Haman is still around, but where is Mordechai?

The holiday of Purim is a joyful festival. It is based on the Book of Esther, whose events occurred in Persia, the former name of present day Iran. The existence of the Jewish people during the time of Queen Esther was threatened by people in power in Persia. Two thousand five hundred years have passed and not much has changed. In fact, it has only gotten worse. Iran has again emerged as a threat, not only to Israel and the Jewish people, but to the nations of the world.

Some stories, like true vintage wine, become better with age. One of them is the story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. We are commanded to tell the story from generation to generation. It reveals the presence of God, His might, His power and His holiness and ability to save the people whom He has chosen (Deut. 7:7-8). These attributes of God are also present, and He remains mighty to save, even when He is not in the forefront of the action, but in the background and even when He is not referred to or mentioned by name. This is the situation in the Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther). It reveals the presence of Him Who is invisible.

We know the story and it is a great one. It is a story of absence – absence from the country where the sons of Jacob were to shine, to prosper, to worship God in the majesty of His holiness, to be blessed and to be a blessing. It is a story of the absence of a national leadership amongst the captives from Judea and Samaria who were taken first to Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, some of whom were later brought to Persia (modern-day Iran) and who were living during the reign of King Ahashverush (Ahasuerus). It is a story where the absence of God in the lives of the captives stands out by the failure to refer to Him. It is a story that serves as the background for the complaint of the people, as revealed in the explanation of the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel, namely, an absence of hope: “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off”.'” (Ezekiel. 37:11) But, even in the blatant absence of specific reference to Him, still, the Holy One of Israel continues to exercise His sovereign control over all the fortunes and misfortunes of the people, whom He referred to as “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

This comment is being written on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar [Bet], the day “when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them”. (Esther 9:1)

We look at the story with the benefit of hindsight. It is written for us and we can see how the pieces that seem disjointed all fit together and reveal the Hand of God and His unseen presence among His people, during one of the lowest times in the history of the nation of Israel. The major players are Mordechai, his niece Hadassah (whose name in exile was changed to Esther), King Ahashverush, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia and Haman, to whom the king gave exceedingly great authority. The king commanded that all of his servants, who were at the king’s gate, were to bow down and pay homage to Haman. But, Mordechai did neither.

From a political perspective, we see a “situation developing”. One man, who was at the king’s gate (i.e., was part of those who were close to the seat of power and who were able to come in and go out of the court without a special permit), defied the command of the king and would not bow down before Haman. It is recorded for us that Mordechai was living in the citadel of Susa. He was a descendant of Kish, who was a Benjamite and part of the upper class families who were taken captive and exiled along with King Jeconiah of Judah. (Esther 1:5-6) Another famous descendant of Kish was Saul, Israel’s first king, who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions given through Samuel the prophet, to strike and totally destroy Amalek. King Saul defeated the Amalekites, but allowed their king, Agag, to live – an act of disobedience that resulted in the Lord rejecting Saul from being king. Ultimately, the prophet Samuel killed Agag.

But, Haman is said to be “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite”. So, the consequences of Saul’s disobedience had future consequences for the nation of Israel. The descendants of Agag came to distant lands and some of them, like Haman, ended up in the service of the king of Persia. And so, once again, a descendant of Kish meets up with a powerful Amalekite.

However, as mentioned above, not only is Mordechai a descendant of Kish, he is also a Benjamite. Benjamin was the last son of Jacob. He was born after Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, after Jacob crossed the Jabbok and after he and all of his household bowed down before Esau. (Gen. 32-33, 35:16-18) Therefore, Benjamin, who was the only son of Jacob who was born in the land of Israel, did not bow down before Esau. And, his descendant, Mordechai, stood his ground, as well, and did not bow down before Haman. When questioned by the king’s servants why he refused to bow, his answer was that “he was a Jew”. (Esther 3:4)  The refusal of Mordechai to bow down before Haman “filled [Haman] with rage”. When he was told “who the people of Mordechai were … Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordechai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahashverush (Ahasuerus)”. (Esther 3:5-6) Lots (Purim) were cast to determine the day that this would take place.

Haman’s understanding went beyond the simple fact that there are a people under the king’s rule who have a different religion. The issue was not the existence of a different religious belief, which could be tolerated, but rather, the Jewish people, whose existence would not be tolerated by the descendant of Agag, the Amalekite. Even though only Mordechai refused to bow down, the entire nation was going to suffer the consequences of his act of defiance.

The rest of the story continues, with Haman convincing the king to issue an edict that the Jewish people be destroyed. Haman was even willing to pay money into the king’s treasury if the king would agree to his request. Mordechai publicly demonstrated against the king’s edict and enlisted his niece, Hadassah (i.e., Esther, after whom the Scroll is named) to appeal to the king. Esther was chosen to replace the deposed Queen Vashti, when the latter refused to appear before the king and his drunken friends, who had been partying for seven days. Esther explained to Mordechai that her life would be endangered if she came into the presence of the king without being summoned. Mordechai wisely explained the situation in a clear and unequivocal manner: “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14) Things don’t get much clearer than that. Esther understood the gravity of the situation and that it was not her life only that was at risk, but those of the Jewish people who were under the rule and reign and authority of the king – her husband.

She requested that all of the Jews in Susa fast (and impliedly, pray) for her and not eat or drink for three days. She and her maidens would do the same and afterwards, she would go to the king, contrary to law, and, as she said: “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16) And she and they did so and on the third day, the fate of Esther and the Jewish people was decided. The sentence of death had already been passed. Now, would the sentence of death be carried out, or will there be life? The golden scepter was extended to her and with it, life for her and eventually, life for the Jewish people. She chose the manner of presenting her petition to the king and the timing of it. In the meantime, the king had a bout of insomnia and instructed that the chronicles of the kingdom read to him. It was then that he learned that Mordechai discovered and informed about a plot to kill the king, who now decided to publicly honor and reward Mordechai by dressing him in royal garments and having him paraded through the city square on a horse, on which the king himself had ridden. Haman was appointed to do this for Mordechai and to proclaim before all the people: “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desire to honor.” (Esther 6:10-11) This further enraged Haman.

When Esther revealed to the king what Haman had done, the king issued another edict that allowed the Jews to defend themselves, inasmuch as by law, he could not cancel his own decree. Haman was the recipient of the king’s wrath, as he and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows and what had been meant for evil was turned around for good. (Esther chpt. 9) Mordechai recorded the events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces under the authority and rule of King Ahasverush (Ahasuerus), obliging them to annually celebrate the 14th and 15th days of the Hebrew month of Adar, “because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday … for Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them…Therefore they called these days Purim after the name Pur…So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants…The command of Esther established these customs for Purim and it was written in the book.” (Esther 9:20-32)

At the end of the story, Mordehai was exalted to a position of power and authority, second only to the king himself. He was “great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.” (Esther 10:3)

There is much that this story reveals and many aspects of it have significant, and indeed, eternal ramifications and applications for those within the Messianic community, as well as for the whole world. We see how the Hand of God was moving behind the scene, using the drunken feast of the king to embarrass the then queen, who was removed because of her disobedience to the command of the king (by the way, there was significant reason for that refusal); the choosing of Esther to replace her; the positioning of Mordechai as one who was at the king’s gate and his overhearing the plot to kill the king; his being of the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin; his refusal to bow before Haman the Agagite; the unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Jewish people and Mordechai’s being exalted with power and authority, second only to the king himself.

Our God reigns! “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33) What the enemy of our souls meant for bad, God used for good.

Israel sorely needs men like Mordechai today. He was the godly remnant amongst a people who believed that God had forsaken them. He represented the hope of a national restoration, when there had not yet been any experience with exile. Living outside the land, away from the Temple service, away from the place where God commanded the blessing, was all that the people knew. Yet, one man stood in the gap. He said “no”. He would not bow down to man and certainly not to a descendant of those who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Today, we see and experience that once again, the nations conspire together against God and against His people, saying, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation that the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:4). The Lord God of the universe, creator of heaven and earth, knows if you and I are alive “for such a time as this”.  Looking at the situation today in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and in North America, we cannot fail to see that the Hamans of this world abound and have multiplied. Some have even been elevated to positions of power, giving them a platform to curse and condemn the Jewish people. But, where are the Mordechais? We need to be people who are willing to proclaim who we are, as we face the plans and pursuits of nations to divide this land and scatter God’s people. God doesn’t change. He remains the same yesterday, today and forever! A little faith can move mountains. And God is not removed from us, even though we do not see Him physically, but only with the eyes of faith. He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2)

“I will bless those who bless you and the one who [acurses you I will curse.” (Gen. 12:3)

So Bless, be blessed and be a blessing. Happy Purim!

Marvin

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Born at 415 grams, today a team player in the IDF

For the last month, most of the blurbs of information that appeared in the news media here focused on the upcoming election, presently slated for early April. Of course, there were other articles and discussions, covering a range of subjects – politics, terror tunnels, confrontations along the border fence with Gaza, anti-semitism, health and medicine, economics, religion, family, archeology, crime, hi-tech inventions, entertainment and sports and more. They were the regular items that make up the heartbeat of the country. But, the heavy emphasis was on politics. Sometimes, I think we need a national pacemaker to keep us on an even keel. Then there were reports regarding the unholy alliance that makes up the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East that encompasses Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza) and their existential threats to Israel. We shouldn’t forget that Russia continues to flex its muscles and exert its influence, primarily in and around the Syrian arena. 

Granted, the next election will probably be one of the most important in our history. Platforms will be important, but less important than the personalities of the people who lead the different parties. There is a concerted effort by committed leftists and newly-declared (and undeclared) middle-of-the-road, leftist leaners, to remove Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Over the years, Netanyahu has proven to be a skillful politician and an adept statesman, turning enemyship of various countries to friendship. Who is best suited to run the country and provide for its defense – a seasoned politician or a former military commander? The next election will provide the country with an unprecedented opportunity to answer that question. In this regard, it is fair to say that most of those who held high positions in the military, who strategized and fought for the defense and protection of Israel, somehow, somewhere along the line, fail to see the same objectives once they leave the military and don a suit (with or without a tie, depending on the audience).

The past year, as well as this past month and even this week, witnessed the growing cancer of anti-Israel activity by individuals, organizations and countries. This tiny stretch of desert sand has become an obsession with some, who continue to make baseless comparisons of Israel with evil and despotic dictators and regimes, who seek to impose economic boycotts on goods and services emanating from different parts of this country and who even want to criminalize commercial ventures with us. 

We are a resilient nation, unwilling to lay down and die. We exist as a fulfilment of a promise that God made that He would gather us from the nations and bring us back to this land. It is absurd to ask us to account for our legitimacy. “Never again!” means just that, “Never again!” As our former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, once said: “We refuse to disappear, no matter how strong and brutal and ruthless the forces against us may be.” 

There is a spirit within the people here that says that difficulties are only challenges that we need to find a way to overcome. Our perception of the problem, rather than the problem itself, usually determines how we will respond to it.

Such was the situation with Corporal Joshua (his real name is not used here). He was born a “preemie”, weighing in at only 415 grams (14.6 ounces), the equivalent of two pieces of chocolate, and he had cerebral palsy. The doctors gave him only a 5% chance of survival. Last week, he received a Certificate of Excellence from the IDF following his involvement to foil a terrorist attack. In his words, “I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders.”

The article appeared on the website of the IDF on 31st January, 2019, in Hebrew. His story began long before he was able to cross-reference the data that would result in saving human life. He was the youngest preemie in Israel ever to survive up to that point. The doctors thought he would never be able to walk or to speak. But, their negative evaluation did not discourage his parents, who were not willing to give up on him. He was their son. They wanted the best for him. They wanted him to succeed. With full cooperation of the medical staff, they got him to stand on his feet and walked with him the entire way with one goal: that he would grow up and become independent. And so, today Corporal Joshua is a regular soldier in a combat intelligence unit of the IDF.

He spoke his first words when he was two and a half years old and began to walk at the age of three. But, the celebration didn’t last long. At the age of five, while crossing the street with his father, a speeding car hit him head on. All his work up to that point was for nought, as he began a long period of rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk all over again. During this time, the doctors emphasized over and over again that, apparently, he would not be able to use his legs again.

But, Corporal Joshua was not willing to accept what others claimed to be his fate. At the end of months of rehabilitation, he learned to walk again and was determined, more than ever, to embark on a new course in his life. “I never lived under any illusions; I knew from an early age that I was not exactly like everyone else, but I have a motto that goes: ‘What is possible – we will do, and what is not – we’ll break down barriers’ [adding] I wanted to prove to everyone that notwithstanding all of the predictions [concerning me]… there wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t be able to do.” 

He went to a special-needs school until the second grade and then continued in the regular educational system, completing high school just like everyone else … and without any special privileges. After receiving his first induction notice [which students usually receive in the 11th grade], the medical staff informed him that he was released from having to serve in the military. This resulted in a lengthy process during the course of which he requested to volunteer to serve the country.

After completing twelfth grade, he attended a pre-military induction course, where he was taught to press on to the full extent of his ability, to accomplish every goal he needed to accomplish and to make the impossible possible. It was during this time that an army officer came to speak to the class. Corporal Joshua saw this as his opportunity to fight for his place in the system. After the meeting, he approached the officer, introduced himself and succeeded to convince the officer to take him under his wing. The same officer helped him to complete the process of volunteering. 

To the surprise of “the system” that exempted him at the outset from enlistment, Corporal Joshua actually flourished in the military. His peak came about two weeks ago. At that time, he brought important intelligence information that resulted in our forces in Judea and Samaria undertaking a nighttime operation to capture a warehouse loaded with weapons, that would likely have been used in a significant attack against Israeli citizens. As he stated: “I received an assignment to investigate a certain area, and after I cross-referenced many sources of information, there was an indication of weaponry in one of the villages in the sector.” On the basis of that information, a combat unit was dispatched to that location and it discovered a warehouse full of weaponry of different kinds.

Following the successful operation, Corporal Joshua received a Certificate of Excellence directly from the commander of the unit. “It was only after the [military] operation was completed that I was able to grasp that the information that I supplied helped to thwart a future attack … I am glad that I had the privilege to lead to this accomplishment, but for me, as soon as this operation was over, I moved on to the other missions that were lying on my desk. The greatest thanks goes to everyone in my department who does a great job every day to discover terrorism and to thwart it in time.” He added in conclusion: “During the time of the pre-military induction course, the instructor used to say: ‘When we walk alone we arrive quickly, and when we walk together we go far’. I am happy to take part in a corps that really does a significant job and succeeds in achieving objectives precisely where my story has released me from taking part. I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders. I get up every morning in order to do the best that I can, with a desire to prove that even the sky is not the limit…I believe that if we want something, we need to achieve it, and so what can be done – we do, and what is difficult to do – we need to exert effort until finally, we also succeed.”

Way to go, Corporal Joshua! May there be a multitude of others who are willing to face the challenges before us with a proper attitude, even the attitude of an 85-year-old man of faith who, after receiving a promise, said some forty years later: “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

It’s a new year and the right time to get a proper perspective on who we are and Whose we are. Both will help us to think and to act in a manner that will honoring and glorifying to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You will also decree a thing and it will be established for you; and light will shine on your ways. (Job 22:28)

What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! (Job 26:2)

Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any; He is mighty in strength of understanding. (Job 36:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

2018 – How Do I Describe You? Let me count the ways.

As we approach the end of the year 2018 and take a glance at what the year was like, what did we see? Here are a just two dozen of them.

1.  Israel celebrated its 70th year of independence! Yay!!!

2.  Israel obtained evidence of Iran’s continued efforts of uranium enrichment and activities towards nuclear capability.

3.  The United States withdrew from The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the formal name for the Iran nuclear agreement).

4.  Hamas began and continues its weekly Israel-Gaza border fence uprisings, with the use of incendiary kite balloons and the widespread burning and destruction of agricultural land and other property in and around communities in the south of Israel.

4.  U.S. President Donald trump signed into law the Taylor Force Act, which cut funds to the “PA” over its practice of paying terrorists (“pay to slay” stipend).

6.  The United States moved its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and a few other nations followed suit. 

7.  Incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements by public officials and groups in different countries rose considerably during the year.

8.  Exposure and destruction of no fewer than five cross-border tunnels by Hezbollah from Lebanon and the failure of the U.N. to condemn that terrorist organization as a terrorist organization. 

9.  The U.N. mission on the Israel-Lebanon border marked its 40th anniversary – of ineffectiveness.

10.  The U.N. Secretariat claimed that Israel was responsible for the damage to the UNRWA facilities in the 2014 Gaza War, despite the fact that Israel proved that terrorists used U.N. facilities to hide weapons and fire rockets towards Israel.

11.  The U.S. finally decided to defund U.N.R.W.A., which totally failed in its mission to re-settle Arabs who left Israel prior to the War of Independence.

12.  Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., a strong voice of moral, forceful American leadership in the world and a staunch defender of Israel in that world body, resigned as of the end of this year.

13.  The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a quasi-constitutional law, which has come to be known as the “Nation-State Law”. It has been the center of controversy at home and abroad since its enactment. Proponents hail the legislation as a breath of fresh air, claiming, among other things, that it puts Jewish values and democratic values on an equal footing. Opponents condemn it, asserting that law discriminates against Israel’s minority communities. Much of the opposition stems from political overtones and a failure to understand the reason for the Law’s passage and how it impacts Israeli society as a whole.

14.  Tehran continued to destabilize the region and threatened the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, utilizing its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

15.  The 7-year civil war in Syria is winding down, with Bashar Hafez al-Assad remaining in power as President of that country. 

16.  The terrorist organization, ISIS (also known as “Islamic State”) was widely defeated in Syria, although it remains active in other locations.

17.  With the defeat of ISIS in Syria, U.S. President Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, much to the satisfaction of Iran, Russia and Turkey, as well as Syria.

18.  The “PA” refuses to have anything to do with the Trump administration and continues to pay terrorists and their families for the consequences of their anti-Israel activity.

19.  On-going rocket and missile fire from Gaza into the southern communities in Israel, including an extensive rocket barrage of some 400 projectiles in November.

20.  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, resigned over disagreements following the November events concerning Israel’s response to the attacks from Gaza.

21.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under investigation for possible corruption (charges of bribery and breach of trust), including his receiving a gift from a billionaire of expensive cigars (“Cigar-Gate”?).

22.  Netanyahu called for new elections, which will take place in April, 2019.

23.  Immigration to Israel is up.

24.  WE’RE STILL HERE!

Was that ALL the news? Far from it. We had the excellent, the very good, the good, the less than good, the bad, the very bad and the worst. But, we made it through another year, with successes and failures, with gains and losses, with tears of joy and of sorrow.

Not the least of these events is the recent missile fired from Syria this week, which landed in a coastal area north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa, resulting in an immediate military response by Israel.

And, the worst of the worst – the tiniest victim of “Palestinian” hatred and terrorist attack: A little boy, born prematurely, who lived only four days after his mother was shot in a drive-by shooting while waiting for a bus. Her husband was also wounded, along with others. They remained in the hospital and were not even able to attend the funeral of their infant son, whose young life ended before it began. One writer expressed it thus: “Until Israel negates the PA and calls it what it really is…never a partneralways an enemy…nothing will have changed. Nothing will have been learned.” (see The Shimon and Levi Option).

So, what about Netanyahu, the dissolution of the Knesset and the call for new elections? In a nutshell, it is probably going to be one of the most important elections in Israeli history. More on this to follow.

As we approach a new civil year, please keep my youngest son, who is serving in the north, in your prayers for protection, wisdom and strength. 

What can we say about all of the above? If God is for us, who can be against us?

“You have crowned the year with Your goodness”. (Psalm 65:11 – Ee-tar-tah shnat tovatecha)

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness and her salvation like a torch that is burning.

The nations will see your righteousness and all kings your glory;

And you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will designate.

You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD and a royal diadem in the hand of your God…

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;

All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth…

Go through, go through the gates, clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.

Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth,

Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” And they will call them, “The holy people, the redeemed of the LORD”; and you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:1-3, 6-7, 10-12)

May the new civil year 2019 bring you the blessings of good health, wisdom and grace and favor in the sight of God and man.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Light Dispels Darkness

When dealing with politics, there is always something to observe, always something slightly different and sometimes even something new. Occasionally, there are some surprises, but even then, some surprises are often expected. For example, most political pundits expected that the coalition government in Israel would fall after the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the unaccepted “ultimatum” of members of the Jewish Home Party to have its chairman appointed as the new Defense Minister. Surprisingly, but not unexpectedly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged victorious, pulling an invisible rabbit out of a non-existing hat, resulting in his continuing to lead a paper-thin coalition of 61 members. All this, while holding four ministerial positions (3 temporarily) and while facing ongoing criminal investigations of possible misconduct in different areas while in office. On top of this, he manages to handle international diplomacy, while keeping his hand on the pulse of enemy activity from the Gaza Strip and from our not-so-distant cousins in Lebanon. 

A year ago this week, the President of the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A ray of light began to shine in the darkness and since then, there have been many efforts made by the darkness to smother that light, without success.

Seventy-seven years ago on this date, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed. The following day, then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his speech to the U.S. Congress with the words that December 7th, 1941, is a date that will live in infamy forever. 

Earlier this week, Jews around the world began to celebrate the festival of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights (Hag Ha’Ureem, in Hebrew). It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is celebrated for eight nights and days (there was evening and there was morning, one day) and observed by the lighting of a special nine-branched menorah called a “Hanukkiah”. On the first night, one candle is lit. On the second night, two candles, on the third night, three candles and so on until all eight candles are lit. There is a ninth candle called the Shamash, which is lit first. It is then used to ignite the other candles and so serves them and imparts its light to them. There are many traditions accompanying this particular joyful festival, which falls every year on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, that could be between late November to late December according to the Gregorian calendar.

I’ve read many stories of heroism and miracles during this past week. Of the many stories that are moving and which stir the emotions, there was one which a close friend shared with me this morning, which I would like to share with you. It is a special story about Hanukkah. It touched me and I believe it will touch you as well. It contains a message relating to darkness and light, of death and life, of determination to curse and of desire to bless. I have no doubt that most of you who read this post and will see this video will relate to it in one way or another. Its message for each individual should be clear. It speaks volumes and will undoubtedly  remain long in our memories, particularly when we face difficulties and spiritual forces of wickedness. It deals with the Hanukkah Menorah and the Swastika. Please take a moment to look, to listen, to ponder and reflect and to acknowledge that light will always dispel the darkness.

I could easily share a sermon about Hanukkah. I’ve actually given such sermons in the past. Older Testament and Newer Testament combine to give the message that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He proclaims that light will shine out of darkness and that light is the light of life. 

For those who celebrate this festival of lights, may you do so with good health, with joy and with abundant blessings. For those who do not celebrate it, my prayer for you is that you will also experience good health, joy and abundant blessings.

Be assured that God’s Word is eternal. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. It teaches and instructs us in the way that we should go. It helps our feet not to deviate from the path of obedience that leads to life and helps to guard our lips that our mouths would not speak evil. It is a mirror that reveals to us what we are really like and what He wants us to be like. And so, I find myself beginning a sermon that was not intended. I’ll leave it at this point.

May you enjoy a peaceful Sabbath’s rest.

Remember: Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

On the Brink – The Short, Gaza No-War War

During two days this past week, a multitude of rocket barrages containing over 460 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the south of Israel. They were sent towards civilian communities adjacent to and surrounding Gaza. Lives were lost, many residents in the south were injured and there was much loss of, and damage to, property. Israel responded militarily and pounded some 160 designated targets in Gaza. And then, as was expected, Hamas called for a cease-fire. And, as expected, we agreed. Despite heavy destruction to strategic sites in Gaza, Hamas claimed victory. Following the cease-fire, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Liberman, resigned, stating, among other things: “There is no definition, no other significance, but capitulation to terror…What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.” As a result of Liberman’s resignation, Hamas then claimed victory number two, this time, a political one. The events of this past week are not a game of chess. Neither side “won”, but both sides suffered loss.

The resignation of the hard-liner, Liberman, meant the withdrawal of his Israel Beiteinu Party from the coalition government, leaving Netanyahu with a paper-thin majority. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party and present Minister of Education, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint him as Minister of Defense to replace Liberman, under a threat to leave the coalition government and force early elections. Due to ongoing conflicts between Netanyahu and Bennett, such an appointment was not expected to take place. And it didn’t. That left the government no choice, but to call for elections, which will most likely take place during the first quarter of 2019.

If the above events were not enough for us in one week, yesterday (Friday) the “Fourth Committee” (“Special Political and Decolonization Committee”) of the General Assembly of the United Nincompoops (U.N.) passed no fewer than nine resolutions condemning Israel, which included one asserting that “unlawful Israeli practices and measures” were responsible for the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip, totally ignoring the fact that in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gush Katif area surrounding Gaza. All in all, one could hardly say it’s been an encouraging week for Israel.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Hamas terror organization leader Yehya Sinwar claimed Hamas seized Israeli weapons during this week’s confrontation and threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers, adding: I advise Israel not to try and test us again.

Israel Hayom-14 November, 2018
Israel Hayom-14 November, 2018

This time you did not have a lot of casualties and you managed to rescue your special forces…You should not try again, because next time you will have to release thousands of prisoners…Our hands are on the trigger and our eyes are open. Listen Netanyahu, and listen whoever will receive the defense portfolio. Anyone who tests Gaza will find death and poison. If we are attacked, we will let the barrage on Tel Aviv do the talking. Our missiles are more accurate, have a longer range and carry more explosives than before.” This threat  is more an expression of bravado than reality. If Hamas had “more accurate” missiles, they would have directed them against more strategic targets, rather than lob them in the direction of residential communities in the south. 

But, the question lingers on: Why did the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stop short of neutraliziing the on-going threat from Hamas and “Palestinian” Islamic Jihad (PIJ)? After being involved with three wars with Hamas over the past 10 years, the threats of yet another war with Gaza inches closer each week, as the riots continue along the fence separating Gaza from the communties in the south of Israel. Despite the eight months of border riots, and despite the government’s rhetoric about dealing with the situation and warning Gazans not to approach the fence, Israel has restrained from pursuing a military solution that would extinguish the fuse that can ignite the entire region in another war, which would in all likelihood be a multi-front war.

It is obvious to all, both Israelis and the terrorist organizations that control the Gaza Strip, that Israel has neither intention, nor desire, to take over the coastal enclave. The cost, in terms of manpower, equipment, economics and international condemnation, would be enormous and would far outweigh any potential benefits that may accrue to Israel. The hoped-for calm and quiet that Israel, in general, and that residents in the south, in particular, desire would be elusive at best and destructive, at worst. And then, there remains the unanswered question: Who will take over if Hamas and PIJ are eliminated from Gaza? The gnawing response leads to the oft-repeated phrase, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” In either case, the devil remains the devil.

Unfortunately, both Hama and PIJ are both aware of Israel’s political and practical dilemma and have learned how to push Israel to the brink of war, to boast of successes in confrontation with the IDF (despite their own significant losses of military infrastructure), as well as in politics and, on the whole, international opinion. In short, Israel needs to re-evaluate its priorities, strategies and goals regarding its Gazan “thorn in the flesh”. A realistic approach would be to eliminate the leadership of Hamas and PIJ, while leaving the residents of Gaza to replace them with a leadership that is concerned more for the people than about eliminating the State of Israel.  The world won’t like us if we pursue such a goal. But, then again, it doesn’t like us now, either. In short, Israel needs to initiate action, rather than retaliate against action that is taken against it.

Part of the problem is Israel’s expressed pursuit of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In reality, such a “solution” is not only un-Biblical, it is totally unworkable. A political attempt to resolve the conflict that fails to factor in the Islamic perspective regarding a claimed occupation of Islamic land by foreign powers is doomed to fail from the outset. The land, promised by God to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has come under the control of Islamic forces during centuries past. Islamic theology holds to the belief that land once controlled by Islam remains holy to Islam, even if Islam is “temporarily” removed from it and the land comes under the control of foreigners, who are considered “occupiers”. Hence, the claim of “occupied territory”, as espoused by the “Palestinians” and surrounding Arab countries, would apply to all of Israel, not just to Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as “the West Bank”. Keeping the prospect of a two-state solution alive only fuels the fire of continuous conflict and opens the possibility that an Israeli government would actually enter into an agreement to allow the establishment of an enemy state in our midst. 

Another part of the problem is that Israel does not want to become entangled in Gaza, while it faces the threat of what Israeli officials and military personnel have referred to as a “northern war”, namely, a confrontation between Israel and Iranian-backed forces that would most likely occur with both Lebanon and Syria. Iran refuses to leave the Syrian arena, while Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iran to become entrenched in Syria. The recent delivery to Syria of Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air defense systems has created additional challenges for Israel to act against Iranian military influence in Syria. Assad’s victories over rebel insurgents, with the help of Russia and Iran, as well as fighters from the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah, has refocused attention on Syria’s desires to regain control of the Golan Heights. Reliable estimates are that Hezbollah has over 100,000 missiles that can reach every major population center in Israel. The missiles are far more sophisticated and potentially accurate than they were during the last war. No doubt, Israel’s defenses would be able to deter many of them. But, the sheer number of missiles would pose a serious challenge to its air defense systems. 

Most military experts are of the opinion that another war with the Hezbollah is inevitable, the only open question being when it will happen? The unpredictability of volatile conflict necessitates a constant readiness to respond to what would certainly be a multi-front war – Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, Syria (including Iranian military support and Russian involvement) and various Shiite militias. Iran would most likely pull the strings of its puppets, Hamas and PIJ, along with other potential actors. No matter how we look at it, the next “northern war” will make the past week’s Gaza no-war war seem like a walk in the park.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing!

Have a great, God-honoring week.

Marvin

If There’s No Political Solution to Gaza ….

It was only a week ago when a major Lebanese newspaper reported that Israel and Qatar were moving forward with attempts to reach an agreement that would establish a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip. According to the report, the route would be monitored by international forces, but under Israeli security supervision. The deal would remove a sizeable portion of the sea blockade and considerably extend the permissible fishing area.

Due to the ongoing friction between Fatah (the PLO faction in Judea and Samaria) and Hamas, the President of the “Palestinian” Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has withheld transferring funds to Gaza. This, in turn, creates an economic crisis which stirs more violent activity each week for the past eight months along the fence separating the Gaza enclave from the communities in the south of Israel.

In an effort to alleviate the economic distress, Qatar has offered to step in and pay, at this point, only the salaries of Hamas civil servants, starting with back pay from July, at the rate of $15 million per month for six months, or a total of US $90 million. This payment, however, has stirred concerns by other “Palestinian” factions about Qatar’s involvement in “Palestinian” affairs and the deal allegedly being worked out on their behalf by Qatar and Israel. The financial “deal” purportedly would reduce, but not eliminate, the ongoing militaristic actions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad along the Gaza fence.

Needless to say, the Qatari cash payments intended for Hamas-controlled Gazan residents was condemned by Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who stated: “This is capitulation to terrorism, and in effect Israel is buying short-terתנועהm calm with money, while severely undermining long-term security.” Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to “Palestinians” wounded in clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel. A source close to Mahmoud Abbas said the “The PLO did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way” (i.e., in suitcases – “like a gangster”), adding that such a deal, bypassing the PLO, was damaging to efforts to reconcile the PA and Hamas. In direct contradiction to the recent reports of progress regarding Egypt’s involvement as mediator of talks between Israel and the “Palestinians”, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar denied that any deal with Israel was in the works, saying that an understanding is being worked out between Hamas, Egypt, Qatar and the U.N., adding that whoever says that “there is a deal or understandings with the occupation does not tell the truth”. That statement evidences the underlying attitude of Hamas and its unwillingness to even recognize Israel as an existing nation state.

Whatever may be the situation concerning a “deal in the making” – the situation has seriously deteriorated since last night (Sunday). An elite unit of the IDF special forces managed to infiltrate some 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) into Gaza in a civilian vehicle. Something went wrong and a fire-fight broke out. When it was over, a Lt. Colonel of the IDF was killed, another officer wounded and seven Hamas terrorists were killed, including Nur Barakeh, the commander of one of the battalions of a Hamas brigade in Khan Yunis.  The nature of the mission was not revealed, but military officials said it was “very meaningful” to Israel’s security. Israeli air support was called in to help in the evacuation of the IDF unit. The Lt. Colonel was buried this afternoon with thousands in attendance. He was 41 and left a wife and two  children.

“Red Alert” sirens have been sounding all across southern Israel this afternoon (Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, the area of Beer Sheva and the Dead Sea) and evening. Within the last few hours, barrages of hundreds rockets have been fired towards Israeli communities from the Gaza side of the fence.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for the rocket barrages. Response time to get to a shelter when the sirens go off varies from 15 seconds to a minute and a half, depending upon how far the person is from the source of the rockets. The striped, dark red to the left of the diagram shows 3 points in the Gaza Strip. The red, orange, beige and yellow are Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and Jerusalem, respectively. The blue patch to the right is the Dead Sea. Response Time to get to a shelterThe IDF has responded by attacking more than 70 terror targets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, killing several terrorists in the process. Following widespread shooting, the IDF also placed units inside of the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip as a defense against the threat of infiltration and/or terror-tunnel activity. In addition, dozens of IDF armoured vehicles are on their way to the south to reinforce the units around the Gaza line. A spokesman for the IDF stated: “Hamas is leading the Gaza Strip to destruction and will feel the intensity of the IDF’s response in the coming hours. So far we have attacked a wide range of targets. Firing squads, military compounds and observation posts. The attempt to harm civilians is unacceptable to us and we will continue to respond with force.”

Lest we forget, prior to the events of the last 24 hours, the violent border protests continued with deadly clashes between “Palestinian” protesters and the IDF, at times prompting serious concerns of an outbreak of a new war. And now, here we are once again, “on the brink”.

One would have to ask how a right-wing government has allowed the situation to deteriorate to such a point that we are restraining ourselves from putting an end to the terrorism of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, at the expense of residents in the communities in the south of our country,  citizens who, once again, need to run to secured shelters to get away from rocket barrages emanating from the Gaza Strip. We can’t continue to talk about trying to enter into yet another ceasefire with Hamas. This is an exercise in futility. Even when Egyptian-brokered talks were supposed to be approaching agreement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued their violence against Israel. Only yesterday, when Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Paris, together with representatives from countries around the world, to commemorate the end of “The Great War”, he said that there is no political solution for Gaza. If that is the case, then we must follow that statement with: What IS the solution? War? The situation is building up to that. But, to what end? Or, is it agreeing to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state? This is also a non-starter. It would be inviting those who are sworn to our destruction to set up an enemy state in our midst. 

Then there is the option of continuing the “tit for tat” belligerence that falls short of war. The major confrontations are with Hamas-controlled Gaza. But, the recognized leadership of the “Palestinian” Authority is based in Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as “the West Bank”. The two so-called “Palestinian” entities have been at constant odds with one another for control over those who call themselves “Palestinian”. In essence, their inability to come to terms with one another has set up, de facto, two quasi states, both claiming to be “Palestinian”.

Israel Today - Three states for two peoples - 27 September, 2018
Israel Today – 27 September, 2018

This has served Israel’s interests for the past 11 years, despite the occasional, necessary military actions against Hamas. Most of the time, Israel “responds” to Hamas aggression and when that aggression crosses Israel’s pre-conceived red lines, the IDF steps in to strike hard at Hamas to bring them back into line, until Hamas seeks a cease-fire, to which Israel readily agrees. And so, the cycle continues. The main problem is that Israel does not have a considered strategy concerning Gaza primarily and Judea and Samaria secondarily. And so, we continue to respond, instead of to initiate, leaving the fate of the residents in the south of Israel to the whims of “Palestinian” bureaucrats and Holocaust deniers, like Mahmoud Abbas, or to terrorists, sworn to the destruction of Israel, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who decide when they want to aggravate Israel. At some point, Israel will cease trying to compromise with our enemies and decide to finally defeat them. 

Until then, every response of the IDF to the aggression of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is intended to systematically weaken their military infrastructure. But, is it enough to accomplish the ultimate goal of getting them to stop attacking us? Hamas will not stop unless it believes that its actions will result in its being removed from power. If that is, in fact, the case, then we should use force to end the force being displayed against us. Hamas knows that Israel can wipe them off the map. Israel knows that as well, but exercises restraint far beyond what other nations would do under similar circumstances. That is because Israel recognises that the world does not treat it like other nations. When Israel is involved in a matter, there is always the double standard of expectation and condemnation.

We are “The People of the Book” – the Bible. Shouldn’t we learn from the innumerable lessons that are presented in the Scriptures for our benefit?

When Elisha (the prophet) became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him …Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows” … Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” … then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. He said, “Open the window toward the east” … Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” … And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram (Syria); for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” Then he said, “Take the arrows [and] Strike the ground” and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.” (2 Kings 13:14-19)

What country in its right mind would put up with a situation like this?

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the LORD will be with you. (2 Chronicles 20:17)

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom for the government, strength and courage for those who stand in the gap to defend us, grace to bear up under trials and favour in the sight of God and man.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

It Can’t Happen in the U.S. – or Can It?

The cold-blooded murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States. The members of the congregation mourn the massacre of their fellow members. The city mourns the tragic consequences of blind hatred. A nation mourns the ever-increasing law-lessness being expressed by anti-semitic acts. A people thousands of miles away mourn yet another deadly assault upon the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If history teaches us anything, it should be that if we ignore what happened, it is reasonable to expect that it will happen again.

It was only a week ago when a gunman entered the Etz Haim (“Tree of Life”) Synagogue with an automatic rifle and several pistols and yelled “All Jews must die”, before opening fire and killing 11 congregants, the last of whom, aged 97, was buried yesterday (Friday). The gunman not only killed 11 people, he injured others in the congregation, along with four policemen. With multitudes on both sides of the ocean and around the world, still reeling from the outworking of unbridled hate, and while relatives of the victims sit “Shiva” (7 days of mourning), another deranged individual acted out his own brand of Jew-hatred, by setting fire to seven Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) institutions in the South Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The places that were set on fire were synagogues and places of learning (“yeshivot”). On Thursday, vandals spray-painted “Kill All Jews” on the wall of one reform synagogue,, apparently picking up on, and trying to emulate, the statement of the Pittsburgh killer. In addition to the fires set yesterday, the past week has evidenced swastikas graffitied in Brooklyn Heights, as well as the Upper West Side of Manhattan, among other things, including verbal threats against a Jewish man in Brooklyn.

The Pittsburgh massacre has evoked emotions from most people with half a brain. Those who don’t have half a brain deface and set fire to synagogues! And they flood cyberspace with online hate.

Some pictures truly speak louder than words. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published on its front page yesterday (Friday) the beginning of the Mourner’s Kaddish – the prayer, which Jews recite upon the passing of a relative. It has no reference

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-2 November, 2018
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

to death in it, but is totally a prayer of praise to God. The opening words are: Yitgadal v-yitkadash shemay rabah – it is a prayer in Aramaic and means [the opening words]: “Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name….” That this appeared on the front page of the newspaper speaks volumes about the respect and identification that the Pittsburgh community has with the gravity of this despicable crime.

 

Many others expressed sympathy with the Jewish community following the murders that took place last week. One of them was

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers

the American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who tweeted on October 27th: “We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this morning’s tragedy in Pittsburgh. We will continue to pray for everyone involved.” The logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers was turned into a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community, when it added a Star of David to it. According to one tabloid, one of the doctors in Pittsburgh, who was involved in treating the wounded following the shooting, shared the edited logo next to the words, “Stronger Than Hate.”

Penguin Pete
Penguin Pete

The same is true for Pittsburgh’s Penguin Pete.

Surprisingly, two Muslim groups began a fundraising campaign that raised over $40,000 for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The crowdfunding campaign on “LaunchGood”, stated: “The Muslim-American community extends its hands to help the shooting victims, whether it is the injured victims or the Jewish families who have lost loved ones. We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action.”

Clearly, there were independent voices within the Muslim world who spoke out against the recent terror attack in Pittsburgh and likewise would have been equally critical, even if the terror attack had occurred inside of Israel. One Saudi Arabian journalist stated: “I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences not only to the Jewish communities, but to all around the world.  What happened in Pittsburgh is sad and a coward act of terrorism and beyond anything that I can imagine. Very, very sad to see innocent lives lost in a place of worship.”

A co-founder of Defend International, Dr. Widad Akreya, who is of Kurdish ancestry, stated: “It is heartbreaking to hear about the horrific Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. My thoughts are with the victims, their families and their friends.  I am grieving with you and hoping for a speedy recovery of the wounded.  May our love surround and comfort all of you.” These are, indeed, noteworthy comments and are undoubtedly genuine.

However, while it is noteworthy that representatives of Arab countries, including members of the news media, condemned the murderous attack, some took advantage of it to condemn Israel and Jews. I won’t take the space here to repeat those condemnations, which are, or should be, familiar to all.

The above events happened in the United States – a staunch defender of freedoms – of speech, of expression, of congregation … and of religion! It is not the Middle East, where differences of religion can affect local standing, civil rights and even the right to live. It is not Nazi-era Germany, where Kristallnacht marked government-sanctioned attacks upon Jewish people, institutions and businesses on November 9-10, 1938. These things can’t happen in the U.S. … or can they?

The events of Pittsburgh, and now Brooklyn among other places, are expressions of a growing disease of anti-Semitism. We can try to talk about it, try to rationalize it and to politicize it (as many have attempted to do this past week), but none of them offer a cure for it. This is not a time to play politics. It is a time to mourn with those who mourn. It is a time for soul-searching and to be honest with ourselves. How we feel about others reflects how we think about them, speak about them and act towards them. Blind hatred is a disease of a sick mind. It doesn’t go away, but only grows worse until it consumes the one who hates. And one of the worst things about hatred is that it is contagious! 

God chose the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be a blessing to the world, among other things. In a letter dated August 18, 1790, following his visit to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, President George Washington wrote, in part: 

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants – while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

What starts with one will end with many. It may be needless to point out what history has demonstrated over and over again, namely: that hatred that begins against the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews. What happened in Pittsburgh, and again in Brooklyn, is becoming the new normal. Think for a moment: the gunman could have entered a different religious gathering and, instead of yelling, “All Jews must die!”, he could have yelled: “All blacks must die!” or, “All Muslims must die!” or, “All Christians must die!” We are all exposed to the spreading disease of hate. 

Words can kill. America is killing itself with everyone accusing everyone else of everything that they don’t like. And it is spiralling out of control. Hatred, like politics, cannot offer a cure for itself. It has to come from outside. If, indeed, the United States still believes in its motto: “In God We Trust”, now is the time to ask for His help. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Then you will call and the LORD will answer; You will cry and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness and if you … satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.” (Isaiah 58:9-10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin