

Windows and doors:
Windows were seldom placed on the street side of the house. Wooden bars or lattice work were placed in the windows as protection against robbers. (Prov 7:6) Wooden shutters would be used at night and to keep out sandstorms.

Doors were most often built of sycamore wood. The wealthier families used cedar. They all turned on hinges and if it fastened shut – a bar was what kept it closed. The door of a family dwelling was opened before sunrise and closed at sunset. It was in invitation to hospitality. A closed door was a sign of shame.
I’m only talking about simple one room rural houses. The illustration of Y’shua knocking on the door takes new meaning, doesn’t it – it means the inhabitant is ashamed and needs help and understanding. Let’s be sure to always keep our doors open to Him.

from “Manners and Customs of Bible Lands”, by Fred H. Wight

See you next time!
Shalom, Sharaka
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Dwellings in Bible Times – Part 1

Housing in Tents:
Dwelling in tents goes back to Bresheet (Genesis) 4:20. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dwelt in tents in and around the land of Canaan all of their lives. The Bnei Yisrael (Children of Israel) lived in tents for the 40 years they spent in the desert. During the days of King David, many still lived in tents. After the Temple was built in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) the people made their Festival pilgrimages to the Temple and many thousands of them dwelt in tents in the Judean hills surrounding Jerusalem. Still today, the Bedouin (Arab) peoples live in tents. It is not uncommon today to see large tents in the desert with TV antennas protruding from the tops. I have seen that myself!

Bedouin tents are black and made of goat’s hair. It makes for a course, heavy fabric that protects from the cold, shrinks when wet thus providing winter warmth but becomes porous when dry, thereby allowing air to flow in and out through the fabric. When you are inside the tent on a hot summer day, you can look up and it appears that you are seeing millions of stars in the night sky. That’s how big the holes are! In hot summer, the sides are lifted and only the ‘roof’ remains as a sunshade. The material that makes up the tent is the same material used for sack cloth. Prickly, course, goat’s hair. Not at all pleasant to wear next to the body. It was a sign of humility, repentance or sorrow.

Bedouins who live together as a clan, form their tents in a large circle and keep some of their flocks inside. The sheik’s (ruler) tent is the largest and a spear stand outside the “door” as a symbol of his authority. It is believed this same pattern is the one used by the ancient Israelis.

The tent, itself, is an oblong structure, divided into two or three compartments. The entrance leads into the main compartment, which is used by the men. The second compartment is for the women and children and the third, if present, is for servants and sometimes animals. Depending upon the finances of the family, each wife may have her own tent. Furnishings were simple, consisting of rugs on the desert floor. Mats or carpet pieces are brought out for beds and the outer coverings worn by the people during the day became their night coverings.

Sacks of grain used for grinding into flour for bread are piled around the tent poles and there would be a grinding mill, leather buckets for drawing water from wells, pitchers used by the women to carry water, a few cooking utensils, and platters which held the food. Everyone used bread to dip into the common platter or bowl of food. Even in rural areas today this procedure is followed and it is considered a sign of wealth if everyone has their own plate. There are oil lamps and drinking cups for all and if the family has a camel or camels, the saddles are used as chairs. A hole is dug near the women’s compartment and a fire built in it for cooking in winter. Summer cooking is done outside.

These tents last a very long time and the only time a new one is made is for a bride and groom to set up house-keeping. As the tent wears, the women prepare new strips of goat hair and patch the oldest places in the tent. A tent is never all “new” or all “old“, except for when it is first woven.

Visitors that travel in the desert were always welcomed, taken into the tent and given the greatest hospitality. Travelers were always safe in a non-Jew’s tent. However, after spending the night (being fed and entertained) anything was a possibility once the traveler had left the safety of the tent, depending on the whim of the owner.

There is a certain charm to tent-dwelling, even today – one which can hardly be felt by the modern Western mind. It is a thing to be experienced for a time but not for a permanent housing solution.

from “Manners and Customs of Bible Lands”, by Fred H. Wight

Tomorrow – One room houses of yesterday.
Shalom, Sharaka
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