Israel 2016: Family In Twelve Languages – The Conclusion of the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress
In some ways the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress was actually the Second First B’ney Yosef National Congress. This emerging people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) is still a long way from transacting business as one would expect from cohesive people groups such as the Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Lakota, Navajo, or Ibo. We still have much to discover about ourselves and much historical division to overcome before we can speak with a unified voice. Nevertheless, the seeds have been sown, both in the First Congress and in this Second Congress. The fruit is not yet ready, but it is becoming recognizable as fruit, and that in itself is a major step forward.
My earlier report on the first half of the Congress (see Picking Up Where We Left Off: A Report on the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress) covered most of the formal business on the schedule. When we arrived at Shabbat on the evening of Friday, October 28, we had already heard from visionaries and scholars such as Iris Bouwman, Ron Campbell, and Ephraim Frank. They focused us on:
- Our identity as the returning children of Yosef/Ephraim
- Our hope in restoration by YHVH and reunification with our brethren of Judah
- Our responsibilities in moving with the Almighty as He directs and empowers this process.
What happened over the next two days did not bring anything new or different, but instead imparted greater depth to what we had already heard and shared.
The formal meetings on Shabbat did not commence until late in the afternoon. As with any such gathering, the real business took place not in the formal presentations, but in the quiet conversations among two or three huddled in the common room, or sitting at table for a meal. It seemed that these informal meetings took on a heightened importance during and after Shabbat. After breakfast, many delegates gathered to read the Torah portion Beresheet (In the Beginning), another simple activity which enhanced the bonding already taking place among these diverse Ephraimites from so many different places and cultures. Others who did not participate in the Torah reading continued in quiet relationship-building conversation, or in private prayer and Bible study. All partook of considerable rest during the day, the feature of Shabbat which has become precious to us all.
As Shabbat drew to a close, Dorothy and Tommy Wilson from the United States shared insights from the Torah portion. As they discussed the Creator’s intent behind the distinct yet complementary roles of men and women, they observed that the creation of the man and woman in Genesis 2 was a picture of the Two Houses of Israel. The man was complete in himself, containing both the male and female expressions of the Creator. However, to bring that completeness to a higher level of perfection, YHVH took the woman from the man’s side, thus creating two beings who were one flesh. At some point, when time is finished and the Bridegroom returns, the two will be made one in a new, or renewed, way, bringing even greater glory to the Creator and more understanding, awe, and love of Him to His human creations.
Is this not similar to what happened to Israel? The nation was complete, containing within it the Two Houses of Judah and Joseph. However, it was divided so that the two could express different aspects of the Almighty to each other and to the world. Their restoration and reunification will add to the glory of the King in new and greater ways, just as the prophets have foretold.
The Wilsons concluded their teaching with an invitation for everyone present to take active steps toward strengthening relationships with those close to them. Many responded, bringing a deeply moving time of reflection, reconciliation, and restoration not only among married couples, but across generations with parents and children, and among the single, widowed, and divorced. Coming at the end of Shabbat, this reflective time prepared the stage for an evening of worship. The worship began with another presentation in movement by Caroline Andreas of the Dutch dance team Mahanaim (Two Camps), and ended with an energetic Davidic dance circle featuring many young and young-at-heart dancers.
Worship continued the next morning, preceding the final formal presentation of the Congress. In addressing the question, “How does a global family walk as one?”, Pete Rambo of the United States explored the differences among Ephraimites worldwide. He reviewed the history of division and conflict which have been the result of these differences, and issued a call for unity in our diversity as we humbly seek to serve rather than dominate one another. Americans, for example, have a reputation for dominating any situation, leading to the perception of them as arrogant. Speaking as an American and one of the leaders of B’ney Yosef North America, Pete offered an apology for this arrogance. Although the Americans associated with the Congress and with BYNA had no intention of dominating the global B’ney Yosef awakening, he recognized that the words and actions of American Ephraimites have been interpreted as arrogant. That perception has hindered the ability of Americans to connect and work with brethren around the world.
Americans are not the only Ephraimites dealing with this phenomenon. Historical differences between nations and people groups continue to plague the emergence of a common Ephraimite identity. Pete suggested that the way to overcome this would be to see one another first as Ephraimites rather than as Americans or Europeans or Australians, seeking to build relationships rather than organizations. Nevertheless, a degree of organization is necessary, just as it was in the days of the First Exodus, when Moses and Aaron worked through existing Hebrew authority structures of family, clan, and tribal elders. The shape of these structures will be different in each country and continent since the circumstances in each are different. The structural differences, however, should not be a hindrance to cooperation among Ephraimites as we journey together on this path of becoming a people as the scriptures have promised (Hosea 1:10; John 1:12-13; Romans 9:25, 10:19; I Peter 2:9-10).
This presentation opened the way for discussions among the delegates about the prejudices and other differences which have separated us in the past, how to overcome those differences, and how the strengths and weaknesses of the nations and cultures into which they have been born could weave together to build a common Ephraimite identity. The fruit of those discussions and of the entire Congress was apparent in the comments of delegates who shared their thoughts and observations during the open forum which marked the end of the proceedings. As the Congress closed, it seemed that the delegates had made significant strides toward becoming a global family.
The progress toward mispocha (family) in this Second Congress is not measured in resolutions, declarations, or any organizational structure. It is measured in something less visible, yet far stronger: in the intangible relationship-building process that was evident at every step. Those who had been present at the First Congress led the way in quickly renewing old friendships and establishing new ones. The spirit of the Congress embraced newcomers with open arms, welcoming their input to the proceedings. The friendships thus created transcended national, cultural, and linguistic barriers in ways that are hard to describe. They transcended generational differences as well, thanks to the presence of many youth and young adults representing the next generation. Their eager participation imparted considerable vigor to the gathering, both in their questions and comments at the discussion tables, and in their boundless energy in the dance circles. Their presence completed the picture of mispocha we hoped to envision and now joyfully labor to achieve.
My personal experience is one illustration of our emerging Ephraimite mispocha. It was a surprise and delight to connect with Swedish and Dutch brothers over discussion of a chess match; with Australians in our mutual admiration of the ANZAC soldiers who opened the way for liberation of Jerusalem at the Battle of Beersheba in 1917; and with a German sister in our common appreciation of her hometown of Heidelberg. At our discussion table, Dutch, American, Swedish, Swiss, and Canadian participants freely shared their observations about the journey into Torah with Messiah Yeshua, and from there to this expanding consciousness of our identity as Hebrews. Yet the most memorable connection for me was with Heinz Suter of Switzerland. Our conversations early in the Congress revealed shared experiences, but it was not until the worship time on Saturday evening that I realized we shared a deeper personal connection. As the international worship team led us in song, Heinz took out his harmonica and began playing along with them. What I remember most vividly was his accompaniment of “How Great Thou Art”, an old hymn that was a favorite of my grandfather. My grandfather also played the harmonica, and when he passed from this life, his harmonica came into my possession.
Seeing Heinz play the same instrument to the same beloved song sealed the revelation of what I had been learning not only at the Congress, but in my interaction with Jewish Israelis throughout our time in Israel: the things which we share in common are far greater than the issues which divide us. It is up to us which we choose to emphasize – the differences, or the common bonds. Our choices determine whether this Ephraimite people will emerge as the restored House of Joseph, or will remain nothing more than the lost potential of dry bones.