Monday, August 28, 2017

Rejoice in Dance! Guest Interview with Teresa Cook

Sing to the LORD a new song,
His praises in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in its maker;
let the children of Zion exult in their king.
Let them praise His name in dance;
with timbrel and lyre let them chant His praises.

---Psalm 149:1~3  

To celebrate the first year of Challah and Cherry Blossoms,  I`m excited to present the second Challah and Cherry Blossoms guest interview! 

It`s an honor to introduce Teresa Cook.  
 I `met` Teresa this past spring when I discovered her Rejoice in Dance videos, as  I am preparing to teach Israeli Dance in my community in Japan.  I was so blessed by her easy to follow teaching and by her joy in Israeli dance.   When I wrote her to share my thanks, she shared a vision that she had when she made them, that people would learn these dances around the world! We hope you enjoy the interview, during which you will also have a chance to learn some easy-to-follow Israeli dances!

S: Welcome Teresa, It`s an honor to have you here as a guest on Challah and Cherry Blossoms. When I saw your Rejoice in Dance videos, I became excited.  Could you tell us a little about how you came to Israeli dance?

T:  Thank you so much, Joanne, for having me here as your guest! In 1999, I began attending a Messianic Congregation where Israeli dancing was a big part of corporate worship. We called it “Davidic dancing” at the time. We had a large area at the back of the sanctuary where we did the circle dances during worship, and anyone could join in. The dance team leader led the dances. Joining in the corporate dancing is where I first started learning the Israeli dances. And I eventually joined the dance team at the congregation. The dance team sometimes did special dances as part of the worship service. 

I started teaching these dances in December 2009. My daughter Sarah was planning to get married in June 2010. Her fiancé (Lael) had a grandfather who was Jewish, and Lael’s family still enjoys celebrating the Jewish feasts, incorporating these in with their faith in Jesus. Lael and Sarah were planning a wedding that combined many Christian and Jewish elements, and they wanted to have Israeli folk dancing at their wedding reception. But no one knew the dances except me! So six months before their wedding, I began teaching the Israeli folk dances to a group of about 25 young people who were friends and family of Lael and Sarah. We met once each month for six months before the wedding so that they would know the dances well. At the wedding reception, we had about 75 people dancing! The bride and groom and their friends were in the inner circle, and the rest of the guests were in a larger outer circle (You can see this in the photo above).  I was wearing a microphone, and I taught the dances and called out the steps for the guests to learn. And since the group of young folks in the middle knew the dances, the guests could also just follow along and do what the young folks were doing. We even danced one dance with palm branches! I cannot even begin to describe how the dances took the JOY of the celebration to a much higher level than we could have ever imagined. Many guests told us they had never been to a wedding that was so much fun! About a week after my daughter’s wedding, the Lord said to me, “Teresa, you started teaching these dances for your daughter, the bride. Now I want you to teach these dances to MY bride!” And that launched me into teaching these joyful dances on a wider scale.

"God `dances for joy over us`(Zephaniah 3:17), and we are made in His image. So I believe He rejoices and joins with us when we are enjoying these dances. "

Since then, I have led dance workshops at churches and special gatherings. And I even taught these dances to a group of about 60 Chinese students, many of whom had never danced before. And they really enjoyed it!
(photo below).   Eventually I decided to put the dance videos on YouTube so that the people who had been to my workshops could review the dances and continue doing them. But I never imagined that my YouTube channel would get the number of views that it has! One of my dreams has been to teach the world to dance. So I was especially excited when I learned that you want to teach these joyful dances in Japan! 

S: What a joyous celebration!      I love how you talked about the Jewish people`s understanding of G-d`s heart for family and community in your A Brief History of Dance in Israel video.  Could you share a little about that ---for example, what is so special about these dances, and how we can learn from that and use them in our congregations, community, and families?

T: I believe God has always existed as a family—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that family is the foundational unit of the Kingdom of God. And family is made up of people of all different ages. What I LOVE about these dances is that they are so beautifully suited for people of all ages and physical abilities to dance TOGETHER. The steps are easy enough for an 8-year-old to learn and fun enough for adults to do. And each person can adjust the steps to be more or less aerobic and active depending on their own physical abilities. I have had dance circles where the ages ranged from 8 to 70+. Even children younger than 8 years old can join in the circle if a parent helps make sure that the child keeps going in the right direction. The young people that you see dancing in my videos are some of the ones that I taught in preparation for my daughter’s wedding. One mother of several of these young people actually thanked me for giving her children a wholesome way to dance and enjoy movement with music. Now her children do these dances at home just for fun! These dances are a great alternative to secular, sensual dancing. Another thing I love about these dances is that everyone can join in.  You aren’t left out if you don’t have a partner. Everyone is included! I have been in numerous different gatherings where we all joined in these dances—church services, weddings, feast celebrations, birthday parties, conferences, picnics, etc.—and doing these dances always takes the level of JOY and sense of community and unity to a much higher level!

S:  I am encouraged and inspired by hearing  your story!
Could you tell us your favorite dances or dance and one that you would like to `teach` to us? I am having so much fun learning them, and would like to share the links of your instructional videos for all of us to try in our various locations around the world.

T:  The dance that is one of the most popular (because it is so easy to learn) and seems to be a favorite wherever I go is Nigun Atik.  This is the traditional dance that is used at Jewish weddings, where the bride and groom are lifted up on chairs and the guests dance around them.  I like to start out teaching this dance because it gives beginners an easy dance to learn and shows them the JOY of the dances.  Once most people learn this dance, they are hooked and want to learn more!  And this dance gives them the confidence to see that they CAN learn these dances. 

One of my personal favorites is Lo Ahavti Dai.  Part 1 of this dance can be used as a separate dance itself and is very fun and easy to do.  And I especially love the energy and variety of Part 2.  This dance is always a favorite with young folks.  And they often take the energy to an even higher level by doing “flying mayims” in Part 1 (where you jump up high on the mayim step).  We also like to add a shout when we all move into the center in Part 2. The shout just spontaneously happened one time while we were dancing, and it so fit the song and the music that we continued doing it! 

S:  Those flying mayims sound fun! Thank you so much Teresa!   I’m happy for this chance to meet you through Challah and Cherry Blossoms! May we all dance them together in unity in Israel one day!  

ADONAI your God is in your midst---

a mighty Saviour!

He will delight over you with joy.

He will quiet you with His love.

He will dance for joy over you with singing.

---Zephanaiah 3:17  TLV

Note to readers:  Links to Teresa teaching these dances are here:
Teaching for Nigun Atik HERE, and Teaching for Lo Ahavti Dai HERE

To know more or visit Teresa’s YouTUBE channel, please visit her at: 

Ascribe to ADONAI the glory of His Name.
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Bow down to ADONAI in holy splendor.
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

---Psalm 96:8~9 TLV

*Photos courtesy of Teresa, Rejoice in Dance

interview abbreviations: S=Shayndel  T=Teresa 
Blessings and Shalom! 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer to Fall, Poolside Shabbat, and a prayer of Repentance

And I will give them the understanding to acknowledge Me, for I am the LORD.  And they shall be My people and I will be their God, when they turn back to me with all their heart.
---Jeremiah 24:7

This is a set of travel candle holders for Shabbat.  The blessing for the kindling of the lights is written inside the cover, and the pattern on the candle holder is a drawing of Jerusalem.  The color of this Shabbat was turquoise, the color of the New Jerusalem.  

Now, God, we praise You and extol Your glorious name.

---Chronicles 29:13 


It was so special to share Shabbat, poolside, with my family when I returned to the U.S. this summer!  It was the first time in my life to celebrate Shabbat with my family, what a blessing it was to read the blessings together and welcome the Shabbat at my Dad`s house in Long Island.  As you can see we made it in the colors of the summer, a turquoise blue setting.  
Turquoise is also the color of the New Jerusalem, so it is a good color for Shabbat.   
I ordered a set of travel Shabbat Shalom Candle Holders and a new challah cover,  and sent them to my Dad`s house ahead of time to have them in time for Shabbat.    Some of the guests (family members!) are vegetarian, so I made a vegan challah (even though they confirmed at the dinner they are not vegan, just to be sure I decided on this vegan challah!).  

It was very wonderful to share the Shabbat with my family.  Even though my family is Jewish, we never observed the Shabbat.  Here`s what it took for me to come to observing Shabbat in recent years---It took for me to go to Japan, `run away` from my Jewish heritage,  seek my spiritual identity in other `gods` ,  and finally, after not even knowing how far into the darkness that I was going, and without even looking for Him, here in a small city in southern Japan I was `found` by Yeshua!!  He brought me back to our Heavenly Father, to repentance, and taught me to observe the Sabbath, which I have been doing for the past year and a half here in Japan!

So to be gathered together in my `hometown` of Long Island, and to be able to  make a Shabbat meal  for my family, was a wonderful summer gift from our Father in Heaven! It is something I have wanted to do since I began celebrating the Shabbat.   

Thank you LORD for bringing me back to YOU through Yeshua.  Thank you for my family, and that we could enjoy a special summer Shabbat and time together, and that you are bringing us all back to YOU!!

After I wrote a draft of this post, I was looking to find a scripture about `returning` to the  LORD God Almighty, and this scripture from Nehemiah spoke to my soul.  It begins with a letter and prayer of Nehemiah, who is seeking the LORD on behalf of Israel, for not honoring the commandments of God.  As we are a Jewish family and did not observe the commandment to observe the Shabbat, and surely other commandments as well too, I feel as though this verse speaks to me.
It is amazing how it is written so many years ago, but through it, as with all Scripture, we see and know that the LORD has not changed.  His commandments have not changed.   And his mercy endures throughout the generations.  Through Yeshua, His forgiveness will be granted once we seek Him and repent.   As we are so close to the days of Awe and Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement on the Hebrew calendar, I am doubly moved to quote the whole scripture here. I am looking at the photos below and not sure how the photo and scripture go together, but as this is a `modern` story of repentence and return, I hope that the heart of what I am wanting to express in the post will come through .  I will copy it now and see:

O LORD, God of Heaven, great and awesome God, who stays faithful to His covenant with those who love Him and keep His commandments!  Let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to receive the prayer of your servant that I am praying to You now, day and night, on behalf of the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins that we Israelites have committed against You, sins that I and my father`s house have committed.  We have offended you by not keeping the commandments, the laws, and the rules that You gave to Your servant Moses.  Be mindful of the promise You gave to Your servant Moses:  `If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you turn back to Me, faithfully keep My commandments, even if your dispersed are at the ends of the earth, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I have chosen to establish My name.  For they are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and Your mighty hand.  O  Lord!  Let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to hold Your name in awe.  Grant Your servant success today, and dispose that man to be compassionate toward him!

---Nehemiah 1:5~10  


Shabbat Shalom everyone!  

Love and blessings, 


a poolside Shabbat, the challah board has an `anchor` to go with the theme

bonus photo !  meeting a family of deer near my Father`s house this summer!!

Now, sons, listen to me;
Happy are they who keep my ways.

---Proverbs 8:32

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mt. Fuji report

Mt. Fuji from the airplane to Tokyo

Praise the God of heaven,
His steadfast love is eternal.

---Psalm 136:26

As many people who live in Japan, and others all over the world, I have a fascination with Mt. Fuji!
(You can probably tell by my blog, as I have posted a number of Mt. Fuji posts including a Mt Fuji Challah!)  When I go on an airplane to Tokyo and the travel agent asks what seat I would like, I always ask for a seat on the side where you can see Mt. Fuji.  The route from our city in the south of Japan to Tokyo always goes over Mt. Fuji, but its not always certain whether you can see the great mountain, depending on the cloud conditions.

Most recently, on a trip back to the U.S. for a family visit this summer, I flew on a plane to Tokyo to get to the plane to NY and as you can see in the photos, we saw Mt. Fuji.  Sometimes it is only the top peering out of a cloud covered heaven, and on rare times you can see the whole mountain.  Many people these days don`t even look out the window anymore on planes (have you noticed that?), but I still like to.  I am especially attentive on the part of the trip when we are nearing Tokyo!  On the first part of this trip, as the plane took off , we actually flew into a typhoon!  It looked like the flight might even have been cancelled, as my trip itinerary was on the same schedule as the typhoon, from South of Japan moving northward exactly on the same course,  but I believe God moved a typhoon for me to be able to make it home to see my family!*

The airplane pilot even announced that there would be a lot of shaky areas to fly through because of the typhoon, and warned us to fasten our seat belts tightly.  He politely asked for our cooperation as we fly through the typhoon!!

I watched out the window as the plane flew into white stormy clouds, and as I had been watching the storm maps on the news the past few days, I knew pretty much where we were and where the typhoon was, and that once we got near Tokyo we would already be through the storm.  Then I also realized that we would soon be over Mt. Fuji.  Surely today we would be able to see Mt. Fuji!! Indeed, once the white cloud cover gave way to blue sky and extremely fluffy summer cloud formations, there was the top of the mountain!!

As I believe in a living God, I really felt that He was orchestrating all this to reveal His awesome wonders and to show His Love to us!!!

Praise God!! His showing Mt. Fuji on this flight after the typhoon gave me so much peace of heart (Shalom!), and I was ready and strengthened for the next flight, which is the twelve hour flight  from Tokyo to New York!!

I took some pictures.  When I scrolled back on the camera to see them,  it was fun to discover that the last set of photos I had taken was of my Mt. Fuji Challah Cover.  Some of you probably know,  I have been drawing Mt. Fuji with the Ten Commandments and Torah on top as a recent `theme` in my drawings and challah.   It made me smile a big smile and thank the Holy Spirit for this connection with seeing the `real` Mt. Fuji after spending so much time drawing and baking about Mt. Fuji and the Torah of ADONAI.  How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those bringing good news!! I believe He will move mountains and bring them closer to us, and move typhoons for us, when we seek Him with all our hearts!

Can you see how the photos of the sky and Mt. Fuji came right after the photos of the Mt. Fuji Challah Cover?  I hope you enjoy the series as it unfolds  and as the mountain is revealed!!  Here goes, starting with the Challah cover-in-progress!!!.....

Notice this transition!! From the photos above, sewing the white fabric onto the top of Mt. Fuji on the challah cover, to the next one in the camera, the clouds after the typhoon and before seeing the actual Mt. Fuji!! Orchestrated as only our Father in Heaven can!!!

Mt. Fuji from the airplane

Hope you are having a wonderful summer,

Blessings and Shalom,



Making Origami in the U.S. with my cousin!! #Lovin` Mt. Fuji, and being with family!!


*related scriptures about God moving mountains and Faith:  Mark 11:23, Matthew 17:20


Your God the Lord is in your midst,
A warrior who brings triumph.
He will rejoice over you and be glad,
He will shout over you with jubilation.
He will soothe with His Love

---Zephaniah 3:17

Morning Glory

For the earth shall be filled
With awe for the glory of the LORD
As water covers the sea.

---Habakkuk 2:14

Shabbat Shalom!