Musings & Blessings

In Flight for Life!

In Flight for Life!

This story is very personal. It is more than a story. It’s a place in time when a person’s direction in life is changed forever. It’s a journey that throws one directly into the wilderness and the landing isn’t soft. It’s a life that’s hard, dry, lonely, tragic, heart-wrenching, broken, and shattered. The journey is difficult when we feel alone. It’s a place where very few people are willing to walk along your side—yes; we have been forgotten by many. The amazing love Hashem has for us can be found in the treasured people He places in our path Hashem assigns to help on our journey. During our trials, we may witness amazing miracles with a new joy found. We are not asked to understand, we’re called to trust in Hashem and to have Emet (faith). Hashem will never abandon nor forsake us.

“Be strong and resolute, be not in fear or in dread of them; for the LORD your G-d Himself marches with you: He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy/ Devarim 31:6)[1]

Abraham was the first Jew who had a Jewish mindset. He accepted whatever trials were sent by G-d in faith and responded with obedience, without questioning. Western (Greek) thought is worldwide. Greek mindset in America demands to know the reasons why…why…why… and what’s in it for me? Greek philosophy crept in after Aristotle and Augustine developed a foundation in Greek philosophy into Western thought. Hellenistic philosophy developed after Aristotle attempted to merge Plato with mixed Biblical concepts. While Greek thought teaches the student to be concerned for himself, look out for number one, it redefines “knowledge” with teachings that draws man away from G-d. Jewish thought draws man to G-d, away from self-indulgence and Replacement Theology teachings. Having a Jewish mindset understands the Heavens declare the Glory of G-d and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. (Psalms 19:1)

It’s important to train up our children in Judaism, and to love learning with a desire to seek what is righteous in the eyes of G-d. Having a Jewish mindset is “G-d centered,” understanding Hashem has the final Authority in all things. We should strive to learn with a Jewish mindset; understanding the chiasms in the Tanakh and Jewish writings. It’s important to keep the Tanakh in context by understanding what first mention is (a word may be written in the later books that was mentioned prior). It’s foundational to look back in earlier writings to receive “understanding.” Have Americans lost the real value of trusting Hashem when challenges come? Who or what do we turn to when our world becomes turned upside-down? Will we praise G-d in all things that are in our favor or not? How do we respond when our life is instantly pulled from under us? Will we allow ourselves to see His Light in all things?

Let’s begin the Journey:

Twins! We were having twins. My father was a twin and my husband’s father was a twin. What other news could be more exciting? This is usually the time a mom begins to think of look-alike clothing, two cribs, two highchairs, two of everything. The parents gleefully start making preparations for more children on board.

In the twenty-fourth week gestation everything changed!  The doctor wasn’t alarmed when I placed a call reporting that I was losing amniotic fluid. He said a small amount can be normal, especially with twins that generally seals up. The next morning I was passing blood. My husband and I headed to the Emergency Room. I prayed during the way there. Baruch Hashem, G-d had a different doctor in mind that just happened to be on call at the hospital on our arrival. Dr. Bexar* [2]is one of the best OBGYN doctors in my state. His love and compassion, as well as expertise were incredible. After the ultrasound verified the twins were coming, they began treatments to stop the bleeding and contractions. The pressure was unbelievably painful. The injections didn’t work; the twins were on their way. There is an enormous risk being born naturally premature. They could die being too fragile and tiny to survive the pressure of the birth canal. The ultrasound revealed the feet of one of the twins had already entered the birth canal, and one of the twins had hydrocephalus.

Fifteen minutes were given to make a decision! If they were born naturally, both would die. By caesarean-section, they would have a life-given chance! We chose life to give them every opportunity to live. On the table in the surgery room, going under anesthesia, the doctor and I counted backwards together as he held up his fingers. Ten…nine…eight…sevvv… (I’m asleep). Our beautiful twins were born; hearts beating with faint cries. Into the hands of exceptional doctors hand-picked from the Hand of G-d, Dr. Goldstein *[3], a pediatrician, who was on the delivery twin- team would become a big part of our son’s life in years to come.

Dr. Bexar reported that a separate mass was found and believed to have been a triplet that at some point stopped growing. In the first trimester, I had some unusual cramping that stopped after a day or two. Perhaps the triplet died and my body picked up messages that a life was over, but with twins, the chemistry became strong enough to send a message there’s still Life with my pregnancy. If so, we will see her/him in our next life to embrace, along with loving on Travis.

“It was You who created my conscience; You fashioned me in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am awesomely, wondrously made; Your work is wonderful; I know it very well. My frame was not concealed from You when I was shaped in a hidden place, knit together in the recesses of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all recorded in Your book; in due time they were formed, to the very last one of them.” (Psalms/ Tehillim 139: 13-16)[4]

Hidden and concealed – protection, covering, hedged in:

  • Soul- Nefesh

Awakened to echoing voices in the background in the Recovery room, I discovered our hearing (Shema) senses return before vision.

  • The Father called us (my husband and I) on this journey. We answered Hashem’s call as “doers.”
  • Shema (hearing) – “Na’aseh v’nishma”—we will do and we will hear. (Exodus 19:8) The giving of the Torah. Our Wilderness begins!

The Storm

The storm came in two waves; physically and spiritually. Because the hospital wasn’t equipped for extreme premature babies weighing in the one-pound range, Life-Flight was called. Our babies were to be flown to a children’s hospital, out of state.

While waiting for Life-Flight, I was wheeled into the NICU on a gurney; giving the names of the twins with the correct spelling. They were too little to be held; thankfully, we were able to hold their tiny hands. Their tiny and delicate hands were the size of a man’s thumb—delicate, fragile, and precious!

The flight was almost canceled due to the horrific storms. With Hashem’s help, the pilots flew in-between storms, keeping perfect timing. There was one massive storm cloud in front, one behind. Life-flight flew in between the storms for its safe and precise arrival and departure.

Our beautiful twins were brought to my room; incubated in isoletts, ventilated, and on monitors. We were given treasured time before they left; not knowing if we’d see them alive again. My parents, sister, and her husband, headed to the children’s hospital during horrible road blizzard conditions with whiteouts. It was better for loved ones to be with our twins. Time was an essence. Life is precious!

The first night unable to hold my beautiful twins, undetermined how long they would live, or if I would see them alive was almost too much to bear. My sister-in-law drove through a mountainous storm to be by my side. After she left, a nurse sat by my side through the long hard nights when suddenly “the call” was transferred into my room during the second night. Travis was placed on complete life-support. His heart had stopped twice. They used the crash-cart to sustain him. My heart was breaking (I am in tears again, twenty-six years later). The medical team would do their best to keep them alive until my husband and I could arrive. Shawn, the smallest at one pound, four ounces, wasn’t out of the woods either. They both were fighting for their lives.

At last, I was allowed to leave—a day early. Considering my mother was the Head Director of the Women’s Center in the hospital, there wasn’t any reason to delay my discharge.

The Community Meeting

Upon arrival at the children’s hospital, we were allowed to see our babies before we were led into a private room for their “community meeting.” Community meetings gather the medical team with the parents to discuss the patient’s condition (weaknesses and strengths) to make a game plan; not limited to considerations with different probabilities and scenarios. It didn’t take long to figure out the complexity ideals held by some professionals assigned to the team. In other words, not all on board were believers in the miracles of G-d. Throughout the years ahead, we would meet doctors who didn’t believe; Hashem’s Light was going to shine through our twins—spiritually and physically!

Through prayers and all considerations given, we knew the direction Hashem was taking us before entering the room with the medical team. After listening, additional time given for prayers with family after being consulted, we knew the decision. Travis’ brain had completely bled to a grade four, meaning his life could not be sustainable without life support. Our hearts broke knowing Travis would die through painful suffering. He was in a cubical room full of equipment—full capacity. Shawn’s brain bleed was a grade two, and if shunted, he could have a chance to live—though we were given two years. Travis would come off life-support, return to the Father, and Shawn would remain in this world—in flight for life!

Travis was removed from all equipment, other than the heart monitor. In a swaddling blanket, Travis was gently handed to me. They said he would pass away in just a few minutes. After a few minutes he was still with us. We gently took turns holding Travis. He was bruised from being so little during the delivery process. His beautiful face resembled much fear and pain. My family who gathered around my husband, Travis, and me were my parents, sister, and her husband.

Hashem had given me the time needed to say “goodbye.” In earth time, we were given forty-five minutes. But eternally, it was outside of time. In other words, time outside of space and time doesn’t exist the same way our clocks do. The moment Travis was placed in my arms time stopped. It was as if our Creator moved us out of the earthly realm (of time) and into an area outside of time.

The forty-five minutes was eternal, no time, as if we were holding on to Travis forever. Cradling him in my arms, my tears were bittersweet. It was heavenly to hold him; yet, I knew he had to go on without me. I had to accept he couldn’t be with us at this time. It was heart-wrenching to let go knowing the separation would be long-suffering on this side of life. However, he would rejoice in his spirit (Ruach) returning to Hashem. The feeling of eternal time sent us back to real time. I knew it was time to let go and say “goodbye” for now. Holding him alive in my arms would soon end.

Through tearful eyes and a weakened voice, I told Travis it was OK for him to go by knowing G-d would take care of him. An amazing miracle happened—gifted just for me to see. There was a miraculous glowing LIGHT that radiated around Travis’ head, like an aura. His face was no longer in fear or in pain. His countenance lifted. His face began to radiate with Hashem’s healing light of glory, surrounding his head. Travis was received by Hashem as his beautiful spirit returned. Travis took his last breath on earth and “crossed over” into Paradise to be with G-d, our Creator.

It’s substantial to understand what Hashem can reveal intimately on a deeper level during our lifespan when we choose to follow Him. Every person conceived has the Spirit of G-d given with a story to tell. The Father, our Creator, is miraculous and every conceived human life will have his/her given Torah Parasha. Torah Portions are true stories of the Tanakh that our ancestors endured—to be remembered. Every week throughout the year “Parasha’s” are studied and read that have the Divine Presence (Hashem) with in-depth messages that are meaningful to man.

Let’s look at the connections:

“Travis”: English and French that means “To Cross” and “At the Crossroads;” given to toll collectors who stood by a bridge or crossing.”

“Shawn”: Hebrew name meaning: G-d is gracious.

Travis was born at the crossroads of life by way of the bridge to cross over the rivers into Paradise. Shawn reminds us that G-d is gracious and Hashem graciously placed Shawn in our care; illuminating the Light of Hashem for those who are willing to “see” and “hear” the miracles and see the loving-kindness (Chesed) of Hashem. Shawn, like his sisters, both have a “shen” (Sh) in their names that means “tooth” – crushing the enemy to bring Shalom. A tooth also sharpens, and it’s on the Mezuzah. Our daughter’s name means “Virtuous” and “Shining Israelite”, “Shiny Jew”, and “nes” means miracle. A miracle from Hashem brings forth His Light– Torah!  Hashem is our Redeemer who crushes the enemy for His victory! Powerful!

Crosswinds, separation of “Twins”

Our hearts were torn. One baby has passed, and our other baby was in for the fight of his life. With alarms sounding off, the parting of Travis, Shawn could sense a part of him was gone (strong Levite souls). To our amazement, all of the nurses in the room gathered together in a line (like angels); dividing the link between our twins—blocking communication waves. We were informed when a twin sense their twin died, they stop thriving with a higher possibility to leave as well. With Hashem’s help, Shawn gained the strength needed to continue his journey. Hashem’s Light was shining Hashem’s Glory for all to see.

Crossing over: 

Abraham crossed over Mesopotamia to Canaan. He was the first person to be called a “Jew.” Through faith and obedience, Abraham answered Hashem’s call; “crossing over ” from a life of idol worship of g-ds to a new life that would bring honor and glory to the Most High G-d.

When one crosses over a river, they leave their old life behind while passing through to a new life. This reflects a connection to conception and the seed making its way through the waters; leaving behind its old life to seek a new life [through the water]. Israel waits for the crossing over of the man’s old life, marking its target (Torah) on their new home. Moses and the Israelites crossed the Reed Sea. Joshua and the Israelites crossed the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Travis was in the waters of my womb. His feet came through the birth canal, like our ancestors’ feet that were set upon the Reed Sea. Travis was called back home to our Father and Creator; passing through the waters that cross over into Paradise. His souls were too perfect for this world.

G-d is Merciful/Gracious 

Shawn surprised the medical team on several occasions; surviving surgical procedures early on. He went through times of seizures, long term illnesses, and multiple shunt revisions that sent us back to the children’s hospital on Life-Flight numerous times. Through “trial and error” with shunt revisions for hydrocephalus [Shawn was the smallest infant to have attempted and succeeded at the time]; his procedures were written into medical journals. Today, through the pathway of Shawn, smaller infants have successful shunt surgeries, less time in NICU.

There were times of uncertainty during long and stressful recovery periods for shunt revisions, but with the grace and mercy of Hashem, Shawn miraculously came through. My husband and I spent countless hours traveling out of state to the children’s hospital. I stayed with Shawn while my husband went back home to work, meeting up with us on weekends. Once during Shawn’s later part of his first year, he was flown to NICU back home; anticipating his stay to be low key. While there, he joyfully received frequent visits from his Grandma, who just happened to be the Head Director of the Women’s Center. Shawn loved to hear Grandma’s voice. They were very blessed to have been given that precious time together. Over time, his shunts failed. It was discovered cabin pressure from commercial airlines caused shunt failure. He was Life flown back to the children’s hospital (out of state). Throughout his life, there have been many shunt failures and emergency Life- Flights. I was blessed to have had my Mom accompany me on one of those flights. I usually went alone while my husband and our daughter drove to meet us.

There was one particular time we (my husband, daughter and I) were planning to join my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and their daughter for vacation. My sister and her family live over one thousand miles away. Shawn’s shunts failed suddenly, rerouting our rendezvous, having side-by-side motel rooms near the children’s hospital. My Dad sat up his keyboard in the hotel room. We shared our time visiting Shawn, and found joy with my Dad’s music played and songs sung.

Throughout his amazing life, Shawn has given hope to many; glowing with the Light of Hashem that continues to shine within. His youngest sister loves and adores Shawn. She has always been by his side, helping and catering to his needs in his “quiet world.”  They truly are a gift to one another, a blessing.

More connections:

The twins were born in the month of June, rather, Sivan. Sivan, on the Jewish calendar, means the month of “Twins.” Ironically, my father was a twin, as well as my husband’s father. All three of these twin sets were blessed to be born in the Jewish month of Sivan—the month of Twins! How amazing and wondrous is Hashem?!

Torah Parasha: Shlach L’chah (Numbers/ Bamidbar 13-15)—The Twelves spies, two had a Good Report. Two is a separation of upper (Heavenly) and lower (earthly) waters—Creation Day Two.

Travis crossed over, left earth (passed over) through the waters with a clean record (Good Report). Shawn (G-d is Merciful/Gracious) continues to teach us HOPE, and to see the mercy of Hashem so that we can learn how to have a Good Report [in our lives] for the Father; walking in the Wilderness as Hashem’s Chosen Ones for His Glory. Will we hear (Shema) and obey our Father? Will we walk in the path Hashem gives for our good?

Let’s dig a little deeper:

The Jewish month Sivan was the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai through Moses. Moses was the third born son (Amram and Yocheved, his parents). Sivan is the third month. Day Three of creation is a gathering of land having trees and plants with fruit-bearing seeds (life). Trees (Etz in Hebrew) have growth rings which look very similar to the fingerprints of humans. Hashem’s “fingerprints” are a gift for us to see His Creation and believe in our Creator. Torah brings unity between man and Hashem.

Genesis 2:22 teaches, And the LORD G-d fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man.” Adam and Chavah (Eve) were made to be equal. Chavah was not designed from Adam’s heel to under her mate’s heel, but from his side (rib). When we look closer at this we realize G-d, Adam, and Chavah (Eve) were three; yet, man and woman are designed to be ‘One Flesh.” When we include G-d in our marriage, the three becomes ONE accord: Hashem—Man (father)—Female (mother).

There are three elements of man/woman:

  • Nefesh (soul/flesh that is shared with animals, creation day six).
  • Ruach (Spirit, the breath Hashem that places us above animals).
  • Neshamah (the soul part of G-d–His Sparks).

More Threes

The Talmud:

“Blessed is the Merciful One, who gave a three-part Torah, to a three-part nation, through a third, in the third month.” [5]

Rashi directs us to observe in the Torah having three parts:

  • Chumash
  • Prophets
  • Writings

Three Groups of the Israel Nation:

  • Kohanim
  • Levites
  • Israelites

The Three Pilgrimages:

  • Pesach (Light separated the darkness- brought out of the bondage of Egypt)
  • Shavuot (Torah given)
  • Sukkot (Completion with Sabbath Rest)

We serve the G-d of:

  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob (Israel) – Israel, third, eternal connection.

Bringing it together:

The upper and lower water was Day Two of Creation. The upper and lower waters were a separation. Two is a division, and three is unity. When G-d walked in the Garden with Adam and Chavah, the three were united. When Adam and Chavah sinned they were separated from G-d.  There was no longer unity; tragically, only two opposing sides. But with G-d involved the opposing sides found unity.

A triangle has three sides; yet, it remains ONE shape. The two opposing sides cannot continue to be separated with the third involved (Eternal connection). Zvi Ryzman teaches us that having the third side added to the opposing sides diametrically brings unity. Three can no longer have a representation of two (separation by opposing sides). “But if one takes two opposites—Black and white—and adds a third color, red, the third color will fall somewhere between the two opposites and connect them.”[6]

  • Red—symbolic to the soil (earth) Esau (Edom, red and hairy).
  • White—white light shun in a prism will light up all seven rainbow colors, Eternal, Pure.
  • Black—onyx stone is one of the twelves stones upon the Breastplate. It can be layered black, white and red. Faith and Truth.

Creation Day Two is a separation of the upper and lower waters; however, there is a connection of unity that is eternal with Hashem. Man alone will always oppose one another. Keeping Torah is a Lamp (Light) before our feet. When we walk in His Light (Torah), we guard the Torah and keep connected to Hashem in covenant.

The Levites banner of color is 1/3 Black, 1/3 White, 1/3 Red – A huge connection! They (Levite Priests) were called by Hashem to bring man into unity with G-d through the Torah. The Levites were given the Priesthood (Kohen Gadol) because it was the tribe of Levi who refused to partake in the worship of the Golden Calf. Jewish tradition teaches that none of the women participated in the worship of the Golden Calf either.

“Moses stood up in the gate of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come here!” And all the Levites rallied to him.” (Exodus/ Shemot 32:26)[7]

The Levites stepped forward. The Levites did not fall into spiritual adultery or idolatry. They took hold of Hashem. G-d called upon the Jews to bring the Torah to the Nations. They guarded (upheld) the Torah—the Light (Ohr) and Truth (Emet) that gathers man spirituality; exposing darkness that separates man from Hashem.

Hashem commanded the Mishkan (Tabernacle) to be built by the Children of Israel by using “Kerashim” (planks) from acacia trees. Acacia trees do not bend. Jacob (Yaakov) planted them in Egypt, and upon the Israelites leaving in the Exodus, they cut the trees down and took the wood into the Wilderness. The Mishkan was the resting place for the Shechinah—Divine Presence. Hashem desires to dwell with us. The Divine Presence, Torah, and Israel are three bonded together as ONE– Echad. They will NEVER be separated. We, too, are to be that “Mishkan” for the Divine Presence to dwell in us so that our mini menorahs can be lit to shine Hashem’s Light for others to see.

Looking back, we can see that the Levites are in the second line-up of the three. It’s remarkable the amazing intimate treasures Hashem revealed during this chapter! In the division, the upper and lower waters, Travis passed over (the waters) into Paradise, and Shawn (Hebrew name) fills in the gap; shining Torah (G-d is merciful and gracious) for those who will hear (Shema) and see.

“Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!” (Ecclesiastes/ Kohelet 4:12)[8]

 

Shalom!

 

[1] Deuteronomy/ Devarim 31:6, Sefaria

[2] Name changed for privacy.

[3] Name changed for privacy.

[4] Psalms/ Tehillim 139: 13-16, Sefaria

[5] Shabbos 88a

[6] The Wisdom in the Hebrew Months, Zvi Ryzman p. 309 (Rabbinic teachings)

[7] Exodus/ Shemot 32:26, Sefaria

[8] Ecclesiastes/ Kohelet 4:12, Sefaria

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Reflection or Deception?

Reflection or Deception? 

 

The worldly path manifested outside of G-d’s Instructions creates distortions that could lead people stumbling into darkness. The Creator looked into the Torah and created the world; man looks in the Torah and sustains the world.  We are called to be Hashem’s Light to the world to take the Torah to the Nations. There are many obstacles and attractions that become distractions from G-d’s Divine word. Social media, certain music, movies and sitcoms can feed man’s desires (Nefesh/ flesh) that take precedence from living in Torah when we lose focus, lacking wisdom and discernment. These desires can sometimes mirror images of the beast. When we are not careful to exercise wisdom, a snare will entangle us without being detected. We are to be diligent, and a reflection of Hashem’s Goodness—shining Hashem’s light.

It’s important to be under our Father’s covering and to be obedient to Torah. When we choose differently, false securities (idols) are created that are not beneficial to our well-being, physically or spiritually. Unfortunately, people can fog their thoughts in daily living with self-seeking cravings. There are two directions to go: the lighted holy path of the Torah that leads to life that’s eternal, or self-direction, opposite of Torah that leads to destruction. We were given “free will” and it’s up to us what kind of manager we will be. Of course, there’s forgiveness with opportunities to make a U-Turn, but will we?

The good news is many Jews are returning to Torah. They want to have teshuvah (returning to Hashem in repentance), to be Torah Observant and walk in obedience by observing Shabbat/Shabbos and the festivals. The Non Jews are becoming interested in the festivals, and they are asking questions pertaining to Judaism. A big awakening is taking place. We are reminded in Jeremiah 31:32-33 when G-d made a covenant with us, He placed His Torah (law) in our minds and wrote it on our hearts. This is the covenant Hashem sealed with the House of Israel. All will come to know Hashem from the smallest to the greatest. Hashem loves and welcomes everyone to come to Him, but Hashem allows us to decide our eternal fate. In love, we are to bring Torah to the Nations, teaching by example. Teaching includes application.

We are called to be overcomers, in doing so; we will have to climb that mountain in our wilderness—leaving our Egypt behind. There will be many distractions and obstacles to overcome, thankfully, with faith (Emunah) and trust in Hashem, He will light our path. It will seem lonely and difficult when we enter our wilderness; however, Hashem is waiting to have a one-on-one intimate time with us for our personal spiritual growth. Hashem desires to reveal more of Him. When Hashem is quiet and it seems as though He isn’t listening, we need to remember Hashem will never leave us nor lead us astray.

Time is precious and valuable. It can’t be given back once spent. The world is very good at keeping us preoccupied with our own yearnings that become justifications. One of the main excuses we tend to fall into is that we’re too busy to study, or too tired. Evil Inclination loves to keep us busy. A good friend of mine, Angie, states it best in an acronym (BUSY): (B) Being (U) Under (S) Satan’s (Y) Yoke. Now to be clear, there are times when rest healing is needed, especially when it’s a medical situation. There are also individuals, and families, who have children with special needs that contend with irregular daily/nightly hours. We do our best. Hashem knows the desires of our heart; His heart is pierced with ours. He will always help us. It’s important to never feel defeated. We just have to keep getting right back up.

We cannot serve other g-d’s (Deuteronomy 6:14-16). Our soul is confused with a divided heart. The confused soul is like a beast without boundaries. The Nefesh is a bundle of appetites, desires, and intellect. Will our treasures we invest in be eternal? A divided heart will rule over its soul and its possessions. The human heart has four chambers. Day Four in Creation is to govern. What will our hearts “govern” in this lifetime? “Time and Money” are crucial areas man will invest in. To become divided is a separation cut into two parts. Day Two in Creation is the separation of the upper (heavenly) and lower (earthly) waters.

“And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, And a twig shall grow forth out of his roots. 2And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord; And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, Neither decide after the hearing of his ears.” (Isaiah 11:1-3 Jewish Publication Society 1917)[1]

The seven spirits placed upon the Menorah in its proper order for its purpose and function, the second spirit of G-d is “Understanding.” Our investments in life are either eternal or temporary of this world. If we don’t seek Hashem’s wise counsel we are bankrupt of understanding.

The key factor is: we need to keep things in its proper perception, and not get caught up in areas that become a snare (sin) that pulls us away from Torah. We must be diligent and make that choice to place Hashem first in our lives. Without Hashem’s Breath of Life we are nothing. His Breath (Ruach) is life, and His Light (Torah) is a lamp unto our feet that leads the way. If we will not walk in Hashem’sTorah, we are in direct disobedience (willful sin); and essentially, choosing a different path that leads to our destruction—death. “A road may seem right to a man, but in the end it is a road to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)[2]

Individuals are becoming desensitized by self-deception. Some people feel as though they have to “fit-in” in order to be accepted. We can become hesitant to mention our beliefs to not offend others. Man’s agendas are becoming more prioritized because of man’s EGO. The ego of man pushes Hashem out by “Edging G-d Out.” When our ideals and desires come before keeping and guarding Torah, or reciting daily blessings and prayers, we have chosen to edge/ push G-d out and positioned ourselves above Hashem. No one is exempt from falling into deception, a sickness of lies from the accuser—hasatan! When a person says “G-d knows my heart…” that is a true statement. However, we are the manager of our hearts, thoughts, words and actions. How is our personal management going?

The heart is the most deceitful of all, and it is fragile–who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)[3]

The path we walk should be in the Light of the Lamp—His Torah of Truth.

“Make your Your ways known to me, HASHEM; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the G-d of my salvation, to You I have hoped all the day. Remember Your mercies, HASHEM, and Your kindness, for they are eternal” (Psalm 25:4-6)[4]

Hashem has an incredible love for His Children. He will light the way of truth with His righteousness. Hashem wants us to cast our burdens on Him. Hashem’s love is indescribable. His mercy is incredible. There comes a time in our spiritual growth to take that step upwards, to walk in Hashem’s truth; turning away from distractions that keep us from studying Hashem’s word. Living Torah is a change in our lifestyle; removing any distorted beliefs and/or wrongful attitudes that taint our walk in Torah.

It’s time to make a decision to step outside of our comfort zone. We need to step away from the crib that holds us captive to live in obedience, fine-tune our priorities, adjust our attitudes, have a heart’s desire to follow Torah, love and forgive others, breathe life (not death) in our words, and lift each other up for the Kingdom of G-d.

We need to completely rely on Hashem for our provisions, and trust that Hashem can help us stay on the path of Light. We place ourselves on a slippery slope with an open invitation for the Adversary when we begin to justify our reasons to live outside of the Dvar (word).  We cannot continue to disobey the Torah and expect a good outcome, eternally. When Hashem sends a messenger it’s the perfect time to listen, and encompass His ways, changing ours.

Let’s dig a little deeper in Numbers 22:

  • The she-donkey saw the angel of HASHEM and crouched beneath Baalam. Balaam’s obstinateness deterred him from seeing an angel standing in front of him. Hashem removed that blindness so Balaam could “see”.
  • Balaam’s anger flared and he struck the she-donkey with the staff. Baalam was so pompous and agitated with pride he hit and yelled at a talking donkey for refusing to obey his orders. Blinded to self-deception, he was unable to see any miracles. Self-deception is arrogance that ignores godly counsel.
  • Balaam said to the angel of HASHEM, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing opposite me on the road. And now, if it is evil in your eyes, I shall return.” Hashem already told him not to go. Balaam twisted what G-d said. Self-deception justifies finding exceptions for self-will.
  • Balak was fearful of Israel. Many today are fearful of G-d’s Chosen people (the spirit of Amalek is in every generation).

We need to evaluate our attitudes, words, and thoughts. Self-deception places us in bondage when godly wisdom is ignored with actions justified, and will remain unteachable by not listening to Good Counsel. To remain passive (self-satisfied/complacent) to Torah is sin, spiritual adultery. One should never selfishly seek undeserved entitlement from others for personal gain. However, when we break something, or harm others (accidently, or willfully), there’s an accounting of restitution to be made.

Our identity is found in Hashem by how we relate to others—character traits. A good character trait is thankfulness. When we are thankful for what Hashem has provided, gratitude leaves little “wiggle room” for bitterness to sneak in. A good friend of mine visits third world countries. She shared in a letter about an individual who had lived in a cardboard house. With permission given, she wrote, “We went to Sabana Grande in the mountains one day and spoke with Angela now living there with her family. She grew up with her mom in a casa de carton, a cardboard house, and she always gives thanks to G-d for taking her out of such poverty.” I sat back in my chair contemplating the gratefulness of this person. I took that thought by contrasting it to the expectations of American kids today. While “Angela” lived in a cardboard box home, “Sally” expects the newest iPhone and a new car given to her. As mentioned, it really does come down to a heart matter. 

The Torah is a mirror that removes the distortions from man’s concepts. A person who does not remain in the teachings of the Torah is a poor marksman. His eyes deceive him. His ears have deafened.

The world seeks to devour Hashem’s Light with corruption by removing the validity of morals and values. Hashem will not allow His Light to be removed or put out. As long as there is at least one person on the earth believing in G-d, following Torah, life remains. Abraham was the first Jew. He didn’t use his circumstances if life by living in a pagan environment to determine his choices or future. He knew there was something more than what his home life offered. He set out to seek Truth—Emet. And so should we.

[5]

Doron Kombluth has a video on Jewish.tv “Raising Kids to Love Being Jewish.”

Our desire for our children/grandchildren is to keep them Jewish. Kombluth shared five key principle factors that are paraphrased below:

  1. Role Models of parents/Grandparents: The Jewish identity our children/grandchildren are learned from the role models of their parents. An example of everyday living as a Jew is to let our children see us doing good things for the Jewish community. Giving Tzedakah. Another good example is to have our home environment show we are Jewish (Jewish books, Mezuzah, Star of David, Shabbos candles, Menorah, etc.). Children need to see their parents reading Jewish literature, walking the walk. Family dinners are crucial as it keeps a home stronger within–building memories. That means all books, papers, and devices are to be kept from the table and actually talk to one another over a meal together. Investing in our family is key. Family should be valued, not left overs.
  2. Get our children/grandchildren involved in Jewish activities: We invest in our children by teaching them to care about being Jewish. We need to teach them how to choose the right friends and activities that do not conflict Jewish upbringing. We are to encourage our children to be involved in a Jewish lifestyle: Trips to Israel, Chabad activities, Jewish holidays, Shabbos; even if it’s one thing they can invest in such as a reading for the Festivals or family readings. By getting our kids involved, they will “own it,” and be willing to hold on to their Jewishness. This is love shown.
  3. Sense of belonging: A very powerful concept for our children is for them to know they belong to their Jewish people, their Torah, their holidays, and their foods. Pesach (Passover) Haggadah, the “Four questions” are asked by the children. This should remind us that we are not individuals, we are a community. We are connected to all Jews—past, present, future. When our people are attacked, we are attacked. We need to have a sense of belonging to our people.
  4. Jewish Education: Jewish educated children have stronger ideals of being Jewish. We live in a different generation. We need to be more active and involved in their lives; helping them incorporate Jewish things into their daily lives. Today’s world is drawing our people away by “other” things (assimilation). At the very least, hire a Jewish tutor. Sadly, in most cases in America, after the child’s bar/bat Mitzvah, it’s the end of their Jewishness. It should be the beginning of their Jewish lives! When we do not continue to teach our children their identity (even if it’s into their twenties in age), Kombuth points out it would be like taking away all of their Jewish books; leaving them nothing! Because we are the “People of the Book” we are to continue Jewish studies. Jacob was a tent dweller (Torah study). Esau ran from it, red, wild and hairy.
  5. Positive in Jewish living: Keeping our Jewish identity is crucial. Smart parents pick their battles. Teaching comes by showing our true actions by being involved, and being real. Being real or not is noticed.

The secular world doesn’t accept “religious” ideas that are G-d’s instructions because darkness cannot comprehend light. I conclude that many place their Nefesh (a bundle of appetites, desires, and intellect) above their Ruach (Spirit), allowing the Nefesh to lead. I would suggest that social media and worldly interests are taking priority. Some teens may see hypocrisy and want to hang out with friends, losing interest in following Torah. Sadly, many teens today do not want to have accountability for their choices and/or lifestyles; leaving them with much confusion.

Teens, and adults alike, sometimes struggle with concrete evidence if it doesn’t fit their ideals. Hasatan is working overtime whispering lies to our children— self-deception. If hasatan can convince children, layman, and others that some of the Ten Commandments don’t apply anymore, prey on their weaknesses, then he (hasatan) can convince them to sabotage themselves, in sin,  just like Balaam when he deceived the Israelites to mix sexually (corruption) with the Moabites. It was the Moabites who tempted the Israelite men to commit adultery and idolatry. The Adversary will use what people desire against them to fall into sin.

The Nefesh is very strong and if we allow it to rise up above our Ruach (Spirit), we place our Ruach under our heel—at ground level. That isn’t a good place to be [ground level is placed in the dirt]. The Nefesh doesn’t like the words “no” or “wait”.  The Nefesh thinks it is going to die. If you recall Esau, he sold his birthright for some red soup. He thought he was going to die. He wasn’t going to die; he wanted what he wanted without waiting!

Balaam’s sin was a heart matter, he let his Nefesh lead, not his Ruach. Leaving heart matters unchecked without accountability can devise wicked plans. Balaam’s sin came from the fourth of the “Wicked Lamp” that is an abomination. It is very thought-provoking “Balaam” means “Burning” such as the burning of the desires of the Nefesh. “Balak” means Destroyer—no promise of Eternal Good.

Hashem knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will get our attention when He calls us to repentance. Sometimes Hashem will send the Adversary, one of His Agents, if that is what it’ll take to expose the sinner. He even sent a talking donkey once. The donkey was wiser than the man. Man falls into the “sin of Balaam” when there’s resistance to suffering. In other words, when we set our mind on things that are contrary to the will of G-d, we are resisting the trials Hashem set before us. Consequently, refusing to allow Hashem to work in our lives by not allowing the Father to transform us, like the angel of Hashem that opposed Balaam, we place ourselves into judgment.

What or who will we choose to “mirror” with our actions and attitudes? Our hearts are a heart matter that reflects our character. Who are we listening to? Do we want our ears entertained? What kind of movies are we watching at the expense of our spirit being forced to see? Are we holding our Ruach captive to the desires of the Nefesh?  Are we entertaining our Nefesh by justifying poor reasoning, dancing with forbidden fruit? What entertains our thoughts and eyes? It’s a heart matter, indeed.

We need to understand the seven abominations that G-d hates.

Proverbs 6:16-19

  • A proud look
  • A lying tongue
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations/plans
  • Feet that be swift in running to mischief/evil
  • A false witness that speaketh lies
  • He that soweth discord among brethren.

It’s important to receive GOOD COUNSEL and Hashem’s wisdom in all things. Are we seeking counsel from those who don’t have a relationship with the Father and/or despise Torah? Are we listening to others who speak negatively (evil speak) others? Are we listening to hasatan who whispers lies into our ears? Perhaps we should exercise g-dly wisdom to seek an individual for truth instead of seeking to have our ears entertained.

The Adversary has many angles to deceived our children (Adults too!). After all, he is an expert in his work! Self-deception is apparent when it is taught that the Torah is no longer validated.  This is a heart matter and the lust of the flesh. Eve (Chavah) was asked by the serpent, “Did He really say……?” Had Chavah gone back to the Father before answering, the outcome for her would have been different.

“A road may seem right to a man, but in the end it is a road to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)[6]

We need to have a desire to be in covenant with Hashem and have Teshuva (repent and return to Hashem). Justifying our selfish desires (spiritual adultery) removes man’s value of the Torah. We need to have a change of heart—one that is made of flesh, not stone. It is important to have a true relationship with our Father in Heaven, our Creator; honoring His Name on High. It’s time to allow the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) into our lives for comfort and good counsel. We need to be careful how we treat G-d’s Messengers. Did we disregard what was said? By whose ruling brought us to the point to ignore what someone else said? It doesn’t matter if we didn’t like what they said, are we sure Hashem didn’t use them to stir us up? Sometimes Hashem will use nonbelievers to get our attention.

Let’s join together under Hashem’s protective covering, His Cloud of Glory, His Sukkah, and allow Hashem’s provision to surround us by not remaining opened to the world’s ideals.

“For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you—declares the LORD—plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)[7] 

[1] Isaiah 11:1-3, Jewish Publication Society 1917

[2] Proverbs 16:25, Sefaria

[3] Jeremiah 17:9, The Stone Edition

[4] Psalms 25: 4-6, The Stone Edition

[5] All photos from Pixabay, free domain.

[6] Proverbs 14:12, Sefaria

[7] Jeremiah 29:6, Sefaria

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A Voice in the Midst

A Voice in the Midst

Communication can be very complex when the recipient cannot understand what the individual is trying to express. Communication is frustrating when there’s a breakdown from written language to verbal expression. When we communicate written language in a letter, email, or text, not seeing body language of the sender can leave the reader with uncertainty if there is sarcasm.

If the sender unintentionally leaves out additional information for clarity, it can also be a breakdown. However, the sender could have sent the message with perfect clarity, but the reader could be in a bad mood, or has past issues left unchecked; giving him/her the wrong temperament reading the message with a biased opinion.

Miscommunication can be daunting and hurtful to both parties. It comes down to motives and where our heart and thoughts are when messages are sent or received. Having said that, we need to be additionally careful on social media how we present ourselves. We should never use social media, such as Facebook, to call others out with intentions to shame or embarrass. If there’s a question of concern, a private message would show maturity and honor; looking for the good in others.

Using our voice can be another way to communicate. Having a voice gives one an advantage, in most cases, to express our needs. Our voice can ask questions, give directions, teach, as well as to scream for help. One can read stories to children, sing, laugh, give counsel, and pray with others with a voice. The list goes on. Our voices can be very powerful—the tongue. Trouble arrives when we don’t keep our heart and thoughts in check.

Our tongue can be a blessing or a curse to others, ourselves included. Language can build up or tear down. Our words can breathe life or death into others. Our voice is a gift from Hashem, therefore, wisdom should be used before we open our mouths. Do we want to speak love and life, or like a knife, cut people down by belittling and mocking that shatters them with a broken spirit? How we speak to others exposes and reveals our character and heart. From the heart speaks the mouth. A gentle tone goes a long way. A listening heart and a soft spoken word of encouragement is chesed (Lovingkindness).

Let’s imagine we are at the finest restaurant with the most exquisite foods. When the server places our dessert in front of us, what would it (our words spoken) taste like if we had to eat our own words? What taste would our tongue deliver? Would that spoonful be soft, sweet as honey that gives life and hope to others? Life within extends the beauty of Torah into the lives of others. On the other hand, would our words taste like poison that brings death? Would our words taste of death like a rotten carcass left in the heat? Words matter. Words are remembered by our souls.

Our “words” spoken to others, as well as to ourselves can build up and heal. A deeper connection of “words” holds a higher level of meaning; such as, words of encouragement, confidence, compassion, integrity, promise, and g-d- esteeming others. The words breathed out bring Life or Death. It’s a flood gate. The flooding of words can either bring hope and refreshment, or a hot-headed tongue that scorches like a forest fire. Our words manifest from our thoughts to our heart and it comes out of our mouth. Our tongue is a sharp-edged sword. When we cross blades with others, the Father hears and sees. May Hashem see our words of joy and healing.

The words we speak impacts our outlook in life, health included. It’s important to give ourselves grace, to be a friend to ourselves; especially when others may not be available emotionally. It can be discouraging when others are disconnected from G-d’s grace, but Hashem’s love for us surpasses everything. Hashem gives us His strength, and joy. Our Father in Heaven will carry us and wipe every tear shed. Our tears are held in a bottle.

“You keep count of my wanderings; put my tears into Your flask, into Your record.” (Psalms 56:9)[1]

Hashem knows our heart and thoughts. G-d will send trials that’ll reveal the measure of grace we give others. It’s never a good idea to ignore the Father when He is teaching goodly things. Evil speech (Lashon hara) is destructive and comes in forms of hurtful words such as: shaming, yelling, pointing fingers, lies, gossip, belittling, mocking, derogative, embarrassing others, especially in public. If one is yelling while the other person is in tears, a heart and tongue check needs to be evaluated with forgiveness requested.

Our words spoken determine who we are within. One should never be humiliated. The measure of grace, or lack of, is the same measure we will receive from G-d. How much mercy and grace do we want on Judgement Day? We need to take each step in life in “baby steps,” giving the measure of grace to others that we would want to receive from the Father.

When we listen to gossip, we become a participant in Lashon Hara (evil speech). In other words, as human beings, we are created to be in G-d’s image. The choice is to honor G-d by blessing others with our kind words and actions (good deeds), or its opposite that takes on the image of the Beast (beast and man were created on the sixth day) that dishonors G-d and others with evil inclination (Yetzer Hara).

Yetzer Hara takes on the Nefesh (soul/flesh) that acts on impulse. Evil inclination moves us away from the goodness of Hashem with selfish thoughts and/or self-gratification, self-praise (haughtiness), and acts as a self-appointed g-d. The tongue cuts like a knife. Once the harsh word leaves our mouth, it’s too late, it can’t be taken back. We can ask for forgiveness and start over with a change of heart; however, natural consequences of sin can remain.

Lashon hara is one who speaks with an evil tongue about another person regardless if it’s true, or not. They discredit the character of others with uncomplimentary words. Motzi shem means “evil reports.” One who spreads evil reports is malicious, and spreads evil. They are considered a moral leper.

There is a Chasidic tale about a man who went into the community spreading false reports about a Rabbi. His words were very hurtful, malicious, and slanderous. After a while, he felt guilty about his poor behavior and wanted to make a mends; asking the Rabbi for forgiveness. The Rabbi asked him to return to his home and take some of his feather pillows, cut them open and scatter the opened pillows throughout the room with the window opened for the breeze to come inside. The man thought it was a strange request but simple to do in order to receive the Rabbi’s forgiveness.

Returning to the home of the Rabbi to report what he had done, the Rabbi told him to return home to gather up the feathers. The man said it’s impossible to retract them, the feathers blew everywhere. The Rabbi told the man despite his change of heart and his sincerity to correct what was done, like the feathers, it’s impossible to gather the damage caused with words.

 “A man’s belly is filled by the fruit of his mouth; He will be filled by the produce of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue; Those who love it will eat its fruit. ” (Proverbs 18:20-21)[2]

Yetzer Hara is first mentioned in Genesis 6:5—“HASHEM saw the wickedness of Man was great upon the earth, and that every product of the thoughts of his heart was but evil always.”[3]

Our words should be a blessing that grow others in the breath of life, love, and truth; bringing honor to Hashem. When we use our words with Yetzer Hara (evil speak), we are violating G-d’s will and it invites the “spirit of impurity.” G-d’s righteousness doesn’t bow down to corruption.

There are times our voices need to be heard:

What about people with special needs who can make sounds with their voices but cannot speak, or is unable to make any sound due to a medical condition? They need their voice to be heard. Sign language and braille (for those who are blind) can be a blessing so that their “quiet voices” can be heard. Yet, there are others who are unable to use sign language; although, they can use communication devices. When it comes to programming communication devices, programming can be challenging. Some individuals are more advanced than others. Evaluations and observations can usually determine their level of understanding. However, in some cases, those methods are not always accurate. Every person is at a different learning level.

We learn at a different pace. Programming communication boards (iPad or other) for those who are nonverbal can become very challenging as it reveals the density of language. It’s more than a language barrier between two people from different countries trying to communicate. When one isn’t able to demonstrate what he/she understands, creating a device to meet the needs of the individual can be perplexing, especially if the child/adult doesn’t initiate the conversation.

When a communication device is designed to have a voice command state what the photo is, that’s the beginning of a new world for one who is nonverbal. The complexity is revealed when we “up the Ante” on the communication board. We realize that when two verbal people can carry on a conversation about anything, trying to design a touch screen device to mimic “conversations” is impossible. Although a simple question and answer can be programmed, they remain the same until it’s reprogrammed. As an advocate for those without a voice, it’s our responsibility to be that voice. We do our best and allow a lot of grace on each side. The nonverbal person becomes our teacher, and over time, we will reap those blessings when they come pouring out for the glory of Hashem.

No matter what we are able to do in life, Hashem hears our voice. He hears our thoughts and He knows our motives, struggles, plans, desires, fears, and concerns. We can learn from one who is nonverbal. When we enter a facility or a home with a special needs person, it’s important to take a few minutes to show kindness by acknowledging them. One might offer to read him/her a story, mention how nice they look, or comment on their beautiful smile. They are aware who spends time with them and who doesn’t. We are called to love one another—loving kindness (Chesed).

“Of HASHEM’S kindness I will sing forever; I will make Your faithfulness known to every generation with my mouth. 3 For I said, “Forever will [Your] kindness be built; the heavens, You establish Your faithfulness in them.” (Psalms 89:2-3) [4]

Language is a gift and so is the ability to hear. Will we hear (Shema) G-d when He calls? This type of hearing is from within. Hashem wrote His Torah upon our hearts. Isn’t it amazing that those who are nonverbal, physically deaf, and find it challenging to communicate with others in written, speech, sign, or with devices can still hear (Shema) the voice of G-d when He calls? In the same breath, those who are blessed with a voice to speak, and given the intelligence to understand written language with perfect hearing can be blind and deaf to the voice of G-d.

“Hear this, O nation that is foolish and without a heart,
They have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear!” (Jeremiah 5:21)[5]

Moses reminds us that G-d doesn’t seek blind obedience. “‘He wants us to listen, not just with our ears, but with the deepest resources of our minds. If G-d simply sought out obedience, He would have created robots, not human beings with a will of their own.[…] G-d, in making human beings “in His image,” was creating otherness. And the bridge between self and other is conversation: speaking and listening. When we speak, we tell others who we are. But when we listen, we allow others to tell us who they are. This is a supremely revelatory moment. And if we can’t listen to other people, then we certainly can’t listen to G-d, whose otherness is not relative but absolute.’”[6]

Courage is demonstrated when we open ourselves to others; giving someone an opportunity to be heard, understood, and cared for. It’s a spiritual act to listen to others, and to G-d. Listening to others is the greatest gift one could offer. It can be life-changing.

The question remains… how will we speak to others? Do our words edify? This is a very important question. Are we willing to listen to others?

We edify G-d’s creation by acknowledging the value in others. Our choices reveal our character, and our heart. Will we breathe life or death into others? Will we bring blessings or cursing with our speech? Will we honor, or shame and embarrass others? What do our words taste like? I hope our words taste like the sweetness of honey, edifying others with lovingkindness.

Chofetz Chaim reminds us in A Lesson A Day, “‘[…] when anger comes upon a person, he guards the sanctity of his soul and does not allow it to become uprooted and replaced by the “foreign g-d” [that is anger], then he is a person who is fit to be near. However, if he does not guard the sanctity of his soul, allowing it to become uprooted so that the “other side” can dwell in its place, surely he is a person who rebels against his Master, and it is forbidden to seek his company… he is a person who “tears apart his soul in his anger” (Iyov 18:4).’”

Death and Life are in the tongue’s power.

The measure we give others is the measure we receive from G-d. In other words, if we hope to receive grace and mercy from G-d, we need to extend that same amount of grace and mercy to others (if not more), ourselves included. When we hold on to anger it is holding on to idolatry.

We never know what Hashem is doing in the lives of others. Like a seed planted in dirt, it remains in a dark place for a certain amount of time to germinate. However, during that time, life is happening. There is movement. We don’t see it on the surface until growth sprouts. There is life in that seed and the Father is watching. He is watching the seeds, the soil, and the ones planting. He is also watching those who throw toxic weed seeds (hurtful words and poor actions) in His Garden. Our words can either demonstrate kindness through intelligent speech that esteem others, or words of the beast that hurt and tear down like the tearing of teeth from a beast that rips into flesh for pleasure.

Let our words lift up each other in prayer and song. Let our voices call out to Hashem with joy and praises; thanking G-d for everything. Let’s breathe out words of life that bursts forth sprouts of life that encourages others.

Our voice comes through our mouth. Hebrew for mouth (speech and silence) is Peh. Peh also represents the gematria value of eighty. Eighty is “spiritual strength to control the body impulses. A person develops this maturity with ripening age.” (Tiferes Yisrael) Ironically, Moses was eighty years old when G-d sanctified Moses with His words to speak properly. Moses did not remain stagnant in his old age; he continued to learn to serve G-d and others.

 “And HASHEM G-d formed the man of dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) [7]

Whether our words are verbalized or left in silence, our thoughts bring forth actions, emotions, spirituality, and physical transformation into fruition. Will our basket of offerings be sweet as honey or rotten?

“The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the firmament tells of His handiwork. Day following day utters speech, and night following night declares knowledge. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is not heard. [But] their precision goes forth throughout the earth, and their words reach the end of the inhabited world. In their midst He has set up a tent for the sun, which is like a groom emerging from his bridal chamber, it rejoices like a powerful warrior to run the course.  Its source is the end of the heavens and its circuit is to their end; nothing is hidden from its heat. The Torah of HASHEM is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of HASHEM is trustworthy, making the simple one wise; the orders of HASHEM are upright, gladdening the heart; the command of HASHEM is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of HASHEM is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of HASHEM are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, than even much fine gold; and sweeter than honey, and drippings from the combs. Also, when Your servant is scrupulous in them, in observing them there is great reward. by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern mistakes? Cleanse me from unperceived faults. Also from intentional sins restrain Your servant; let them not rule me, then I will be perfect; and I will be cleansed of great transgression. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HASHEM, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:2-15)[8]

There will be times we feel as though our prayers are not heard, isolated, and alone. Hashem holds every tear we’ve cried, and one day HIS GLORY will rain on us with amazing joy that is “Heavenly Scented.”

We need to remember the ones who are nonverbal that G-d hears them just as much as He hears us. Our words don’t need to be physically vocalized; it is given through breathing life into others with blessings and good deeds. Our voices, silent or not, are heard by the Father. The Torah is the Lamp of His Light—Amen!

The Midrash states, “Words, like the ocean, can be stormy or calm. An evil mouth, like turbulent waves, can destroy and kill. A sharp tongue, like deep water, is feared. Good words, like pearls on the ocean floor, are precious…” (Midrash Alpha Beisa)

As we study Torah with an eagerness to learn, what benefit is a beautiful flower that blossomed in the middle of an isolated desert. In other words, when we are gathered to learn Torah, we acquire wisdom (Chokmah) when to teach, or when to remain silent. We can use our Peh and bring Torah to others to benefit from that same wisdom.

My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. To those who curse me, let my soul be silent; and let my soul be like dust to everyone. Open my heart to Your Torah, then my soul will pursue Your commandments. As for all those who oppose and who design evil against me, speedily nullify their counsel and disrupt their design. May it be your will, Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my forefathers, that human jealousy may not rise up against me, nor my jealousy upon others; may I not become angry today, and may I not anger You. Rescue me from the Evil inclination, and place my heart submissiveness and humility. O our King and our G-d, cause Your Name to be unified in Your world; rebuild Your city, lay the foundation of Your House, perfect Your sanctuary; gather in the scattered exiles, redeem Your sheep, and gladden your congregation. Act for Your Name’s sake; act for Your right hand’s sake; act for Your Torah’s sake; act for Your sanctity’s sake. That Your beloved ones may be given rest; let Your right hand save, and respond to me. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem my Rock and my Redeemer.” (The Complete Artscroll Siddur)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so  that  you will follow My decrees and guard My ordinances and fulfill them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)[9]

Shalom!

 

[1] Psalms 56:9, Sefaria

[2] Proverbs 18:20-21, Sefaria

[3] Genesis 6:5, The Stone Edition

[4] Psalms 89:2-3, The Stone Edition

[5] Jeremiah 5:21, The Stone Edition

[6] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/4091059/jewish/Listen-Really-Listen.htm

[7] Genesis 2:7, The Stone Edition

[8] Psalms 19:2-19, The Stone

[9] Ezekiel 36:26-27, The Stone Edition

 

 

Categories: Musings & Blessings, Women of Valor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Last Breath Gives Hope

Ocean_surface_wave

Last Breath Gives Hope

It wasn’t long before it would be too cold catching the last awesome waves before fall. My high school friend and I decided to head for the beach and hit some waves (body surfing). Of course, by the time we arrived, it was cloudy and riptide warnings were given. But we were strong swimmers and knew what we were doing (so we thought).

No one was at the beach—not even a Lifeguard. It was all to ourselves! The waves were very big, and inviting. We were having a blast. My friend wasn’t too far from me, but the distance was enough that caused a separation by a couple of waves; allowing her to get back to shore without much effort. Without warning things shifted, the waves became extremely HUGE! I tried to swim in but I had to turn back to swim over the waves to not be crushed (which meant going out further). Unfortunately, without knowing at the time, I was entangled in riptides and deeply snared.

The waves soon became too immense and powerful. I was getting tired. How many more waves could I swim over to avoid being smashed underwater while realizing the uselessness of trying to get back to shore? I was too far out to body surf to shore. The waves were crashing over more waves. The scenery of fun faded; only death was around the corner. The powerful waves brought mayhem with no way out. It no longer mattered that I knew how to swim in riptides; unfortunately, pride got me into a life-threatening situation. Tired muscles feeling like rubber, numb, and panicked, I was in a terrible position without time to think things through. The ability to stay above water was a concern. The riptides were overpowering me in my weakness.

Looking at eye level over the surface of the ocean while the waves tumbled over me, salt water in my eyes, my view became blurry while being swept underwater; a reality check on life—almost too late. I was slammed underwater.

The waves began to thrash about; dragging and twisting me in every direction. I opened my eyes in salty water; hoping to see which way the bubbles were going. The bubbles were whirling in all directions. I managed to find my way to the surface and gasp for air just as another wave came crashing down; spiraling downwards and dragged once more along the ocean floor like a Raggedy-Ann doll (I can still see it in my mind).

I, again, attempted to get to the surface. When I felt the ocean floor with my hands, I placed my feet on the sandy ground, with all my might; I pushed up and swam as hard as I could. Hopelessly, after reaching the surface, little air received before another enormous wave crashed down on me; spiraling downwards, again. At that point I couldn’t do it anymore. I was out of breath and out of all my strength. I was going to drown—I was out of time! No one could help me, my mistake was horrific. My family and friends would be devastated.

Out of breath, beyond exhaustion, unable to fight, packed with sand from dragging along the ocean bottom, too far from shore, out of hope, I cried out to G-d (obviously in my mind—not outwardly to get water in my mouth). I told G-d I couldn’t do it anymore and asked Him to help me. I needed Him! I was so scared (thirty-some years later, and I still tear-up).

As soon as I called out to G-d for help something powerful happened! Though I couldn’t see who or what, an amazing strong Almighty Power reached down into the depths of the riptides that bound me. With a rushing of water, I was brought (carried) up out of the water– able to gasp for air. G-d or one of His angels protected me. Miraculously, the waves were still large (though in a peaceful state); none of the waves dragged me down. I was freed from the snare. I was able to swim in a zig-zag motion. I soon could see my friend. She was running up and down the shoreline calling out my name. When I got to shore, my friend grabbed my arm and helped me up the dry sandy beach. I collapsed. She said she didn’t know what to do. She said she would see my head pop out of the water just as another wave would crash down over me for long periods of time–expecting to find a dead body floating.

We had made an enormous mistake acting cool, haughty, and prideful—especially me. When we are tempted with sin, like riptides, we need to stay away from it. When we act out in our Nefesh (Flesh), we become prideful and haughty (by saying I can handle it, I’ve done it before), and become entangled. And before we realize it, Ha’satan (Satan) has his grip on us. The enemy uses our own desires to trap us.

Out of breath, out of time, out of hope (from our own efforts), HIS GLORY can lift us out of the dirt (or should I say water). In my own efforts I had nothing. I was overpowered and weakened quickly. In Hashem’s strength, hope was found: Behold a mighty strong arm WHO can reach into the depths of darkness and bring us to His Light!

I didn’t know who G-d really was (no relationship), but I knew G-d is the Creator of all things. I wasn’t walking in the right way I should have. But when I called out to G-d with my last breath of life, pleading for His help, Hashem answered my cry (knowing I would SEEK after Hashem years later). I am humbled by the love and mercy Hashem has for someone like me to give me ‘time’ and set my path to be introduced to Him many years later, properly. Hashem loves you too. If you do not know Him yet, Hashem is just a thought, a call, a cry out to, and a prayer away. Do not delay in seeking Hashem. We never know when we will have our last breath of life.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is G-d from of old, Creator of the earth from end to end, He never grows faint or weary, His wisdom cannot be fathomed. He gives strength to the weary, Fresh vigor to the spent. Youths may grow faint and weary, And young men stumble and fall; But they who trust in the LORD shall renew their strength As eagles grow new plumes: They shall run and not grow weary, They shall march and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)[1]

Our G-d is very gracious, and merciful. From the depths of chaos, and darkness, Hashem brought order with peace (Shalom). Let’s look at the Book of Genesis for more understanding:

Genesis 1:2 teaches us “the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from G-d sweeping over the water.”[2]

  • The Ruach (wind) of G-d was moving over the surface of the waters.
  • Moving means “hovering.” Like a bird hovering/fluttering over its young.

In my attempt to enter water in chaos, the deep was not in order. The disorderly waves could not be controlled by man, only by its Creator G-d of Majesty. In my weakness and last breath in despair, my call out to G-d (protective mother bird) did He move quickly: hovering over the waters; bringing hope and protection by removing the darkness and chaos that captured me. The waves remained large, but a given order of peace moved over the waters.

G-d said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)[3]

  • Elohim divided the ohr (light).
  • Ohr is a light. Eternal Light, light of life, light of instruction, Hashem’s shining face. Proverbs 6:23 “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah light.”
  • Choshech, darkness, obscurity.

Pride and haughtiness is a sin of rebellion, and like all sins, man becomes ignorant into believing their sins are hidden in darkness (Choshech). Sin will find itself out (Numbers 32:23). Sin is a snare, entangled with destruction or death.

The Eternal Light of G-d (Ohr), sees all, and knows all. Darkness cannot comprehend G-d’s light and power. All creation must obey the word of G-d. Torah is the Light, and the Lamp. Hashem has all power (Gvurah) over the chaos, darkness, and terror. With His word, the water became peaceful and the rage was gone—Be still and know that I am G-d.

I have shared this story during home school, as well as with youth groups. It’s too easy to let pride take over. It can be hard for someone to ask for help when the sin has entangled them. My life-threatening experience was extreme, thankfully, most people will never endure that. The good news is we have forgiveness. And through forgiveness, we are cleansed with Hashem’s righteousness.

Leading up to Cleansing:

It is thought-provoking the near-drowning encounter Hashem allowed me to go through that in every way of a human being in that situation, there was no way out by man’s own effort. I was trapped with limited air. His power is mighty. He never lost control, nor did Hashem lose me. He had a hold of me in His hand even when I felt everything was hopeless.

“Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your G-d; I have strengthened you, even helped you, and even sustained you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:14) [4]

In Exodus, we are reminded that after the ten plagues, and the Israelites were released to leave Egypt; including pleasing items (livestock, silver, gold, and fine linens). After three days, the Pharaoh regretted releasing the Israelites (and the mixed multitude), commanding his strongest soldiers and chariots; bolting after them.

Hashem brought the Israelites out of Egypt in a route that would be a long way, not a shortcut. The Children of Israel would have traveled through the land of the Philistines had they have taken a shortcut. Hashem wanted to free the Children from all Egyptian influences. He wanted His soon-to-be Bride to unlearn “Egypt” and follow Him in the Torah, the Divine Way, and to be free of bondage and to be in covenant with Him.

We will begin to see two patterns, a separation.

  • Day One of Creation—Light and Darkness
  • Day Two of Creation—the separation of the upper and lower waters: Mayim (earthly), and Shemayim (heavenly).
  • Day Three of Creation—Wet and Dry Land, Resurrection, Eternity.
  • Water and Fire
  • Life and Death

Life and Death, Light and Darkness—spiritually and physically:

When Pharaoh pursued the Children of Israel, the Children became terrified; feeling trapped with no way out. They feared for their lives; sadly, some of the Children of Israel were willing to return as slaves under bondage; deceiving themselves that it was a life worth living. Others began to rebuke Moses; blaming G-d for bringing them out into the Wilderness to their graves.

“‘They said to Moses, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this thing you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:11)[5]

Moses spoke to the Children by way of G-d’s assurance and tells them, “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of HASHEM that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again!” (Exodus 14:13)[6]

“The angel of G-d who had been going in front of the camp of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and went behind them. 20. It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel and there were a cloud and darkness—while it illuminated the night—and one did not draw near the other all the night.” (Exodus 14:19-20)[7]

Separation of Upper and Lower Waters, Dry Land, Fire and Water:

The Children of Israel needed to have faith knowing Hashem was all-powerful to save them from death, and to trust Hashem would never abandon them. Hashem told Moses to spread out his rod over the Reed Sea (Yom Suf) and split it with a mighty wind. Dry land came forth for the Israelites to journey the crossing. The path of the Israelites was upon day land, while the path under the feet of the enemy sinks; grabbing hold of the chariot wheels while the riders of the chariots were dragged to their death.

“At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, The floods stood straight like a wall; The deeps froze in the heart of the sea.” (Exodus 15:8)[8]

  • Mayim—Earthly waters.
  • The water was shrewdly, and with its Chokmah (wisdom), the water sent judgement to Egypt, and a salvation to Israel. Water separated to dry land. We are reminded of Isaiah 63:13 about G-d’s vengeance upon the Nations. Waters can also remind us of the ocean depths of chaos, the Abyss and without form.The Heart of sea–Body of water that roars.

Let’s looks closer:

“Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me.  (Jonah 2:2-4)[9]

The lowest of the sea is unapproachable to man, and the heart of Heaven is less approachable by its height by man.“The heavens for height, the earth for depth, and the heart of the kings cannot be fathomed.” We are reminded in our human limitations, the King’s heart remains unsearchable. (Proverbs 25:3)[10]

Hashem knows the inner depths of the sea like the inner depths of our hearts. The heart of man is wicked, and through repentance (Teshuvah—turning back to the Father), our life is restored and reconciled to Hashem. He wrote His Torah on our heart. Our mini Menorah within becomes lit when we become crushed, and broken. But we can overcome with Hashem’s help.

Let’s look at connection of Creations Day Three and Five:

On the third day of Creation water was gathered; dry land appeared with plants, trees, and fruit-bearing seed. Land, trees, plants and fruits are visible. On the other hand, within the depths of water, man cannot see below the surface; physically by standing on land. In the depths of water, fish are hidden—concealed. The depths of life are a mystery and below the surface it is hidden. The Torah is Eternal, Hashem brings Resurrection.

Dry land and water are two layers. We also have two layers; one is our surface and the other is our concealed inner-self. Our top layer is the surface of our strengths, weaknesses, talents and abilities. It’s our personality and character seen. The inner-depth lies in wait; undeveloped with our hidden strengths, talents, and abilities until discovered.

Fish and birds were created on Day Five. Fish and Birds swim rapidly through mighty currents and in swarms. We are to take the Torah out to the Nations—rapidly! Man’s identity is found in the Torah— Israel swims in Torah. The Jewish people have been scattered; thankfully, Hashem is gathering His Chosen back to Israel, and bringing in the “other sheep” who are to become grafted into Israel.

Let’s take a closer look at numbers two, three and five more in-depth:

Two: Division, Separation, Conflict. The body, our vessel is more inclined to pull into the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination). This comes from the fall when Adam and Chavah ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is “Free Will” that has two sides to discern. The world we live in, the lives of those around us, by our words and deeds (good or evil) spoken or given, we can use it to build up or destroy (tear down). We become what we choose to be. We are our own manager of our soul. We can choose life and blessings, or death with curses. May our thoughts and deeds mirror Hashem; as two becoming one. Choose Life!

Three: Creation Day Two was not called “Good” until Day Three (Gathering). It brings balance to what was separated. There are three forefathers, better known as the Three Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was named “Israel.” Israel is where Hashem will gather His chosen people. Three resembles the three Pilgrimages: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This also brings us to the understanding of being liberated from slavery (Passover), receiving the Torah (Marriage Covenant on Shavuot), and Sukkot is living in booths under the “Clouds of Glory,” under Hashem’s protection.

 THE SUKKAH (Hashem’s covering)—His PROTECTION.

On Tishrei fifteen to twenty-one, Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is celebrated for the “Season of Joy.” After completing the sobering Fast of Yom Kippur (self-evaluation and teshuvah), we celebrate the love and provisions Hashem has given us. According to Leviticus 23:40 and Deuteronomy 16:14, we are commanded to be happy and rejoice. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe and the Highest King wants to celebrate with His people. Instead of complaining, we rejoice! Those with a willing and contrite heart were to bring their offerings.

It is a joyful act to the giver, as well as to the receiver-happiness. It is also a loving way to rejoice in all of Hashem’s provisions. Sukkot is an gathering of raising up tents or booths; praising Hashem for delivering us out of the land of Egypt; knowing His work has completed everything. They were to tell their children for all generations to always remember that Hashem is their/our G-d. It is a celebration remembering and praising Hashem for delivering the Israelites, and the mixed-multitude out of the Egyptian’s hands (slavery) of four hundred and thirty years. Sukkot is also one of the three appointed times known as “Pilgrimages.” The three pilgrimages are: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:16.

The three signifies Hashem, Torah, and Israel. Esther 4:16 teaches us that Esther (Hadassah) fasted three days and three nights. It should remind us that Jonah was inside the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.

Five: The Five Books of the Torah are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The world was created by the Breath (Ruach) of Hashem using “Hey” (the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet), in order to reveal Hashem and His Will of Torah. “By the word of HASHEM the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts.” (Psalms 33:6)[11] The fifth Festival is the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur. The five Books of the Torah are foundational to understanding the Bible, and our life force (the giving of the Torah is our Covenant and marriage to Hashem—Redemption). Ohr (light) is mentioned in Creation Day One five times. Are we seeing more amazing connections?

Moses was sent upon the waters (Sea of Reeds) in a basket covered in pitch—a covering. The Water is the Torah and oil is the Wisdom within the Torah. Water is drawn from the well by a bucket. The bucket will distribute the water like a vessel—serving the Giver of the Torah. Torah cannot be given without wisdom. Wisdom is found in Torah of oil and water: “A truly wise person must recognize the importance of having both properties—oil and water—mingling with ordinary people freely, but ensuring that socializing with the masses does not cause him to be corrupted by the materialism of the world.” [12]How do we view ourselves? Prideful? Humble?

The Torah is the Blueprint of both man and creation. Just as the world is round, so must be the Torah; having no beginning or end. The cycle repeats itself. When the Torah Portions are read to the end, the Torah is rolled back to the beginning. This gives us an opportunity in life to “roll back” and start over with lessons learned for a better year breathing Life (Chesed/loving kindness) toward others; while growing closer to Hashem by walking in His Ancient Path. When we follow Torah in obedience, the path becomes narrower so that we can see more of G-d and less of ourselves.

We have been called to observe, keep, and guard (obey) His Torah. We are to be vigilant and safeguard Hashem’s Instructions—Torah. We are to take Torah—His Light—into the world to illuminate Hashem’s Light to the world without the dark world affecting us. The reality is, without Torah and without Israel, the world has no reason to exist.

When we become cornered in a situation (feeling helpless and hopeless from our own efforts), we are reminded that the Israelites experienced a horrible predicament. They were at the edge of the sea when the Egyptians were angrily approaching with powerful soldiers and fast chariots. They realized they needed a Higher Power—HASHEM! We, too, are limited in our abilities. When we become trapped, or in my case, without air while drifting under the depths of the sea, are we able to split our own sea with the help of Hashem. When we cry out to G-d, His Power is made known and additional strength is given.

Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey; they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.”[13]

Shalom!

 

 

[1] Isaiah 40:28-31, Sefaria

[2] Genesis 1:2, Sefaria

[3] Genesis 1:3-4, Sefaria

[4] Isaiah 41:14, The Stone Edition

[5] Exodus 14:11, The Stone Edition

[6] Exodus 14:13,The Stone Edition

[7] Exodus 14:19-20, The Stone Edition

[8] Exodus 15:8, Sefaria

[9] Jonah 2:2-4, Sefaria

[10] Proverbs 25:2, The Stone Edition

[11] Psalms 33:6, The Stone Edition

[12] The Wisdom in The Hebrew Month, Zvi Ryzman, Pg.88

[13] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1831859/jewish/Why-the-Need-to-Split-the-Sea.htm

 

 

Categories: Musings & Blessings | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Shepherd’s Voice

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Our Shepherd’s Voice

 

Have you ever questioned why G–d refers to human beings as sheep in the Tanach? Is it because we’re cute and cuddly? Maybe it’s because sheep (people) like to run about merrily. There are other reasons that would be more accurate; however, the ones mentioned certainly contribute. Running wild in an open field, aimlessly, certainly invites mischief. Sheep need constant care, direction, and protection from a shepherd, just as man needs their Shepherd.

“We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and HASHEM inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)[1]

We may not always understand Hashem’s ways, but His ways surpass our understanding. Having raised sheep, I can testify that our sheep needed proper direction, protection, and constant care.

I would like to tell two short stories about two different flocks of sheep. It will be fairly easy to understand the connection to why people are referred to as “sheep.”

The first group was a wild bunch–a mixed multitude of breeds. Most were the typical fluffy sheep, white in color; however, there was an additional sheep that was a blackish-cinnamon mix in the fold. Even though he was different from the others, he enjoyed spending the day with the other sheep. Sheep are very social animals and share in the joy of eating and sleeping together. They are often seen running gleefully in all directions.

Whenever I walked into the pasture and called out his name, he would stop what he was doing and run to me. Often, centered in the middle of the crowded flock, it was extraordinary to see his head pop-up every time he heard the familiar voice of his shepherdess.

I do believe that is the response Hashem loves to see when He calls to us. Will we hear and obey (Shema)? As His flock, we need to recognize Hashem’s voice and know Him by His Name (Isaiah 52:6), believe G–d reigns, and raise our voices, singing in glad song. Hashem’s sheep, like my blackish-cinnamon mixed lamb, are to be obedient and run to Him joyfully. We are reminded in Psalms 23 that Hashem is our Shepherd and He will guide, comfort, and protect us.

While raising sheep, they constantly needed their shepherd (my husband) or shepherdess (me) nearby. If the lambs found a gap in the fence, they would crawl under it. We also had a mischievous neighbor (children) who liked to open the gate occasionally. There were large dogs that lived down the road that delighted in chasing sheep and relished having lamb chops for dinner. The sheep were naïve and carefree; unable to detect danger.

They had plentiful water, grass, and feed to eat, but they seemed to never hesitate to wander off. One would hope since they followed each other out of the pasture, that upon returning home, they would follow suit. NOPE! It wasn’t easy getting them back into their pasture. They would go in separate directions; willfully-minded! Does that sound familiar?

“‘HASHEM said to the Satan, Where is it that you are coming from? “The Satan answered G–d, and said, “From wandering and walking about the earth.’” (Job 2:2)[2]

Like the dogs desired lamb chops, the Adversary prowls along…seeking someone to devour. When His sheep choose to follow their own agenda, we become easy prey for Satan (haSatan).

Sheep can become alarmed and separate rapidly. Imagine holding a dandelion in your hand, blowing it, and watching the seeds scatter in the wind. When frightened by sounds and sight, sheep scatter in like manner.

Sheep have excellent hearing and rely heavily on their eyesight. If one loses its way and gets stuck in a corner, all it sees is darkness. The poor sheep is unable to figure out that all it needs to do is back up and turn around. It could simply turn its face to the light to be out of darkness—freed from bondage. Sadly, if the shepherd doesn’t notice the trouble the sheep is in, it will remain in darkness, alone and depraved of sustenance, leading to death. Likewise, without turning our face to His light we will remain spiritually dead and starve to death. We need the guidance and protection of Hashem who brings our redemption. Will we turn toward His Light? Hashem’s Light is Truth (Emet).

What of the second group of sheep? The previous owner had neglected them. They continually went into other farmer’s fields searching for food. My husband and I took in this drove of sheep. They were the black-faced sheep called Suffolks. They were pregnant and in four to six weeks they would be ready for lambing. They were very scrawny and needed proper nutrition in order to deliver healthy live lambs.

We provided for their nutritional needs. We prepared with specialized paint, iodine, string, and a clean sheepfold so everything would be ready when the time came for the mommies to deliver. Of course, when the time arrived, it was almost midnight during a BLIZZARD! Thankfully, we had a spotlight set up from the house that shined light towards the corral and sheepfold. While my husband was at his place of employment, I was on watch. Sure enough they had begun to deliver—all at once! I was grateful for all preparations we had done. Sheep become anxious easily. Lambing can be challenging enough. The blizzard intensified their tensions. The stressed ewes would deliver their young, stand up, and walk off. The umbilical cord not yet cut, the lamb would be in tow—connected to the umbilical cord! Yes, I was a little apprehensive as well.

I had string, scissors, iodine, and special paints ready for action. Trying to keep a ewe immobile long enough to tie the strings, apply iodine, dab on some paint, and cut the umbilical cord was a bit like a well-choreographed musical. Sheep don’t always accept their offspring and it’s important to identify which lamb belongs to which ewe. The paint is used to mark the same alphabetic letter on the mommy and her lamb in the same color. The letter/paint system came in handy considering all thirteen- fourteen sheep delivered twins and triplets!

The ewes delivered their lambs wherever they were; on top of snow drifts or the muddy banks in their large pen! While some acknowledged their lambs, others were first-time moms and didn’t know what to do. I am happy to announce a good report that a shepherdess can be a midwife for her flock with multiple deliveries without assistance!

As a shepherdess, I was responsible for supplying their provisions, assisting with deliveries, guiding them to where they were supposed to be, and providing the opened doorway into a clean warm sheepfold. Their fresh food and water were readily available. I cannot recall the amount lambed-out, but it had to have been over thirty lambs. It had been a long, cold winter’s night.

One of the lambs wasn’t doing well. I took it inside our heated home to provide additional care (I had placed him on the bathroom floor and wrapped him in bath towels to keep him warm). Unfortunately, the poor lamb couldn’t retain its temperature. My heart broke when he died. I felt so helpless and wept at the loss of this little lamb in spite of the many survivors. Even though I lost one lamb during that horrible blizzard, others have voiced that it was remarkable to have lost only one lamb under those circumstances. It was heart-wrenching to have lost just that one. As a shepherdess, wrapping the lamb in towels reminds me of when Hashem clothed Isaiah in His salvation and righteousness:

“I will rejoice intensely with HASHEM, my soul will exult with my G–d, for He has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness has He cloaked me, like a bridegroom who exalts [himself] with splendor, like a bride who bedecks herself with her jewelry.” (Isaiah 61:10)[3]

Hashem sees all and places His spotlight upon the Torah—Light. He has given us “Free Will” to choose “Life” or “Death.” Will we stay in Hashem’s sheepfold, close to the Master, follow His Ways, or will we choose to wander our way—away?

“[He is] like a shepherd who grazes his flock; who gathers the lambs in his arm, who carries them in his bosom, who guides the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)[4]

Here is another very interesting parallel for us to gleam from:

“‘Our teachers have said: Once, while Moses our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moses ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moses approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love—by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.’”(Shemot Rabbah 2:2)

As His sheep, we may not always do things correctly. We might stand dumbfounded in a dark corner, lie in the mud, or just walk around aimlessly before we begin to learn to follow Torah.

We need to turn our face away from the dark corners in our lives and look to G–d. He will guide our feet in His paths of righteousness. He guides and provides for us. He breathes Life! Hashem is Sovereign, and the Torah is our lamp and a light to our feet (Proverbs 6:23). Will we turn our faces toward Him? Will we come running to our Shepherd who prepares a table for us as written in Psalms 23? Will we trust in Hashem and in His promises?

It’s important to learn to ignore the many counterfeit voices calling out to us. Those other voices are an imitation, only seeming authentic. When we walk in His Ways, His Torah, we will become refined; discerning the difference and easily identify the truth.

Let’s do a comparison with Jeremiah 23:1-2 and Ezekiel 34:1-22 (read the entire context).

The Coming Messiah—the Righteous Branch:

 “Woe to the shepherds who lose and scatter My sheep of pasture!—the word of HASHEM. 2 Therefore, thus said HASHEM, G–d of Israel concerning the shepherds who tend My people: You have scattered My sheep and dispersed them, and you did not pay attention to them; behold, therefore, I visit upon you the wickedness of your deeds—the word of HASHEM. 3 And I shall gather together the remnant of My sheep from all the lands wherein I had dispersed them, and I shall bring them back to their cotes, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will establish shepherds for them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid nor be terrified nor suffer losses—the word of HASHEM.” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)[5]

Hashem has clearly sent a warning. The G–d of Israel has His hand upon Israel. He will gather His chosen ones (His sheep), the remnant, as well as the non-Jews who will be grafted into Israel—not the other way around. In other words, contrary to the false teachings of replacement theology, the Jews were NEVER removed from the Covenant that was given to them on Mount Sinai, or replaced, by G–d, our Creator!

 “My sheep wander on all the mountains and upon every high hill; My sheep have scattered upon the whole face of the earth, but no one seeks and no one searches. 7 Therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of HASHEM: 8 As I live—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM—[I swear] that because My sheep have become spoils, and my sheep have become food for every beast of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not seek out My sheep, for the shepherds tended themselves, but did not tend My flock— 9 therefore, shepherds, hear the words of HASHEM! 10 Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will seek out My flock from their hand, and I will cause them to cease herding sheep, and the shepherds will no longer tend themselves; thus I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, and they will no longer be food for them. 11 For thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am here, and I will seek out my sheep and I will tend them. 12 As a shepherd tends his flock on the day he is among his separated sheep, so I will tend to My sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of cloud and thick cloud. 13 I will remove them from the peoples and gather them from the lands and bring them to their soil, and I will tend them upon the mountains of Israel, in the streams and in all the land’s habitations. 14 I will shepherd them upon good pasture and their fold will be upon the heights of Israel’s mountains; there they will lie down in a good fold and graze upon fat pastures, on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:6-14)[6]

The days are drawing near when Hashem will gather His scattered “sheep” and will bring them home into the Land of Israel—The New Jerusalem for the Kingdom of G–d. Hashem will take vengeance on those who have brought harm to His Sheep, as well as on those who led His sheep astray with false doctrines. He will seek after His sheep to bring them Home into the Land of Good Pasture, Israel, protected by Hashem!

~The Restoration Of All Israel~

Israel is G–d’s flock. In His timing, Hashem will bring all of Israel back home to the Land of Israel completely restored. Those who have brought harshness and deep affliction upon the “Apple of His Eye,” causing scattering, assimilation, division, and unspeakable conduct such as the Holocaust, will not escape the Day of Judgment. No amount of evil will ever crush the Light of the Jewish people, for HASHEM’s Chosen ones carry the Light to the Nations!

 “They will no longer be spoils for the nations, and the beasts of the land will no longer devour them; they will dwell securely, and none will make [them] afraid. 29 I will establish for them a planting of renown, and they will no longer be decimated by famine in the land, and they will no longer bear the shame of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, HASHEM their G-d, am with them, and that they are MY people, the House of Israel—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM. 31 Now, you are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man; I am your G–d—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM” (Ezekiel 34: 28-31)[7]

 

Israel will be planted firmly in their land; forever under the protection of G–d. Nothing will come up against them with fear or harm.

“HASHEM will be the King over all the land; on that day HASHEM will be One and His Name will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9)[8]

We are called to “trust” G–d for His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The ways of man lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). Man’s ways of understanding leave out the Ruach (Spirit). When the Ruach is left out, the flesh leads; disregarding the Ruach. The Ruach is to lead (head), the Nefesh (flesh) is the feet (lowest on body). We are at dirt level when the Nefesh leads. We are called to trust the Will of G–d. When we trust in Hashem, we affirm our faith in Him.

As Hashem’s sheep, we will encounter many hardships during our journey in “our wilderness.” On our journey, though difficult, we will learn that Hashem does everything for our good. Learning to accept that, our Emunah is strengthened by trusting in Hashem’s promises.

“Emunah” is a Hebrew word which means having the faith that goes beyond belief. It’s the understanding that G–d is above us and much wiser—Sovereign. It’s the acceptance that throughout life, our trials and tribulations become lessons learned for our benefit.

“Bitachon” is a Hebrew word which means “Trust.” It’s a powerful sense of optimism and confidence built on Emunah. Bitachon gives us the confidence to accept the trials with the ability to move forward in life. Sometimes life brings many hardships, failures, loss of loved ones, tragedy and brokenness. Emunah is the ability to reach into our past without fear or anger, grasp it, and have the “Bitachon” knowing that we can stand up from our brokenness and take those difficult steps forward.

“Faith/Emunah” is when we accept the brokenness and difficulties in our life and truly see the validity in the lessons given for our benefit in order to grow in His righteousness (whether we understand its reasons or not) is spiritual maturity. Trusting G–d with all things is accepting, knowing, and believing that no matter what trials are given Hashem has our best interest in all things. G–d is Good!

For His Glory!

[1] Isaiah 53:6, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[2] Job 2:2, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[3] Isaiah 61:10, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[4] Isaiah 40:11, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[5] Jeremiah 23:1-3-4, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[6] Ezekiel 34: 6-13, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[7] Ezekiel 34: 28-31, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[8] Zechariah 14:9, The Stone Edition, Tanach

Categories: Musings & Blessings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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