Plagues have always been part of our human story. In fact, medical disorders that inflict large parts of a population have been known since ancient times, and even enter into the biblical narrative. Is there any significance to these periodic occurrences? Does God ever use them to get our attention?
Rabbi Chaim Eisen of Zion Biblical Studies has some thoughts on that subject in connection with the current pandemic. In this video teaching, he weaves together some fascinating data points from the accounts of 1 and 2 Samuel, Lamentations, and the present day. Is it possible that God is trying to get our attention, saying that His Temple in Jerusalem is much more important than we thought?
[Editor’s Note: This article from Breaking Israel News illustrates why the Nations’ 9th of Av exists. The act of kindness recounted here is something we pray will be multiplied the world over as Christians come to understand our history toward the Jewish people and begin to take action to make things right. Please visitwww.9-av.com to learn how you can be part of this work that touches the heart of our Heavenly Father.]
For Jews, the 9th of Av, also known as Tisha B’Av, is a 25-hour fast spent mourning over the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem.
A remarkable group of Christians, sensitive to the bloody history of Christian anti-Semitism, have chosen this exact day, the 9th day of Hebrew month of Av, for what Breaking Israel News reporter Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz called “a powerful act of contrition by Christians.”
Beginning in 2018, and continuing in a dramatically expanded way in 2019, there is a movement inthe Christian world to use Tisha B’Av to repentfor the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the name of Christianity over the past two millennia.
Because COVID-19 has shut Israel’s borders to tourists, the Nations’ 9th of Av planning committee prepared a completely virtual experience for 2020, including lectures, prayer events and virtual tours of Israel for Christians worldwide.
Something New For 2020
This year’s event, which runs onlineJuly 28-August 6, includes yet another new dimension, something Board member Barbara Wilkins called “putting ‘feet’ to our prayers.”
Touched by a personal visit with a Holocaust survivor couple living in Israel, Breaking Israel News Publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz suggested to the Nations’ 9th of Av Board that making a donation to assist this elderly couple would enhance their mission of repentance. The Nations 9th of Av Board unanimously agreed.
Weisz described the couple’s story. During the Holocaust, Mr. Hoffman was six years old when his father was taken away from the family home. Before he left, the father put his hat on the six-year-old’s head and charged him with being the man of the family. He was told, “It’s your job to take care of your mother and your younger brother,” Weisz related, “and it gave me the chills. It was very emotional to hear that.”
Hoffman fulfilled his father’s wishes and cared for his younger brother and mother who also survived the war living in a ghetto in Budapest.
Sadly, according to Weisz, “Mr. Hoffman’s health is declining and his needs are increasing. He has not only Parkinson’s disease, but he also has dementia. He doesn’t even recognize his wife. It’s a lot on the wife, who is elderly herself, to take care of him.” They need a number of renovations to their home, including a ramp outside of their house, renovations for him to enter the bathroom in his wheelchair and specific equipment to get him in and out of bed.
Weisz said, “I told the Hoffmans two things. Number one is that you told your father you’re going to look after your family when you were a child and now, in your old age, I’m telling you, we’re going to help take care of you. And I said that this help will come through the generosity of Christians who love Israel and love the Jewish people.
“Mrs. Hoffman was so blown away by that. She thanked me profusely, from the bottom of her heart. It really meant a lot to her that Christians would be so moved by repenting for Christian anti-Semitism by compassionately caring for Holocaust survivors. She asked me to thank them on her behalf.”
Board Members Comment
For 9th of Av Board members, caring for Holocaust survivors is a natural extension of the repentance work in which they are already engaged.
Board member Al McCarn told Breaking Israel News, “This gift, going directly to help a Holocaust survivor in the days leading up to Tisha b’Av, testifies of our desire to see healing and reconciliation between Christians and Jews. We can’t make up for the untold suffering Christians have inflicted on Jews over the past 20 centuries, but this humble act is a gesture of hope that we can build a better future together.”
Fellow Board member Laura Densmore explained that, “Each one of the nine hours of prayer is focused on a theme for that hour. One of those hours (from 4-5pm EST on July 30) is focused on prayers of repentance regarding the Holocaust.
“The principle of teshuva (repentance) involves a change of mind, a change of heart and a change in behavior/actions, which can include making amends or restitution for the past wrongdoings.
“It is a joy and an honor for the Nations’ 9th of Av team to make a financial contribution to the Holocaust Survivor Fund to bless Holocaust survivors. Our repentance must go from our head, to our heart, and finally, to our feet,” she shared.
Last year was Barbara Wilkins’ first experience with the Nations’ 9th of Av and today, she’s an active member of the planning committee. “As we planned for this year’s event in Israel, it became apparent we would not be able to travel there, and our hearts were grieved for our Jewish partners in the Land over the disconnects to tourism and income that people from other Nations coming in provides.”
Instead, travel funds are being used, “To try and bless, in loving support, those in need. In Christianity we call it putting ‘feet’ to our prayers. It’s one thing to pray, but another to support. We pray that all our efforts brought forth to the Nations’ 9th of Av Virtual Tour event this year will bless our Jewish friends and partners as well as all who view it and participate in the nine hours of prayer kicking off this event,” Wilkins elaborated.
Noting how the Hebrew Scripture focuses on action, Board member Steve Wearp told Breaking Israel News, “I believe God’s people are called to be people of action. And I see all that throughout the Torah. Abraham took his family, packed it up and left. You see Moses doing the same. You see Jacob doing the same when he’s leaving Laban. Everything that I see in the Torah is people of action making a difference – Joshua going into the Promised Land, the people of Israel, building the Temple as a house for God to dwell on Mount Moriah. Everything is action. “So for me, giving just a little bit to help a survivor, is the minimum I could do. And I pray my life and the lives of many others, all the nations, will someday come alongside, and bless the Lord, and bless the Jewish people. If you bless, you’ll be blessed. If you call insignificant or don’t pay attention to the Jewish people, God says you’ll actually be cursed or cut off.
“This is huge. This is not insignificant, because Israel bears the name, Israel bears the testimony of God. We are seeing His faithfulness. So I would just call all Christians, we [the Nations’ 9th of Av Board] shouldn’t be the exception. We should be the norm.”
Christian interest in the 9th of Av began when two Christian men gradually uncovered the truth about the myriad of sins committed against the Jewish people in the name of the church throughout Christian history. They intuitively understood that they had to share these shocking facts with other Christians.
It’s a valid question, especially in these times when the wrongs of the past are placed before the public continuously. If our ancestors thought, said, and did things that bring grief to our heavenly Father, then what are we to do?
The first step is to acknowledge that something wrong was done by those who came before us, and that we must live out the consequences. Nothing will change until that acknowledgement happens. Once it happens, then the way is open for God to bring healing, reconciliation, and restoration.
That is the purpose of the Nations’ 9th of Av as we seek to help Christians understand our unpleasant history with the Jewish people. The Jerusalem Post has taken notice of this initiative and has recently published an article about our plans for observing Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Read the article here, and then visit www.9-av.com to learn more.
There is still time to join our Virtual Tour of Israel and take part in this healing work between Christians and Jews. Click here to learn more:
Tisha Be’av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, will become a time for Christians around the world to repent together for two millennia of antisemitism through a virtual prayer event hosted on the 9-av.com website.
While Jews will be reading Lamentations in and out of synagogues, Christians will participate in a nine-hour online vigil of prayers. There will also be a week of online tours of biblical sites and other key locations in Israel.
The event is being organized by a steering committee led by Al McCarn, Laura Densmore and Steve Wearp, a Christian and former national director of the March for Remembrance, which holds events against antisemitism in more than 50 US cities. This is his third year organizing Tisha Be’av events for Christians in Jerusalem and his first time hosting it online due to the coronavirus.
“We struggled with how to do it this year, but we realized we have a much greater audience potential online,” Wearp said.
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.