Checking Out to Check In: A Review of The Hope Merchant, by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz

bfb161227-the-hope-merchantSocial commentary is perilous.  Since those who engage in it usually have an axe to grind, they too easily succumb to bitterly cynical sarcasm, or pitifully ridiculous absurdity.  On occasion an angry social critic will get it right and inspire generations with profound observations of civilization’s problems – regardless whether his or her prescriptions for fixing those problems have any chance of working out as intended.  But for the most part, this kind of social commentary serves only to make people more angry without really addressing the root problem.

The key to successful social commentary is to turn it into fiction.  That way the cynicism, ridicule, and anger get channeled into something constructive and lasting.  If done properly, the targets of the most bitter epithets will be laughing or crying so hard that they will never know they have been lampooned.  That is why such classics as Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, and Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan remain with us today.

Adam Berkowitz has made a great start at entering such august company thanks to his first novel, The Hope Merchant.  Usually a novel introduces the protagonist in the first few pages and follows him or her closely to the end.  Berkowitz does that, but in a delightfully twisted way.  The Hope Merchant is Theo S. Meyer, someone we would not expect at first to be the center of attention in a literary work.  He is the awkward young teenager on his parents’ dairy farm; the one no one notices, but who seems to come up with just the right word at the right time to address something painful – even a pain that reaches far down into the soul.

The reason we take no immediate notice of Theo is because our focus is on one of his first customers:  an over-aggressive young corporate attorney named Jack.  An odd series of events brings Jack to sojourn on the Meyer farm, and there he is transformed by Theo’s magic.  Well, perhaps we could call it magic.  We never really know how Theo and Big Brad, the Inuit farm hand who trained him in the ways of native medicine, bend events to create precisely the situations required to help people help themselves, but that is the pattern throughout the book.

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“We are all Jews” – How One Man’s Gentle Christian Faith Saved Jewish GIs from Nazi Death Camps

The Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.
The Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.

A lifetime ago, American fighting men experienced one of the most humiliating defeats an army can endure.

A lifetime ago, American fighting men gained one of the greatest victories in the history of arms.

What is the proper view of the Battle of the Bulge – military disaster, or glorious triumph?  Both are correct in some fashion, but each by itself is incomplete.  By the time the great battle drew to a close, the heroic defense of Bastogne by the 101st Airborne Division had already become the stuff of legend.  Second only to that was the astounding winter counteroffensive by General George Patton’s 3rd Army.  The exploits of men and women who were just doing their duty dealt a crushing blow to Germany’s warmaking ability.

Yet the heights of these great deeds cannot be appreciated apart from the depths of defeat suffered by the United States Army in the early days of the battle.  When the German attack began on December 16, 1944, the troops thinly spread across Belgium and Luxembourg had little warning, and little chance of standing firm against Hitler’s last great offensive in the West.

I first learned of the Battle of the Bulge as a child, when it was still a vivid memory to veterans who fought through it.  Yet it was not until I had been a soldier for many years that I finally read Charles MacDonald’s A Time for Trumpets, a comprehensive account of the Bulge.  That was where I learned how serious the situation had been.

Insignia of the 106th Infantry Division, United States Army
Insignia of the 106th Infantry Division, United States Army

Nothing conveyed that lesson more vividly than the story of the 106th Infantry Division.  Newly assigned to the sector, the men had hardly become familiar with the terrain of the Schnee Eifel in Belgium when they were pressed to defend it.  The task proved beyond them; after two days the 106th was encircled and quite literally cut to pieces.  Most of those who had survived the initial onslaught surrendered on December 19, including the bulk of the 442nd and 443rd Infantry Regiments.  From that point on, the 106th ceased to exist as an effective fighting force.

Such clinical descriptions say nothing of the horrendous human cost.  One statistic helps put it in perspective.  The 442nd Infantry Regiment began the battle on December 16 with nearly 1,000 men.  Less than a week later, only 79 of them had eluded death or capture.

Since learning the battlefield story of the 106th Division, I have given the unit little thought.  They were, after all, the losers; the unfortunate sacrifices to the gods of war.  It is not that they were poor soldiers or cowards, but that they just happened to be in the way when forces beyond their ability fell upon them.  As I studied the battle, the soldier in me took note of the loss, but quickly went on to assess the mission still at hand, the resources left to accomplish it, and the best way to apply those resources to achieve success.  The men of the 106th Division became for me just another footnote in history.

Until now. 

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Israel 2016: The Kind Face in the Hijab

For three consecutive days in this Holy Land called Israel I have become acquainted with the immense progress of YHVH’s Kingdom plans.  Over that same period I have become acquainted with how utterly inadequate I am in this process.

Inadequate?  Yes.  Indispensable?  No. 

Jerusalem's Light Rail, venue for more miracles than can one might expect.
Jerusalem’s Light Rail, venue for more miracles than one might expect.

Moses, by his own confession, was inadequate, and the Almighty did not deny his protests.  Yet no one would argue that Moses was indispensable in the process of bringing our ancient people out of Egypt in the First Exodus.  So am I no less indispensable to this process of bringing home the rest of YHVH’s covenant people.

The truth is that everyone is indispensable.  Each man, woman, and child who steps up to the high calling of bringing tangible reality to the Creator’s Kingdom is indispensable.  Each one who shirks that call diminishes the Kingdom in ways that at the moment only the angels know – and weep over.

As I am learning, this is not simply a Christian kingdom, nor a Jewish kingdom, nor a Messianic or Hebrew Roots kingdom, but the Commonwealth of Israel instituted by Holy God.  His revelation comes in multiple pieces and levels and ways.  It comes to Jews, Christians, Hebraic believers in Yeshua, and many others we may not now recognize as fellow Israelites.  It is bigger than we think, but its glory wanes when we think we have it figured out and insist that others endorse our singular view of it.

It is a miraculous Kingdom.  Perhaps not the miraculous that we may expect, such as oceans dividing to make a dry path, or mountains crumbling, or masses of sick people instantly healed.  Those miracles have, do now, and will occur.  Yet the miracles all around us are hardly recognized as such today.  I lived through one a few nights ago, when ten of us Hebrew believers of Christian backgrounds shared a fine supper in the Orthodox Jewish sukka of my new friend Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.  

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A Yom Kippur Repentance From a Devout Non-Jew and My Jewish Response – Israel News

The Reconciliation Statute, St. Michael's Cathedral, Coventry, England.
The Reconciliation Statute, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England.

Many people realized the significance of Ken Rank’s letter to the Jewish people when he published it last week.  We have only begun to see the impact of it.  Within a few short days it appeared as a guest blog piece in The Times of Israel, and today Breaking Israel News published it along with a deeply moving response by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.

In years to come, when our God has completed His work of bringing together the fragmented parts of His people, these two letters by Ken and Eliyahu will be counted as major milestones in the process of breaking down the wall between those of us from the Christian side and our brethren from the Jewish side.

Source: A Yom Kippur Repentance From a Devout Non-Jew and My Jewish Response – Israel News


A Yom Kippur Repentance From a Devout Non-Jews and My Jewish Response

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz
October 11, 2016 
Originally published on Breaking Israel News

I received this letter from Ken Rank last week.  Rank founded United 2 Restore in order to bring Jews and Christians, or as he prefers to describe it, Judah and Ephraim closer together, in order to “re-build bridges of communication which have been previously burned”.  He sent me this letter as part of his personal teshuvah (repentance) for Yom Kippur.  My response to him was sincere, and I intend for it to be a part of my Yom Kippur prayers.

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Radio Station Announces Arrival of Messiah in Jerusalem – Breaking Israel News

Yes, this is a real headline from Breaking Israel News.  But no, Messiah has not actually arrived.  As Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz reports, this was “a clever studio creation, and not an actual news report.”  In that sense, it was much like Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio drama, War of the Worlds, which frightened Americans with “news” of a Martian invasion of the planet.  In this modern Israeli equivalent, the supposed report from the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem featured excited Jewish crowds welcoming the long-awaited Messiah at the end of Tisha b’Av, the fast of the 9th of Av which marks the destruction of both Hebrew Temples.

This is one of two significant reports Berkowitz has published this week.  The other article bears the headline, “Is It Time to Reestablish the Davidic Kingdom in Israel?”   It relates the verified existence of hundreds of descendants of King David, many of whom trace their family origins back to Aleppo, Syria – a city much in the news today as a central battleground of that troubled country’s civil war.  The question the article poses is serious, although it is not getting much attention in Israeli governmental and rabbinical circles for what should be obvious reasons.  After all, who would want to relinquish their governmental and religious power to a descendant from a monarchy that has not held any power for 2,500 years?

Except that that is precisely what is to happen, according to the Bible.

What Eliyahu Berkowitz has done with these two articles is highlight the growing interest among religious Jews in the prophecies of Messiah’s coming and the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom.  There are, of course, some very important differences in the Messianic expectations of Jews and those of Christians and Messianic/Hebrew Roots believers.  What we share in common is that we all expect the Messianic Kingdom to be ruled by the Son of David, but is this Son of David a physical or a spiritual descendant of the great king?  And who or what exactly is Messiah anyway?  

It is a great encouragement and a monumental sign of the times to learn of the excitement building in many of our Jewish brethren about Messiah’s imminent coming – and it is imperative that we begin talking with one another to communicate our different expectations.  This “Messianic expectation management” is essential, not only so that we can understand one another, but also so that we can help each other guard against the deceptions that surely will come at this culmination YHVH’s great redemptive plan.

BFB160818 Shofar at KotelOn Saturday night, a broadcast radio station from Jerusalem interrupted its regular programming for a special newsflash: the Messiah had arrived.  )(Source: Radio Station Announces Arrival of Messiah in Jerusalem – Breaking Israel News)

 

BFB160818 King DavidHundreds of descendants of King David are alive today, with verifiable family trees dating back 90 generations. Could the Davidic Dynasty be reestablished?  (Source: Is It Time to Reestablish the Davidic Kingdom in Israel? – Breaking Israel News)


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.