Tag Archives: Jewish

Etz Chayim – reaching for the Tree of Life

It has been almost a full year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened. After almost 7 years of ‘wilderness wandering’, we finally have our own home again and are settled, albeit out in the rural wilds of north Cornwall, far away from any kind of Messianic fellowship or congregation. I am so thankful, so surprised with joy to receive such good fortune when we thought all was lost. But still I am terribly isolated and lonely and effectively alone in terms of religious fellowship.

I may have mentioned that I had been in search of some fellowship – any kind, really, but it was a very mixed bag of good and bad experiences.

I really liked the Anglican for its freedom of conscience, although there seemed to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish side of the faith and I had the particular bad fortune of being under a priest who had a real bee in his bonnet about evangelicals. The fact that I was verging on being an ‘ex-evangelical’ seemed not to temper his ire. As far as he seemed to be concerned, I was an idiot for ever countenancing such ideas. If anything, his attitude pushed me back into the fundamentalism I was trying to leave. (Freedom of conscience didn’t extend to evangelicals, as far as he was concerned.)

We also tried an independent Pentecostal group who said they were pro-Israel, but they turned out to be extremely negative, narrow-minded and fundamentalist in every way, and the Pentecostal displays of worship put some of my children off church entirely. After everything we have been through, I can hardly blame them.

In the end, I started going to a Salvation Army while my mother was living with us (only for 6 months as it turned out) and I have continued there although it’s far from ideal. Again, there seems to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the occasional anti-semitic sermon is never a surprise. It takes a lot of energy to keep looking, so for now I am staying put. I can’t say that I am entirely happy, but they do at least put Christianity in action and reach out to the poorest of the poor.

I had wondered recently in what way I can still claim to be ‘Messianic’ – without fellowship or a believing husband to encourage me, the feasts and fasts and even a proper observation of Shabbat has fallen by the wayside. I wonder if I can ever get it back again.

I have made a very good friend online with a woman who had a very different experience of the Messianic movement, having first converted to Orthodox Judaism and come into Messianic Judaism from there rather than as I did, through evangelicalism. We disagree on many things, but her lack of Christian fundamentalism has been an eye-opener for me.

I also have a very good real-life friend who is not a believer, but who was raised in Orthodox Judaism. We have a surprising amount of experiences in common, and her friendship has been a real balm to my soul.

I have started thinking though in terms of abandoning the trappings of religious tradition entirely and instead reaching out for and trying to find the ‘Etz Chayim’, that is the Jesus/ Yeshua who embodies the Tree of Life, and ‘Ha Derek’, the Way itself, Himself.

Coming out of fundamentalism is a very emotional and difficult thing, and in a way I am having to start again and weigh everything up to see what is good and what is bad. That’s probably not a bad thing in itself.

I am trying to get to know the ‘real’ Yeshua from a different perspective now.

I am still at home, muddling through being a wife and homemaker/ housewife, still home educating my youngest.

So what is the future of this blog?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my Messianic identity, and I would love to be able to start again from scratch and incorporate more of the Jewish feasts and traditions into my life.

What I don’t want to do, however, is to fall back into the trap of legalism or fundamentalism. It wasn’t life-giving, it was a bottomless pit of darkness that I slipped into gradually without even realising I was doing it, and it nearly ate me up whole before I realised. What I need now is to find the good path, and the Tree of Life.

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Toledot

Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
New Testament: Romans 9:1-31

The portion Toledot means ‘Generations’, after the first words of the portion, “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son.” Toledot includes the following stories:

  • Birth of Esau and Jacob
  • Esau sells his birthright
  • Covenant with Isaac confirmed
  • Sojourn in Gerar
  • Dispute about wells
  • Covenant between Isaac and Abimelech
  • Esau’s wives
  • Jacob steals Esau’s blessing
  • Esau’s disappointment
  • Jacob flees to Padan-Aram

Birth of Esau and Jacob

Right at the beginning of the passage, we are told that the twins Esau and Jacob struggled with each other within Rebekah’s womb, and this sets the scene for their relationship. Rebekah asks, “Why?” and the LORD tells her, “Two nations are in thy womb… and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Esau sells his birthright

The next section tells the story of Esau selling his birthright for ‘pottage’ or lentil stew. But really, it seems rather more that it is the story of Jacob taking advantage of his brother in his hour of need, but we are told “Thus Esau despised his birthright” so in other words, it is less important that Jacob obtained the birthright in a dishonest way than the fact that Esau did not value it as he should have done.

Covenant with Isaac confirmed

Next there is another famine in the land, and the LORD tells Isaac not to go back down into Egypt, so he goes to Abimelech of the Philistines to live in Gerar. He is told “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with theee, and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed, I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.” We are reminded that these promises are not dependent on Isaac’s obedience. “Because that abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Dispute with Abimelech

We now have another sister/ wife narrative in which Isaac attempts to pass Rebekah off as his sister, but Abimelech sees Isaac behaving in a way that indicated she was his wife, and so Abimelech instructs nobody to touch her. Again it seems that the foreign kings are more moral than the Patriarchs!

Then we are told that the Philistines have filled in all Abraham’s wells, and Abimelech asks Isaac to move on because God has blessed him so much during his time there so he now has great wealth, “Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.”

Then Abimelech’s servants fight with Isaacs over the ownership of the wells and the water.

Then, at Beersheba, the LORD appears to Isaac and tells him he will bless and multiply him (give him children and descendents).

Looking at the chiastic structure of the portion (see Christine’s Bible study in the links below), this contention over Isaac’s wife, wealth and water are the central axis of the whole passage.

Covenant between Isaac and Abimelech

Abimelech approaches Isaac to make an agreement that they won’t do any harm to each other, apparently seeing how great Isaac has become and fearing him a little. Isaac retorts “Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?” (I think he was teasing them a little there!) They answer “We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee.”

Esau’s wives

We then have a short paragraph about Esau marrying foreign girls, “which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah”, and although we are not told why this would be, we can assume it is related to their ‘foreign gods’.

Jacob steals Esau’s blessing

We now have the most incredible story of Rebekah collaborating with Jacob to trick Isaac into giving Esau’s blessing to Jacob instead with an elaborate rouse – sending Esau out to hunt venison for dinner while they cook a kid at home and Jacob pretends to be his hairy brother by covering himself in goat skin! Why does Rebekah do this? Is this a simple case of favouritism or is it another case, like Sarah, of trying to force events to fit the promise? It seems thoroughly immoral, but Jacob receives the blessing whether he deserves it or not.

Esau’s disappointment

Esau is bitterly disappointed, having apparently realised too late what a big mistake he had made already in selling his birthright. He begs his father to bless him too, but evidently Isaac cannot give him the same blessing as the blessing is prophetic, and so Esau receives only what is left. Esau remarks, “Is not he rightly named Jacob (meaning supplanter or deceiver), for he hath supplanted me these two times.”

Jacob flees to Padan-Aram

Of course, Esau hates Jacob for what he has done to him, so Jacob flees for his life, and Rebekah once again collaborates with him, sending him to her relatives back in Padan-Aram, convincing Isaac that it is so that he wouldn’t take a wife from among the ‘daughters of Canaan’ as Esau had done.

Esau’s response is to go to Ishmael’s family to take another wife from his family. It is not clear whether this was a good thing or just as bad as taking wives from Canaan, and we are not told whether or not this pleased Isaac. We can probably assume from silence that it made little difference. Esau will become the father of a nation (the Edomites), but the birthright, the blessing and all the promises go to Jacob.

Links and Resources

Overview of Genesis as a series of Toledot http://www.lanz.li/index.php/9-article-for-edification/12-the-toledot-structure-of-genesis

Toledot at Hebrew for Christians http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Toldot/toldot.html

Toledot at Messianic Educational Trust http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/weekly_parasha.htm

Toledot at Christine’s Bible Studey (with chiastic structure) https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/genesis-2519-289-annual-cycle-toledoth-generations/

Noach

Torah: Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5

A note on Bible versions: I use and link to verses and passages primarily in the Authorised King James Version (KJV) simply because I prefer it – I like the sound of the language, I think it is beautiful and easier to memorise than modern versions, and I’m used to it. But if you follow the links to the passages at Bible Gateway, there are lots of versions to choose from.

I thought I would draw your attention to a blog that I found interesting and helpful in going through the Torah portions:

https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/genesis-69-1132-noach-noah/

Christine talks about the original Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures in the Torah portions as “the teaching tools of scripture”. Be aware though that her view is a conservative, literalist interpretation. (The blog is no longer updating there, so you can search in the archives).

The first thing to note about portion Noach is the name. Noah is related to the Hebrew word for ‘comfort’ or rest. It is related to the name of the prophet Nahum, and the phrase ‘Nachamu ami’ – ‘Comfort ye my people‘ (well known from Handel’s Messiah). Genesis 5:29 tells us that Lamech (Noah’s father) names him, “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.”

Noah is thought to be a ‘type’ (that is, a foreshadowing or model) of Christ in that, through him, a remnant of humanity is saved.

The portion does not only cover Noah and the Flood, but the following:

  • The genealogy of Noah
  • Building the Ark
  • The Flood
  • The curse on Canaan
  • The genealogy of Noah’s sons
  • The Tower of Babel
  • Dispersion
  • Genealogy of Shem
  • Abram and Lot

Christine shows that the chiastic structure of Noach reveals the central Axis of the portion to be the curse on Canaan, and how that relates to the Messiah. It is a fascinating study!

For more details on Chiastic structure and the other “teaching tools of scripture” inherent in the Hebrew text, see here.

The Haftarah portion refers to Noah and the Covenant of the Rainbow which God makes with Noah, promising that He will never again flood the whole earth with water.

003-noah-sees-rainbow

Links and Resources:

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Noach/noach.html

http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/parashiyot/noach-14.php

http://torahclub.ffoz.org/portions-library/noach/

http://www.aish.com/tp/43919117.html

http://www.chabad.org/parshah/default_cdo/jewish/Torah-Portion.htm

And although I haven’t seen the film, I thought I would share the soundtrack of the film Noah, as I listened to it while I was writing this post (which I apologise, is shorter than I would have liked, but I’m a little bit distracted by NaNoWriMo as it is November!) 🙂 Hopefully I have at least pointed you in the direction of interesting further studies.

Bereshit

The Bible begins of course with the book of Genesis, the name of which in Hebrew is taken from the first word, ‘bereshit’ meaning ‘in the beginning’, which is also the name of the first Torah portion:

Torah: Genesis 1:1-6:8

The first six chapters of Genesis are so familiar – the stories of creation, the Fall and the expulsion from Eden, Cain and Abel, the descendants of Cain, the descendants of Seth, the sinful state of mankind as the generations go on, and the portion ends with Noah, “but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. (Torah portions traditionally end on a joyous note, even if the preceding verses are of a sombre nature) – it can be hard to find anything new. But it is said that the Words of Torah are so multi-faceted like diamonds, that there are 70 aspects to explore.

Whether you believe, as people like Answers in Genesis do, that Genesis is to be taken absolutely literally, or whether you believe it is to be understood as allegory, there is always something new to see.

This is ‘Bereshit’ by Moshav Band. I hope it’s not too cheesy! I think the music is rather beautiful, and I love the stop motion clay animation! If you enjoy folky Israeli music, Moshav Band are worth checking out. I first heard this on Putamayo’s Israel collection which is rather lovely altogether.

Creation

That phrase ‘Ki tov’ – ‘and it was good’ – stands out for me, especially as it is repeated multiple times. I think Christians (especially any influenced by Calvinist thinking) tend to view the whole of Creation, the world, people, everything as inherently bad, totally depraved and devoid of any redeeming qualities. Celtic Christianity acknowledged that Creation was broken and fallen and in need of repairing and healing, but also saw that it was inherently and essentially good, and worthy of being redeemed!

The Fall

On the Fall and the expulsion from Eden, the whole passage brings up more questions for me than answers. I saw a post on twitter this morning claiming to be a ‘haiku’ on Bereshit:

“Here is the tree,
Don’t eat the fruit,
Yum.”

Comedy! But why? Why would God create a tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Why put temptation in the garden? If God had omniscient foreknowledge that Eve and Adam would give in to that temptation, and all that would result from it, why not prevent it? Is it possible to find a convincing, reasonable answer to this if you view the episode as literal history?

Then the one positive commandment in the portion is “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” This is the basis for Victorian and modern American dominion theologies, the former justifying dominating nature and the world, and the latter advocating Christians molding the world through Christian government. (Which might be a reasonable proposition if the Christians in question were truly spiritually enlightened, but somehow horrifying if not!)

How should that first commandment be understood now? How are we to be fruitful? How are we to rule and subdue? Is it still relevant at all? Interestingly, the commandment comes before the Fall, in Genesis 1:28, which might suggest that it is not a result of the Fall, but an eternal principle?

Cain and Abel

The first murder, brother on brother! It seems shocking that the very next sin mentioned after the Fall is such a dreadful and sad one. The writer of Hebrews references the murder of Abel in chapter 12:24, comparing his shed blood with the shed blood of Christ, which “speaks of a better covenant”.

This made me wonder which covenant is being referred to, since I thought the first Biblical covenant was the Noahic covenant (covered in the next portion), but a quick search reveals that some groups (especially Dispensationalists) see 7 covenants in scripture, the first being the ‘Edenic’ covenant. Some information on that here.

As with all the links I provide, I am in no way recommending the writers or groups the links represent, nor do I agree with everything they write – I always advise caution and discernment.  Please read responsibly! Take the ‘meat’, but leave the ‘bones’.

Haftarah:

The ‘haftarah’, if you haven’t encountered the word before, is a portion of scripture from the books of the prophets which was chosen to complement and link back to each Torah portion, and they are thought to have originated during the period of Selucid occupation (before the Maccabees revolt) when the Jews were forbidden from studying the Torah itself.  I don’t plan to look at the Haftarah portions in depth this time, but if I find any good links to studies I will include them.

The haftarah for Bereshit is from Isaiah 42:5-21 (although there are various slight differences, depending on the group – for instance, Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Karaite Jews have alternate selections.)

This particular haftarah passage is considered a ‘Messianic’ text in Christian thinking, that is to say that it alludes to Jesus the Messiah (again, in case you’re not familiar with the word, Messiah is from the Hebrew word ‘Mashiach’ meaning ‘anointed’, and translated via Greek as ‘Christ’.) as ‘The Servant of the Lord’ beginning verse 1.

verse 7: To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Is this, perhaps, the kind of fruitfulness that God is looking for in us?

Links and Resources:

Bereshit on Wikipedia

The Weekly Parashah on Hebrew for Christians

Commentary from Messianic Education Trust

The Jewish and Christian Liturgical Calendar (Catholic) pdf

Interesting Torah commentary on the conflict between Creation and Science

Wikipedia on Allegorical interpretations of Genesis

My personal feeling is that to accept both conflicting views as equally true and valid in different ways is perfectly acceptable and in line with Hebraic thinking – that ‘holding conflict in tension’.

I hope you found this first post of the Jewish year interesting and inspires you to look further.

Shalom!

New Cycle, New Year

The Jewish year ends and begins again with the festival of Simchat Torah – rejoicing in the Torah, which took place at the beginning of the week.
I didn’t manage to get round to posting anything for the High Holidays of Rosh haShanah, Yom Kippur or Sukkot, as we were moving house. But a new Torah cycle begins this week with Bereshit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) and in a few weeks the Church year will also draw to a close and begin again. 

So I will attempt to start posting regularly again and hope to have more time as we become more settled.

I would enjoy discussing the Torah portions and looking at different aspects and points of view with anybody interested in studying them.

Check out Chana Helen’s beautiful website of art with Jewish themes:

https://www.chanahelen.com/

(And I would love to know who painted the first painting above). If you know, please do tell! 🙂

Shalom!

Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Change of Seasons

image

After muddling through for just over a year with most of our books still in storage and without any significant social contact, Motor-biker decided at the beginning of April to try school.

It took a while for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, but once the ball was rolling everything seemed to happen very fast.

We had a tour of the school on the Thursday and then filled in the forms to officially apply for a place. On the Monday we were informed by the County Council that the place was ours and so he started on Wednesday morning.

We agreed that, given that the transition from home to secondary school is such a massive one, it could be overwhelming to jump in at the deep end and so he would start gradually. One lesson the first day, two on the second and so on.

Tomorrow is due to be his first full day.

So far it has been a mixture of enjoyment, overwhelmed exhaustion and frustration. (I will elaborate on the reasons for his frustrations later.)

For those of us left at home, there is also a mixture of feelings of joy and sadness – joy because I am happy for him to do what he wants to do (and he is such a sociable character, I think he will be in his element), sadness because my home education journey is coming to an end before I expected it to and with that I am experiencing feelings of disappointment and a niggling sense of failure.

It is nonsense of course – motherhood inevitably includes a sense of guilt but I know that actually I have done my best and we have had an incredibly difficult set of circumstances that have been and continue to be outside of my control.

Baba Zonee has decided to stay at home. He is a different character from his brother and doesn’t feel ready for school.

Pony-rider has turned 16 and is still at home mainly because she can’t decide what she wants, and Dragon-tamer is still at home struggling with mental and physical ill health after his breakdown which school caused.

I’m not worried that Motor-biker will have the same experience at school that Dragon-tamer did – again, they are very different characters.

Whereas Dragon-tamer found the education useful and the social contact difficult and frustrating, Motor-biker is likely to have the opposite experience, and I am prepared (and fully expecting judging from his reactions to the lessons so far) to need to supplement the education at home.

So perhaps not much will change in a way except for the timetable, and Baba Zonee will benefit I’m sure from having one-to-one attention for a change (not to mention a bit of peace and quiet! Motor-biker’s other nickname is Tigger due to his irrepressibly boisterous and bouncy nature!)

ruby-slippers

I couldn’t help noticing that this massive change of season for us occurred on the occasion of the Full Moon at Passover and Orthodox Easter (also counted as Beltane for those who celebrate on the full moon rather than on May 1st according to the calendar). That confluence of Christian, Jewish and Pagan dates felt auspicious to me in a way. Perhaps it’s just me being fanciful, but perhaps that’s just me! 🙂

I feel a little as though I, like Dorothy, have been caught up in a whirling, mad tornado (again) and deposited in a new land – charmed and bewitched, and I’m a little bit lost and unsure. Unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar landmarks. I will triumph eventually, but we may have a strange journey ahead.

I am thinking happy thoughts and taking deep breaths, and trying to adjust to the idea without going crazy.

wp-1461611072650.jpg

Chag Pesach Sameach!

jewish-christia

I always feel a little out of sorts and discombobulated when Passover and Easter occur separately as they have done this year. The reason of course is the method of calculation.

I honestly don’t know how the Rabbis calculate Passover, but I know that the original method was to determine whether the barley was ‘Aviv’ – ready, the word actually means ‘Spring’ at the time of the new moon. If it isn’t, an additional month is added and Passover will be on the 14th day (which is of course the full moon) of the next month. That is what has happened this year. (There are in fact those – Messianics and Karaite Jews – who still use this method of calculation, and you can subscribe to the New Moon Report from Jerusalem to know when to celebrate according to Biblical law if you want to, but in fact the Rabbis’ calculation is remarkably reliable.)

Easter, on the other hand – purposely divorced as it was from its Jewish roots – is determined with reference to the Spring Equinox. In fact, the Orthodox churches of the East use a different calculation which causes Easter to more readily fall in line with Passover.

I’m not ready to convert to Orthodoxy though!

It is in fact a very Jewish thing to accept contradiction and live with tension, and as a Messianic that is something you have to do, unless you are willing to take a hard line and come down heavily on either side of the argument. I spent a long time among hard-liners, but it never sat easily with me. It really isn’t in my nature to be a hard-liner.

I would of course prefer it if all would agree (and I feel more comfortable with following the Jewish calendar), but for the sake of fellowship, I concede that there are two celebrations essentially of the same holiday on years like this.

christ-passover

The only problem now is that there will also be two celebrations of Shavuot/ Pentecost as well and counting the omer/ Eastertide can get a bit confusing!

Whichever way you celebrate, blessings to you!

May the light of the risen Christ rise in your hearts!

Shalom x

easter-passover

Second Sunday of Epiphany

The following are my scattered thoughts on the CW lectionary passages for the second Sunday of Epiphany, Year C, 17th January 2016. It is a Bible study rather than a sermon, but if anybody finds my notes of use in drawing up their own sermon, I would be very happy for you to make use of them. (Do let me know if you do!)


Psalms/ Canticles: Psalms 36:5-10
Old Testament: Isaiah 62:1-5
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel Reading: John 2:1-11


The Wedding at Cana is significant as Jesus’ first miracle and the inauguration of his ministry. But it can also be understood as representing two Covenants by the water and the wine, the wine signifying the New Covenant which is made between God, Judah and the whole house of Israel (that is, the Jewish people and all those whom God will call to himself).

Jesus’ mother (John never refers to her name as Mary) may be understood as representing the Jewish people in general, and the Levitical priesthood in particular (she is a Levi by family bloodline) , whereas we are told in Hebrews 7 that Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. She draws Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine and directs to servants to do whatever Jesus asks them to, and he tells them to fill the jars with water which he transforms into wine.

Water is often significant in scripture and generally represents life, especially spiritual life, and may also be understood as representing the Torah, which in Judaism is referred to as ‘The Tree of Life’. In Messianic Jewish thought, Jesus is called the Tree of Life, or the Living Torah.

So what is wine that it would be more desirable and preferable to life itself? Well, the Hebrew word for wine is yayin (Strong’s Hebrew word no. 3196) from an unused root yayanto ferment or to effervesce, and so the wine may be understood as containing good yeast, that is, the Holy Spirit.

If we look back to the first explicit mention of the New Covenant, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, it is a Covenant in which God will write the law (the Torah) on people’s hearts. This can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting that Jesus tells his mother in response, “My hour is not yet come.” Does he mean that it is too early for his ministry to start? Or is it perhaps referring to the fact that the New Covenant cannot be fully inaugurated yet, not until the coming of the Holy Spirit, after his death?


The passage in Isaiah is a very beautiful passage, of obvious Messianic significance (and by Messianic I mean both pertaining to Jewish believers and relating to the Messiah) but I’m not entirely sure why that particular passage was selected as I’m not immediately seeing the connection. If anybody has any ideas on this, I would be interested!

The New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians relates to spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts to the church.

The passage from Psalm 36 is on the topic of God’s love, but it refers to drinking from the ‘river of delights’,  the ‘fountain of life’, which can be seen to reflect the same topic of water as life, but here it is linked to the love of God.


Collect: Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new; transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory:
Through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.