The Israel Elections and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Some of my Facebook followers have been informed about the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel from this page and perhaps from their own reading.  The election coming up again brings the issue of the conflict of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews with the rest of Israel society to the fore.  Ultra- Orthodoxy is not monolithic though it appears to be to outsiders.  The antipathy from the rest of the society is due to the fact that the Ultra-Orthodox do not as a rule serve in the army or do national service.  Secondly, generally, the men do not enter the work force and support their families. The women work as they can.  The men study Talmud (they call it Torah study, but we should understand they mean Talmud study including subsequent centuries of traditional Jewish texts.)  They argue that this is so important that though it leads to semi-poverty and welfare dependance, they have a right to do so and that such endeavors are the key to the safety of the Jewish people in the Land. Some of the Ultra-Orthodox are positive to the State of Israel and some are against the existence of the State as a pre-mature endeavor.  The Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox represented by the political party Shas is a bit more flexible on these matters, but they support the Ultra-Orthodox consensus on these issues.  This includes a state supported educational system for Torah study that does not include subjects that can prepare the men for work.  

An accommodation with David Ben Gurion in the early days of the State for a small number at that time has mushroomed into 12% of the population being in this orientation and costing great amounts to the whole society.  Hence the bitterness.  However, when it comes to the vote, other things generally supersede this with enough of the people that they vote for parties, especially Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, that will include Shas and United Torah Judaism in the coalition.  Without them, he does not have enough mandates in the Knesset to be the Prime Minister.  He therefore submits to their demands.  You recognize the Ultra-Orthodox by their varieties of old style dress, back coats and hats.  Different sects have different styles.  They are to be distinguished from the Nationalist/Modern Orthodox who serve zealously in the Army and excel in many professions.  There is one thing to bear in mind.  The power of the Orthodox, both Modern/Nationalist and Ultra, are a firewall against the radical LGBTQ agenda in Israel, though it is still at a problem level.  The Messianic Jewish Moshav Yad Ha Shmoneh was taken to court for not renting for a gay wedding.  This is selective and unfair since no Orthodox hall would be so sued.  There is still no gay marriage done in Israel.  That is due to the Orthodox.  Their role in the next government is a crucial issue.  As of now all of the Ultra-Orthodox are predicted to have about 15 mandates. 

So how did this ever happen?  In Eastern Europe and Russia, the origin of the Ultra-Orthodox, the men had to work.  Only a few could be full time rabbis and students for a lifetime.  The Eastern European states would not give welfare to enable them all to bow out of work.  Many do not realize that what exists is unique to Israel, though it has now spread to some communities in the New York City region where they game the welfare system.   It goes back to a particular famous Rabbi, though not an ordained one.  His name was Avraham Yeshayahu Karlitz, known as the Chazon Ish (Vision of a Man) after one of his books.  Karlitz moved to Israel in the 1930s.  After World War Two, the Ultra-Orthodox community was devastated.  The majority of their people were killed.  The extended family structure, which was a key part of tradition transmission, was destroyed.  How could Ultra-Orthodoxy survive?  Ben Gurion was sympathetic to their plight and wanted them to survive, but not to become as they became, a state within the state.  Karlitz envisioned a new thrust to save the Ultra-Orthodox, the Yeshiva as an almost monastic community where men would study day and night.  The Yeshiva in a way replaced the extended families which no longer existed.  It was a total living together focus.  Home life was secondary and work in the society largely eliminated for most of the men.  When it was a few it was doable.  But with large families, the Ultra-Orthodox have greatly increased their numbers.  This whole situation is an historic anomaly and unlike the traditional Judaism of centuries. It should be known as well that in the government Shas controls immigration and resists all believers in Yeshua.   

Here is a question.  Can this situation be changed such that the Orthodox have to go to work and do national service and thereby escape poverty while yet providing the firewall against radical social agendas form the secularists?  This firewall is a key to averting God’s judgement. That is my desire.  The election at the end of this month is crucial.  The reader should note my other post on the parties and the upcoming election.  These are crucial matters for all that pray for Israel.  The research oof Vivian Bercovici in the Jerusalem Post for Feb. 27th was very helpful to the second part of this article. 

The Upcoming Election: Understanding and Prayer

We are amazingly going to new elections in Israel though the last elections were less than a year ago.  Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved two governments that he recently led to gain a coalition that was more in unity with him.   It is important for those Messianic Jews and Christians who vote in Israel to understand the issues and to prayerfully vote. However, it is also important that those who pray for Israel have some understanding to enable their prayers to be joined with knowledge as well as being led by the Spirit.  Now these are my personal views, and some of you will want to do your own research. 

All should understand that Israel is a parliamentary system where the party with the most votes is given the opportunity to form a government if they have a majority or if they can get other parties to join with them in a coalition.  Unlike the United Kingdom, the Knesset Members (Parliament) of Israel are not elected according to representation from districts. The citizens of the nation vote for the party they desire.  This then leads to proportional representation nationally in the Knesset.  A party must meet a vote threshold to have representation in the Knesset.   This has produced much fragmentation and too many elections in the past few years and been part of the reason why Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved his governments.  The Knesset has 120 members. To be Prime Minister a party leader needs to receive 61 votes from Knesset members. 

The second thing that all should know is that conservative in Israel does not mean socially conservative.  For example, the conservative parties of Likud, New Hope, and Yisrael Beitenu are not anti-abortion and support LGBTQ rights.  Coalition governments that include religious Jewish parties are limited in supporting the social agendas of the LGBTQ movement.  The Rabbis of Israel control marriage.  Conservative in Israel means rejecting a two-state solution with the Palestinians or at least only accepting a very small restricted state for them.  No one on the right is talking about ceding the land in the areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  In addition, conservative in Israel is pro-free enterprise.  One of the amazing things about Israel is the decline of the left wing.  This was largely due to the failure of negotiations for a two-state solution and the intifadas or uprisings of the Palestinians after they refused the solution given during the time of Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton.  Their rejection of a more generous off under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was the last straw.   The left wing is thus now largely powerless in Israel. 

Here is my analysis of the parties and the issues

Those Parties with polling that they will be in the Knesset (Parliament)  

Right Wing Parties 

Likud: Benjamin Netanyahu: 29:  The Prime Minister has been a darling of American Evangelicals.  What he has done for Israel is enormous and he is a great patriot.  His father was a noted historian and Zionist.  His brother was killed in the famous rescue in the raid on Entebbe, Uganda.  As finance minister, Bibi brought Israel out of the doldrums of low growth and inflation through policies that fostered strong economic growth.  Such policies continued in his leadership as Prime Minister.   In my view his dealing with the Iran nuclear bomb issue was courageous.  His work in diplomacy and the peace treaties with Arab governments in the Abraham accords has been brilliant. In fighting COVID he went to economic shutdowns which I do not favor, but brilliantly negotiated to bring vaccines to Israel to make Israel the #1 success in vaccination.  The big deficit is that he does not keep his word. He now breaks his word with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.  It is alleged and it seems so, that when another leader in Likud rises in popularity, Bibi needs to marginalize him. He has alienated many who used to be with him.  This is the case with Gideon Sa’ar.  See below for Sa-ar.  Bibi is sometimes bombastic, dishonest and amazingly manipulative. He does not have a reputation for integrity. He may also be seeking elections to pass a law to not have to face a trail for corruption/fraud. To me it seems the accusations are credible and brought by his one-time partner who leads the justice department, Attorney General Mandelblit, a conservative Likud member.   Bibi has not sufficiently dealt with the high cost of housing and other cost of living issues.  He has also failed to bring justice in financing, housing, and services to the Arab Israeli citizens.  Bibi submits to ultra-Orthodox demands to be released from Army or national service and for men to not have to work so they can study Talmud.  In education this means that they resist basic leaning that can prepare them for jobs but yet their schools (yeshivot) demand enormous subsidies and get them.  This is a bitter issue for many Israelis and a real problem. 

New Hope:  Gideon Sa’ar: 14:  For many years he was high up in the Likud.  He has a reputation for integrity.  Many of his policies would be like Bibi’s.  One of the things that is important to me is that when he led the Interior Department (Misrad HaPanim), he was just in dealing with immigration.  Messianic Jews and also many others were excluded by the Interior leaders without legal grounds.  The Shas Party that controls this agency has put out orders to resist citizenship for all followers of Yeshua. They practice delay tactics.  Sa’ar is very conservative on the issue of a Palestinian state.  He is in favor an autonomy, maybe linkage to Jordan.  He does not bend to the norm that everyone has to be fully citizens of a state, though he would probably favor Jordan for such citizenship.  He will not cede the west bank.  I do not know where he is on justice for Arab Israelis and for prices in Israel.  He was marginalized by Bibi and just had enough with him and thus foremed this new party. 

Right Party; Yamina:  Naftali Bennet: 11:  Bennet led the national religious party when it was in an earlier coalition with Bibi.  Bibi was very upset with him for publicly criticizing him.  He left that party to have a larger party that could appeal to both religious people and conservative secular people. In the last coalition Bibi offered him so little to be in the government that Bennet went into the opposition.  He probably could do well in coalition with Sa-ar.  Would he also stop the progressing of the LGBGQ agenda if in power? Probably, especially if the Ultra-Orthodox are in the coalition or if the Religious Zionists were in the coalition with him 

Relgious Zionist Party and Otzma:  Bazalel Smotrich: Itamar Ben Gvir: 4:  Bazalel Smotrich seems to me to be a very radical right wing person. I don’t think he cares about Arab Israeli justice.  He recently joined with Otzma under Ben Gvir who is a follower of the late Meir Kahani who believed that the Arabs needed to leave Israel.  This joining was to enable them to pass the threshold for Parliament and was encouraged by Bibi.  Bibi says that he would not put Ben Gvir in the government (a cabinet position).   

Shas: Aryeh Deri: 8:   The Shas party represents the Orthodox Sephardic community in Israel.  For us they have a pro and a con.  The pro is that they are a stop for radical LGBTQ agendas in Israel.  The negative is that they control the Interior Department and make citizenship very hard for Messianic Jews and many others who qualify.  Sometimes this is at a level of causing real hardship.  Deri himself went to jail for fraud and is under investigation again.    They are not as radical in wanting men to study Talmud and not work but do tend to an alliance with United Torah Judaism, our next party. 

United Torah Judaism: 7  They are the Ashkenazic Ultra-Orthodox coalition party led by Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman.  The enter coalition governments to extract money for their schools (Yeshivot) and seek to preclude the requirements of their schools teaching skills and knowledge that would enable their young men to find work.  They thus crate a welfare system that is unique to them.  During the period of the government when Yair Lapide was in the coalition, laws were passed to mitigate this problem.  It was all reversed in the next government Bibi formed.  However, they are a barrier to the radical LGBTQ agenda.  UTJ is a non-Zionist party. They say they would not be in a government with Yair Lapide or Avigdor Lieberman. 

Yisrael Beitenu: Avigdor Lieberman: 7:  This party is a secular Russian Jewish oriented party.  Lieberman used to be part of Bibi’s government years ago.  He has fallen out with him.  He says he will not serve in a government he leads.  He is also committed to end the special status for the Ultra-Orthodox to not work and to support schools that do not prepare young people to work.  He would join with Likud if Bibi was not leading it and if they would begin to reform the situation with the Ultra-Orthodox.  He is also fighting for the status for Russian Jews, 400,000 of whom are not recognized as Jewish by the Shas Interior Department.  They thus cannot marry other Jews in the Land of Israel, but have to leave Israel to marry.   This is due to them being Jewish through their fathers or due to lack of documentation which is difficult from a Soviet Communist past. 

This totals 80 seats in the Knesset. Other polls are similar. Yet some would not sit with some of the others. Taking that into account, you many still only have 60 and not enough. 

Centrist Parties 

Yesh Atid: Yair Lapide: 17.  Lapide merged his party with Blue and White under Benny Gantz. They were close to being able to form the coalition with Gantz as Prime Minister.  However, some would not accept the votes of the Arab parties to do this. The votes of the Arab parties were needed.  Therefore, Gantz joined in a unity government where he would be associate Prime Minister.  Lapide did not trust this agreement and pulled out of the Blue and White and went back to his own party.  He is moderate on the Palestinian state issue. He is open to this, up but wants to keep the major settlements.  He is for strong security as well.  His big pluses are that he wants to reform the relationships with the Ultra-Orthodox, and wants to reform policies on housing and other cost of living issues to make Israel affordable to the middle class which is being priced out of being able to afford living here.  Messianic Jews were very disappointed in him because he stood against a Messianic Jewish Congregation getting their official non-profit status here. 

Blue and White: Benny Gantz: 4:  Benny was a well respected General and Army head.  He lost some credibility when he entered the coalition government with Bibi to prevent another election during COVID.  Bibi, as expected by many, broke his agreements with him:  doing a two year budget (there is still not buget) and on other matters.  Gantz has looked weak and been played by Bibi. Many thought it would have been better for him to stay with Lapide and be united in the opposition, but his view was at that time< during the COVID crisis, that a new election was likely to yield the same results and that tne national good required avoiding an election.  

The Centrist have 21 mandates in this poll.  They could join with right wing parties, but would not want to or be able to join with Shas and United Torah Judaism.  Lapide will not join a government under Bibi again.  Centrist parties could join with Labor. 

Left Parties

Labor: Merav Michaeli: 6  Labor was the dominant party in Israel for its first three decades and then had power off and on after.  The last labor leader as Prime Minister was Ehud Barak.  Since then it was down hill.  Originally the party was very socialistic orientated but today is more moderate.  They embrace free enterprise but desire better wealth distribution and more help for people.  They embrace a two state solution to the Palestinian conflict, but do not want to dismantle the settlement blocks. 

Meretz: Nitzan Horowitz: 4   This is the most leftist Jewish party.  All of the Jewish parties except for United Torah Judaism are now Zionist, or believe in the State of Israel.  However, Meretz is the most radical in regard to borders for a Palestinian state and being anti settlement in the territories of the West Bank.   

Jewish Left Parties have 10 mandates. 

Arab Parties 

Joint Arab List: Ayman Odeh: 9:  The Arab parties do not join coalitions.  In my view this is very sad.  It is because they are anti-Zionist.  Therefore, they lose political power in fighting for justice for Israeli Arabs.  They need to be more focused on the needs of their towns and bring services, roads, hospitals, police and housing, but due to their stands against Israel have no political leverage.  Justice should be served by Israeli governments bringing justice anyway, but they do not do so. 

Ra’am: Mansour Abbas: 4: Previously part of the Join list above, but now separated due to wanting an even more anti-Zionist stand.    

A New Party

Gush HaTanaki: David Friedman: I include this party not because they are polling to get into the Knesset, but because Friedman is a Messianic Jewish scholar. His party is not just for Messianic Jews.  Others leaders in the party are not Messianic Jews Their platform is very good, but they do not yet have traction. 

Praying for Israel and the Election

The next prime minister will be from the rightwing camp. The big prayer issues for me are justice for the Messianic Jews, Russian Jews, and others. We need a change of leadership in  the immigration department. I pray that Shas will not be in control of this department.  In addition, even for their own sake, I want to see Ultra-Orthodox men required to work and be trained in their education systems for work or vocations.  This is a key to the Ultra-Orthodox not living in poverty. There can be some who are called to study for a life time but this should be a much lower percentage.  I am very concerned for justice for the Arab towns in Israel.  Lastly, I want to see social improvement in hospitals, wages for teachers and social workers, and great improvement in the cost of living.  Pray that the next prime minister has great wisdom in navigating the international scene and protecting the security of Israel.  In my view, Bibi has been very good at that.  

Only Two Major Feasts?

Sometimes Jewish Roots Christians and some Messianic Jews (not most) decry the fact that the Christian Church did not embrace the Jewish Biblical Feasts.  In the Bible there are three major pilgrim feasts, Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost 50 days later) and Sukkot (or Tabernacles) in the Fall at the end of harvest in Israel.  Added to these pilgrim Feasts are First Fruits during Passover week, Rosh Hoshana or the Trumpets Feast, and Yom Kippur.

However, it is not true that the Church did not embrace the Jewish Feasts. They actually embraced the two major Feasts plus First Fruits but in a different way.  The reason why is that Passover and Shuvuot were feasts in which major acts of God took place, acts connected to Yeshua and establishing the New Covenant.   Passover came to a new fullness of meaning due to the fact that He died as our Passover Lamb, and that as the Bread of Life, he instituted the unleavened bread and wine of Passover to symbolize his body and shed blood.  First Fruits comes, according to my understanding of the Torah, on the first day of the week following Passover day (Sunday). It is the day of his Resurrection.  It is probably not as the Rabbis teach the day after Passover, or Nisan 16.  Secondly, the Church embraces Shavuot, or Pentecost, because the Holy Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem at the Temple in one of the greatest interventions of God in history.  Non liturgical churches sometimes do not celebrate it, but it is a big deal in historic churches.

The Church also embraced the Sabbath in principle but connected it to the day of Resurrection as both a weekly Frist Fruits celebration and as a day of Sabbath rest.  She could have embraced the seventh day Sabbath, but before the world embraced time keeping by a seven day week and civil governments allowed this as a day off, it was too difficult and was not enjoined by the Apostles. The first day was first kept as a celebration but not a Sabbath. That was added later.

There were no great historic events of God’s intervention in Yeshua connected to Sukkot (Tabernacles) Rosh Hoshana, or Yom Kippur.  The fullness of meaning for Yom Kippur is especially developed in the book of Hebrews 8, 9.  Yeshua is our great High Priest who entered the Most Holy Place for us with the blood of his own sacrifice.  But when did that happen?  At Passover, not on Yom Kippur on the Calendar.  It makes sense then that the Church celebrates the meaning of Yom Kippur and Passover together as part of Passover, though they could have adopted Yom Kippur as bringing out the meanings of the Hebrews chapters; a second celebration of Yeshua’s atonement.  She did not do so.  Of course, Messianic Jews in the first several centuries after Yeshua’s resurrection kept all the Feasts.

Where do we begin in encouraging the Church in Jewish roots without imbalance in requiring them to keep the actual Holy Days on the biblical calendar (the actual date for doing so is very debated).  The first thing is to teach on the meaning of the Feasts and then to Root the Christian celebrations of the Feasts they embraced to the Jewish context in the Torah.  There is a reason why these Jewish Biblical Feasts were chosen for the great acts of God in establishing the New Covenant.  It is unconscionable that the Church has not taught the full meaning and background and that most Christians do not even know the Jewish Roots of these Feasts.  But more and more do know because of Messianic Jewish communities and the Church coming into alignment with the restoration of Israel.  Part of the reason for this lack was historic Anti-Semitism and not wanting to connect Church Feasts to the Jewish people.  We are now overcoming that.

The second thing the Church can do is acknowledge that although they were free to embrace weekly Sundays, the Sabbath day remained as part of God’s covenant with Israel, and Christians are free to embrace that as well if led by the Spirit.

Finally, the Church can teach on the meaning of Roah Hoshana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot during the fall season.  These Feasts are eschatological, or have last days meanings.  Yom Kippur is full of the meaning of Yeshua’s first coming but looks to the application his atonement in the end of days.  Rosh Hoshana announces the judgement of God and the return of Yeshua.

Sukkot is both very Israel specific and at the same time universal in meaning.  Why?  In recalling Israel dwelling in tents in the desert and God’s provision, it is very much particularistic.  However, in looking to the full establishment of the Kingdom of God over all the earth both in Scripture (Zech. 14) and also in Jewish tradition, it is a universal in meaning feast.  It is therefore appropriate as a celebration of the unity of the People of God and the coming fullness of the Kingdom.  It is why there have been interchurch celebrations with the Messianic Jews during this season.   I would expect that without legal requirements, some great celebrations during the week of Sukkot would become more and more common as history progresses to his second coming.

Restoring Jewish Roots to the church

I have been a shepherd in the Messianic Jewish world for 48 1/2 years now.  The primary focus of the Messianic Jewish movement was and should be winning and discipling Jewish people.  However, there is a second and important purpose.  Our existence raises questions that give us an opportunity to restore Jewish roots to the churches.  And what did we mean by that?  First of all, it was to see the churches, first with its leaders, to understand the Bible in its original Jewish context.  This meant that “replacement theology” the doctrine that the Church had replaced Israel and was the new and true Israel would be rejected and secondly that the election of the Jewish people/Israel would be solidly embraced.  This as well would lead to a much better reading of Scripture.  We also intended that the Church would embrace the foundational stand of the Messianic Jewish congregations, that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are called to identify and live as Jews.  The Messianic Jewish movement was not against the Protestant Evangelical heritage but affirmed it.  We wanted to add understanding to it.  Restoring Jewish Roots did not mean destroying the Christian heritage, whether holidays, worship on Sunday, Christmas carols and other Church practices, hymns, liturgy, and holidays which were not contrary to the Bible.   

 

However, some years later, in the 1980s a Jewish Roots Movement began that was apart from the Messianic Jewish world.  Some teachers were solid, with very good teaching and some took wrong turns that brought us great concern.  At its worst, some promoting Jewish roots taught that Christians, the churches, were responsible to keep the Sabbath and  Jewish Feasts according to the Biblical calendar and more.  This came close to what we dubbed “One Law Movements,” which the Messianic Jewish movement worldwide largely rejected.  What then do we think restoring Jewish roots should entail.  I outline here the first two categories which we desire and then two further categories which we think violates the teaching of Galatians and Colossians 2 and Romans 14.  

 

  1. We desire that the Bible be understood in its original Jewish/biblical context.  This means that we study the whole Bible.  As part of this, we desire that the churches and its leaders would understand the weekly Sabbath and the Feast of Israel including:  a. their historical meaning in ancient Israel and the historical events connected to them, b. their ancient agricultural meaning, c. how they were brought to fullness in the first coming of Yeshua and finally, d. how they will yet be fulfilled and are prophetic of the last of the last days and the Age to Come.   The patterns of life given in the Bible for Israel have universal meaning that all are called to understand.  
  2. We desire that the Church would understand its own heritage in its connection to Jewish roots.  The Church celebrates Good Friday as the recognition of the death of Yeshua as the atonement for all.  Good Friday is rooted in and participates in Passover meanings and this should be taught and understood by the Church.  It is especially fitting that it be taught on Good Friday to bring out the fullness of Yeshua’s sacrifice.  Also, Pentecost is celebrated as the anniversary of the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2).  The Jewish Feast should be understood as its background and why God chose this Feast for the outpouring with all of its harvest meanings  

These first two points are explained in my books Jewish Roots, and Israel, the church and the Last Days.  We think it is appropriate and fitting for the churches to pray and be led by the Spirit to join with Messianic Jews during the seasons of the Feasts for celebrations near the days of the Feasts. But this has to be by the Spirit and not by any enjoined rule or sense that it would be superior to others that do not so embrace such celebrations. For us the Fall Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) which Zechariah 14 denotes as the international celebration of the Kingdom of God could be a special time together. On the Saturday night during Sukkot week, we used to have a great interchurch celebration.

 

  1. The third category is that it is better and so much richer if the churches give up their Christian Holy Days, and embrace instead the Biblical Holy Days since they are the Feasts of the Lord.   (On the contrary we believe that embracing such Holy Days is a matter of freedom and the leading of the Spirit.)  Teaching a superior tradition for the churches in our view goes over the line of the clear warnings of Colossians and Galatians.  These days are a shadow, and no one is to judge for the way gentiles embrace these celebrations or do not.  Even the Sabbath is taught as principle (Heb. 4) but is never enjoined as something that should be kept for gentiles during this transitional age. 

 

  1. The fourth category is a more serious violation of Scripture when some teach that all Christians should keep the Torah in the same way that Jews do.  Hence Jewish Roots is defined as keeping the Feasts, the Sabbath, and the food laws.   Jewish roots is said to be thus restored.  Scripture is explicit that this is wrong and that those who are not Jewish and circumcised are not responsible to keep the whole Law but only universal law.  Of course, the details of this false view are problematic. What days do we keep?  According to the Rabbinic Lunar calendar which we use in Israel?  Most scholars today think that the Biblical calendar was a solar calendar and sometimes the Church Feast Days are closer to the Biblical days than the Jewish calendar.  It is interesting that there is not one New Testament verse that exhorts gentiles to keep the seventh-day sabbath or the Biblical Feasts according to Biblical dating.  

 

The Jewish Roots movement becomes a source of division rather than enrichment when it goes over the line to #3 and #4.  

 

Hoshana Rabba

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabba in Judaism.  I am sending this out to you since this day begins this Thursday evening.  I previously sent a post on the meaning of Sukkot in general.  Now I want to concentrate on this Seventh day.  Remember the 8th day celebration that follows, a day of new creation.  That is also an important sabbath day.

This Feast is connected to prayers for rain and good crops for the coming year.  As we have just celebrated the end of the year’s harvest, we look forward already to the new harvest that will come at Shavuot or Pentecost.  The key to that harvest is rain and hence the prayer for rain with the hope that the early rains will start soon after the Feast and then continue into the Spring where we will see the latter rains.  We are so much more conscious of this living in Israel.  It is was on this very day of the Feast that Yeshua stood up and said,

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.  Now He said this about the Ruach whom those who trusted in Him were going to receive; for the Ruach was not yet given since Yeshua was not yet glorified.”

As rain produces fruitfulness and both satisfies our thirst and brings increase, so the Spirit satisfies our spiritual longing and brings increase, for by the Spirit we are able to see the harvest of people into the Kingdom.  It is again fitting to remember the harvest themes of this season.

Scholars tall us that this might have been spoken in the context of the water pouring ceremonies at that time.  The priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and put this out in the Temple as an offering, signifying both giving our lives and calling for rain as well.

A great miracle was also connected to this time; the healing of the blind man in John 9.  We again have a Sukkot theme, namely that Yeshua is the light of the World.  This statement of Yeshua in John 8:12 promises those who follow Him will have the light of life.  Thus the blind man is healed as an illustration in the physical of being healed of our spiritual blindness.  His words, “I was blind, but now I see.” John 9:25.   The context is the glory of the lamps that were lit in the court of the women that produced a grand glory over the Temple and the City.

As we celebrate Hoshana Rabba, let us remember these wonderful themes and renew pray for the renewal of the power of the Spirit in us so that we may have inner satisfaction, walk in His light and be part of the great harvest. It is fitting to pray for revival indeed.

Sukkot (Tabernacles) is Coming

Friday evening begins the Feast of Sukkot.  In some ways, it will be sad here because the wonderful joyful harvest feast will be nothing like normal due to the virus shut down.  Sukkot has great meaning, not only for Israelis and for all Jews, but for all committed Christians. 

The command in Lev. 23 notes that this is to be a 7 day festival with the 8th day as a special assembly, Shimi Atzeret.   Historically we recall the time in the wilderness before Israel entered the promised land.  This was a time of supernatural provision despite the judgment.  Those who experienced that judgment who were under 20 years of age when it began, would have survived that judgment of almost 40 years and would have had great memory.  There was supernatural manna, meat, and water.  Their clothes did not wear out.  The Feast, therefore, is the supreme testimony from this memory that the LORD is our provider. This is why the directions for remembering the desert period were given for the largest and final harvest festival of the year.  Can you imagine being a parent and not having your kids’ clothes wear out?  Israel in the Land, now living in stable houses, with stable seasons and harvests, is not to think that their provision is any less from the LORD.  To drive this truth home, Israel is to dwell in tents as she did in the wilderness, to know that all provision is from God.  It is a testimony of the New Covenant Scriptures that for those who walk with God and live in generosity that “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Messiah Yeshua.” (Phil 4:19)  

Probably, Yeshua was born during this Feast. The evidence is not absolute.  If so, according to the calculations from the division of Abijah’s time to serve in the Temple, the division of the father of John the Immerser, one probable calculation leads us to the time of Sukkot.  Since this is a pilgrim festival and families traveled to Jerusalem, it would explain why there was no room in the Inn.  It indeed, would be so fitting and appropriate for Him to be born on the first day of Sukkot and then circumcised on the 8th day, Shmini Atzeret. He tabernacled among us. 

The Feast is chosen by God to be the Millennial Feast for international celebration, for all nations in that age will send their representatives to celebrate the Feast.  Therefore, it is the Feast of the Kingdom of God.  In wonderful anticipation, organizations like the Christian Embassy, bring representatives of the churches from the nations in anticipation of that Age.  It is therefore in Judaism and should be in Christianity, the Feast of the Kingdom of God International under the rule of the Messiah.  If one adds the idea of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that takes place after his return, which is rooted in the symbolism of the High Holidays, Rosh Hoshana to Yom Kippur, then it could well be that the Feast is the reception gathering of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.   We also cannot overlook that the largest and final harvest is a fitting symbol of the great harvest of the nations at the end of the Age.  

The celebration of this Feast by all believers in Yeshua therefore is a prophetic act of intercession in longing for its fulfillment.  

 

The High Holidays

People connected to the Messianic Jewish movement and Evangelicals with passion for Israel often have a significant understanding of the High Holidays in the Bible and in Judaism.  This is the period between Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur.  Some have a depth of understanding.  However, it amazing how many have no significant understanding at all, maybe the majority. 

The High Holidays are the holiest time of the year on the biblical Jewish calendar. Sadly, in my view, the name Rosh Hoshana and part of the theology of the day in Judaism obscures some important meanings.  It was not wrong for Israel to adopt the New Year date of the ancient Near East just as we in the West celebrate January 1st.  However, the idea of that the date is really the anniversary of the creation of the world is speculative.  By calling this the first month, we obscure the meaning that stems from Nissan, Passover month, being called the beginning of the year in the Torah.  So yes, we can have new year meanings for the 1st of Tishri, but this should be secondary, and the emphasis should be on Tishri being the seventh month, the primary meaning.  Seven is the time of perfecting.  

In the seventh month on the first day, we hear the sound of the shofar, hence the Biblical name Yom Teruah, or the blowing of a trumpet.  Teruah is the sound of that blowing.  The Bible also notes silver trumpets at this time, but this has also been obscured.  We do have a new beginning due to the meanings of these holidays.  The blowing of trumpets means that we are to get ready, for we are entering into a time judgment by God and seeking forgiveness and atonement whereby we will not fall under God’s judgment but his mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  This is why we have the trumpet emphasis in the book of Revelation, and the last trumpet emphasis in I Cor. 15 that is sounded at the return of Yeshua.  Rightly, in Jewish tradition for this season, we are reminded of the last judgment and the Age to Come.  The day is fraught with eschatological meanings. The trumpets are connected to Passover and exodus as well, the trumpet was heard at Mt. Sinai.  Therefore the book of Revelation includes both meanings.   Following this day, a Sabbath, we have the intermediate days leading up to Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishri.  The Sabbath in that mid-period is called Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of return and repentance.  Repentance is a daily exercise but is especially emphasized now so that all will repent. 

The holiest day, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a time or fasting, of self-searching, repentance, recommitment, and receiving of forgiveness/atonement.  The prayers of the synagogue are mostly corporate.  We pray for the sins of Israel since the sin of any is part of the corporate sin of the nation.  Lists of sins are comprehensive.  Unless one understands this corporate dimension, he or she will not think that all of it is relevant to them, though the lists can point of individual sins.  Westerners are so individualistic.  We need to learn the importance of corporate intercession.  We especially thank God for the book of Hebrews which shows us the great fulfillment of the meaning of Yom Kippur in Yeshua.  He is both our High Priest and our sacrifice.  He enters into the most holy place in heaven with his own blood procuring the fullness of our forgiveness and the perfecting of our conscience.   The sacrifices of old in themselves could not take away sin. Their meaning is participation in the sacrifice of Yeshua who is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.  We can see an anticipation of this in the Jewish teaching that all the sacrifices were only efficacious because they participated in the sacrifice of Isaac who was offered in the place where the Temple would be built.  However, Isaac is not divinity and is only a type, a foreshadowing of the great antetype, Yeshua our High Priest and Sacrifice.  All the images of atonement in the Torah find their fullness of meaning in him.  

There are also last days (eschatological) predictions of atonement that show Yeshua’s sacrifice will be provided for the sins of the whole world.  In John, we read, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.”  The vision of the conversion of the nations who all go up to Jerusalem in Isaiah 2 is only possible if the sacrificial atonement of Yeshua is applied to them.  In Zechariah 13 we read that a fountain will be open to Israel for her cleansing.  From this text we get the famous hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.”  I also believe optimistically in interpreting Rev. 1:7 when all the nations see the returning Yeshua and morn.  I think they mourn for their sins and rebellion against Yeshua, the King.  This is why the survivors of the last wars can go up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem to worship the King every year, a fitting parallel to Isaiah 2.  Yom Kippur looks toward the future application of the blood of Yeshua to all the nations on earth. 

Jewish Ministry: Why all Should Care

Two very large megachurches have made Israel and joining together in support of Messianic Jews a key foundation of their ministries.  Some of their megachurch leadership friends think that they have gone overboard in their emphasis.  They do not have a vision for this as an important part of their vision.  Sadly, in my view, these churches that don’t agree with this Jewish emphasis are missing it and need a revelation of from the Spirit of what the Bible says.  

In the first century, the Jewish hope for those who believe the prophets was that Israel would get it right in regard to holiness and purity.  This would lead to the coming of the Messiah, Israel’s deliverance from her enemies, and then the redemption of the nations, the whole world.  The amazing prayer of Zechariah, upon the circumcision of John the Immerser (Baptist), makes this theology very clear and can be well understood as fitting that first-century Jewish context in Israel.  

“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of David

Just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ages past, 

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 

So, He shows mercy to our fathers and remembers His holy covenant, 

The vow which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us—

Rescued fearlessly from the hand of our enemies—

to serve Him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

For Paul, the mission to the nations was a new piece of the puzzle not before revealed. It was that salvation coming to the nations would be a key to fulfilling the promise to Israel, the fulfillment of the hope voiced by Zechariah.  “Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.”  This is part of the purpose of world missions.  

In verse 14 Paul points to himself as a Jewish disciple of Yeshua called to magnify his ministry (the supernatural work of the Spirit, “to provoke to jealousy those of my flesh and save some of them.” However, Paul uses his example as one for the gentiles to follow. They are to join him in this task resulting in a growing number of Jews coming to faith in Yeshua.  This growing number of Jews, called the “remnant saved” in v. 5 and the first fruits that sanctify the rest of the nation in v. 16 are a key as well to Israel’s salvation   Why is it so important? Because it will lead to Israel turning to Yeshua.  ”What will their acceptance be but life from the dead.”  This little phrase is shorthand for the rapture, the resurrection, and the salvation of the nations. And so, ”All Israel will be saved.” (v. 28)  

The New Covenant does not change the hope of the prophets, that Israel will be the instrument of God that will lead to the salvation of the nations.   Every Christian is given the charge by Paul to embrace the concern of Israel’s salvation, for he says, “I am speaking to you who are Gentiles.”  He says this as one who has given his life for them, as an apostle to them.  His example is for everyone. 

Therefore, my friends in the two megachurches which I reference have not gotten off balance. They have simply discovered the Biblical emphasis.  Scripture Quotes from The Tree of Life Version. 

 

The Israel Political Crisis Never Ends

Israel has two moderately conservative newspapers that for many years were quite positive to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  That has changed. Why?  There are several reasons. and the issues they write about now take us to another crisis.

First, the editors did not think an indicted Prime Minister should run for Prime Minister or be in office of P. M.  The Supreme Court ruled that he can do so.  The issue is as the editors stated, that his attention would be diverted, and that he would develop policy directions tainted by the upcoming trial and then during the trial.  This seems to be exactly what is happening.  One of the issues is that in Israel it is possible for the Knesset to pass a law that a Prime Minister cannot be indicted but only removed by the Knesset. However, passing that law after an indictment is problematic indeed.  We recall that Prime Minister Olmert stepped down when indicted and afterwards was convicted and served his time.

After the last election, Netanyahu did not have enough votes to form a coalition without the centrist Blue and White.  The negotiations were hard, but hardly anyone in Israel wanted a fourth election in so short a time.  A new election did not seem to favor Bibi.  So, after hard negotiations, it was agreed in the coalition agreement that they would pass a two-year budget.  When a government cannot pass a budget, the government falls, and elections are required.  The two-year budget assured that this would not happen.  The agreement also stipulated that in November of 2021 there would be a rotation and Benny Gantz would become the Prime Minister.  The Knesset agreed to all this.  The ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, Shas, said they would guarantee the agreement and would not support moves by Bibi to get out of it.  Now in only a few months Bibi wants to scuttle the agreement on the two-year budget.  Shas said they would not support this move.  Bibi’s excuse is that the virus makes a long-term budget unfeasible.  But the virus was here when the agreement was made.   It looks to almost everyone that Bibi wants a one-year budget and then to go to elections before Gantz has his turn.  Then he can pass the legislation that lets him off the hook with the court.  If the polls look good, he would want an election right away to get out of the court case.  This is the most manipulative political wrangling that I have ever seen.  So, what does Bibi do with Shas?  He offers hundreds of millions in shekels to the ultra Orthodox Yeshivot (religious Talmud study schools) to buy them off to gain their acceptance if he goes to elections for a fourth time.

Bibi has done very, very, good things for Israel. The news editors I referenced say so as well. However, they think things are now over the top.  There is as I write now only 48 hours to avoid an election and pass a budget extension, but that will only delay the problem.  If Likud, Bibi’s party, changed their leader, I think they would do well.

Meanwhile, Bibi’s direction is losing votes to Naftali Bennet of the new Right Party, not to Blue and White or Yesh Atid, the two recent biggest parties opposing him   This is due to Bibi taking sovereignty for the West Bank in part or in whole off the table for the peace agreement with the UAR.  Bennet also sees the integrity issues.  Likud’s Gideon Saar also would like to replace Bibi due to the integrity issues.  However, the Likud members will not yet vote to replace him.   What will happen?   We don’t know, but we are in a political crisis again.  It is a crisis totally created by Bibi.   We are still fighting a spike in the Corona virus.   The new Corona Tsar, Dr. Roni Gamzu, seems very solid and balanced.  In the midst of this, to spend hundreds of thousands of shekels on unnecessary elections seems unconscionable.  As for the budget issue, a two-year budget could be passed and adjustments could be passed later if necessary.   So again, we need much prayer.

Annexation and the Return of the Zealot Party

Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is near certain that Israel will annex 30% of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) including the Jordan Valley.  This is in line with the Trump peace plan.  What is so important is the realism of the Trump plan.  I have noted this in past posts but will repeat.  Before the Oslo peace plan, both liberal and conservative governments in Israel supported creating towns in the disputed territories.  The main reason was to have more territory controlled by Israel so that Israel’s strategic depth for defense was increased. Yes, the right-wing with P. M. Begin hoped to see a permanent annexation of the territories, but that was not pursued and was politically not feasible.  The hope was that the Palestinian areas could be ceded to Jordan or that the Arab residents could be residents in Israel but citizens in Jordan.   

With the Oslo peace plan and the idea of a two-state solution being revived (this was the original U. N. plan from 1947) the issue became how to draw the border.  Israel’s government, during the time of the hopes of the Oslo plan, was seeking to cede most of the territories for a Palestinian State. In the P. M. Olmert plan, the Palestinian’s would be given 95% of the territories in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Israel 5% to preserve the larger settlements.  When the Palestinians walked away from this plan, the left as a power in Israeli politics was destroyed.  This is why today we have a large rightwing group of parties, and a centrist group of parties but no significant left-wing power (despite Bibi calling the center parties left-wing!)   

The Trump plan still holds out hope for a Palestinian State on the 70% of the land plus Gaza.  However, if the Palestinians will not come to negotiate, President Trump has made it known that Israel can then go ahead and annex these territories as long as Israel coordinates mapping with the White House.  Bibi is very thankful to President Trump and the President is popular in Israel.  He has recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and moved the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital.  His peace plan is the only realistic one.  Why? Because the other plans require removing some of the towns of the territories.  There are over 400,000 Israelis in these towns.  Any government that sought to remove even part of them would face stiff resistance, bloodshed, and even civil war!  Trump’s plan does not require removing any of the settlements.  A Palestinian state is still very unlikely, and quietly some really hope for a return to the Jordanian citizenship idea in the years ahead so as to avoid a Palestinian state and a claim of apartheid. This declaration of annexation, probably in July or August, will probably lead to much world rejection and maybe a new Palestinian uprising (intifada).  It may threaten the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt.  It would also risk relationships that were growing with other Arab nations.  However, Bibi sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity with Trump as President, and he will take the risk.  He has the votes to do it.

However, the leader of the settlement council and the Jordan Valley communities, David Elhaynai, seeks to thwart the plan for two reasons.  First, he and his followers will not countenance the idea of a Palestinian state at all.  They want all the territory without full rights for the Palestinians (not by the choice of the Palestinians but by Israel’s fiat).  They do not want to even say they accept the Trump plan in theory.  Bibi wants the loss of a Palestinian state to be blamed on the Palestinians. He, therefore, accepts the Trump plan.  He is a realist and politically very savvy. Secondly, Elhaynai is upset that 15 small settlements, some of which were illegal but have been since legalized, will not be in contiguous connection to the new Israeli 30% territory.  For this, he also rejects the plan.  Why would he be so extreme and zealous?  It is hard to know. He is not part of the super right-wing religious though he has to represent them as part of his constituency.  These latter folks believe that taking all the Land is a Messianic mandate that precedes the coming of the Messiah.  Whatever his reasons, he has to represent them and is himself a maximalist for other reasons.  My concern in all of this is that these zealots are of the same spirit that Yeshua warned about and noted that their direction would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem.   He said if only they had known the way for peace.   We cannot say that Israel today, mostly not committed to Biblical standards and faith, would have the favor of God to reenact the conquering of Joshua.  There is no prophetic voice of leadership for this.  We cannot hope for or depend on God’s favor for such radical recommendations.  We are not a righteous nation though comparatively more righteous than many.  This settler leader has even lambasted Trump as not a friend of Israel.  He has drawn the rebuke of Bibi for this and rightly so.  I believe that this is the same spirit as the radical zealots of the first century, and they must not be allowed to scuttle the progress that has been made due to President Trump.  A way for the Palestinians to find justice while Israel realistically can claim the territory of the settlements is the realistic way forward.  Netanyahu is taking a terrible risk. I hope it works out.  But the settlers are asking him to go beyond risk toward a probable disaster.