Carried in His Hands

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"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Board Games with Brother

Pretty much every day that I'm home, I play some board games with my older brother.  Today we played three: Chess, Nine Men's Morris, and Backgammon.
















 

I hope you enjoyed these photos! Also--side note--yesterday I read the books of Amos (nine chapters) and Obadiah (one chapter).  Now I am in the middle of the book of Jonah, which has four chapters.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just a Little--Yet Very Important--Note...

...to tell you all that I have completed the first two of the Twelve Minor Prophets! I finished Hosea (14 chapters) last night, and read all of Joel (four chapters) this morning.  Next up are:

  1. Amos
  2. Obadiah
  3. Jonah
  4. Micah
  5. Nahum
  6. Habakkuk
  7. Zephaniah
  8. Haggai
  9. Zechariah
  10. Malachi
Except for Jonah, which is read every year at the afternoon service on the Day of Atonement (and which I therefore know very well), I only know what I learned in my Hebrew Bible class this past semester--AKA next to nothing--about these guys, so I am excited to read these books and find out more.  I am also excited because these books mark the end of the Prophets section of our Bible, after which I will be two-thirds done, with only the Writings section left to read.

I just love being Jewish!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Mezuzot in Our House

Traditional Jewish homes hang a mezuzah (plural mezuzot) on our doorposts.  A mezuzah is a holy scroll with excerpts from scripture, protected by a case.  There can be just one on the front door, or one on every door (except the bathroom!).  My family has one on every doorpost (mezuzot go on the right hand side of the room you are entering).  Here are pictures, and the stories that go with them.  I did forget to photograph the ones on the back porch, but you can enjoy these!













 

I hope you have enjoyed your tour of the doorposts in our Jewish home! I certainly enjoyed showing them to you!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Amidah: A Walk-Through

The Amidah, or "Standing Prayer", is one of the central prayers in the everyday service.  (The other is the Shema.)  Sometimes the weekday Amidah is also called the Shemona Esrei, or "Eighteen."  This is because it originally consisted of eighteen blessings.  (A nineteenth got added later.)  In this post, I am going to walk you through the Amidah, explaining each of the blessings to you.

"Avot v'Imahot:" "Fathers and Mothers, God of Our Ancestors:" In this blessing, we praise God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.  (Traditionally, the Matriarchs are not included, but I always put them in!) We say that God will send a redeemer (this is a reference to the Messiah; some modern Jews, uncomfortable with the notion of the Messiah as a physical person, say "redemption" instead) because of the merits of our ancestors.  This blessing ends with an acknowledgement of God as "Shield of Abraham and Guardian of Sarah."

"G'vurot:" "God's Might:" This blessing acknowledges some of God's miracles, such as the resurrection of the dead.  An excerpt from an English translation of this blessing (from one of my favorite prayer books) is "You sustain the life with kindness, giving life to the dead with great mercy, supporting the fallen, healing the sick, freeing the captive, keeping faith with those who sleep in dust."  This blessing ends: "Praised are You, Eternal, Who brings the dead to life.

"Kedushat Ha-Sheim:" "God's Holiness:" In the private, silent recitation of the Amidah, this is a one-line blessing pointing to, you guessed it, God's holiness.  In the public, out-loud recitation of the Amidah, this section is much more elaborate, with call-and-response and special body language.  This is widely regarded as the holiest part of the service; in fact, if one enters the sanctuary at this point, one is supposed to stand silently at the back until this section is over.

"Binah:" "For Wisdom:" This next blessing is also quick and simple.  We pray for "knowledge, understanding, and discernment."  (The three Hebrew words used here are "De'ah, Binah, v'Haskel.")

"T'shuvah:" "For Repentance:" We ask in this blessing to be drawn closer to God's Torah and God's service.  We acknowledge God as welcoming repentance.  This blessing sets the stage for the next one.

"S'lichah:" "For Forgiveness:" In this blessing--the only section like this in Jewish daily prayer--we tell God that we have sinned, and we know it.  We thump our chest with a closed fist, the way we do during the confessional on the Day of Atonement, twice: once on the word "sinned" and once on the word "transgressed."  We praise God as "gracious and abundantly forgiving."

"G'ulah:" "For Redemption:" We praise God as "a mighty redeemer," Who "redeems Israel," and we ask for that redemption to touch us and affect us in a mighty way.

"R'Fu-Ah:" "For Healing:" In this blessing, we pray to God for healing for everyone who needs it.  In the middle of this blessing is a special passage to say in which one can insert the names of anyone who is sick--mentally or physically--for whom one feels like praying.  I currently pray for both brothers and one very dear friend, but I don't feel comfortable sharing the reasons this publicly.

"Birkat Ha-Shanim:" "For Prosperity:" Here, we ask God for a blessed year and a bountiful harvest.  The middle of the blessing changes based on the seasons: in summer months, we simply say "Grant us a blessing;" in winter months, we say "Grant us dew and rain for a blessing."

"Kibbutz Galuyot:" "For Gathering the Exiles:" We ask God to gather us from the four corners of the Earth, and praise God for the ingathering of the exiles.  This is clearly a messianic blessing, asking for the coming of the Messiah.

"Ha-Shavat Ha-Mishpat:" "For Restoration of Justice:" This one I think can be described best by directly quoting the passage in translation from my favorite prayer book, so here it is: "Restore our judges as in days of old; restore our counselors as in former times.  Remove sorrow and anguish from our lives.  O may You alone reign over us with steadfast love and compassion, and with justice, sustain our cause.  Blessed are You, Eternal, Sovereign Who loves righteousness and justice."

"Birkat Ha-Minim:" "Against Maligners/Wickedness:" We ask for all evil to disappear, for God to "crush the arrogant" (Yes, really!) and for all sinners to return to the proper path.

"Tzaddikim:" "For the Righteous:" In this blessing, we ask for God's mercy and blessing on the following people: the righteous, the pious, the elders of the House of Your People Israel and its remaining scholars, faithful proselytes, and lastly, simply "us".  We place our trust in God and declare that because of this trust, we will never despair.

"Binyan Yerushalayim:" "For the Building of Jerusalem:" We ask God to rebuild Jerusalem and to restore the Davidic line to the throne.  This one is also an expressly messianic belief, for a couple of reasons.  Number one, we are talking about a throne, which means a king, which is not how Israel is run today.  Number two, we are specifically asking for a king from the Davidic line; it is traditionally believed that this line will  produce the Messiah.

"Matzmiach Keren Yeshua:" "The Flourishing of Redemption:" We ask again for the flourishing and strengthening of the messianic figure.  We tell God again of our hopes for redemption, and we thank God "for causing salvation to flourish."

"Shomei-ah T'filah:" "For Hearing Our Prayers:" We ask that God "accept our prayer with mercy and favor."  This is also the time to insert any personal prayers.  I keep a running list of prayers for other people, which I max out at seven, only because if I pray for more I do not feel that I can pray effectively.  At present I am praying for: both brothers, my dear friend "Joey," "Jacob" and "Rheann" from Reece's Rainbow, and the Qualls family as a whole.

"Avodah:" "For Acceptance of Our Prayers:" Here we ask God to restore the sacrifices in the Temple.  I do not want these back, but I pray this prayer anyway for the very valid reason that it is included in my prayer book.  This passage ends with a beautiful blessing, at least I think so: "May the service of Your people Israel always be worthy of Your acceptance.  May our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion.  Praised are You, Eternal, Who restores His Divine Presence to Zion."

"Hoda-ah:" "In Grateful Acknowledgement:" This blessing contains many names for God.  We talk about God as the "Rock of our lives," the "Shield of our salvation," and we acknowledge God's miracles that are with us each and every day.  During the public recitation, the leader recites one version of this paragraph while the congregation whispers another.

"Birkat Shalom:" "For Peace:" Here we pray for personal peace, peace for the Jewish people, and peace for the world as a whole.  We ask for peace in every season, if it is God's will.

The last paragraph really has to be quoted for you to get the full effect.  Here it is: "My God, guard my tongue from evil, my lips from speaking slander; help me ignore those who would curse me.  Let my soul be humble and forgiving to all.  Open my heart to Your Torah that I may pursue Your mitzvot.  Frustrate speedily the designs of all those who plot evil against me and make nothing of their schemes.  Act for the sake of Your merciful Name, Your power, Your holiness, and Your Torah.  In order that Your loved ones may be rescued, deliver with Your power, and answer me.  May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing to You, Eternal, my Rock and my Redeemer.  May the One who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and for all Israel.  And let us say: Amen."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wrapping Up Ezekiel

This afternoon, I finished up the book of Ezekiel.  It does get gentler and prettier nearer the end, and I'm glad I stuck with it.

Towards the end of Ezekiel is the Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones, a hopeful vision of the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian exile.  Very powerful stuff.

Now I am on to the book of Hosea, the first (at least in Jewish bibles) of the Twelve Minor Prophets.  Should be fun!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Whispered Blessings; Big, Important Dreams

I have been thinking a ton recently about "my" little Reece's Rainbow guy, "Jacob."  It's been very nearly two years since I became his Prayer Warrior (I will do a special post on the day that marks this two-year anniversary), and I am feeling the pressure to make a difference and find him a home.  I began to pray for "Jacob" shortly before his third birthday, and now he's turning five next month.

In all this time, "Jacob" has not had new pictures, an update to his description, nothing.  Its sad really, because I don't even completely know whether he's alive or dead.  Yet continue to pray I shall, because what else can I do?

And here are "Jacob's" pictures, my only connection to this precious boy, again, just in case his special someone sees them today:

JacobJacob sm

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Book of Ezekiel...and Other News

It's been a relatively long time since I posted about my Bible reading journey.  I am now in the book of Ezekiel, the last of the three major prophets.  Next up is the Book of the Twelve, also called the Twelve Minor Prophets.  They are minor not because of importance, but rather just because of size: I'm pretty sure every single one of the twelve is ten chapters or under.

Ezekiel--at least the part I've read so far (the first 22 chapters)--is a violent and angry book.  In just about every chapter, there is an oracle (the prophet hears something) in which God threatens to destroy the Israelites.  Given my track record with Jeremiah, you would think I would simply love reading this, but somehow this stuff is too violent and angry even for me.  I understand that Ezekiel smooths out and gets more peaceful in later chapters; I am looking forward to reading that part.

In other news: I have my last final today at noon, and then I am DONE with my fourth year of college! (Not graduating just quite yet, I have one more semester, but still exciting.)  My father is coming afterwards to help me pack up, and we will be out of here for the summer this evening!

 For the first time in a long time, I do not need to take any incompletes, and therefore do not have any school work to do over the summer.  In order to be productive and not go crazy sitting at home for three months, I plan to either volunteer at the local synagogue, get a job, or both; I will also continue my Bible reading project intensively and in earnest, and possibly even pick up another Jewish book before I finish the Bible.

 I know that I would like to reread Seek My Face, Speak My Name by Arthur Green, which I have picked up several times but never finished; River of Light, by Lawrence Kushner, would probably also be good to reread, because it's very complex and I think I was simply too young for it the last few times I read it.  (Yes, it's that good, good enough to reread several times! River of Light is actually one of my favorite Jewish philosophy/theology books.)

In "world" news, Julia and Rob Nalle, who blog over at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com , are on their way home (I think) with their newly adopted son, John.  Although a monkey wrench was thrown into their adoption process (they had gone over for a girl, "Harper," but she said no, she didn't want to go with them), everybody agrees that their finding John was a huge answer to everybody's prayers, not least because their son Aaron, also adopted from Eastern Europe and also disabled, now has a playmate on an equal level.

And now...because I have to...the one and only..."Jacob" (who, I point out, is turning five next month!)

Jacob

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I am a bipolar, Jewish teen who also suffers from RND. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. When I grow up, I think I might like to be a Rabbi. Scratch that; I AM going to be a Rabbi! Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!