30 December 2006

Sabbath buttons

The Jewish community in Sydney is trying to catch up with Melbourne and at issue is the pushing of buttons.

I'm all in favor of keeping the Sabbath. After all according to Ex. 31.14 ‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.

That sounds pretty intense and fairly demanding. So what's the deal with the buttons? Seems a couple of Jewish council members of Woollahra and Waverley have asked the RTA to help out and the RTA is willing. But at issue is ... is it legal according to halacha (Jewish precedential law) to have people walk into a signal/photo tripper that causes a stop light to change to 'walk' from 'don't walk?'

Wow, what a long way the rabbis are from Moses.

Of course, the Bible in Ex. 35.3 says, “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.”

That's the worrisome text. Is the kindling of a fire the same as an electrical spark?

What did Moses mean anyway? I think a helpful text is Num. 15.32 "Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day." The man ended up being capitally punished, put to death, for working on the sabbath. And gathering wood sounds like a lot of work. I know. Yesterday I did some serious trimming of my garden from the weeds that have great strength. And the clearing of the bush and the scrub was a sweat-inducing activity. Jeremiah 17 has a similar command about hauling wood and bringing loads out of the house.

OK, so gardening heavily is out. And according to Neh. 10.31 "As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day" so is marketing and selling and buying. See also Neh. 13.15-22. No selling. No buying. Fine.

But walking through a photoray to change a light switch? Is this what Moses wanted? Is this what God wanted?

I had a personal experience with lights and the Sabbath in 1970 and as a result gave up the halacha-ruling rabbis who made a mountain out of a molehill.

In answer to the allegations of Luke 13.14 "And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Jesus replied to it this way in Matt. 12.5-8 “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath, and are innocent? For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
That same Sabbath day Jesus healed a guy, citing "What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

So Jesus in the sight of the synagogue official healed a woman as it records, Luke 13.16 “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Probably the clearest example is in John 5.1-11 where we read of a healing at the pool in Bethsaida in Jerusalem. "Jesus said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”
But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk.’”

I like this scene. The lame man is healed. The Jewish leadership should rejoice. Instead, they worried about technicalities of halacha. They missed the Lord of the Sabbath. God was in their midst and they worried about minutae. They should have been happy and celebrated. The lame man was celebrating. The one who healed him could make new halacha. The healer became the teacher.

Jesus still is the healer. He still is the teacher.

This Sabbath, let's rejoice in God's salvation. This Sabbath, let's bring people freedom.

In Jesus' words, recorded in John 7.23 “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Then in John 9, Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. What happened? John 9.16 "Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

And friends, there is still a division among the Jews because of Jesus.

I know, this might push your button. You might be angered because Jesus has no right to be our messiah. You might be upset because your teachers have said things against the Messiah Jesus from Bethlehem.

But let's think like God thinks. Let's get on his agenda. Let's see things from his point of view.

That seems Mosaic. That seems reasonable. And that, in this new year, will give us reason to rejoice.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and he wants to be your Lord as well.

Shabbat shalom!

Below is the report from this week's Australia Jewish News.

by Michelle Romain

SYDNEY’S Orthodox rabbinate is examining whether the Roads and Traffic Authority’s (RTA’s) proposal to install automated signals at two intersections in Bondi to assist Jewish pedestrians on Shabbat contravenes halacha.

The RTA has proposed installing the motion sensor-activated signals at the intersections of Old South Head Road with Victoria Road and Penkivil Street in Bondi, which are used by large numbers of Orthodox Jews to access nearby shuls.

The RTA proposal follows an earlier request by two local councillors to install timers on the lights at the intersections, which the RTA rejected, citing likely traffic delays.

Rabbi Dovid Slavin, executive director of the Yeshiva Gedolah Rabbinical College, is working with Waverley and Woollahra councils to ensure the crossings adhere to the laws of Shabbat.

But he doubts the Rabbinical Council of NSW will approve the sensor system.

“Walking in the path of a sensor to activate a pedestrian crossing is the same as pressing a button. But we can’t rule out anything without analysing the complete report.”

Rabbinical Council of NSW honorary secretary Rabbi Chaim Ingram also has doubts about the proposal.

“If you knowingly walk in the path of a sensor light causing it to go on indirectly, it goes back to the very heart of what Shabbat is – the free will of exercising restraint not to create activity [electricity] on Shabbat.

“The most minute things that cause a change of state can be forbidden on Shabbat,” Rabbi Ingram said.

Jewish councillors Tony Kay of Waverley and Isabelle Shapiro of Woollahra have lobbied the RTA to install automated signals at the intersections for the past two years. The pair drafted the initial proposal to install a timer on the traffic lights, which would operate on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

Kay said both councils have agreed to the RTA’s sensor proposal, providing “the rabbinical community accepts the use of the technology on Shabbat”.

At a cost of $20,000, the sensor technology is 20 times more expensive than the timers, which reportedly cost $1000 to install. The RTA has agreed to share the cost of the sensors with the two councils.

Rabbi Slavin said the councils, the rabbis and the RTA are working together to find a solution.

“We are trying to work towards a timer that wouldn’t be imposing on RTA traffic flows and a button is not pressed,” Rabbi Slavin said. “There are many others who would be benefiting from this technology, such as the blind, the elderly and children.”

Melbourne has had timer-operated signals at several intersections in areas with large Orthodox populations for many years.

21 December 2006

AntiSemitism in France and Australia and beyond...

Anti-Jewish attacks in Australia reach record high.

First a report from ECAJ then my comments then back to the report...

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry at its annual meeting in Melbourne this week received a comprehensive briefing on all aspects of antisemitism in Australia by Jeremy Jones, a former President of the Council who has provided detailed annual analyses to the Council since 1989.

More from Mr Jones later, but first let me give you my perspective on anti-Semitism just now, especially in France.

I apologize for the length of this commentary. Often they are quite short, but not this one.

We live in Australia, where our major clashes coming on football ovals and cricket pitches. We don’t know about terrorism inside our shores. We live in general peace and security. And that comfort is a boon to economy and to house re-sales and to our share market.

Sometimes Muslim clerics get in trouble denouncing the White House or women who look like uncovered meat, but religious diversity is a highlight of our multiculturalism. And Jews? Most people in Australia find Jewish people an interesting addition to that multiculturalism. So to discuss anti-Jewish sentiment doesn’t seem to fit here. Or does it?

As October ended some members of the Ocean Grove Football Club attacked Menachem Vorchheimer in Caulfield. Dressed in Orthodox Jewish garb, including a pair of head coverings, Mr Vorchheimer was beaten and taunted. He said he had suffered headaches and nausea since the attack and his two young children had undergone counselling.

He said he was attacked because of his faith. The club has apologized.

So does anti-Semitism happen in Australia?
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Grahame Leonard said the attack was the fifth unprovoked assault on a member of the Jewish community in Victoria this year. More than 140 incidents - a national record - were reported in July, at the height of Israel's war with Hezbollah. There has never been a conviction for an antisemitic incident in Victoria.

What about in Poland?
Anti-Semitism and intolerance in Poland have risen to new levels since the formulation of a coalition government in May 2006, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
"Poland: Democracy and the Challenge of Extremism," details what ADL calls "the persistence of anti-Semitism" by examining a range of issues, including the makeup of the current coalition government, which contains two extremist parties, and the influence of Radio Maryja, a right-wing Catholic radio station which regularly broadcasts anti-Semitic diatribes.
It seems so unhealthy. It doesn’t make sense. Could this happen in France, the bastion of the Enlightenment, the place where egalitere was as much a part of the fiber as liberty and fraternity. Egalitere, or equality, is similar to our Aussie “fair go” and “mateship” Is there anything to report about anti-Semitism?

Trains and models
The establishment journal, Le Monde made room for the story on page one, "Amazement after the anti-Semitic attack on a woman on a train." Seems a woman with a 13-month-old baby in a pram was attacked on an RER train and no witnesses came forward. The story has thrown a spotlight on the steep rise in anti-Semitic crimes in France. According to official statistics, there were more attacks (vandalism, arson, assault, and so on) targeting France's 600,000 Jews in the first half of 2004 than in all of 2003--135, up from 127 last year.

Josh Turnil is the chief of station of Jews for Jesus in Paris. In a recent phone interview, he cited the following:
• It is a felony to be anti-semitic
• It is a felony to deny the Holocaust happened to 6 million Jews
• In the first three months of 2003, there were more acts of antisemitism in France than the previous fifteen years
• The European Union now monitors antisemitism with its own task force.
Turnil was especially candid about an incident involving his own Jewish Christian cousin. She is from Aberdeen and was called “sale youpine” an especially derogatory title “Dirty Jewess” and this strong language is very hard for anyone to take.

She was not the only one recently to hear such a remark.
Nineteen-year-old Alexandra Rosenfeld heard it in October. After she was crowned as Miss Europe in a pageant held in Kiev, Rosenfeld learned of some rare viewers posting unfriendly remarks on internet forums. They called Rosenfeld “sale youpine” and accused the producers of orchestrating the victory of the Jewish candidate.

They said that since the rights of the program were owned by Endemol which belonged at the time to Jewish producer Arthur and his associate Stephane Courbit, Rosenfeld was propelled to the top.
Rosenfeld did not reply to these remarks, but did participate in February’s massive march organised in Paris to denounce anti-Semitism and racism. The demonstration was organised after the murder of a young Jewish phone salesman, Ilan Halimi, which is the landmark and most insidious case this year.

It’s hard to know whether the anti-Semitism if fuelled by anti-Jewish racism or by anti-Israel politics. Some see it as European (racism) or Muslim (political).

Take, for instance, the case of Halimi, whom Wikipedia reports, “was a young French Jew of Moroccan descent kidnapped on 21 January 2006, by a gang of mostly Muslim immigrant youths called the "Barbarians" and subsequently tortured to death over a period of three weeks. The murder, among whose motives authorities count anti-Semitism, incited a public outcry in a France already marked by intense public controversy about the role of immigrants in its society.”
The Barbarians’ leader is Youssouf Fofana, the 26-year-old son of Muslim immigrants from Ivory Coast, a former French colony in West Africa. Most gang members were nominal Muslims.

So far, Fofana and 19 alleged accomplices have been charged in the savage abduction. According to police, the gang made at least four botched efforts to kidnap a Jew before snatching Halimi.
The Boston Globe reported, “In the bleak housing project where a young Jew died, there's scant sympathy for the victim.

''It's too bad this happened, because we immigrants are always blamed," said Ibrahim Ag Ahmalou, a lanky man of West African heritage who shares his girlfriend's apartment in the project. ''But Jews have all the money and power. Everyone knows this and resents them. That's why they have these problems."

Last March, there were more attacks on Jews by Arab and African immigrants in suburban Paris, according to police. None of the latest victims was seriously injured, but the attacks heightened the nervousness of French Jews. There is alarm that the antipathy of French Muslims toward Jews, long based on opposition to Israel, is reverting to the even more sinister prejudices that once pervaded Europe, making Jews the scapegoats for all social ills.

''Anti-Semitism is rising in our country," said legislator Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The Halimi case launched a new wave of questions. Was the kidnapping designed to get money or to get Jewish money? Was it politically motivated or racial? In other words, since the people in the neighbourhood knew what was happening, and the Jewish community was involved, why has the case still not gone to court?

The Muslim Barbarians wanted a cash ransom of more than $500,000 because they assumed all Jews were rich, according to French authorities. And when Halimi's family could not get that kind of money, the kidnappers killed their captive, because he was a Jew.

In taunting calls to Halimi's family, the abductors addressed his parents with anti-Semitic slurs and told them to get cash ''from your synagogue." They also contacted a French rabbi, boasting, ''We have a Jew." Even more shocking, investigators believe that many inhabitants of the project were aware that the youth gang was holding a Jewish captive, but none called police or urged the abductors to show mercy.

Both racial and political anti-Semitism continues this year. After Halimi, the attacks continued in Lyon and Sarcelles. On March 6, a Jewish pupil in Lyon was attacked and kicked in the face. Days earlier, in Sarcelles, a Jewish man suffered a dislocated shoulder after he was beaten by youths making anti-Jewish remarks. On March 3, two young men in Sarcelles were attacked in separate incidents, with one, the son of a local rabbi, suffering a broken nose.

Turnil told me that the last institution attacked was the Jewish welfare agency. It was burned. This is classic anti-semitism or racism.

Said Sammy Ghozlan, a retired police chief and activist against anti-Semitism: ''It's all mixed up: gang stuff, violence, and a glaze of ideology -- they hate Jews, they hate the West, they hate France. The Jews are the face they put on their generalized anger at the world."

Probably the last six months or so, every day, police come to the Jews for Jesus office in Paris in order to take names and keep records. They want to guarantee the safety of all Jewish agencies, including our missionary band. “It can be a bit much,” said Turnil, “but we are glad for their help.”

Back to Mr Jones' comments in the ECAJ press release
"Threats", conveyed through the telephone, mail, leaflets, posters or e-mail, were recorded at a rate forty two percent above the average.

Amongst the incidents recorded during the past year were

* Synagogue vandalised, with damage to exterior and to ritual objects.
* Rabbi’s home adjoining synagogue and cars parked on property vandalised and damaged.
* Rocks and a brick were thrown through the glass door of a synagogue.
* Attempted arson of synagogue.
* Congregants leaving synagogues were pelted with eggs.
* Office of Jewish student group on campus vandalised.
* A Jewish university student was threatened, spat upon and harassed on campus.
* Incidents of assault and harassment of Jewish people walking home after Festival meals
* Jewish man verbally abused, called “bloody Jew” and assaulted, while walking home from synagogue.
* A Chasidic Jew in a market area had paint thrown at him by unknown assailants.

Anti-Jewish graffiti were reported at the highest level since records have been kept and at a rate seventy seven percent above the average for all years, while hate mail and threatening telephone calls were recorded at just below the average of the previous 16 years.

Graffiti included:

* Graffiti “Bloody Jews” written on wall of ritual religious structure had been assembled in a university.
* Antisemitic graffiti reading “Jews must die” and “Kill the Jews” daubed on business office.
* Graffiti “Jews Kill” painted in prominent city positions.
* Graffiti “Die Jews” painted on synagogue.
* A series of antisemitic daubings were painted in and around a Jewish day school campus.

Hate mail included:

* A synagogue received antisemitic hate mail, which included comments such as “Herr Hitler had the right attitude about Jews, no question”.
* Antisemitic letter sent to Holocaust survivor.
* Jewish communal figures received envelopes with comments “die Jews” and containing white powder.
* Jewish organisations received mail “Hitler was Right” and swastika.

Abusive/threatening telephone calls included:

* Bomb threats directed at a synagogue made to the private home of an executive member. The caller stated “In the name of Allah, a bomb is in the synagogue and will go off in 25 minutes, blood will be shed.”
* Telephone threats, concluding “Watch out, bloody Jews” made to Jewish community organisation.
* Abusive and threatening telephone calls, “I will kill you all”, made to a number of Jewish organisations
* Threatening telephone call with the phrase “kill Jews” repeated, received at home of Jewish family.

Abusive, threatening and other antisemitic e-mails sent to Jewish individuals and Jewish communal offices were reported at a rate of more than three per week, which added to concerns at “an explosion of anti-Jewish invective on web-based bulletin boards and discussion groups,” Mr. Jones reported.

Examples of offensive emails included:

* A man received at his home a long antisemitic e-mail, on the subject of “your filthy Talmud”.* E-mail “Jews stink!” beginning “I hope you big nosed greedy cunts are taught a lesson . . . “ sent to Jewish organisations.
* E-mail sent to Jewish community leader and copied to Jewish organisations saying “What a PITY your VERMIN RACE was not eliminated! Jews SMELL, STINK and are VERMIN. They aren’t real humans and are a lower form of life. Three cheers for the holocaust HIP HIP, HIP HIP, HIP HIP, HORAY!!!!!!! Can’t wait till Israel is a smoldering mess, then there will be NO WHERE for THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL TO RUN TO and to pedal their lies from. I WIPE MY ARSE WITH YOUR ‘STAR OF DAVID’. YOU UNGRATEFUL VERMIN SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.”
* Antisemitic e-mail sent to Jewish organisations alleging Jews had “infested the U.S.A., Argentina and a few other countries . . . you’re everywhere, like roaches in a dirty kitchen”.
* Jewish organisation received e-mail comparing Jews to Nazis, concluding “Hitler was correct, you are not human”. A similar e-mail was received at a Jewish school.
* E-mail sent to Jewish organisation calling Jews “vermin”, and referring to a leader as a “Stinking Yid”.

In his overall assessment, Mr Jones observed :

* "In contemporary Australia, to accuse any person or organisation of antisemitism is to allege that their behaviour is antisocial and
unacceptable. No one with aspirations to public credibility admits to holding antisemitic views or to associating with openly antisemitic

* "While individuals and organisations associated with the political left who promoted extreme anti-Israel racism, which sometimes included
offensive and gratuitous anti-Jewish imagery, were particularly keen to assert that they were not antisemitic, even far-right and neo-Nazi
groups publicly professed to be "anti-Zionist" rather than anti-Jewish, although the material they distribute can give the lie to any such distinction."

* "In the mass media during the year in review, a number of commentators and a large number of contributors of letters and other forms of public feedback crossed the line between political commentary and offensive commentaries came during the period when Israel was engaged in military activity against HAMAS and Hezbollah. Other anti-Jewish comments came in the course of public discussions on eg the US military involvement in Iraq, the prosecution of Nazi War Criminals when this involved Australian residents and the personal campaign against Israel by an individual author who promoted himself as a victim of a mythical anti-democratic Jewish establishment. In non-mainstream publications, anti-Jewish rhetoric was also invoked in other discussions such as eg on Australia's anti-terrorism laws and on Australian Jewish support for victims of racism."

* "Issues of antisemitism emanating from Islamic sources in Australia were a significant topic of public discussion during the period in review. The Mufti of Australia came under the public spotlight when it was reported that he had promoted Holocaust denial in his Sydney mosque in 2006. A number of media reports appeared noting anti-Jewish books available in bookshops serving Australia's Muslim community."

* "Anti-Jewish propaganda in fringe publications and from extremist organisations remained a serious concern. During debates on a number of matters of public policy overtly anti-Jewish language, and/or inflammatory slanders, sometimes were part of the mainstream discussion. Conspiracy theories abounded on the internet and these included a disturbing proportion"

* "In cases under the Federal Racial Hatred Act, the ECAJ was successful in having an article in the One Nation political party's newspaper found to be in breach of the Act and having an Apology ordered. The case against the Bible Believers' web-site was heard in the Federal Court and a judgement is anticipated early in 2007. In the state of New South Wales, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal determined a Jewish couple had been the victims of unlawful anti-Jewish racial vilification. In Western Australia, a person was charged with making
anti-Jewish telephone calls. In Queensland, a case commenced against a person who had used telephone text messages as a mode for harassment. Further, amended legislation as part of counter-terrorism policies was raised as a possible means for legal action against anti-Semitism in Australia in the future".

* “While traditionally anti-Jewish racism has been thought of as primarily a far-Right phenomenon, there is considerable evidence that a growing proportion of antisemitic commentary in Australia comes from a wide variety of sources, including the far Left.”

Mr. Jones added: “While the sources of antisemitism are many and varied, the reality in Australia is that there has been excellent political and moral leadership against antisemitism in recent times, with the Federal and State Parliaments passing strong, unanimous resolutions on the subject in 2004 and 2005, and a growing awareness of the responsibility by the mass media to avoid being hijacked by racists,” Mr. Jones commented.

“In the current climate it is very significant that Muslim and Christian leaders in Australia have joined with Jewish leaders in common cause against those who would use religion to justify hatred and racist violence, a fact which sets Australia apart from many other societies,” Mr. Jones concluded.

Sacred Space and Immanuel

Originally uploaded by bobmendo.

Sacred Space: Shrines and SBS
Is God dwelling with us a good thing?

For publication
A Christmas message
By Bob Mendelsohn
National Director, Jews for Jesus

Earlier this year men and women, and even boys and girls stayed up into the night here in Australia for nearly thirty days. We were not being bombed like happened in WWII in London. We were not experiencing terror alerts as might be common in Iraq in these days. We simply wanted to know and to know firsthand and live, what the scores of games being played in Germany at that hour were. We didn’t want to wake up in the morning to the scores. We sat in pubs and tuned our home tellies to the SBS to watch and cheer, and drink and slap high fives to mates we’re not ever likely to see again. What a month for the World Cup of soccer!

We also had many other things to watch including Wimbledon, the US (golf) Open, the start of a new season of Jack Bauer’s 24 and whatever Hollywood wanted to peddle our way on Showtime or the Sunday night movie. I’m weary just thinking again about it.

Usually each Sunday I am privileged to preach in different churches in Australia, Singapore or New Zealand. In the next 12 months I’ll also be in Korea, Argentina, the Philippines, Hungary and the US doing the same. Each place is different; each culture is varied. But almost without exception, they call their places of prayer and worship a ‘sanctuary.’ (Some in the high church will argue that the nave is different to the sanctuary, but this is not a technical article about church architecture.) The sanctuary is the ‘holy place’ and derives from the Older Testament perspective of the Tabernacle (later the Temple.) The sanctuary was the main room of the building, with double the room of the Holy of Holies, and was the closest an ordinary priest could go to meet with God.

The English word ‘sanctuary’ comes from the Latin “sanctus” meaning “holy” as in sanctification or sacrosanct. Whatever else we can say about the sanctuary and its meanings, we can certainly say that God wanted to meet with His people in the wilderness (Exodus 25-40) and had Bezalel and Oholiab build the place for the people ‘that I might dwell among them.” (Exodus 25.8). The very word “Shechinah” which some translate the Glory of God, has at its root the word ‘Shachan” meaning “he dwells” and thus reminds us that God wants to dwell with us in the sanctuary (Hebrew: Mishkan, also rooted in ‘to dwell’)

Dwelling sounds like a good thing to do with God. It’s certainly better than being opposed by him. But there might be a downside to it. Dwelling with us can be intimidating. Think about the times your parents came to sit on your bed and you wondered what they wanted? “Just to visit with you” was not an answer you wanted to hear, especially as you survived your teen years. Or how about the policeman who dwells with you while you are driving down the highway in some semblance of a hurry. Do you want such dwelling? So how do you view the ‘dwelling with us’ of the Almighty?

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1.23)

At Christmas we hear a familiar word. The Hebrew word “Immanuel” is translated into English as “God with us.” And this carries the same connotation as his ‘dwelling with us.’ Presence can be a wonderful thing, or it can be an intimidating thing. Which it is is usually a function of our relationship with him and our belief in what he thinks is our biggest sin.

All that said, I think often about sacred things and sacred space. God wants to dwell with us, is there room where we are? Remember the scene of the new kid arriving at school and coming to the lunch room with tray in hand looking for any empty chair or any welcoming stranger who would make room for him? This is how I imagine God coming to me. He stands at the door and looks around, hoping for an invitation to sit by me or by someone. I want to be awaiting him and thus welcoming him straightaway. No delays here!

And this requires my having to make room for him. Thus the idea of sacred space. I don’t think God wants me to build what Moses’s contract managers, Bezalel and Oholiab, had to do in 15 chapters of the Bible. But he does want me to make a clearing of sorts in what I usually do and what I usually think and what I usually believe… and let him in.

It must be a human enterprise, built into each of us, to worship in sacristy and holiness. We were built to worship God. Either this would take place in the Garden of Eden (not humankind’s original birthplace, but our first temporary residence) or outside it in our wandering here on earth. We were born to worship and dwell with God.

But, it’s not only believers who worship.

I think the new 'sanctuary' that is the new worship centre may be the television lounge room. Each day men and women, boys and girls gather to devote themselves at the shrine, bowing and adjusting pillows to receive information and entertainment, so that their lives might be fuller. Into that lounge room can come views from other sacred spaces, all on video tape or live coverage, from Red Carpets and Hollywood Mt Olympus deities to the MCG and the deities of war and contest there.

It’s not so much a matter of location however, that defines our sacred space. It’s a matter of who is the focus. What we worship defines who we are as much as what we eat or read or sing. We can create sacred space in our cars or in our gardens. It can look like a shrine or simply a moment of silence given to quiet reflection on the One who came to dwell with us at Christmas.

In fact, I prefer to call this holiday “Messiahmas” to remind myself of the person who came and not the gifts that were brought or the reindeer or the German tree or the green and red tinsel at Myer’s. Messiahmas is really God dwelling in our sacred space, first in a manger (not usually considered sacred) outside Bethlehem in Israel, then in a carpenter’s shop, and finally hanging on a Roman cross of torture. Finally a tomb outside Jerusalem from which he rose from the dead. Nothing sacred about any of those, except that Y’shua (that’s the Jewish way to say Jesus) was there. It’s his presence that makes any space sacred. All he wants is a place at your lunch table. All he wants is for you to welcome him to your lounge room. Into your car, into your life. May there be room in your inn this Messiahmas for the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world.


Bob Mendelsohn is the director of Jews for Jesus in AustralAsia, based in Sydney. He and his wife have three children. They all were born in the US and moved to Australia to found Jews for Jesus in 1998. He is a popular conference and church speaker and travels to many nations to share the message of Jesus among Jewish people and in many Christian churches. The website www.jewsforjesus.org.au has much more information about him and the organization.

16 December 2006


Originally uploaded by bobmendo.

Parties are one thing, but celebrating 30 years of marriage is quite another. We were in our 20s when we wed in Kansas City in 1977, and now we are on the verge of remembering 30 years (on 1 January). My wife is a noble and wonderful woman, full of grace and love. And I'm not interested in only a party, but in thanking God for his power to keep us and to keep His name on our lips.

So really I'm honoring God on this 30th Anniversary for He is worthy of our praise.

06 December 2006

Jackie Mason...a Jew for Jesus?

From the Jewish Telegraph Agency today:
Jews for Jesus apologized to Jewish comedian Jackie Mason in order to settle a lawsuit.

The group had distributed a pamphlet over the summer that featured a caricature of Mason and the words: “Jackie Mason ... A Jew for Jesus!?”

Mason, who is not a Jew for Jesus, sued for $2 million.

In federal court Tuesday, Mason accepted an apology instead, along with a promise from Jews for Jesus not to distribute the pamphlet again.

Afterward, Mason told reporters outside the courthouse that the apology acknowledged that “You can’t be a table and a chair. You’re either a Jew or a gentile.”

David Brickner, Jews for Jesus’ executive director, responded, “We wanted you to think about it because” Jesus is “the best Jew that ever lived.”

Mason shot back, “Jesus didn’t believe in Judaism; that’s the reason he became a Christian.”

OK. Mr Mason, I get it, you don't really have a clue about who Jesus was and that he rose from the dead, not to found a new religion, but ok, you don't get it. That's fair enough.

But maybe someone else might.

And maybe they will understand that Jesus is the best Jew who ever lived, and he's not looking for an audience to cheer him on, but rather people with humble hearts who want to listen to his passion and compassion for all people, Jews and nonJews.

I'm glad the US folks in Jews for Jesus apologized and withdrew the flyer from its street campaigning. But God didn't withdraw his love for Jackie Mason nor his invitation for Jackie to consider the issue for himself. A really big man will do just that.

God be with him and with those who read this.

04 December 2006

At Casa Rosada.jpg

At Casa Rosada.jpg
Originally uploaded by bobmendo.

What is it about this fantastic tango-dancing, Boca-cheering, Euro-loving Paris of the South? I really enjoy the people and the energy. It's often called the City that Never Sleeps, although I've heard that before in New York City.

Before the "White House" of the Argentine republic, I felt God wanting to pour out his power on this country and he will do so. Nothing will stop his desires. And we are hoping to find more and more Jewish people who are keen to find out more about God's love in Y'shua as well.

When I return to Australia in a few days... may the Lord keep Argentina on my mind and in all of our prayers.