Monday, September 17, 2012

Yom Teruah 2012

In 2010, DannyLee and I were blessed with an opportunity to travel to Israel together.  This would be his first time to travel outside of North America and we were both very excited.  Many of our travel stories are recorded here on our “Tsiyon Bound” blog.  One story that didn’t get told is about the acquisition of his shofar.  What better time to share that story than in our time of celebrating Yom Teruah! 

DannyLee’s birth Torah portion is:   Parshat Ha'Azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52). 
This is translated as the “Song of Moshe”.  With his anointing as a singer of many songs that praise YHVH Elohim, and his birth Torah portion in mind, we headed off to Y’israel with the hope of finding the right shofar for him.  We had no idea what a challenge we were going to face.  After all, tourism is a big part of Y’israel’s economy and shofars are a part of their cultural history, right? 

As our days in Y’israel flew by, DannyLee started to grow anxious about buying a shofar.  Every shop we checked either had none or they just had small toy-like shofars that did nothing to inspire us.  We quickly realized that this was not going to be as easy as we thought it would be.  As I tried to still his anxiety, I was praying for both wisdom and guidance as to where and when we would find “the one”. 

The last days of our trip were spent in Y’erushalyem with plenty of time given over for shopping.  On about the third to the last day, we were welcomed at a shop buried in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.  The owner of that shop didn’t have any shofars, but he directed us to a nearby shop.

There we found a small, black ram’s horn shofar.  The color black seemed appropriate to my “Johnny Cash”, but the size in his hands seemed small.  As we were concerned that we were running out of time to find something better, we made the purchase.  Still, there was a sense in my spirit that things weren’t exactly right and I knew that we had to keep looking just in case there was something that we had missed. 

On our last day, we found ourselves wandering through the shops on Ben Yehuda Street.  Our funds were low and we were trying to use up all of our small change before it was time to head back home.  We bought some date honey and a few small tourist items at a couple of shops. 

Then we saw a shop that we knew we just had to go into called  “Danny Boy”!  If we were looking for a “sign”, there couldn’t be anything better than this.  Fans of DannyLee’s music know that “Danny Boy” is one of the first songs he recorded on his “Humble Beginnings” CD and that he recorded it because it was the song that inspired his mother to name him Daniel. 

We went into the shop and walked right up to a beautiful display of SHOFARS!  As we admired the various ram’s horn shofars on display, DannyLee kept reminding me that we’d already bought a shofar for him.  I just remained quiet and focused as I waited for “the one” to appear.  The owner noted our interest and came over to help us out.  We told him that because of DannyLee’s birth Torah portion, we felt that a ram’s horn shofar was the most appropriate for him.

(The ram’s horn shofars are traditionally associated more with the time of Moshe.  My shofar is a Yemenite shofar from a different time period.  The various histories of shofars are available on the internet for anyone interested in doing further studies.)

He showed us all of the ram’s horn shofars that were on display, but nothing was all that different from the one we’d already purchased.  Then, he pulled another shofar from a cabinet and handed it to DannyLee.  As I saw it in his hands, I knew.  This was the one that was meant to be “his shofar”. 

As we wrestled with the thought that we’d already spent a great deal of money on the first shofar and didn’t really feel confident that we could afford to spend the money on another shofar, we also knew that this was the shofar that we were supposed to buy.  Well, sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.  We’d made a mistake in trying to hurry up and do something and now we had to make it right.  So, we bought another shofar. 

Now, as a two-shofar family, we’re confident that come Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and any other time of celebration, we’re ready to “SOUND THE SHOFARS!!”    

“Lashana Tova Tikatevu!” 

("May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for 

a good year”)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Shofars Will Sound in Tsiyon!


(This story is a continuation of the previous day's post.)  My time in Israel coincided with Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The small group of us that had come to Yerushalyem after the prayer tour was all headed off in different directions.  Three of us were blessed with an opportunity to celebrate Pesach with a local family.  Then we were all scattered and I headed up to Tiberius for what was supposed to be a week.  Things didn’t work out so I hopped on a bus to Tel Aviv and planned to spend my last week in Israel there.

When I arrived at the bus terminal in Tel Aviv, I was trying to find a place where I could book a hotel room.  I was directed and then, redirected to several locations in the terminal.  I went from the first floor to the fourth and then back to the second using elevators, escalators and stairs.  I found myself, a seasoned traveler lost in the bus terminal/mall and frustrated as I struggled just to find an exit.  When I asked for help, I was sent hither and yon or even rudely rebuffed. 

I was quite befuddled with this situation as I routinely traveled in Asian countries without any language skills and had never gotten so turned around.  As my frustration grew, I found myself getting into another elevator and none of the buttons seemed to work.  Finally, I thought, I just need some divine guidance and I had been told that angels like the sound of the shofar and could be summoned in this way. 

So, once again I lifted my shofar to my lips in the elevator and blew a short blast.  I had no sense of anything happening, but when the elevator door opened I saw an exit at the street level.  I made my way to the exit and to a row of taxicabs waiting outside.  I went up to the first cab at the stand and told him that I was trying to find a hotel in Tel Aviv.  He brushed me off with a wave as if dismissing my request.

I went to the second cab feeling quite confused.  I didn’t feel that I had asked for something unreasonable so I wasn’t sure what to ask the next guy.  I made the same request to him and he told me that there were several hotels along the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.  He said that he could take me there and I could find the hotel of my choice easily.  I agreed that this was a fine plan and got into his cab. 

He proceeded to do a u-turn to head down to the beach and just as we passed the bus terminal again, there was a loud blast of a nearby explosion.  The explosion was so loud and so close that we felt the reverberations inside the cab even though all but one of the windows was closed.  He turned and looked at me as he said, “That was a bomb.”  There was a brief moment of silence and then the sound of sirens coming towards us.  I didn’t know what to say or do or even think.  I tried not to think the thought that in that moment someone or someones' somewhere nearby had just died or were dying.  It was too horrible to think of this all at once.  We drove to the beach in silence.

I spent a week in Tel Aviv in a tiny little hotel just off of the beach.  My time there was marred with the news reports of a terrorist that had blown himself up near the bus terminal in a busy restaurant.  The hotel staff was kind and careful to steer me away from the TV when I would start to cry.  No one in my family actually knew that I was in Tel Aviv and I hoped that this was enough to keep them from worrying.  I should have known better.  My mom has her own way of knowing things about my travels and when I called her later on in that week, she not only knew that I was in Tel Aviv, she already knew that I was safe.  As a mom myself, I should have realized that moms just know things and left it at that. 

My time in Israel came to an end and it was time to go home.  I was ready.  I headed to the airport with a quick prayer for a safe and uneventful trip home to Thailand.  My shofar didn’t fit into my suitcase, nor did I trust it to make such a trip there so I was carrying it wrapped around my arm against my side.  It fit me well and blended into my silhouette so that most people weren’t even aware of it.  I was facing a ten hour layover in Istanbul that I would be forced to wait out in the airport.  I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy trip.

When I got on the plane in Israel, I found myself sandwiched in a four-person row between three very large, hostile men.  I had a sudden lesson in what it means to be a non-entity and I made myself as small as possible.  I was able to squeeze my shofar down alongside my leg, but my seatmates were up and down and I feared for my shofar’s safety.  I didn’t want it to be kicked or stepped on. 

Finally, I grabbed a flight attendant and asked if there was a space available in an overhead bin where my shofar would be safe.  The looks on the faces of my seatmates when I pulled it from the blanket over my lap would have been funny if I had been in a laughing mood.  It was clear that they were quite surprised.  It rode out the rest of the tense flight in far more comfort than I. 

My time in Istanbul was uneventful and as I waited it out, I was able to watch the Turkish people around me.  Most of them simply ignored me and my time there passed slowly.  Finally, the time came to go to the boarding gate for my flight home.  The gate area was down a long ramp and enclosed on all side with tall glass windows.  There was another security station to pass through before we could board and I was waiting in the line at the scanner. 

Suddenly, this Turkish female security guard spots me and starts yelling at me in Turkish from across the room.  She storms towards me yelling the whole time.  Everyone in the room has frozen into place and turned to see what’s going on and I have no idea what has set her off.  I hold up my passport facing her and tell her that I don’t know what she’s talking about.  She continues to yell at me and as she gets to me, she reaches out to grab my shofar from me, still yelling.  I do a quick look UP and a silent prayer putting all responsibility for this situation in the Hands of ONE better equipped to know what’s going on.

At the security station behind me, the guards there are just looking at her in amazement.  They don’t seem to know what she’s yelling about either.  She hands the shofar to the man running the x-ray machine still yelling.  He x-rays the shofar and then hands it back to me with a shrug and a small look of apology.  At that point, I had turned to keep my eyes on the shofar and had taken my eyes off the female guard. 

I then turned back around to see where she was and if she was satisfied with the x-ray results.  She was gone.  I scanned the entire room to see where she had gone, but I couldn’t see her anywhere and I never did see her again.  I got on my flight home without any further ado.  My arrival in Bangkok was routine and my shofar has long since become a powerful part of my testimony.  There are many more stories that could be told but those will have to wait.  My thoughts are now turning to DannyLee’s shofar (to be continued)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Time is Coming to Sound the Trumpets!

In honor of Yom Teruah, or Feast of Trumpets, I thought it would be fun to share the story of how I got my shofar.  Owning a shofar has been an interesting part of my spiritual walk.  It has opened my eyes beyond the prayer realm that I knew and showed me a whole new dimension of spiritual warfare.  It has been an honor to be entrusted with such a powerful weapon.  The story of how I came to possess my own shofar is a small miracle worth recounting as I consider how far Elohim has brought me in my life. 

In 2006, the thought of having a shofar seemed to be one of those vague ideas that were never really intended to come true.  There were plenty of reasons not to have a shofar at that time in my life.  I lived a nomadic life that involved lots of countries and airport traveling.  I have long struggled with breathing challenges that would make blowing a shofar very difficult, if not impossible.  And finally, I had failed miserably at learning to play a clarinet with any proficiency.  How was I ever going to learn how to blow a shofar in a way that would sound beautiful or dare I say, “spiritual”?

I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Israel in the Spring of 2006.  This was an organized prayer tour that would start out near Yerushalyem and move around the entire country ending up in Haifa.  I would be coming from Thailand with a connecting flight through Turkey.  As I prepared to head out for my first trip to the Promised Land, the thought came that it would be wonderful to get a shofar.  I brought up the idea to some of my friends in Israel and there were some tentative plans made to help me make this happen. 

Unfortunately, even the best of plans can fall apart in unexpected ways.  These early plans fell apart as fast as they were made and I was left wondering if anything was going to happen until the very end of the prayer tour.  It seems that Elohim had HIS own plans from the very beginning and I was in the right place at the right time to watch it unfold.

The person that was supposed to hook me up with a shofar had run into an unexpected snag with the shofar factory.  They were closed at that time due to the Pesach (Passover) holiday and he was not able to get a shofar for me.  He told another person about this glitch and this person said that they had a shofar that they would be happy to sell me.  I waited for this shofar to materialize until the very last day of the prayer tour.  I had about given up any hope of seeing this happen. 

Then, on the last day of the tour, I walked into the final meeting.  There on the table lay the largest shofar I had ever seen.  It was actually longer than my arm.  As I was walking in, I heard someone ask if they could buy the shofar and they were told, “No, this shofar is for SueJean.”  “If she doesn’t want it, then it’s for sale.”  At that point I was overwhelmed with all kinds of doubts and arguments against trying to even have a shofar and my face must have reflected my concerns. 

As I walked up to the table, I eyed the shofar warily wondering just how I would know that this was the right shofar for me.  I had been told that each shofar is unique and there can be a kind of unity between a person and their shofar.  It’s similar to the relationship between a man and his trusty sword or maybe, his staff.  Somehow, it would just feel right.

I gingerly reached out to pick up the shofar.  I didn’t want to be careless or disrespectful with it.  After all, this was a special gift from Elohim to me and I wanted to reflect on that even as I received it.  I was quite awed by its natural beauty and its size.  I hardly felt worthy to receive such a thing.  As my doubts showed, I was assured that if I didn’t want it, there were other people that did.  This wasn’t helping me feel better. 

As other people came around to look at the shofar, a couple of people asked to blow it.  People were impressed with the six notes they were able to produce.  I dared not even try as I was quite sure that I would only look silly.  As I wrestled with my doubts, one thought grew stronger inside of me.  Blowing this shofar over the land of Thailand, my then-current home would definitely have an impact on the place.  My confidence in this thought soon caused all of my doubts to be pushed aside and I settled the deal for my very own shofar. 

As I sat down to prepare for the meeting, a man that I hadn’t seen before came up to me.  He started telling me about shofars and how they were a part of Biblical history and many more things that I had never heard before.  He spoke to me in a quiet voice and all that he told me reaffirmed that I was meant to have this shofar by my side in all of my future spiritual battles.  I started to grow excited about my gift.  He spoke to me for several minutes and then disappeared into the crowd as the meeting started.  I never saw him again. 

I waited until later back in my hotel room to try and blow it for myself.  As I expected, I wasn’t able to produce any kind of sound.  The man who had sold it to me told me that he had taken a while to learn how to blow a shofar.  He said that he had gone out on a lonely mountaintop and sat there for several hours learning to make the sounds that a shofar is supposed to make.  His words gave me encouragement just to wait and pray. 

The next day was the end of the prayer tour.  I had booked several more days in Israel to use in my own explorations.  I was traveling back to Yerushalyem with a few other people from the group.  We were going to stay in the Old City of David for the next few days.  Our tour hosts had found us rooms in a hostel that was nearly at the center of the city.  We would enter the City at the Lion’s Gate and walk down the Via Del la Rosa

Sadly, we were one day after the various Christians had come through in their celebration of their spring holiday and it was not the best day to be coming into the City.  The Arabs had their own tradition of walking those same streets the day after the Christians and shouting out their curses and hatred towards God.  They walked in mobs of raging teenagers hemmed in by grown men that filled the streets from wall to wall. 

It was our challenge to have to pass through the midst of all this rage and hatred.  To say that this was unnerving, if not frightening would not be a stretch.  We found ourselves pressed against the walls and there was no place to go.  One man in our group was desperate to go to the bathroom, but upon entering a public toilet, he was warned to get out or risk serious harm.  He quickly determined that he would wait until we got to the hostel. 

We made our way down the street in a grim and determined mood to get to our rooms and get off the streets as fast as we could.  In the midst of all of this, a very old woman came up to me and grabbed a hold of my shofar.  She was attempting to pull it from my hands to examine it, but I refused to let it go.  In all of the confusion, I didn’t want to have to fight to get it back.  She finally let go of it and passed on her way.  I was relieved to go on my way. 

We had to work our way through a group of hostile looking teenagers that had taken up a perch on the steps of the hostel.  As we got through them to the door, we were buzzed into the first heavy door of the outer wall.  We were warned over a speaker to carefully close the door behind us before we were then buzzed through the next security door.  It was clear that tensions were high on this day and we were getting a bit weary after our trip.  All of us were looking forward to getting to our rooms.

The hostel where we were staying had been built long ago as a hospital.  The walls were thick and the sounds of the City were muted almost to nothing.  I was assigned to a large room that had two single beds and a window overlooking the main intersecting streets outside.  The atmosphere inside the room was as tense and unwelcoming as the streets outside and I was overwhelmed with a sense of foreboding.  Here I was alone and I was quite worn out from the demands of the prayer tour.  It was clear that I was facing an unexpected struggle if I was going to have any peace in this place. 

As I wondered what I was going to be able to do to about my situation, my eyes fell on my shofar.  I had laid it down on the first bed when I came in and tossed my other belongings on the other bed.  I was drawn to pick it up and it came to me that if I could blow the shofar, things just might change.  I had been told that angels love the sound of a shofar and demons hate the sound.  It seems that the time had come to test this out. 

Standing with my back to the door, I carefully lifted the shofar to my lips.  I said a quick prayer for assistance and then I blew.  Lo and behold, this beautiful blast came out of the shofar loud and clear and in my spirit, I heard a sound almost like a “whoosh”.  Every sense of oppression and evil and discouragement and any other negative spirit that had been in the room left within the space of the sound of that single blast and I immediately found myself in a “clean” and peaceful room. 

I was impressed.  I was used to spiritual warfare, but this was a whole new level.  All of my previous battles involved lots of prayer and Scripture quoting and prayer, and the victories always came slowly.  My enthusiasm to hear the sound of a shofar blowing over my home in Thailand was at an all time high.  I couldn’t wait to get home………… (to be continued)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sukkot - 2012

Sukkot Near The Sea?
I'm sure that most people wouldn't consider Alaska as a prime location to celebrate Sukkot.  However, since there are people that are deeply devoted to keeping the commanded feasts of YHVH Elohim living in Alaska (namely, I'm speaking for us, as we know of no other "like-minded brethren"  within 500 miles), there should be someplace for all of us to go.  

With the dates for this year's Sukkot of October 1-8, the weather and travel conditions are definitely a factor that determines how far anyone dares to go.  This is especially true for those living in the interior or anyone pulling a rig or travel trailer.  Snow and ice do happen!  

Fortunately, we live in the so-called "banana republic" part of Alaska where winter's grip takes a little bit longer to take hold and lock us into a smaller area.  On that note, we're posting this as a "take notice" that there is a place to go for anyone moved by the Ruach Ha'Kodesh to join with their "like-minded" brethren.

This will be a "winter camping" experience.  Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise.  The weather here in Homer changes swiftly and sometimes in surprising ways.  Yesterday afternoon, we had warm sunshine that had us out and about without jackets.  Today, we're watching a heavy cloud cover and experiencing the rocking motion of our rig in heavy winds and blowing rain from the east.  A few more degrees drop and we'll be seeing some early snow flurries, or so DannyLee says as he grits his teeth to take Ariela out for her walk.  

We won't have any "big name" speakers or teachers or musicians.  This will be a gathering of the "faceless, nameless ones" that truly love HIM enough to keep HIS commandments.  Our focus during this Sukkot will be to share knowledge and experience on preparing our sukkas for the future events even as we work out how to walk this out for right now.  We expect to come together to share meals, midrash over whatever Torah teachings are of concern to anyone and to have times of praise and worship as this is to be both a feast and a celebration.

Anyone interested in joining with us should contact us as soon as possible to secure a camping spot.  Whether we have just "us" or a gathering of many, it is our prayer that this will be our best Sukkot ever.

Blessings in the NAME of YESHUA, our MESSIAH and soon-coming KING!

Home Sweet Homer
August 2012