A remarkable thing happened seventeen months ago, when the First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened in Ariel, Israel. At that time a people who had not existed as a people for over 2,700 years came back from the ash heap of history. The people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) – Ephraim, those “Lost Tribes” of Israel’s northern kingdom – assembled in Samaria, the territory of their ancient ancestors, and acknowledged their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to accomplish His Word to bring their people back as a nation and join them with the Jewish part of Israel (the House of Judah) in fulfillment of His covenant.
It was a modest beginning; only a little over 130 people attended, representing 12 countries. We made no bold declarations, but humbly whispered to one another and to the world that we were ready to answer the Father’s call and walk out the return of the Prodigal. Humble indeed, but astounding nevertheless. Certainly no less astounding than the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 after 1,900 years of dissolution.
The momentum of that First Congress has carried into the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, which is now in its third day. The Congress convened on the evening of October 26, 2016, and will continue until Monday, October 31. The venue once again is the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel. The numbers of delegates are about the same, but this time there are some significant differences.
For one thing, the number of nations has grown to 15. Not surprisingly, the United States has the largest number of delegates, comprising about half of the total. What is surprising is that the second largest contingent is from one of the world’s smallest countries: the Netherlands. Over 20 Dutch Ephraimites are here, imparting a beautiful Dutch accent to all the proceedings. Also represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. A central feature of the Congress has been reports from each of these countries, as well as video and proxy reports from Finland, Pakistan, Uganda, and India.
These reports build a mosaic of the Hebrew Awakening happening across the globe. In Pakistan, for example, Pastor Qaiser Ilyas shared by video his work in building Hebrew language and Torah teaching programs in Urdu for children and adults. Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, shared the revival that is beginning among the youth of her people, and the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity. A similar phenomenon is happening among the Mizo people of northeast India, as Margot Crossing related in her report about the descendants of exiled Israelites who migrated across the Silk Road into South Asia. These developments are happening simultaneously with the better-known Torah awakenings in Europe and North America, and in time will have an even more significant impact as tens of millions of Ephraimites come into the understanding of their covenant identity.
One wonders whether Lewis Carroll required chemical substances to help him create the absurd worlds of his literature. Readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and audiences of the screen and stage adaptations thereof often conclude that the author – whose real name was Charles Dodgson – must have been on opium or some other sort of mind-altering substance fashionable in Victorian England. If we are to believe the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and other authoritative sources, there is no truth in such allegations. How, then, could a rational man come up with such outrageous fiction, creating characters and situations that defy logic and even sanity? Most likely Carroll would have explained in the same way C.S. Lewis explained how he could create the diabolical correspondence of the demon Screwtape a generation later:
Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my Letters were the ripe fruit of many years’ study in moral and ascetic theology. They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. “My heart”—I need no other’s—“showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly.” (C.S. Lewis, 1961. The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast. New York: MacMillan.)
What Professor Lewis tells us is that all humans have the capacity to imagine evil, and to act upon it once it is imagined. Evil is abnormal; the opposite of good and right and true. If our hearts are inclined toward evil, they are also inclined toward everything else that is contrary to good and right and true – things which are unsuitable, wrong, and illogical. That is why Carroll can depict an absurd criminal trial with such success. The King and Queen of Hearts sit as judges to determine the guilt or innocence of the Knave, who stands accused of having stolen the Queen’s tarts. As judge, the King has trouble getting beyond his instructions to the jury to consider the verdict before any evidence has been given. As witnesses, the Mad Hatter and the Knave say nothing of substance, and throughout the trial no one seems to care that the stolen tarts are there in the courtroom, presumably having been returned by the thief. The trial ends with a mockery of due process of law as the Queen says, “Sentence first—verdict afterwards”, and then pronounces summary judgment on Alice: “Off with her head!”
The sad thing about this trial is that it is not far removed from reality. For much, perhaps most, of history unjust judges have made people’s lives miserable and shorter than they should be. This is true even for judges among the people of God, which is why in promising to restore His nation of Israel, YHVH delivers this glowing promise:
“Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.” Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness. (Isaiah 1:26-27 NASB)
מַּטּוֹת / מַסְעֵי
William Shakespeare has such as way with murder. With so many characters meeting violent death in his plays it would seem that he regarded murder as an essential part of good drama. Richard III is an excellent example. When my daughter studied the play in school, she and her fellow students kept a “body count” of the many characters who died over the course of Richard’s rise to power. Shakespeare’s preoccupation with murder may have been the product of the violent world in which he lived, and indeed England in the 16th century was a violent place, yet we need only look at the headlines of events in our own cities to realize that our world is no less violent than Shakespeare’s. If the Bard had no qualms about employing murder as a plot device, it was because his art imitated life. Richard III was a historical play based on events that shook the British Isles just one hundred years earlier. The play’s popularity derived in part from the horrendous nature of Richard’s quest for power, extending even to allegations that in 1483 he ordered the deaths of his two nephews, the 12-year-old King Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. Their uncles’ guilt has never been proven, but it is plausible that he removed them so they would not stand in the way of his quest to seize the throne of their father, the late Edward IV.
Richard III is not the only Shakespearian villain to usurp a throne and seize the inheritance of a rightful heir. Two others that come to mind are MacBeth of Scotland and Claudius of Denmark. Although not historical plays, MacBeth and Hamlet have roots in actual events. The central action of MacBeth occurs when the warrior of that name murders King Duncan of Scotland. Duncan’s sons, fearing they will be blamed for the murder, flee the country, allowing Macbeth to take the throne. In Hamlet, we do not see the murder of Denmark’s king; when the play opens his brother Claudius has already seized the throne by killing him and marrying his queen. The plot follows Prince Hamlet as he learns the truth of his father’s death and his uncle’s guilt.
As was necessary for Richard III, MacBeth and Claudius must deal with the heirs to the murdered kings. MacBeth prepares to defend Scotland against the exiled princes Malcolm and Donalbain, and Claudius concocts a plot to have Hamlet killed in a duel by an opponent wielding a poisoned blade. In the end all three villains meet violent deaths. Richard and MacBeth fall in battle as their own countrymen rise in revolt against them, and Claudius is slain by Hamlet himself just before the young prince dies.
Shakespeare’s works have remained popular for over 400 years because they really do imitate life, even to a disturbing degree. In these plays we see that an inheritance is not secure even if there are sons ready to claim their fathers’ legacy. What worse things might the villains have done had there been no sons and heirs? Who would ensure that the bereaved family retained their place in the nation? That very question prompted the tribe of Manasseh to ask Moses for guarantees not only for their brethren who had no sons, but for the entire tribe’s legacy in the Promised Land.
About the time that Gideon of Manasseh delivered Israel from oppression of the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:1-8:35), a war of (literally) epic proportions took place on the northwest coast of what is now Turkey. The Trojan War really did happen, but the conflict was already wrapped in myth and legend when a Greek poet known only as Homer published The Iliad sometime around 750 BCE, four centuries after the war’s generally accepted dates of 1194-1184 BCE. Homer’s epic inspired a number of classical works telling the tales of the Greeks and Trojans, including a sequel published in Latin seven hundred years later. When the Roman poet Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he probably had a political agenda in mind. His story is that of Aeneas, a Trojan hero of the royal family who escaped the destruction of the city and led a band of refugees in a journey that eventually resulted in their settlement at the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy. There they became part of the story of Rome, a city which began as a colony of Alba Longa, the capital of the new kingdom Aeneas and his descendants founded. Thus Rome could trace its origins at least in part to Troy. More importantly, the family of Julius Caesar traced its genealogy to Aeneas, giving it a claim to royalty that helped Caesar’s nephew Octavian consolidate his power as Caesar Augustus. Whether true or not, Virgil’s epic, written early in Augustus’ long reign, cemented the link of the Caesars with Aeneas and Troy in the minds of Romans, making it one of the most successful pieces of literary propaganda ever published.
Even if the Caesar’s claims were falsified, and even if Aeneas never existed outside of classical literature, his tale is an illustration of the remnant: those who remain. Whether it is Ishmael surviving to tell the story of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, or Job’s servants fleeing disaster to report to him (Job 1:13-22), fact and fiction throughout the human experience have featured a fortunate few who escape. The remnant has the task of carrying the memory of those who went before, of rebuilding what they lost, and of achieving their ultimate destiny. These remnant tales would have little impact on us if they were not a common feature in reality. The remnant is a continuous reminder in Scripture that God’s judgment is tempered with mercy in the expectation that a people will at last be able to step into the fullness of the promises YHVH has spoken from beginning of time.
It has been two weeks since the B’ney Yosef (Sons of Joseph) National Congress adjourned on May 25. The delegates are even now sharing their impressions of the event. Over the next few weeks we can expect the publication of articles, interviews, videos, pictures, and much more regarding the work YHVH established in Ariel, Israel. A number of us have already had opportunity to share our experiences and impressions. Here is a list of the ones that have come to my attention.
- Hebrew Nation Morning Show interviews of Ephraim and Rimona Frank (first hour) and Al McCarn (second hour) on June 3, 2015. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek podcast by Tzefanyah Ben Yochanon and Al McCarn. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- “Resentment & Replacement or Reconciliation & Restoration”, presentation by Hanoch Young of Kol Yehuda. (Click here to watch the video.)
- Congress Report by Mike Clayton of Joined to Hashem. (Click here to watch the video.)
- United2Restore podcast by Ken Rank and Hanoch Young. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Commentary in Swedish by Viveka Sjulmark on Sarahs Tālt.
- Commentary in Dutch by Hadassah Dee on Tegenhetlicht.
- Sunday School Report by Pete Rambo at the Lexington Baptist Church, Lexington, SC, delivered on May 31, 2015. Click here to watch the entire report. Click here to see the 10-minute Youtube video of Pete’s entire trip. Pete began posting updates on his experiences as soon as he arrived in Israel. The updates are available at his blog, www.natsab.com.
- As mentioned in an earlier post, it was my honor to be the first presenter at the Congress. Click here to read my address on the Foundations of Ephraimite Identity.
That is quite a collection of video, audio, and written material assembled in less than two weeks! It will take some time for the full impact of the Congress to manifest itself, but it is clear that something very significant happened at the Eshel HaShomron Hotel in Ariel. In essence, it was that 135 people from 12 nations came together to acknowledge that the Sovereign Creator of the Universe is at last restoring the entire nation of Israel just as He promised.
Just how big is this Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement? It is hard to say, but it is most definitely not an American phenomenon. As with so many things, much of the public expression of this movement generates from the United States due to the wealth, power, and cultural impact this nation has had on the entire world for the last hundred years. However, this move of God in reestablishing His nation of Israel and reconnecting Christians and others to their Hebrew roots is something that spans the entire planet. Here are a few examples:
- During the Shabbat services at El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Washington, USA, Pastor Mark Biltz routinely welcomes visitors who have tuned in to the livestream web broadcast from Australia, South Korea, and other nations, and often welcomes visitors from Canada, Israel, and elsewhere who are there in person.
- The thriving Hebrew Roots community of Australia will be hosting a conference at Shavuot (Pentecost), May 22-24, 2015, near Sydney called “Pentecost to the Ends of the Earth”. The theme of the conference, “Finding the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel at the ends of the earth”, reflects the purpose of the First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress in Israel, which is occurring at about the same time. For more information on the Australian conference please click on the links below:
- The First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress in on track to convene May 25-27, 2015 in Samaria with over 100 people planning to attend from 12 nations: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Jordan, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.
- Recently Pete Rambo, my friend and author of the Hebrew Roots blog natsab, connected with readers of his blog from Canada and South Africa, receiving very encouraging responses in an effort to open a dialogue and ensure they have a voice in the Ephraimite Congress. Pete has also publicized an opportunity to assist Baraka International Ministries, a Messianic teaching ministry based in Meaford, Ontario, Canada, in providing materials for a pastors’ conference in Uganda in April. At this conference, nearly 100 pastors from Uganda and Kenya will meet to learn more about Torah and Messiah Yeshua’s central place in it.
- After 15 months of publication, The Barking Fox has acquired an international readership as well. The greatest number of visits by far is from the United States, but it is exciting to see regular visitors from South Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Brazil, and many other countries and territories (130 to date).
- Recently I have connected with the Facebook group Messianische Gemeinschaft Deutschland und Welt (Messianic Community in Germany and the World), a group based in Germany and including nearly 1,000 members from many nations.
- One of the largest Messianic congregations in the world is in Kiev, Ukraine. The Kiev Jewish Messianic Congregation (KJMC), founded in 1994, is a very active and effective congregation with a membership of over 1,600 (as of 2013).
- Another vibrant Hebrew Roots ministry is Beit Yaaqov (House of Jacob) of Hyderabad, India. Beit Yaaqov has the mission of raising awareness of Torah and Israelite identity among the peoples of India who have long cultural traditions indicating their descent from the Lost Tribes of Northern Israel.
Clearly the Torah Awakening expressed in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots Movement is a global phenomenon, although it is difficult to say how big. Perhaps that is a good thing; YHVH has always preferred that His people look at Him alone, not at numbers, wealth, resources, or other traditional measures of strength and effectiveness. Nevertheless, we can take much encouragement from the fact that this global movement is growing, and with it an awareness of our identity as Israelites and of the imminent fulfillment of our King’s promises to restore His Kingdom.
With this understanding in mind, consider the blog post reproduced below from Tegenhetlich: Terug naar de Oude paden. (“Against the Light: Back to the Old Paths”). Hadassah Dee, author of this Dutch Hebrew Roots blog, is a frequent contributor to the United2Restore Facebook community. In this post, “Match: Romans 11:25/Genesis 48:19/Melo hagoyim”, she investigates the reason behind Paul’s reference to the “fullness of the gentiles”, or “fullness of the nations” in Romans 11:25, drawing a connection with the prophecy made by Jacob over his grandson Ephraim in Genesis 48:19. This is something The Barking Fox has addressed before (see “Fox Byte 5775 #12: VaYechi (And He Lived)”), but Hadassah presents the teaching much better in English than I could ever do in Dutch!