Fox Byte 5775 #54: V’Zot Habrachah (This is the blessing)

וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה

BFB151003 Five Chinese BrothersEven superheroes have their weaknesses.  If it were not so, the stories about them would be over very quickly and would not be quite so interesting.  This is perhaps a reflection of our human condition.  No individual is complete within himself or herself.  We need one another to do things we cannot do for ourselves and to watch out for dangers hidden in our blind spots.  Together we survive and thrive, but separately we grow weak and perish.

Hopefully we learn this lesson in childhood.  Good children’s literature certainly upholds this principle, whether it is The Cat in the Hat helping bored children amuse themselves and then clean up the mess, or The Ugly Duckling finding unexpected help to teach him who he is.  So it is with The Five Chinese Brothers, a classic modern retelling of an ancient Chinese story.  In her 1938 version of the tale, Claire Huchet Bishop tells of five remarkable brothers who live with their mother near the sea.  Although they are identical, each brother has a unique ability.  One can swallow the sea, and thus is a highly successful fisherman.  The second brother has a neck as hard as iron, the third can stretch his legs to any length, the fourth is immune to fire, and the fifth can hold his breath as long as he desires.

One day the First Brother goes fishing in the company of a lad who had begged to go with him.  When the brother swallows the sea, the boy runs out to collect the treasures exposed on the now dry ground.  Before long the Brother grows tired and signals to the lad to return, but he ignores the signals and continues wandering along the seabed.  When the Brother must release the sea from his mouth, the waters cover the wayward boy.  In sadness the Brother returns home, where he is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by beheading.

Happily for the family, the execution never succeeds.  The First Brother has opportunity to go home and say farewell to his mother, but it is the Second Brother who returns.  His neck of iron turns the executioner’s blade, leading to a revised sentence of death by drowning.  The sequence repeats, with each Brother coming in to overcome successive sentences – the Third Brother’s long legs prevent drowning in the sea; the Fourth Brother’s resistance to fire defeats the flames of the execution stake; and the Fifth Brother survives an airless night in a sealed oven.  Having failed to execute the offender, and not realizing that his Brothers have taken his place each time, the judge proclaims him innocent.

How simple and how profound is the lesson from this children’s tale.  Brothers need one another, each contributing of his abilities to do his essential part in bringing peace and long life to the family and to the nation.  That is just as King David said:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.  (Psalm 133:1-3 NASB)

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part VIII

Walking Through The Open Gate

The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God's promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.  The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) is only now beginning to open.  (Ezekiel's Vision, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)
The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God’s promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) has remained closed until now. (Ezekiel’s Vision, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)

An Enduring Standard

We see from Scripture that the Creator’s processes are lengthy, thorough, and often completely different from what humans desire or expect.  This should not be a surprise.  YHVH says quite plainly that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Nevertheless, He does tell us what we need to know, and He reveals things at the appointed times to those who bother to seek Him.  What we often learn is that the answer has been there all along, but we have never understood it correctly until the right time and until we approach with the right heart.  When it comes to the purpose of the Lord’s processes regarding His people Israel, the answer has been staring at us for about 3,000 years.  He spoke it through Moses to prepare the people for their first great meeting with Him at Sinai:

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.  When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.  Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:  You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.  Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”  (Exodus 19:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)

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Fox Byte 5775 #3: Lech Lecha (Get Yourself)

לֶךְ־לְךָ

The Man in the Iron Mask (l'illustration Européenne 1872, no.15 page 116, via Wikimedia Commons.)
The Man in the Iron Mask (l’illustration Européenne 1872, no.15 page 116, via Wikimedia Commons)

It is quite possible that the greatest literary accomplishment of the year 1844 was the publication of The Three Musketeers.  The swashbuckling adventures of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan penned by Alexandre Dumas have delighted readers and audiences ever since, inspiring dozens of stage and film adaptations.  Not quite so popular is the trilogy Dumas published as a sequel, which concluded with The Man In The Iron Mask.  The story has been told in film, with such notables as Richard Chamberlain and Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, but it does not come close in popularity to its predecessor.  Perhaps the subject matter is the cause.  The tale concerns a man sentenced to life in prison behind a mask so that no one may know his identity.  Dumas based his novel on an intriguing footnote of French history, but with much literary license.  The mysterious man in Dumas’ story was Philippe, twin brother of King Louis XIV of France.  As the king’s identical twin his very existence posed a threat to Louis.  Therefore he was doomed by royal decree to live out his life anonymously behind a mask.  This Baroque version of identity theft constitutes a fate worse than death.  Not only is the man denied his rights as a member of the royal house, his very personhood is stripped from him, so that in time even he forgets who he is.  No wonder The Man In The Iron Mask is so disturbing; this prince of the royal house suffers a fate none of us would ever wish to share.

And yet most Christians and Jews labor under precisely such an identity disability.  We have all forgotten who we really are.

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