Entering 2018 From Jerusalem

The Prophetic Clock

Maybe, some of my readers remember my post from the previous New Year: ENTERING 2017 FROM JERUSALEM. I wrote about the “prophecy” of Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel (Hebrew name is Yehudah Hachassid – Judah the Pious) and numerous English-speaking websites that “prophesied” the coming of Messiah in 2017. I showed that we had no proof that there had been such a prophecy, and therefore we have every reason to be cautious about these speculations. I then wrote: “Having said that, I have to admit that I completely understand these feelings about 2017, and also tend to see it as a year of prophetic significance. We all know that God’s prophetic clock is attached to Israel and Jerusalem. 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 1917. Then, 50 years later, in 1967, after the Six-Days War, Jerusalem was recaptured, reunited and declared to be the eternal undivided capital of the State of Israel. 50 years after 1967, entering year 2017 – and entering it from Jerusalem – I can’t help but foretaste the significance of this year for my country and my city,  for Israel and for Jerusalem,  – and for the whole world”.

The closer the New Year drew, the more concerned I became, as I thought  about my New Year post and the fact that, in spite of my predictions, nothing significant about Israel or Jerusalem had happened in 2017. There is God’s timing, though, and one cannot overlook it. All of a sudden – or it felt like all of a sudden – on December 6th, we heard Trump’s declaration about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! I know there are controversial opinions about that, and I am not going to enter political debates here—and trust me, it is very controversial here on the ground as well, because it’s Israel, first of all, who pays the price for Trump’s boldness—but as I was waited to hear Trump’s declaration, the FOX news commentator said: “We are waiting for President Trump to come and to change history!” It was probably at that moment that I realized that this “change of history” was happening in 2017! I do believe that it sheds additional light on President Trump’s move: it seems to be a prophetic event, especially because it happened in a full correspondence with God’s prophetic clock: 1917-1967-2017[1]. The hand of the clock has advanced yet again.

 

God meant it for Good

Doesn’t it mean that, as we approach the New Year, we have all the more reason to listen to what God is saying to us?  I happen to believe that weekly Torah portions are divinely ordained, and that God speaks to His people – and to each one of us personally – through these portions of Scripture – Parashot Shavua. The transition from one year to another becomes even more significant when we realize that the Torah Portion for December 30th – the final Shabbat of 2017 – is Vayechi, the last portion of the book of Genesis. Can you imagine? We  enter this New Year after we have finished the book of Genesis: truly opening, not just a new page, but opening a new book in our lives.

There are many things we can say about Vayechi (as about every Torah portion). For example, the deep and prophetic blessings of Jacob to his sons are in this portion, and of course, a lot can be said about these blessings. However, I wanted to point out something that was of particular encouragement for me – and I hope it will be an encouragement for you also. Toward the very end of the book – like a seal on the story of Joseph, on the book of Genesis, and also on this about- to- end  year of our lives – Joseph says to his brothers: “God meant it for good”. Aren’t these amazing words for a New Year? Both in the Bible and in our lives, God always carries out His plan through people: not only through people’s strengths and faith, but also through their weaknesses and mistakes. It’s a wonderful feeling: when one can look back at the year that is about to end, see all the mistakes and misdeeds that each one of us has experienced this year, and trust that the Lord can work out His good, even from our mistakes: God meant it for good.

Like Ephraim and Menashe

There is a very interesting scene in this Portion that explains one of the quandaries of Jewish customs. During every Shabbat celebration on Friday evening, Jewish fathers bless their children with the priestly blessing.[2] The introductory line of this blessing depends on whether the child is a boy or girl.

For girls, the introductory line is:

May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.

For boys, the introductory line is:

May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe! 

Why do Jewish fathers bless their sons by the names of Joseph’s sons? Why are the sons of Joseph chosen for this blessing rather than the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

We know that two sons were born to Joseph in Egypt. First of all, let us try to understand the original Hebrew meaning of their names. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. The name Menashe (Manasseh) is derived from the Hebrew root נָשָׁה : “to cause to forget”. Joseph wanted to forget all the suffering and affliction that he went through. That’s why he called his son Menashe. The name of the second he called Ephraim. The name Ephraim is derived from the root פָּרָה  – “to make fruitful”. Evidently Joseph was able to forget his suffering and move on:  to become fruitful and productive in the foreign land.

Before his death, Jacob chooses his two grandchildren for the blessings across the ages: he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’[3] The Jewish Rabbis see a powerful message in this blessing. When we say to our sons: “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe,” we wish them to be always spiritually connected to their people and their God, regardless of where they live and grow. Moreover, Ephraim and Menashe are the first brothers in the Torah whose relationship is not marked by jealousy and rivalry – a powerful testimony to the peace in Joseph’s heart and Joseph’s house.  I believe this is God’s message to us for this New Year: He wants us to have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes, and to be always attuned to the God of Israel, no matter how powerful and tempting our “Egyptian” surroundings might be.

 

[1] It was also on December 8, 1947 that the UN called for the establishment of a Jewish State in the land of Israel, almost exactly 70 years before Trump’s declaration – 70 being another significant biblical number.

 

[2] Num. 6:24-26

[3] Gen.48:20

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Deborah

    Thank you for this! It is very enlightening!

  2. Mandla

    Blessings upon you Prof Julia.
    You work blesses me always and is very informative.
    Shalom

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Mandla for your kind words Blessings and Happy New Year to you! !

  3. Cleide Souza

    Shana Tova Chaverim of eteachergroup…and toda Raba for all studies bíblical for us