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Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 2

October 2006.......Tishrei 5767

Solomon's Prayer

King Solomon built God's Temple - the only temple dedicated to HaShem - in Jerusalem. Today a Muslim shrine occupies the site. Before that, when the Crusaders held Jerusalem, they turned the site into a garbage dump. Before the Crusaders, the Romans held the city. They built a temple to their chief god, Jupiter (also known as Zeus), atop the Temple Mount.

Romans, Crusaders and Muslims, they all wanted to convey the message that they were God's favorites - that they were the true heirs of Solomon. They all wanted to demonstrate that the cause of Israel in the world was kaput.

What is the mission of Israel? Solomon described it as follows. See the Bible, I Kings, starting at 8:59.

This passage is part of what all observant Israel reads, based on the anciently decreed regular schedule of readings, on the last day of the holiday of sukkot. The Bible calls this day shemini atzeret, the Eighth Day of Assembly (Numbers 29:35). This year it comes up on the sabbath, shabbot, October 14th.

At the dedication of the Temple, 2,833 years ago this month, Solomon prayed before the congregation. He speaks of God, to God, asking:

"That He maintain the cause of His servant [Solomon, son of David] and the cause of His people Israel, every day as necessary, that all the peoples of the earth may know that HaShem, He is God: there is none else." 

That's it. That's the mission of Israel. That's the Plan. 

It calls for tremendous human effort. Once people realize that God is God, they will believe in Him. They will want and try to please HIm. They will study up on Him. They will learn His ways and how to serve Him better. They will do all they can to advance His cause in the world. (They will share Israel's mission with Israel.)



Where Next?

God will redeem the world only after enlightened Gentiles start actively participating in the process. When the Bible's prophets speak about world redemption they speak of Gentiles, Noahides, doing amazing things. These Gentiles shall join the Jewish people, not as converts but as co-religionists - as members in good standing of the same family of faith.

Isaiah speaks of them literally carrying the people of Israel on their shoulders (49:22). They will help the people of Israel be Israel. Because without such help from these righteous people, God won't redeem Israel, or any other nation either.

After last month's newsletter, people asked for more specifics. Please tell us how, on a here and now basis, to encourage Israel to be Israel.  That is, beyond "standing with Israel against millions of armed, goose-stepping Muslims who howl "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." Specifically, how can Noahides help lead Jewish people back to their Bible and their God? By encouraging them to be more religious in our daily interactions with them, when we observe them being irreligious?  To convey our belief and conviction in their special mission?  Or something more than that?

Noahides can help Israel be Israel by conveying belief in God and the Bible. They can do this by treating them both with the respect that they deserve. Don't take them for granted. Cherish them both. Take the respect that people have for you and try to direct it to God, HaShem. 

One can also honor God by pointing out that HaShem does not contradict Himself. Quoting from Rainbow Covenant, many people subscribe to the idea that God does contradict Himself - that one or more of the 48 latter prophets of the Bible after Aaron and Moses have somehow nullified, invalidated or set aside all or most of the Teaching of Sinai, the Torah.

Or again (demonstrating Rainbow Covenant's pattern of complicated sentence structures): People often expect too much from the 48 biblical prophets who came after Moses - like a major theological revelation completely independent of and contrary to Moses' Torah from Sinai!




A Noahide lady in Germany, who has read Rainbow Covenant, has been translating portions of the First Covenant website into German. She emphasizes the importance of prayer.

You may perhaps consider dedicating some space to prayers on your website. People will love them more than the political comments. The Jewish prayers I have seen are beautiful beyond description. People will flock to them and love them. Especially since they in no way contradict, let's say, the Christian faith.

[She continued:] To pray for the people of Israel is far from being ethnocentric. Israel ultimately stands for the 1st Commandment ["I am HaShem your God" - Exodus 20] and can be criticized only to the extent to which she falls short of her mission. If she were not surrounded by jealous fiends who hate mankind in general and Israel in particular, she would, given her unique background and mission, be a society which is heads and shoulders above the rest of the world. This fact could be easily documented without even resorting to theology. The insights of sociology and psychology alone suffice to prove it.

So be it. Part of the value of Israel's prayers is educational. They teach one about God, about His greatness and about our relation to Him. They teach constant mindfulness of God. (They also unite believers in a timeless communion.)

Observant Israel recites the following prayer, a blessing, after enjoying many ordinary foods or beverages. It's known as Borei Nefashos, or Creator of Living Beings.



Creator of Living Beings

Blessed are you, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, Who creates numerous living beings with their wants, for all that You have created with which to maintain the life of each of them. Blessed be He, Who gives life to all worlds.

Incidentally, a little more information: one doesn't say amen - "so be it" - to one's own blessing. If another person recites the blessing, one affirms the blessing by saying amen.This is a very good  thing to do.

HaShem simply means The Name. No Jewish person uses that word in prayer. One concentrates on Who stands behind The Name. That's the Lord, or, in the Hebrew that Israel uses, A-d-o-n-o-i, My Lord.

One more thing: God teaches us to thank Him for sustenance after imbibing it. To say "grace" before eating or drinking something isn't a statute of the Written Torah but a rabbinic decree. One should say a blessing both before and after.



Who Feeds the Whole World   

Moses taught Israel this prayer. It's the first of the four blessings that Israel prays after eating a full meal. May the day come soon when this prayer becomes everyone's:

We bless You, HaShem our God, King of the whole world, Who feeds the entire world in His goodness - with love, kindness and mercy. He gives food to all flesh, because His kindness endures forever. Because of His great goodness, we have never lacked food: may He never let us lack food, forever. Why do we ask this? - so that we can praise His Great Name, because He is God, Who feeds and supports everyone, and does good to everyone, and Who prepares nourishment for all His creatures which He has created. We bless You, HaShem, Who feeds everyone. (Amen)



The Hertz Torah

Another suggestion. After the last newsletter, several people who wrote in got advice to this effect: get yourself a copy of the Hertz edition of The Pentateuch and Haftorahs. It's also called the Hertz Torah, or the Hertz chumash (the Five Books of Moses).

This volume, published by Soncino, is the old standard Hebrew-English edition of the Torah. It was used by synagogues across the English-speaking world. The notes and commentary by the late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, J.H. Hertz (of blessed memory), are terrific. Our dear colleague, Rabbi Michael Katz, and many other rabbis prefer other commentaries. Nevertheless, this volume was designed to be used not just by Jewish people but by everyone literate in English. 

Try reading it along with Israel, starting at Genesis - according to the regular cycle of readings followed by Israel. The next cycle begins now, basically: Israel finishes the last passages of Deuteronomy and starts Genesis on the holiday, simchas torah, or Torah Joy - at the end of sukkot, on the weekend of October 15th. 

Read the Hertz notes and commentaries and not just the English translation.  While it's decidedly out-of-fashion - one might say that it's too right-wing for Jewish people on the left today and too left-wing for the right - it's still a classic work of Torah.

One writer who received this advice about the Hertz some time earlier commented, "As for me, my ultimate companion is the Hertz Pentateuch, which I owe to your suggestion."



Love and Redemption

And you shall love HaShem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

"With all your might," writes Maimonides, "includes an obligation to call upon all humankind to serve Him (exalted be He), and to have faith in Him. For just as you praise and extol anybody whom you love, and call upon others also to love him, so, if you love HaShem . . . you will undoubtedly call upon [others] to seek knowledge of the Truth which you have acquired." (Maimonides, Book of the Commandments).

What is the right kind of love?

Maimonides teaches: "One should love God like a lovesick lover." (Mishneh Torah)

That's the love that will redeem our world.



We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name. Amen

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