We have just finished the book of Genesis, my dear readers, and are about to enter book of Exodus – along with entering a new year of our lives. I am not going to continue with the Torah Portions’ comments on these pages -however, before we plunge into the new series next time, I would like to offer some New Year reflections on the Torah today.
The transition from 2018 to 2019 becomes even more significant when we realize that we enter this New Year after we have finished the first book of the Torah— truly opening, not just a new page, but a new book in our lives. This point, between Genesis and Exodus, is highly significant both in the Bible and in our lives – therefore today, from this vantage point, we will look both backward and forward. Backward – to the fascinating events of the book of Genesis, as well as to the fascinating events of this passing year of our lives, including our failures and mistakes—remembering the amazing sentence of Joseph in the last Torah Portion: God meant it for good. Forward – with anticipation and hope, to the great miracles and great redemption of the book of Exodus, and to the great miracles and great redemption of 2019—whatever that may mean.
What is the most important event or story in the book of Genesis for you personally? For me, living in conflict-torn Israel today, the story of Isaac and Ishmael is probably one of the most important and relevant stories, even though this story occupies just a few chapters – Genesis 16-21. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that many Arab people don’t see themselves as Ishmael’s descendants; however, I do believe that there is a biblical basis and a spiritual reality beyond our complicated visible reality (that is the subject of my book: Abraham had two sons).
Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that the first thing I recall from 2018 is President Trump moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. I know there are controversial opinions about that, and I am not going to enter political debate here—and trust me, it is very controversial here on the ground as well. It’s certainly not easy for us living here, because it’s Israel, first of all, who pays the price for Trump’s boldness. I suppose you remember how it all began: at the end of 2017, on December 6, we heard Trump’s declaration about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 2017? The first official act by a Gentile nation that gave the Jews legal right to the Holy Land was the Balfour Declaration, and it happened in December of 1917. Then, 50 years later, in 1967, after the Six-Day War, Jerusalem was recaptured, reunited and declared to be the eternal undivided capital of the State of Israel. Fifty years after 1967, waiting to hear Trump’s declaration, a FOX news commentator said: “We are waiting for President Trump to come and to change history!” This “change of history” happened in 2017 and shed an additional light on President Trump’s declaration: if anyone had doubts that it was a prophetic event, they just had to realize that it happened in full correspondence with God’s prophetic clock: 1917-1967-2017.
The move itself happened this year, on May 14, and it marked Israel’s 70th anniversary. I happened to be in hospital at that time, and was watching the whole event unfold from a hospital room. The broadcast from the beautiful and solemn opening ceremony of the embassy alternated with news of unrest in the Gaza Strip and in the territories—and I was watching it in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, where almost everyone in my department – from an orderly to a doctor – was an Arab. And no tension was felt there at all.
As I watched, a vague feeling grew inside of me: that even though these steps are important and even prophetic, it’s not in the political arena that our problems will be solved—we need a spiritual X-ray here. One of the main themes of my book is that of restoring what was broken and making it whole again. Yes, of course, real life is much more complex and multi-faceted than a biblical story – but isn’t that the case with an X-ray as well? A person is much more complex and unique than his or her X-ray shows: we see no personal features on an X-ray; we can’t recognize the individual by his X-ray, and yet an X-ray is definitely needed in order to see what must be healed—to see where the fracture is and what should be done to heal it. We need this X-ray; we need to recognize this biblically-based, spiritual reality in the everyday lives of these two different peoples who are both incredibly close and incredibly hostile at the same time. Abraham had two sons—and the family picture will not be complete until they are both in this picture.
And what about 2019? 2017 was a year of Jubilee for Jerusalem, so it was easy to write about it; 2018 was the 70th birthday of Israel, so it was easy to write about it as well. There are no big dates connected to 2019 – but doesn’t that mean that, as we approach the New Year, we have all the more reason to listen to what God is saying to us? We are entering a New Year just after we have read the first portion of Exodus – Shemot. Yes, the whole year and the whole book of God’s great miracles is before us – but as we read about Moses and his call in these first chapters, let us reflect upon one detail that few people pay attention to: When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, upon seeing this bush, Moses said: I will now turn aside and see this great sight. And it is written: when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, only then God called to him from the midst of the bush. Can you imagine? If Moses had not turned aside to see this great sight, he would not have become the one who led Israel out of Egypt—for only when Moses started to walk in the direction of God, and God saw that, only then did He speak to him. And maybe this is something that God wants us to hear as we are entering the new year: He Himself chooses when to reveal Himself to us; He Himself intervenes and makes our hearts burn within us; He Himself calls us. But whether He remains with us depends on our response: are we ready to literally go out of our way – as Moses did – in order to listen and obey?
Excerpts from my books are included in this article (and many other posts here), so if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books, you can get them from my page: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/ Also, I would like to remind you, , that we offer a course on the Weekly Torah Portion, and those interested to study in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, are welcome to sign up for this course or to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information and for the discount.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, MY BELOVED READERS!
HAVE A GLORIOUS 2019!
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