Archive for October, 2008

The Witch of Endor

October 31, 2008

It seems almost like a Halloween story.


King Saul was so preoccupied with his rival David, that he neglected the growing Philistine threat to Israel. Meanwhile, the Philistines marched with their chariots into the Jezreel Valley (Hebrew:
עמק יזרעאל, Emek Yizrael). The spacious, fertile valley spreads out to the north and east from Mount Carmel. Its largest settlement in modern Israel is the city of Afula (Hebrew: עפולה), also known as the “Capital of the Valley” (בירת העמק)

But to come back to our story, King Saul was now cut off from the northern tribes by the Philistines. When Saul saw the Philistine army he was so afraid that his heart “greatly trembled.” In other words, his heart was gripped with fear. But when he consulted G-d, he didn’t get an answer. The prophet Samuel was dead. No encouraging word would come from the L-rd.

So Saul sought out a medium to foretell him the outcome of his battle with the Philistines. G-d had commanded Saul to expel from Israel all those who told the future by communicating with the dead or with a demonic spirit. However at Endor – between Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh – there lived a woman who had escaped the purges.

 

The Torah explicitlyforbids any kind of attempts to contact the dead or any kind of prayers to the dead. (Devarim 18:9-15) The Torah forbids it because it goes against the ethical and spiritual foundations of the Torah. G-d is not affected by such behavior because G-d cannot be manipulated. 

 

But Saul disguised himself and traveled under the cover of darkness to Endor to consult a fortune teller. Assuring her that she would not be punished for practicing her forbidden profession, he requested that she bring up Samuel from the dead. The witch carried out Saul’s instructions, but rather than using the tricks of her trade to deceive Saul, she herself was shocked to see an old man appear, whom Saul identified as Samuel!

Some have suggested that the appearance of Samuel was psychological – in the mind of Saul. However, the woman also saw Samuel, and Saul actually talked with Samuel. Some held the view that a demon impersonated Samuel and appeared to Saul. But the message in (1 Samuel 28:16-19) would have hardly come from a demon. Still others concluded that the medium was a fraud and tricked Saul into thinking that he saw Samuel. Yet the medium was surprised herself by Samuel’s appearance and that would not have been the case if it were a contrived trick. – The traditional rabbinical view is that these verses record a genuine appearance of Samuel that G-d Himself brought about.

Samuel reminded Saul that the kingdom had been taken from him because of his disobedience in the Amalekite war, and then predicted Israel’s defeat and the deaths of Saul and his sons at the hands of the Philistines. Samuel never answered Saul’s question, “What should I do?” There was nothing that could be done. Because of his disobedience, his fate was sealed. – Judgment was imminent and certain. All that had been Saul’s as king would soon be lost because of his rebellion and contempt for God’s will. Saul, who appeared to be full of promise as a young man, ended his own life in disgrace. The great failure of Saul as king was his lack of obedience to the will and Word of G-d.


Why did I say this seems almost like a Halloween story?

 

Because on the surface Halloween appears to be a harmless celebration defined by costumes, candy, pumpkins, and other fun family traditions. But Halloween has a dark side to it.


Some trace the origins of present day “trick-or-treat” to Samhain, which was the supreme night of demonic jubilation. Spirits of the dead would rise out of their graves and wander the countryside, trying to return to the homes where they formerly lived. Frightened villagers tried to appease these wandering spirits by offering them gifts of fruit and nuts. They began the tradition of placing plates of the finest food and bits of treats that the household had to offer on their doorsteps, as gifts, to appease the hunger of the ghostly wanderers. Pumpkins were cut with faces representing demons that were originally intended to frighten away evil spirits.

 

To witches, Halloween is a festival of the dead, and represents the end and the beginning of the witches year. It marks the beginning of the death and destruction associated with winter. At this time the power of the underworld is unleashed, and spirits are supposedly freed to roam about the earth; it is considered the best time to contact spirits (www.witchway.net).

Yet we dress our children up as witches, ghosts and sorcerers. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, costume parties, visiting haunted houses, carving jack-o-lanterns, watching horror movies or reading scary stories. Maybe we should read our children the story of the Witch of Endor instead?

 

 

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Communism is coming to America

October 30, 2008

Rain in Zfat

October 26, 2008

Today we were in Zfat. It is the highest city in Israel (2608 feet above sea level), nestled in the Upper Galilee mountains, peering down on the Sea of Galilee, and lying about 15 km south of the Lebanese border.

Almost all of Tzfat is built in a circular fashion on a hilltop. The old part of town consists of narrow twisted streets revealing artists’ galleries, medieval synagogues, private homes and small guest houses. I saw an Artists Colony, where a lot of painters, sculptors, pencil artists live and work. There were a lot of architectural monuments, picture galleries and the Printing Press Museum. But wherever we went, it was either uphill or downhill.

On the end of the festival of Sukkot, Israelis begin mentioning in their daily prayers that G-d is the One who “makes the wind blow and the rain descend.” – These prayers must have been heard, because today it was even thundering and rain fell. We got wet sitting on a covered bench, waiting for the bus.

Israel relies very much upon winter rain in the mountains in the north, as there is little rain elsewhere in the country. The scattered thunderstorms in the north are the first heavy rains of the season and have not come too soon for the dry country, which has suffered four straight years of below-average precipitation. The extended drought has left the country’s water resources seriously depleted.

Most of the Galilee consists of rocky terrain, at heights of between 500 and 700 meters. The rain that falls in the mountains by Zfat, runs downhill toward Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee.) The Kinneret has dropped a whopping 5.41 meters (18 feet) and is 1.24 meters under the “red line,” which serves as warning that lower levels will endanger the quality of water and the ability to continue pumping. Because of this the underground aquifer system is in danger of salinization.

Long-term forecasts for the winter are mixed. European models indicate that Israel will suffer a lack of rain for a fifth year, but American weather models suggest a wetter-than-usual winter. – That tells me that scientists today have no clue what the weather is going to do.

We live in interesting times. Soon we have an American election, and now we will also have an election in Israel.

From Israel with love – Lilo

In G-D We Trust

October 25, 2008

A few weeks ago we flew with Iceland Air over Reykjavík on our way to Europe. A week later we heard on the news that Iceland was bankrupt. I know that people go bankrupt all the time and companies do, too. But it can happen to an entire country also. – Yet Iceland’s government shut down the stock market and seized control of its last major independent bank. That brought trading in the country’s currency to a halt, as foreign banks were no longer willing to accept the Icelandic Krona.

“Iceland is bankrupt,” said Arsaell Valfells, a professor at the University of Iceland. “The Icelandic Krona is history. The IMF has to come and rescue us.”

The IMF managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said in Washington that he had activated an emergency funding system, last used during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990’s, to help countries in crisis. This has happened of course before, but in places like Argentina and Thailand, and never in a country so close to Europe.

Iceland is raked by icy North Atlantic winds and dotted with volcanoes and geysers. Its inhabitants now not only live with the threat of earthquakes and maritime disasters, but also with the new fear of losing all of their money.

We live in an hour in the earth that the Bible speaks of as the “last days.” Many of the prophets of G-D are predicting times of trouble and tribulation for our world today. This is certainly a description of our present world. One of the greatest fears people are fighting today is fear of financial loss and fear of the future.

Just this Friday stock markets around the world plummeted and oil prices plunged to their lowest in more than a year. Even gold, the traditional safe haven in times of panic, fell sharply. According to Associated Press Writers, Patrick Rizzo and Ellen Simon:” The common denominator was growing fears that governments, central banks and finance ministers seem powerless to stop the deepening of a global recession that will slam corporate earnings and lead to deep job losses around the world.”
“This is beyond volatile: It is chaotic,” Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics wrote in note to clients.

On March 10, 1862 the first United States paper money was issued. The denominations were $5, $10, and $20. They became legal tender by Act of March 17, 1862. The inclusion of “In God We Trust” on all currency was required by law in 1955.

This inclusion is not such a bad idea after all. Since you can’t trust your bank today, the only safe place for any of us is to stay in the will of God!

Psalm 91:15-16: “He will call on me, and I will answer him: I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him honor. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”