Shavuot is Here!

Greetings Friends,

The Sabbath horn just blew across the land – signaling the beginning of the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

This is one of Judaism's three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot). It begins now (Tuesday evening) and ends at nightfall on Wednesday.

Shavuot marks the giving of the first five books of the Old Testament. In our Christian tradition we call them the Books of the Law or the Books of Moses, and in Judaism they are referred to as the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

They are considered Judaism's most basic scripture and you may recall that it was at Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, where this scripture was given to Moses.

Shavuot literally means "weeks" and is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the first day of Passover, which marks the exodus itself.

Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10 specify the celebration of Shavuot.

So what is happening right now here in the Old City of Jerusalem amongst the Jews? One can hear festive evening prayers, which are going to be followed by an equally festive meal!

Many people will follow the custom of staying awake all night and studying religious texts, and then saying morning prayers at the earliest permitted time. This is meant to express ones' enthusiasm of the Jewish people to receive the Torah.

Most synagogues and yeshivas organize special classes and lectures throughout the night of Shavuot. Here in Jerusalem, there is a custom of going down to the Western Wall tomorrow morning where it will be exceptionally crowded – for Shavuot morning prayers.

This is when one can see crowds of men and women dancing and singing along with the special hymns and scriptural readings – which includes the Book of Ruth.

Special memorial prayers for the departed are also said. Some communities maintain the custom of decorating their synagogues with green plants and flowers; this is in keeping with traditions that Mt. Sinai was a green mountain and that Shavuot is a day of judgment for fruit trees.

In ancient times, Shavuot marked the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Jewish farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), where special offerings were brought (Numbers 28:26-31).

Shavuot is also known as the "Day of First Fruits" and the "Harvest Festival" (as it is referred to in Numbers 28:26 and Exodus 23:16.

For us as Christians we recall that it was Pentecost, when via the Holy Spirit's decent, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spoken by the disciples to the crowds as they had come from all over the world to celebrate this Jewish holiday. That good news was heard individually and simultaneously in men's own mother tongues, here in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-31)!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Independance Day

Hello Friends.

After the somber observance of yesterday's memorial events for Israel's fallen soldiers and police - It is Israeli Independence Day here in Israel.

Throughout the night bands played to revelers gathered for public concerts who took in multiple fireworks displays.

Here in Jerusalem there was a bit of a lull from 1:30 am until 4:00 am when the bands kicked it up again ensuring that few would sleep in the holy city.

The blue and white Israeli flags are flying all over the country – with many people out at ceremonies and hitting the parks for bar-b-ques on this warm overcast day.

It was 66 years ago in Tel Aviv that Israel declared it's Independence after the end of the British Mandate.

The official ceremonies kicked of on Mount Herzl with a torch lighting ceremony.

The official celebration this year took on a different twist, prominently portraying the role of women in Israeli society in what is usually a male dominated event due to the day's military focus.

In the air, Israeli Air Force jets flew across the major metropolitan areas of the State – including Jerusalem's Old City – in fact directly overhead of me...

Back on the ground, President Shimon Peres, who was one of the men who helped bring about the state's existence in 1948, attended his last ceremony in the official post as President of the country focused his words a bit on the past and a bit on the present.

Summing up his seven years in Israel's highest political office Mr. Peres said: "I hope I helped to bring more unity, more parity, more understanding", calling Israel's existence a miracle in many respects.

The elder statesman continued by looking ahead to the country's future which, if one looks past the often fatalistic predictions of doom, looks quite energetic and prosperous for years to come.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Tonight Begins Yom Kippur

Hi Friends,

Yom Kippur begins tonight – the holiest day in the Jewish calander.

This is the Biblical Day of Atonement we read about in Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32.

According to Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the day on which people's fates for the coming year are sealed.

Most Jews will take a walk to their nearest Synagogue for services this evening and tomorrow.

These services will center around the so-called penitential prayers.

They will occupy most of the day and include special scriptural readings -like the Book of Jonah.

Memorial prayers for the deceased, that are said four times a year, are also recited on Yom Kippur.

Then to wrap it all up, at nightfall, the shofar (the ram's horn) is blown once to mark the end of Yom Kippur.

For the majority of Jewish people around the world it is a day of introspection, completely separate from the normal course of daily life.

This is highlighted by one's physical aspects being sublimated while one concentrate's on spiritual concerns – including a full fast.

Almost all establishments here in Israel will be closed and there is no radio or television broadcasts.

As I pointed out in yesterday's Harvest Show, from our Christian perspective this is the one day of the year that the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies in the Temple to atone for the sins of the people.

Jesus, our High Priest, by His Love and in our faith, was sacrificed once – the righteous for the unrighteous – to bring us to God.

Halleluiah for His life saving Grace upon us – that we can live in peace with our conscious as we repent from our sin and become, day by day, a little more like Him.

Have a good weekend everyone,

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Sweetness and Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

We are now back on track with my Blog!

Ive missed providing you with information and inspiration...

As some of you may know from watching the Harvest Show it's Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration. The observance is referred to in Leviticus 23:23-25.

For the religiously observant, these days will be full of special prayers and scripture readings. For the secular Israeli it will be a long weekend of fun and hitting the great outdoors!

The big event for the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn) during the morning prayers.

There are also two special customs dealing with sweetness and forgiveness that come along with Rosh Hashanah, and that somewhat characterized it.

First is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey! This symbolizes the hope that the coming year will be "sweet."

The second is more involved, as it calls for Jews to go to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring).

Once there, participants will read a selection of scripture verses.

They will also throw pieces of bread into the water. This is done to symbolize the "casting off" of the previous year's sins. We remember the beautiful verse in Micah 7:19 which says: "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

Its all a lovely picture of how God will deal with our sins – that will be (are) removed and we will have a fresh start when we arrive in Heaven – where life will be sweet ever after!

Happy New Year All,

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Prepared?

Hi Everyone!

Well, it's the blog before Christmas...

I know the game for me right now is getting prepared!

But why do we prepare?

To participate.

Does that thought exhaust you???

It is not supposed too – because Christmas is a time for celebration!

The thrust of the Angle's message to the Shepards in the field was straight to their hearts – with the message told to them that the Saviour of mankind was born.

So how is that Good News resonating in your heart just before Christmas day?

Are you drowning in preparations around you or are you preparing your heart for celebration.

In the traditional Churches we have fasts and Advent to help us welcome the New Born King.

And around me here in the Holy Land there is some preparations, lights, artwork, and anticipation...

But I must be ready for the commitment God has shown us all in coming to His creation in the form of a Child!

I know it happened – Who it was, and why He came to earth... the reminders are all around me!

That Child – that Gift, is Christ the King... and we must worship and celebrate Him.

My humble gift back to God is participation.

With all well wishes for Christmas love and joy,

Brian Bush Middle East Coorespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

New Year

Hello Everyone!

As today is a holiday – the Jewish New Year, lets learn a little about Rosh Hashanah!

is a two-day Jewish new year), the observance of which is mandated by Leviticus 23:23-25.

It started at sunset on Sunday and will conclude tonight at nightfall.

What goes on during this holiday? First, both days are full public holidays so there isn't much going on! But more significantly, both days are marked by special prayers and readings from the Old Testament.

The big event of a service during Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar (the twisted ram's horn) during morning prayers. It is characterizing the gathering of the people and victory.

There are also two customs to take note of;

The first is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, which symbolizes the hope that the coming year will be "sweet."

The second comes from the Minor Prophet Micah, (7:19), which reads; "...and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.").

At Rosh Hashanah, Jews typically going to a natural source of flowing water like the ocean, a river, or a spring. There they will read a selection of scriptural verses and throw pieces of bread into the water.

This action symbolizes the "casting off" of the previous year's sins.

From our Christian perspective it is wonderful to remember that there will be a 'casting away of sin' at the beginning of a new time - eternity – at which God has the victory – and will gather His people

Praise God for that – and for Jesus whose sacrifice makes the pardon of our sin possible through His death and resurrection.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Happy New Year!

Hi Everybody!

Just a quickie to wish you all a Blessed and wonderful New Year ahead.

We had rain on Christmas here, and it looks like there may be some in store for this weekend too – perhaps even snow on Mount Hermon in the north!

So may God have mercy on us all and may we be convicted, comforted, and become more Christ-like through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Happy New Year!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Sukkot

Hello Everybody!

Well – it's another eve to a holiday here in Israel, so lets blog about Sukkot.

This is another Biblical holiday running a total of seven-days. You can read about it in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43.

The first day is a full holiday – like a Shabbat. Each of the seven days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings including the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday. This is opposite to the holiday we just celebrated a few days ago; Yom Kippur – which is somber and introspective. Sukkot is characterized by two main things. First, Jewish folks are enjoined to build a sukkah. This is the temporary wooden structure to parallel the structures the biblical Jews slept in during the exodus out of Egypt during the 40 year sojourn in the desert.

They are to ideally eat all of their meals within it, and (when it is possible) sleep in it too.

These temporary huts are topped with thatch or palm fronds. They are usually built on patios, rooftops, or courtyards to the home.

The second main Sukkot observance is the special bouquet. It consists of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch – that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days - except on the Sabbath).

Its origins can be traced to Leviticus 23:40, but there are many traditional explanations of its symbolism that do not come from the Bible.

We'll talk more about it on tomorrows Harvest Show – so be sure to tune in as I bring you all the news from here in Jerusalem.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Yom Kippur

Hi Everyone!

It's another holiday in Israel – but this is the 'biggie'...

Yom Kippur is Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement", the day when, in Old Testament times, the Jewish High Priest would go in before God in His Tabernacle, and then the Temple - and make atonement for the sins of the Jewish nation.

It began at sunset today here in Israel. All is quite outside, as essentially 75% of the State's population observes this Jewish holiday.

The observance of this day is spoken about in the Bible; Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32.

For Jews, it is the holiest day of the year. Even secular non-observant Jews heed this day's hollowed call.

Indeed right now, the streets are largely deserted and everything is closed. Quite a contrast to last night where there where tons of people heading to the Western Wall and practicing ritual to have their sins forgiven.

Yom Kippur is also the day on which, according to Jewish tradition, peoples fates for the coming year are sealed.

There are Synagogue services where the main focus is on penitential prayer. This goes on for most of the day.

Also included in the afternoon are special scriptural readings – most notably, the Book of Jonah.

Memorial prayers are also included for the deceased. These are generally said four times a year, and are recited again on Yom Kippur.

Since the day is a day of introspection, and one completely separate from the normal course of daily life, the physical aspects of life are put aside while one is supposed to concentrate on their spiritual concerns.

To underscore this, the day is marked by a full fast. Jews will not wear anything made of leather, the ladies will not use cosmetics, there is no bathing or smoking allowed either.

It will all come to a close with nightfall on Saturday when the shofar (or ram's horn) will be sounded once to mark the end of the observance of Yom Kippur.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Casting Off

Hi Everybody,

As today is still the Jewish New Year – what better thing to blog about! So lets learn a little more about Rosh Hashanah.

Here in Israel it is a two-day celebration. You can find the Biblical connection in Leviticus 23:23-25, and both days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings. The main public or iconic event of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar – or ram's horn) during the morning prayers.

Both days are full public holidays and, as on the Sabbath, there will be no public transportation or newspapers. In addition, many businesses, museums and other institutions, which are normally open on the Sabbath, will be closed over the holiday. Rosh Hashanah is also characterized by two special customs.

The first one, which is the most popular, is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope that the coming year will be "sweet."

The second involves going to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring) where one then reads a selection of scriptural verses.

Afterwards, one throws pieces of bread into the water – to symbolize the "casting off" of the previous year's sins.

This practice derives from Micah 7:19; "...and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea".

This verse in Micah is lovely to connect to the new year because from a Christian perspective, we of course see Jesus Christ as the One who has cast off our sins through His death and Resurrection.

And because of that, by faith in Him, we shall live with God through all eternity when our redemption comes – Halleluiah!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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