Monday, October 31, 2016

Detail: Challah and Mt. Fuji

detail:  Challah and Mt. Fuji

From the beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   ---Genesis 1:1

In the fall (autumn) in some places the clocks are turned back this time of year for daylight savings time.  I just saw that in Israel this is done too, and it became one hour earlier just last night!

In the cycle of God`s calendar, it is the time of the year where we roll back the Torah.   Time to begin reading and study again from the beginning.

Like many of my posts this one also expresses something I am learning and doing for the very first time, as this fist year of celebrating the Fall Feasts*  in my life in Japan continues!  

As a child, even though I was raised Jewish and went to synagogue year after year for the holidays and attended Hebrew school,  I never  understood anything about the ongoing and repeating cycle of the Torah readings.   

The Torah is read in portions each week for one year from Genesis to Deuteronomy.  Then at the last of the Fall Feasts, Simchat Torah,  we read the last Torah portion, then proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.   On Simchat Torah there is rejoicing with the Torah, and a celebration of getting all the way to the end.  In the congregation people even dance with the Torah, though I am not sure if that was done in our Long Island reform congregation where I attended! 
It was done in Japan though!!

Then the Torah is scrolled all the way back to the beginning!

The first Parsha, or Torah Portion, is from Genesis, which is called Breisheet in Hebrew.  Creation.  As I was flying over water on the way to Tokyo to celebrate Shemini Atzerat just before Simchat Torah,  I was looking out the window the whole plane ride.  I sensed God wanted me to see the expanse in the midst of the water, and the way He separated the waters when he formed and named the sea and sky.  Connecting back to that second day of creation...

Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water!  Let it be for separating water from water."   So God made the expanse and it separated the water that was below the expanse from the water that was over the expanse.  And it happened so. God called the expanse "sky."   --Genesis 1:6~8

I looked down at God`s creation in awe of the way the sky and the water really are separated and the clouds even float on that line of separation.  Those thousands of years ago felt close as I was filled with a giddy excitement of this Torah cycle approaching and starting anew from the beginning.  In His creation, in Genesis.  

Then on what would be the third day He said let the water below the sky be gathered together in one place and let the dry ground appear.  And it happened so. (from Genesis 1:9). 

I watched the shapes of the islands and thought of how our island nation of Japan is one of the nations who wait in anticipation for His Torah. 

The islands will wait for His Torah.   ---Isaiah 42:4

I watched the shorelines in awe of how exactly the shapes are drawn, and how the water line is clearly calculated so the water stops when it reaches the land.

when I said, 'This far you may come, but no further'
here your majestic waves will stop. '   ---Job 38:11 

Turning back the Torah doesn`t turn back time but it reminds us of the precision and plans of our Precise Creator and how everything is divided and separated, formed and calibrated on His ...Torah time!!  God`s time.  When we are all in sync with His time, agreeing to His purposes, reading the same passages and celebrating His appointed days as He commands us to do, something clicks like those calibrated wheels that you see when you look into a time piece.  As we gear up for the new year of the Parashiot, it is like  getting synchronized on the circle that goes back to creation and forward to His coming!

If, like me, you have never read the Torah on a yearly cycle, this could be the perfect time to start!! This will also be my first time to start from the beginning, as the past year I joined in sometime around the Passover and it was already well into the Exodus.  I hope this post might inspire you to start this cycle and study together!

This weeks reading was Breisheet.  The coming Shabbat will be Noach from the story of Noah.  You can click on here  to get the listing of the Parshiot for 2016-2017.  In each set of readings we see how the prophecies from the Old Testament are fulfilled in the coming of Yeshua as we read and study the portions from the Torah, Haftorah, and including readings from the Brit Chadashah (The Good News, or New Testament). 

(then He, Yeshua said...)
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.                                                            ---Revelation 22:13

 May God look upon us from the heavens and see us returning to His Torah!! May he be pleased with us and say like He did at the time of creation when there was a separation between water and water, and when there was not yet a separation between people and God, and He said at the end of the each day, `it is good.`!!

So God saw everything that He made, and behold it was very good.     ---Genesis 1:31

Note:  all the photos in this post I took from the airplane from Oita to Tokyo In two trips over the Succot and Shemeni Atzeret holidays.

Note:  If you are interested to read more about this Torah portion from Genesis,  you can find many drash, or sermons about it if you look it up.  I will share one link below from a blog I came across, it looks at the Hebrew letter Beit that begins the Breisheet and first line of Genesis from a Messianic perspective.  The writer  explains how the first letter means house, and then goes on to connect it with Yeshua and our dwelling with Him from the very beginning.  I provided the link to that article below.  Or enjoy looking for other talks on the text as you begin the year of Torah Study from the beginning! Shalom and Enjoy!:

Note:  Until my eyes were opened to the truth of Yeshua, I always knew the Fall Feasts as the `Jewish` holidays, but important note:  they are not only for Jewish people but for all God`s children!! they are for all who call upon His name, all who call upon His name in truth, both in the natural and the grafted in, we are all brothers and sisters in Yeshua!!  Yeshua came to reconcile the Jew and Gentile in Himself.  It is  beautiful to see that living truth  in a messianic congregation, where Jewish and Gentile believers  worship, read Torah, and celebrate the feasts together!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Challah and Mt. Fuji

Sukkot Joy

Sukkot Joy! Brought a Pumpkin Challah for the feast,  in time for Erev Succot in Tokyo!
Photo and photo aboveーshofar and full moon--- and below--warm welcome-- by Tehilla♡


On the second day, the heads of the families along with the kohanim and the Levites gathered around Ezra to ponder the words of the Torah.  They found written in the Torah that ADONAI had commanded through Moses that Bnei-Yisrael should dwell in a sukkot during the feast of the seventh month.  So that they should proclaim and spread this message in all their towns and in Jerusalem saying, "Go out to the hill country and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees to make sukkot, just as it is written."  So the people went out and brought branches, and made sukkot for themselves, each on their own roof, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of the House of God, in the plaza before the Water Gate and in the plaza of the Ephraim Gate.   The entire assembly who had returned from the captivity made sukkot and dwelt in the sukkot.  Since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day Bnei-Yisrael had not done so-- and the joy was very great.

Nehemiah 8:13~17 TLV (Tree of Life Version)

This passage from the book of Nehemiah is close to how I felt this year celebrating Succot for the first time after many years.  Like the 'entire assembly who had returned from the captivity' (line 17), I too had returned from `captivity`!  In this case captivity for me refers to the long period of my life, probably 40 years to be exact, when I was living in separation from God.

And like Joshua and the children of Israel, I too had not done so--i.e., I had not made or celebrated or dwelt in the sukkot, for many years.  I celebrated this special holiday--- which is all about dwelling with God --- with my new congregation in a succa on a rooftop in Tokyo!!

It was a trip through the clouds to get there!
I got to Tokyo and to the rooftop just in time to decorate.  The others from the congregation  brought branches from leafy trees to make the succa just as it is written!! (verse 15, above).  Though the branches were not from the hill country but rather from a congregation member's garden in Tokyo.   Plus we also added other decorations and origami leaves.

The entire congregation had plans to sleep in the succa on the seventh day, but since I was only in Tokyo for one night I determined to sleep in it that first night .  One other congregation member joined.  We dwelled and slept there, looking up as God moved the clouds and stars and moon across the vast expanse of sky.  Indeed being in the succa with the roof open to the sky gives us a sense of being closer to heaven, of God being close to us, and of the great joy it is to dwell with our Creator!!

It began to rain at 3 AM so we went in for the rest of the night.  Then on the eighth day of the holiday, according to the regulation, there was a solemn assembly (continue in Nehemiah 8:18).
And a dance to ADONAI before saying goodbye to the succa and flying through the clouds again as the Torah was scrolled back to the beginning...

Kabosu (from Oita to be used in the place of an etrog!) on the rooftop, with Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance
The moon through origami leaves

Challah by Sara-san, Kabosu from Oita

Futons readied for sleeping in the succa

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.  We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.      ---John 1: 14

 "My dwelling-place will be over them.  I will be their God and they will be My people.   Then the nations will know that I am ADONAI who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever."     ---Ezekiel 38: 27〜28

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fluffy Challah Clouds

Do you know the balancing of clouds,
the wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?

---Job 37:16

Reading from the Book of Job, on the airplane going to Tokyo for the celebration of Succot.
When all at once I saw Mt. Fuji from the airplane window, as God  formed  the clouds into a giant heart shaped cloud over a sea of other clouds.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for illustrating Your words so lovingly and playfully! I loved watching you  shaping the cloud formations around Mt. Fuji with Your Holy Spirit  for me to see from the airplane window.♡Love, Shayndel

PS Now that I look at them in the picture, the clouds even look like fluffy Challah!

Heart Shaped Cloud Formation and Mt. Fuji, works revealing always the Majesty of our Great Creator who shapes the clouds and makes wonders

Bagels for Breaking the fast

A break-the-fast after sundown on Yom Kippur ends the Ten Days of Awe (see previous posts below!).   Ending this High Holy Days period is like coming out of a long Shabbat, so there is a sadness to the ending.  But after the fast and the period of coming clean in our hearts through reflection and repentance there is also a readiness to eat ...

The bagels and everything are prepared beforehand, so at the end of a Yom Kippur service we set the table and are ready to eat!  When I was growing up in New York, our break-the-fast meal was always bagels and lox and the things that go with that.  Did I say I'm from New York?  Yes, its a special place to be on the Jewish Holidays and the bagels are famous for being the best.

So here I am in a small city on the southernmost island of Japan, determined to have a "New York bagel".  How to do that?  With God, nothing is impossible!  I made them!  I wanted to make it like the break-fasts I remember as a child. 

Although I was sad to exit from this long Shabbat rest, after the days of repentance I feel lighter.  And at the same time very full from these feast days, not only feasting on food, but most of all on the word of God!

May ADONAI bless you and keep you!
ADONAI make His face to shine on you
and be gracious to you!
May ADONAI turn His face toward you 
and grant you shalom!

---Aaronic Blessing, Numbers 6:24~26 

Bagels recipe can be found here

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kreplach with chopsticks

This High Holy Day week (actually 10 days) has been like a great homecoming, and I just wanted all the foods that go with it.  Returning to my Jewish heritage--through Yeshua!--after forty years in the wilderness---was something that I truly celebrated in this week.

We live in a small city in the South of Japan.  There is no way to find Jewish holiday foods anywhere around here,  so I searched a recipe and decided to make kreplach myself, after finding out that it is a traditional food to eat before the fast on Yom Kippur (recipe here). A food my grandmother might have made and generations even before that.

As I was rolling out the little squares of dough and putting in the meat filling, I thought about the holiday, which is about repentance and atonement.  We---"both the native-born and the outsider dwelling among you"--- are to observe this most Holy day on the Kingdom calendar year after year throughout the generations, as commanded in the Torah. 

"It is to be a statute to you forever, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you are to afflict your souls, and do no kind of work--both the native-born and the outsider dwelling among you.  For on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.   From all your sins you will be clean before ADONAI.  It is a Shabbat of solemn rest to you, and you are to afflict your souls.  It is a statute forever."        ---Leviticus 16:  29 〜 30 

On this "tenth day of the seventh month" as it was now, I reflected on the miracle that my eyes were opened through Yeshua here in Japan just a few years ago.  Through His Salvation I was brought back to God and the Torah and to the Jewish roots of our faith.

Recently I watched the movie musical of Fiddler on the Roof.   Seeing it now I realized how it was the story of my ancestors.  Like Tevye and his family in the story, they had to leave their small towns in Russia and Eastern Europe because of their Jewish faith.  The scene was touching where they are packing to go.  The Rabbi takes the Torah and carries it on his shoulder.  The mother packs her Sabbath candlesticks in with their few belongings.  They were going to America!! Something about seeing that story touched my heart as I realized my family too started that way.  My grandfather's parents had to flee their towns, which were actually closer to this side of the world where I am now.  They came all the way to America, like Tevye the milkman in the musical and his family.  For the first time I could imagine my family that way, probably with their few belongings too, bringing what was  most dear to them and especially the faith in their hearts.

How could I have wanted to run away from my heritage, what was it I wanted to hide and turn away from?  I had no sense of the preciousness of what they were carrying.  I thought I could just decide to turn away from it and I did.  I didn't observe Yom Kippur all my years in Japan.  I had a lot to repent for on this day.   I looked at the flour covered board and the plump little dumplings, the dough covering and concealing the inside filling....just meditating on this first Yom Kippur in Japan,
preparing for the fast....making .... kreplach...

It is also said that it's good to eat melon before a fast.  I had watermelon.  The fast was very easy this year. I don't know if it was because of the watermelon, or because being in God's presence is so nourishing that I didn't hunger at all but rather felt very filled the whole day through from His word!

My children,

I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Intercessor with the Father--the righteous Messiah Yeshua.  He is the atonement for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.     
1 John 2: 1 〜 2  TLV

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Prayer of Teshuvah
from Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version,

Come, let us return to ADONAI.
For He has torn, but He will heal us.
He has smitten, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us.
On the third day He will raise us up,
and we will live in His presence.
So let us know, let us strive
to know ADONAI.
Like dawn His going forth is certain.
He will come to us like the rain,
   like the latter rain watering the earth. 

Hosea 6, 1〜3  TLV

My First Shabbat Shuvah

Shabbat Shuvah ("Sabbath [of] Return" שבת שובה) or Shabbat Teshuvah ("Sabbath [of] Repentance" שבת תשובה) refers to the Shabbat that occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  --from Wikipedia

Today's Shabbat is Shabbat Shuvah.  I made another round challah.  I don't know if it is said to make round challah on this day, but as it is still this period of the Ten Days of Awe and repentance, it seemed fitting.  Plus I love the way the round challah braids are made, and how the two crossing over two become a circle as all the strands are woven together in a particular way.   It felt like the Crown, a reminder from our King that He is listening.  

Since I started observing the Shabbat this year,  the weeks have taken on a new rhythm.  One  Shabbat begins Friday evening and ends the next day's sunset and then the week begins and then again we prepare to enter into the Shabbat on the next Friday sunset.   God created the world in six days and rested on the 7th.  The circle seems to come alive in His Love.  

This year I began to enter into Shabbat through the making of challah.  Today is I suppose also the first Shabbat of the New Year, 5777.  But more than that it is seen as the special Shabbat, the sabbath of Return,  in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as if to say the cycle of Shabbatot doesn't really begin and end but continues in a beautiful eternal cycle, culminating every year in the Fall Feasts in the seventh month of Tishrei in this time of repentance and return.  

Isn't that so beautiful and even exquisite.  Each Shabbat has a special Torah portion to study, called the Parshiot, regardless of where we are on the round earth!.  Again I see the round challah and how unified we are in our King when we study His Torah and live on His eternal cycle of time, as he measures everything just perfect.

 Just like on each Shabbat we ask to draw closer to God, in this time of repentance we draw closer to Him and to seek forgiveness.  Forgiveness and repentance are life-giving.  Without seeking forgiveness we pile up sin in our heart, and that becomes a sure way into darkness, but with constant and true seeking of forgiveness, we are given life as we return to our Creator and to Yeshua. 

He is Light of the World.  When we smell the challah, and see it and taste it, may we understand the words in the Psalms 34

"Taste and see how good ADONAI is.
Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him".    ---Psalm 34:9  TLV

Shabbat Shalom! 

I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
for My anger will turn away from him.
I will be like dew for Israel.
He will blossom like a lily,
and thrust out his roots like Lebanon.
His tender shoots will spread out.
His beauty will be like an olive tree
and his fragrance will be like Lebanon.
Those dwelling in his shadow will return.
They will grow grain and bud like a vine.
His renown will be like 
                 the wine of Lebanon.

               ---Hosea 14:  5〜8



Friday, October 7, 2016

To the daughter of Zion

L'Shana Tovah! Happy New Year 5777!

L`Shona Tovah!  Happy Sweet New Year! 5777

First steps to braiding a round Challah!

Round Challah is said to represent circle of life, circle of sweetness, the Crown for the King! Dip the apples and the challah into honey!

Happy Sweet New Year!!
It's been such a wonderful 'homecoming' to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, for the first time in seventeen years in Japan!

Rosh Hashanah is known as the Jewish New Year although it's actually the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar.  It comes from Yom Teruah, the feast of blowing shofarot (the plural of shofar)  in Leviticus 23:23-25, and has also come to be referred to as The Feast of Trumpets.

"In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a Shabbat rest, a memorial of blowing  (shofarot), a holy convocation. You are to do no regular work, and you are to present an offering made by fire to ADONAI."
  ADONAI's instructions to Moses for the people of Israel, from Leviticus 23:23-25, TLV

Every thing about the holiday from the blowing of the shofar, to the sweetness of the food, to the special customs like going to the river (I went to the moat of the castle, our nearest body of water) to cast out our sins, to the special week which it begins of taking time of prayer and repentance, has indeed been filled with AWE! Actually another name for these Holy Days which lead up to Yom Kippur on the Kingdom Calendar are the Days of Awe.

I gave New Year Postcards to some friends here where I live in my community in Japan.   When I gave a card to my friend Etsuko, she exclaimed, 5777?!  I told her that is the year we are in on the Hebrew Calendar.  Then she also took interest in the words, L'Shana Tovah, and I told her they were Hebrew for Have a Good Year.  She looked at the picture of a shofar and had absolutely no idea that it was an instrument or anything about it at all.  It was exciting to be able to share the culture that I am from and that she knew nothing about, like a whole new world opened just from the postcard!!  After so many years in Japan where people so generously share things with me about their country, I am excited to start to share about where I am really 'from'.

In all the years we celebrated Rosh Hashanah growing up, I  never knew that this is also a feast to celebrate the creation of the world!  And of course most of all the Creator of the Universe.  Another thing I learned about the Fall Feasts, High Holy Days, is the concept of Teshuvah, which means "return".  When we repent and return to our Creator, our King it can also be a special time of rejoicing.  Even as we are approaching and preparing for a more solemn time of repentance at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, there is so much joy in the return.  Some people say once we are saved, why celebrate all the holidays as we are forgiven of our sins in Yeshua.  Its true He is our Salvation, yet because of that it makes us see even more the beauty of these days and what that Salvation means.  I feel like a child in this season, looking through new eyes to obey, honor and delight in God's commandments from returning to Him through Yeshua.

Making the round first round challah.  Redemption. Forgiveness and the anticipation of His return.  Casting our sins in the depth of the sea and opening our hearts and eyes to the wonders of creation.  Those are some of the things to celebrate as we feast and fast in this season of awe.

Who is a God like You
pardoning iniquity,
overlooking transgression,
for the remnant of His heritage?  He will not retain His anger forever, 
because He delights in mercy.                  --Micah 7:18

He will again have compassion on us.  
He will subdue our iniquities,
and You will cast all our sins
                          into the depths of the sea.           --Micah 7:19
when doing my first `Tashlich` of casting our sins into the depth of the sea, I looked into the sea and saw the wonders of God`s creation...

Shabbat Shalom!

The earth is full of the love of ADONAI.
    ---Psalm 33:5 TLV

credit note & thanks: I made the Challah in this post and the challah in the post above from this recipe for Honey Apple Challah on Tory  The blog author there makes it so beautiful.  Mine still needs practice, but it was delicious and very fun to try the braiding,  the recipe is great and easy to follow!