The ones blessing

Often people say God is the Only One Who Saves and Who blesses. Many trinitarians therefore also say the Jesus must be God because Jesus is the Saviour. First of all they do forget that many people can save other people, animals and plants, though those firefighters, surgeons, medics, animal protectors are not God. Secondly they also forget that in many religious institutions there are priests who are accepted to give blessings and to give forgiveness of sins.

Several people may question then the role of the priest when he can do nothing in the Name of God. Others may ask

If the priest who delivers blessing to the people isn’t the ultimate source of that blessing, what is her/his role?
And what does conveying or sharing blessings with or to another person even mean?

A pair of teachings, both found in Midrash Tanhuma, aim to answer the first question.

It does not suit My dignity that I should have to bless My creatures [Myself]. Rather, I am handing the blessings over to Abraham and to his progeny, and so, whosoever they bless, I will back up his blessing, as it is written: “and be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) [Midrash Tanhuma, V’zot ha’Berakha 1]

When we read between the lines of the Torah we also may find how God requires Abraham to take care for God’s People and to make sure they can be blessed. In the set apart Scriptures we also do find requests from god to bring over blessings to others.

And it came to pass, [on the day that Moses had made an end of setting up the tabernacle] – the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “In this world, I commanded Aaron and his sons to bless them, but in the future, I, in My glory, will bless them, as it is written, ‘YHWH bless thee out of Zion; even He that made heaven and earth.’” (Psalm 134:3) [Midrash Tanhuma, Naso 18]

Similarly, Midrash Tanhuma explains the role of the priest.

“In this way you shall bless” (Numbers 6:23) – Speak [amor] to them [using the ‘full’ spelling, i.e. with a vav], thus meaning: Say to them, to the priests, that just because I have told you to bless the people Israel, this does not imply that you may bless them begrudgingly or hastily [b’angaria u’v’vehilut]; rather, you should bless them wholeheartedly, so that the blessings have power for them; and thus is it written amor lahem, using the ‘full’ spelling. [Tanhuma Buber, Naso 18]

“Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: The Eternal bless you and protect you! The Eternal deal kindly and graciously with you! The Eternal bestow [divine] favor upon you and grant you peace!” (Numbers 6:23–26 TMC-E)

In pronouncing God’s favour on the people, we also find in several writings that the priest was to use a formula or blessing. Also do we find that the Elohim shall bless those who bless;

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.””
(Genesis 12:3 TMC-E)

In the past people made use of that opportunity to bless others.

“‘Bring me game and make me tasty dishes, that I may eat—and [then] bless you before the Eternal before my death.’”
(Genesis 27:7 TMC-E)

“Let peoples serve you, nations bow down to you. Be a ruler to your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed; may those who bless you be blessed.””
(Genesis 27:29 TMC-E)

“bestowing this blessing upon Rebekah: “Sister, may you become thousands of myriads; may your descendants take possession of the gates of their foes!” Rebekah and her servant girls got up and mounted the camels and followed the man, as the slave took Rebekah and went off.”
(Genesis 24:60–61 TMC-E)

Like in ancient time children asked their parents blessing, those responsible of others still should give blessings to those which they should protect. At the same time we too should ask our parents and God the Father their blessings.

“When Esau heard his father’s words, he broke into an exceedingly loud and bitter howl and said to his father, “Bless me! Me too, Father!””
(Genesis 27:34 TMC-E)

“And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” He [Jacob] said, “Bring them to me, pray, that I may bless them.””
(Genesis 48:9 TMC-E)

In those text we also read that people could bow down for others, this not meaning that they would worship that person. Lots of trinitarians say because Jesus did not resist when a person bowed his head before Christ that this meant that Jesus wanted to be honoured as the God and did not refuse that people worshipped him. But the bowing down before some one has not to mean that one worships that person. It is a matter of showing respect.

 

By facing one another and desiring goodness for one another with a full heart, we get to bring a bit of Divine goodness into the world. Priests had to be and still should be partners with God to draw down goodness. Lots of people forget that in this present age all believers in God are all priests.

To bless one another is to increase the flow of love and compassion in the world. No wonder birkat kohanim is (perhaps) our oldest and most beloved prayer!

“And may God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and numerous, so that you become a host of peoples,”
(Genesis 28:3 TMC-E)

That you may go out into the world blessing others!

Be safe and take care of yourself and others,
Being blessed and blessing in the Name of God, so that the Name of the elohim be mentioned and He will come to you and bless you.

“Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.”
(Exodus 20:21 TMC-E)

 

+++

Related

  1. Blessing
  2. The Wise Father’s Possession
  3. Pray Faith Filled Solutions!
  4. Tuesday: Morning Prayer
  5. As to the Lord
  6. God Rejoices Over You!
  7. His Voice
  8. The Power of Blessing: 24 Word Blessing Birthed A Nation

New York Jewish Museum’s Discomfort with Religion

The Jewish Museum of New York her latest core exhibition reveals a distance from Judaism indistinguishable from disregard, embarrassment, and disdain.

Menachem Wecker’s essay on Scenes from the Collection, the latest permanent exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York, talks about the city’s venerable 115-year-old Jewish Museum. Its collection of about 30,000 objects makes this among the most important such institutions anywhere and, according to its website, one of the oldest remaining Jewish museums in the world.

Downstairs, at the museum’s outlet of Russ & Daughters café, customers devouring the herring, knishes, and blintzes are assured that everything on the — also venerable — menu is under kosher supervision.

But for him

Upstairs, however, is a different story. With its recent, ballyhooed revamping of its permanent exhibition, the museum has squandered a priceless opportunity to be the hub for contemporary Jewish conversation, education, and memory. In so doing, it has also departed drastically from its founding mission as a champion of Jewish culture and practice.

Wecker, a relatively young man, is in possession of a Jewish education that is probably atypical of most of the museum’s visitors. By contrast, the art historian who has served as the director of several museums, as Assistant Secretary for museums at the Smithsonian Institutions, and as director of the museum program at the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom L. Freudenheim is a senior citizen who according to his response at the exhibition, risks sounding like the character of the Grumpy Old Man played by Dana Carvey on the old Saturday Night Live — the kind who carries on about how much better things were in the past, and that’s the way we liked it.

He writes in the Jewish magazine Mosaic

In truth, though, I can’t say I really liked it better growing up in a world of Jews who still lowered their voices to whisper the word “Jewish” in restaurant conversations, or who swelled with unseemly pride when the 1950 recording by Pete Seeger and the Weavers of the Israeli folk song Tzena, Tzena, Tzena gave “us” temporary standing on the Hit Parade.

Nowadays, to judge by sources like the 2013 Pew survey, American Jews are less self-conscious about being Jewish. But are they, really? Could it be, instead, that their self-consciousness just runs in directions more in line with today’s rather than yesterday’s cultural norms? Wecker’s ruminations and strictures about the Jewish Museum’s “Jewish problem” — evidenced by its wildly overdone distancing of itself from any taint of “parochialism,” together with its marked condescension toward Judaism itself — invite speculation.

 

There is some history here. When the Jewish Museum first moved toward displaying contemporary art lacking any palpable connection to Jews or Judaism, it was partly following in the  footsteps of Karl Schwarz, the director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum: an institution that opened in 1933 around the same time that Hitler seized power and closed five years later after Kristallnacht. Schwarz’s idea, then quite original, was that, along with showcasing the “material culture” of the Jewish past — ritual objects, books, and other artifacts — a Jewish museum might legitimately start to pay attention to the work of living Jewish artists.

Two decades later in New York, with its transformational 1957 exhibition Artists of the New York School: Second Generation, the Jewish Museum both adopted Schwarz’s idea and went beyond it to include work by contemporary non-Jews and, as often as not, on non-Jewish themes. It thereby established a model that in one form or another continues to this day and that, to be fair, has resulted in a number of remarkable and occasionally even ground-breaking shows.

In doing so, the museum hardly escaped controversy or, especially, conflict with the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), its founding institution and proprietor. In 1947, as Wecker notes, with the opening of the museum in its then-new home on Fifth Avenue, JTS’s chancellor Louis Finkelstein defined its mission as the preservation and celebration of

“the singular beauty of Jewish life, as ordained in the laws of Moses, developed in the Talmud, and embellished in tradition.”

By the 1960s, it had become known instead, and with reason, mainly as an influential venue for the artistic avant-garde.

That transformation needed to be rationalized, and an argument for it was quickly developed. The new argument went like this:

Jews were a cosmopolitan people, interested by definition in a wide range of ideas and areas of cultural creativity both within and outside of the Jewish world.

Often adduced in this context was the example of Commentary magazine, founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee as a high-level forum of discussion of both Jewish and non-Jewish issues by writers and thinkers — what we now call “public intellectuals” — many but not all of whom were themselves Jews. Especially after Norman Podhoretz was appointed editor of Commentary in 1960, the magazine’s existence and success were invoked to justify JTS’s support for influential exhibitions at the Jewish Museum less and less related to the vision articulated in 1947 by Louis Finkelstein.

 

Such exhibitions flourished in the mid-1960s under the brief directorships of Alan Solomon and Sam Hunter, years that happened to coincide with my own tenure at the museum as a young curator, aspiring art historian, and ex-rabbinical student. Partly owing to the last-named credential, no doubt, I ended up being responsible for the “Jewish” parts of the museum, and soon became well-acquainted with its by-then considerable collections of Judaica of all kinds — collections that were then, and remain today, second only to the holdings of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

And this brings me back to Scenes from the Collection, so skillfully picked apart by Wecker. I concur with most of his criticisms of the exhibition’s substance. With regard to its presentation of, in particular, material related directly to Jewish religious traditions or values, he is certainly correct to point to the organizers’ shoddy scholarship and connoisseurship. I would only underline his point by stressing that museums thrive or wither not only on the visions of their directors but on the ideas, interests, ambitions, dreams, and scholarship of their curators. (Susan Braunstein, the museum’s longtime Judaica curator, retired some months ago and, although remaining on staff part-time in an emerita position, has yet to be replaced.)

As a counterexample to the latest “core” exhibition, Wecker writes with some enthusiasm about its 1990s predecessor, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, which indeed went far toward restoring the focus on the “Jewish” in Jewish Museum. I was never a great fan of that show for one simple reason: at its outset, visitors were invited to ask how Jews had survived for so many centuries and millennia, and were promised that the exhibition would answer that question. In fact, it’s sheer museological vanity to suggest that Jewish survival can be understood via Judaism’s material culture alone.

This stipulation aside, however, the conceptual premise of Culture and Continuity was solidly based: the Jewish Museum does indeed house any number of important works of Judaica — its field of specialty — that cannot be seen anywhere else. Indeed, the same principle underlies permanent exhibitions in most museums. Which is not to say that collections don’t also get temporarily rearranged to suit a curator’s creative idea, or some practical exigency. (For example, parts of the 17th-century Dutch collections in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are currently on view in a two-year special exhibition because of skylight renovations in the main galleries.) But that is secondary, not primary. Permanent exhibitions are all about the core: how, in the end, a museum identifies and presents itself.

 

Where does the Jewish Museum fit here? For me, the real scandal today is that a collection of such size, quality, and historical importance has been reduced from the museum’s main attraction to a resource only for special exhibitions like the airily named Scenes from the Collection. Evidently, in the museum’s current thinking, the core works in its collection are to be seen only in the context of thematic and temporary special exhibitions like this one, surrounded by works of tangential, or arbitrary, or opaque relevance. This rethinking, to put it bluntly, can only reflect a disdain for the museum’s core assets on the part of the institution’s leadership (both the staff and the trustees).

Among those core assets are not only the thousands of items in the collection but the self-understanding of Judaism itself. In his essay, Wecker raises serious questions about the attitude toward Judaism held by the museum’s leaders and stewards. Here, too, a larger cultural phenomenon may be seen at work: namely, a pervasive discomfort, or embarrassment, manifested by many art museums these days, when it comes to Western religion. For obvious reasons, Christianity is the prime example. To take the Met once again, but hardly the Met alone, the reigning but incorrect assumption appears to be that everyone knows the meaning of Christian devotional art, that everyone can readily identify saints by their visual attributes, and that everyone can “read” the allusions and symbols in paintings of the Madonna or the Crucifixion.

Of course that is not the case: many if not most Christians are as ignorant of their religious traditions as are most Jews. Why, then, the silence? After all, explication is available for “exotic” religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and so forth). Only with Christianity and, at the Jewish Museum, with Judaism is a fastidious distance observed — a distance indistinguishable from indifference or, again, discomfort, embarrassment, and disrespect. In each case, the result is an abdication of the opportunity and the responsibility to educate the public about some of the greatest and most important works of Western art.

Tom L. Freudenheim ends with saying

I’m a reasonably well-educated but not especially religiously observant Jew. Nevertheless, like many other Jews, I’m wholly unembarrassed to lay claim to my Jewishness, not only as a matter of ethnic pride but also in my being a legatee of a venerable and quite awesome religious tradition.

American Jews can rightly be proud of, among other things, the Jewish museums that their communities have developed and supported, and that have in turn served as models for other ethnic and group-based museums around the country. As Edward Rothstein, quoted by Wecker, has acutely observed, those many museums spawned by the Jewish example make a point of celebrating the unique traditions and values of their particular sponsoring groups. By contrast (with exceptions, like UC Berkeley’s Magnes Museum), Jews have deracinated their own museums to the point of flaunting not only an ignorance of the Jewish tradition but a disdain for it.

Menachem Wecker gives us example after example from Scenes from the Collection of the feckless and philistine lengths to which the Jewish Museum has gone in its dereliction from its elementary responsibility. Is it too much to propose that the accolades the museum so desperately craves from the art-world cognoscenti might be gained without totally reducing the “Jewish” in its name to the slim and increasingly fraying threads by which it remains connected to its tradition?

Sunday reflection . . . .But he who would be born again indeed,

Purplerays

‘Tis hard for man to rouse his spirit up–
It is the human creative agony,
Though but to hold the heart an empty cup,
Or tighten on the team the rigid rein.
Many will rather lie among the slain
Than creep through narrow ways the light to gain–
Than wake the will, and be born bitterly.

But he who would be born again indeed,
Must wake his soul unnumbered times a day,
And urge himself to life with holy greed;
Now ope his bosom to the Wind’s free play;
And now, with patience forceful, hard, lie still,
Submiss and ready to the making will,
Athirst and empty, for God’s breath to fill.

~ George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

Art: Meg White
Text & image source: _/_Peggy @ ECUMENICUS
https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicus/

View original post

Christian growth a team event

Staying True

I was recently reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Psalms when I came across this thought on Psalm 19:9,

‘The mark of a true bible student is a burning heart not a big head.’

The truth of this struck me instantly as did a sense of sadness at the many times I have got this wrong in my own experience in studying and sharing Bible truth. It is a timely reminder to me of the other old truth that we stop teaching the day after we stop learning. It also took me back to the words of Sir Isaac Newton when praised for his great learning he said,

‘I am like a small boy walking along a beach and turning over a stone here and there while the vast ocean of truth remains undiscovered before me.’

I am not discouraged by how little I know. I am in fact encouraged to grow in Christian understanding and living and to do my best to help others to grow along with me. Christian growth is a shared happening. We share the little we have discovered with each other and together we grow.

Christian growth is always a team event.

~ Alan Hermann

Love-Hate Relationship

I am probably exaggerating things a little, but only a little, when I say that there is a love-hate relationship developing between society at large and the church.

Whereas once the church helped society establish and find meaning in a Christian approach to morality we are now in a situation where increasingly society at large rejects Christian morality. Whereas thy church teaches love for our neighbour and endeavours, to the best of its ability, to model this, society is increasingly becoming ‘me’ centred
The church continues to put God at the centre of being but all too often society gives God no place in their life or decision making. As this antipathy to the church and its beliefs and values grows we in the church need to respond with a growing love for all people. The more we are rejected the more we love in response and reach out help in every way that we can. To paraphrase Scripture ‘they will know us by our love.’

When Jesus was attacked He responded with love, costly, sacrificial love. We can do no other. Those who malign us, misuse us, criticise our church and our faith are people for whom Jesus died and whom He loves. Let them encounter that sacrificial, caring love in us.

~ Alan Hermann

2019 A New Year of Prayer

Prayer is so simple. It’s like opening a door and slipping into the presence of God. It’s about having a conversation with Him, sharing our thoughts, our worries, our joys, our thankfulness.

So why do we (why do I) find it so difficult sometimes?

We know from Scripture that an active prayer life is essential to our spiritual health, as individuals and as a church, and the start of a new year seems like a good time to think about ways in which we can sharpen our focus on prayer together.

There’s a general feeling that since some ecclesiae stopped holding regular prayer meetings they have lost a bit of that focus. Though it is good to know that various suggestions were made by their Arranging Committees, looking for ways to develop the prayer life of their community, and one was that they would have a monthly prayer theme which they can centre their prayers around, both as an ecclesia and in their private prayers.

That requires someone to manage/lead/coordinate. But the first thing to say is that this is should always also a community initiative and, if it’s to be relevant and inspiring to everyone, the ideas, the input and the energy need to come from everyone,
young and old.

We at this site shall also some thoughts but you too may let us know how you think we can improve our prayer life, and also what, or who, you would like us to pray for, week on week.

Paul says in Colossians,

“Continue steadfast in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”,

and giving thanks in prayer is as important as petitioning. Our monthly themes should encompass both. One idea already suggested for a January theme is to remember those who are homeless. This is the worst time of the year to be on the streets, or to be a refugee without a home; news reports are telling us daily about migrants who are desperate enough to risk embarking on small boats to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world.

Over Christmas most of us have most been enjoying the warmth of food and family, so it would be a good time to thank God for those blessings and also to remember those who don’t possess such things, who are out in the cold, physically and metaphorically.

We can pray for COG, for the Food Bank and West Berkshire Homeless and the work we do with them; our praying should then prompt us to even more generous giving to those in need.

A monthly theme like this is a good start. As we focus more and more on prayer, who knows where else this will lead us? It’s an exciting prospect.

Matthew 6 10 (2).jpg

+++

Related

  1. Being Vulnerable.
  2. Banging On The Lifeless Door
  3. Conversation
  4. Making a Spiritual Connection
  5. A Simple Invitation: A Lesson Learned this Advent Season
  6. Not What I Expected
  7. The Listener
  8. One-on-one with God
  9. Are You Praying Too Much?
  10. When Should We Pray?

A truth to face often to do with time

A truth we all have to face is that the days pass by and that we are always limited by time. It is the ticking of the clock which may remind us that we have to take in account the time. Day and night bring us to face the reality of the day, where we have to make a distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception.

We may not forget that “Truth” is unalterable, eternal and unambiguous. Truth might be unrecognised, but it will not be changed. Truth applies to everything that God created, and only what God created or allows to exists is real and true. This is beyond learning because it is beyond time and beyond the limited awareness of processing thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Truth has no opposite; no beginning and no end. Truth is real, unchanging and it is the serene peace of faithfulness.

Manny may be looking for truth at the wrong place. We would like to know that the best place to find truth is the Bible.

As we come to the end of 2018 it is perhaps not bad to check how media distorted truth and how much we were confronted with fake news. True news shall be that we soon shall have to face an other year with again new steps to undertake. People should know that there is also the truth that time is starting to run out. Every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, we are getting closer to the moment of truth. Before it is so far, make sure you are ready. Come to know who is the way to God and how you should be ready for hard times to come.

Today we are still connected to the time, not able to escape it. We are not able to stay young and healthy. We are all confronted with difficulties in life and illnesses. And at a certain point in life we shall have to face it that we shall not be able to be under the living on this earth. We even shall not be able to stop the time when we die. Then our body shall decay to become dust and nothingness again.

The truth of life is that there is no nothingness. When you get drown in the idea of being a nothing or to live in a nothing, you are strangling yourself. Speak of nothing can bring to mind a sense of desolation and darkness, plus can bring you in a space where you feel the emptiness

Although we may describe times of our life interchangeably using nothingness or emptiness, they have different meanings for Christians.

We should not be afraid of the time passing, of empty moments, of scaring moments, of darkness coming over this world. By time we should come to see the signs of the times the book of books speaks so many times. We as Christians are to pour ourselves out in time, treasure, and talent and be ready for others to help them come through the times. When others are afraid of darkness or certain times coming we can show the the light in that darkness.

When at 24.00 hours today sounds the fireworks and light up the skies, we should be happy, because we know we received again one more year to be here on earth and to come closer to better times. And let us not forget, having time, it means also we have to consider our obligation brought by the time. Our responsibility to make the best out of time and to take up a responsible position in times to come. Are you aware of the content you are going to bring in time, this coming new year?

For the time being, we hope you had a nice 2018 and wish you all the best for 2019.

+

Concerning time, read: Coming to the end of 2018

+++

Related

  1. Now that autumn is over, winter is here
  2. A cogitative and brief interpretation concerning time
  3. Lose All That Importance
  4. Nothing Remains
  5. Ego, you go
  6. Nihilism – not waving, drowning.