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The Jerusalem Prayer List – October 17, 2013

Last night I returned from a trip to Amsterdam, Holland. I went to Amsterdam with brothers Marcelo and Matheus from Belo-Horizonte, Brazil, in order to make a short documentary film about the Jewish Community in Amsterdam in the 16-17th centuries. Amsterdam was a hub for Spanish and Portuguese Jews who escaped Portugal to get away from the Inquisition that forced them to convert to Catholicism and to abandon all traces of Jewish identity and practice. Holland at that time was entering the age of discovery and the house of Orange needed the Jews and their commercial abilities and their connections and the Dutch welcomed the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. The Jews flourished in Amsterdam and in Holland and became a formidable force in making Holland a sea-faring empire and a commercial mogul. One of the biggest synagogues in Europe is in Amsterdam and it is a 17th Century Synagogue that is named The Portuguese Synagogue. The Rabbi of this Synagogue in the 17th Century was Saul Levi Morteira. In the United States there was a idiom “Hanging Judge.” On the same scale Rabbi Morteira was an excommunicating Rabbi. He excommunicated members of his community at will and for according to his fancy. He pronounced the excommunication of Baruch Spinoza on July 27, 1656. Rabbi Morteira’s biggest fear was that the victims of the Inquisition would continue to believe in Yeshua even after they restored their Jewish identity and life style. It was the very same spirit that the Catholic Church had against the Jews. The Catholics persecuted the Jews that they forced to convert for eating kosher food or for lighting candles on Friday evening, or for keeping the Passover. Rabbi Morteira persecuted the Jews that believed and respected Yeshua as the Messiah and excommunicated them even on suspicion of faith. One of the sad cases was Uriel da Costa’s death. Uriel was born in Porto with the name Gabriel da Costa. His parents were Cristãos Novos, or New Christians, devoutly religious Christians who were forced to convert to Catholicism because of the persecution of the Jews in Spain and Portugal.

Uriel began to read the Bible while a student of canon law. He was aware that his family had Jewish origins, and in the course of his reading the Bible, he began to consider Judaism. In 1617 the whole family decided to return to Judaism.

However, in Amsterdam Uriel quickly became disenchanted with the kind of Judaism he saw in practice there. He came to believe that the rabbinic leadership was too consumed by ritualism and legalistic posturing. In 1624 he published a book titled An Examination of the Traditions of the Pharisees which questioned the fundamental idea of the immortality of the soul. Costa believed that this was not an idea deeply rooted in biblical Judaism, but rather had been formulated primarily by rabbis. The work further pointed out the discrepancies between biblical Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism; he declared the latter to be an accumulation of mechanical ceremonies and practices. In his view, it was thoroughly devoid of spiritual and philosophical concepts.

The book became very controversial and was burned publicly. Uriel Da Costa was taken to Rabbinical Court before the leadership of Amsterdam. He was accused of blasphemous views against Judaism. The Rabbinical court fined Da Costa with a very large sum of money and excommunicated him from the community. After a period of returning to the Christian community in Hamburg, Germany, Uriel returned to Amsterdam. In 1633 he sought a reconciliation with the Jewish community. He claimed that he would go back to being “an ape amongst the apes”; he would follow the Jewish Rabbinical traditions and practices.

It did not take long for Uriel to express his admiration for Yeshua on the one hand and his rationalistic and skeptical views. Uriel was a personal friend with Menashe Ben Israel a prominent and rich Jew who was one of the leaders of the Synagogue in Amsterdam and also with Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza was also excommunicated by the same Synagogue and by Rabbi Morteira. Ureil did not back off from his view that religion was a human invention. He believed that God resides in nature, which is full of peace and harmony, whereas organized religion is marked by violence and strife. Uriel da Costa dissuaded some Christians from conversion to Judaism. For the communal leadership of Amsterdam, this was the final straw. He was excommunicated again. For seven years he lived in virtual isolation, shunned by his family and loved ones. As a punishment for his heretical views, he was publicly given 39 lashes at the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. He was forced to lie on the floor while the congregation trampled over him. He was demoralized and depressed that he became suicidal. He wrote his own autobiography in 1640, and described how he was a victim of religious intolerance and when he finished writing he took a gun and shot himself. Today most cities in Holland have at least one street or monument called “Da Costa” in memory of this young man who died because he stood with faith in the Biblical truth and refused to bow down to man’s inhumanity to man and religious intolerance. Da Costa understood Yeshua as a liberator from human religious meanness and the abuse of man in the name of God. No sane human being can justify suicide under any circumstances. When I think of Uriel Da Costa and others who did not compromise their understanding of the truth and tried to live as Jews and as disciples of Yeshua in world of religious bigotry and dogma based hate, I think of the great contribution that being a Jewish Disciple of Yeshua has brought to the world. If Uriel Da Costa would be alive hopefully he would have found an honorable place in a Messianic Jewish Congregation. At least I can speak in the name of Netivyah and the Roeh Israel Congregation in Jerusalem, all the Uriel Da Costas of the world would be welcomed and accepted and appreciated in our fellowship. Because we too are committed as Disciples of Yeshua and we too reject the authority of human tradition and out of freedom chose the amount and items of tradition that we want to accept and don’t judge others for the traditions that they chose to practice.

Paul made it very clear in his letter to the Romans chapter 14: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.”

I urge you all to pray for today’s religious communities that we identify with and enjoy that the Lord will deliver us from the spirit of Rabbi Morteira and others who put themselves as judges on things that God did not command and did not demand from us. Pray that we all become much more biblical in both our practices and our attitudes and learn to be inclusive and supportive rather than judgmental and dogmatic.

The construction of our building is going on well. Today is a major Muslim holiday so the workers are not working, but they are beginning to build the second floor already. The builder says that by the middle of January the whole cement and iron frame of the building will be finished and they will start working on the interior of the building. We are still in deep prayer for the rest of the funds that we need in order to finish the building. As for now we are getting every day acts of vandalism that some Orthodox Jews are committing against us and the building. Just today I saw that they have climbed up the scaffolding and destroyed a big poster that we had hanging. Last week we had someone spray paint a cross in green paint and wrote in English “Stop.” They also spray painted all over the front wall with green paint. There were posters all around the city claiming that we are building a giant complex for missionaries to snatch Jewish Souls from children. Our whole building will be barely a total of 600 meter square (approximately 6000 square feet), but they wrote a “giant complex” – that is o.k. all I can say is that I wish it was a giant complex and my the Lord grant us the need and the means to build a giant complex for teaching the Word of God and blessing Israel. Please stand with us in prayer and help us with the means that are needed for this construction.

We have some new material on and also on face book at the Netivyah page. Please go and see it. The newest is a clip from a film about the Anussim in Amsterdam that our Brazilian brothers are making. These is just a short promo click and see it and start praying for the restoration of the Anussim back home to Israel:

Please pray for our sick brothers and sisters and the elderly: Ahuva, Ilana, Leah, Sarit, David S., Merav, Udi, Chana S., Marcia, and Tania. In the United States please don’t forget to pray for Ruby and for Liz and Nancy Boisseau, Danah and Noaam our daughter and granddaughter and Horace and June Marcia’s father and mother. In Brazil please pray for Paulo. In Japan please pray for Sadako San, and Shoko San, and Tomoko San, and Daisuke Sensei, and for Toru Kashima San.

Three of us are traveling to the Far East next week, Marcia, and Hannah, and I. We will be traveling to participate in the Asia Messianic Forum and we will have a table with books and material about Netivyah during the forum. We will be also teaching in three countries. The women will teach women and I will teach everyone. We need your prayers for the success and blessing on this trip and specially the protection of our bodies and our spirits. We also need the touch and guidance of the Spirit of God on our teaching and fellowship. We want to inspire and encourage people to commit to the restoration of the church and the restoration of Israel.

Thank you for praying for Jerusalem and thank you for praying for us in Netivyah. We are totally dependent on God’s mercy and grace and on the love of our brethren.

God bless each and every one of you for standing with Israel and standing with us,
Joseph Shulam

The Jerusalem Prayer List – October 5, 2013

The reading today in every synagogue is the story of Noah. The reading starts in Genesis 6:9 and ends in Genesis 11:24. Probably this is one of the hardest texts to understand in the whole bible, and one of the saddest tests. What makes is one of the saddest texts in the Bible is the fact that it says:

Gen. 6:6 “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (NKJV) The English translations don’t want to use the word “Saddened.” So, they use the word “grieved” in stead. In this verse we also read that the Lord repented that He made man: “And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. “ (ASV) – The ASV has translated right the word “NiCham” – which really means “Repented” as the ASV has translated it. The NKJV translated it: “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the Earth.” “Sorry” or “Repented” or “Saddened” or “grieved” – it is a sad text that speaks volumes about God and His creation. This is especially true when you consider that God does not make mistakes, and that God is in full control of His creation and that God knows all things before they happen. How could it be that God repented or was sorry that He created man on the Earth? These chapters in Genesis hold some of the most important concepts that direct our lives and give us a better understanding of God and how He functions.

This portion of the reading starts with this verses that speak of how bad humanity has become and it ends with the tower of Babel and again even after the flood. Even Noah himself has committed a grievous sin after the salvation that the LORD saved him and his family from the sure death by water with the other members of humanity. If you look at the story of Noah and the flood in this dark and morose light it would be easy to become very pessimistic, even depressed. However, the truth is that in all the statements about the sinfulness of man and God’s role as the responsible adult. God could have designed everything different from the Garden to the Flood to keep from creating a situation that would condemn man for his bad choices. The spot of light and demonstration of God taking responsibility for His actions is seen in the decision and one sided covenant that He makes with humanity not to destroy the world again with water. The similarity between the beginning of chapter 6 and the text in 8:21 is shocking. The very same reason why God decided to do the flood and wipe-out humanity except the 8 souls of Noah’s family is the reason why he decided not to do destroy the world again. Here is the wonderful reality of the God who created the world and all of us human beings. Remember dear reader that when God created the world he said “behold it is good” six times only, but on Tuesday he said it twice. When he created man and woman God did not say, “it is good.” The grace of God is seen in the flood in both the harshness of the flood that exercising justice and payment for sin and saving Noah and his family because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Even in the punishment for the horrible sins of that generation God showed His character full of Grace and Truth, loving kindness and mercy. This a prayer list and a major theological discussion, but I write these ideas so that you can think about it and pray to God for revelation and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.

The work on the foundations of our building is finished and the first floor was already poured.From now the building will proceed quicker. We need your prayers and your support.

Please don’t forget to pray for all the sick list. There is nothing new in the sick list except that I understand that there is a little progress in the situation of our dear sister Chana Segal.Please keep praying for her and for Udi, and for all the other brothers and sisters in Israel, Japan, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and Finland.

Pray for our soldiers and for the Middle East situation. In Syria thousands are being killed every week, and the opposition to Bashar El Assad is growing weaker and weaker and the slaughter is growing in number and the world is doing little if anything to stop the killing of civilians in Syria. The situation with Iran is no less serious. According to Israel’s best sources Rouhani is doing the classy Muslim deception. He is telling the Westerners what they want to hear and in the same time doing what he wants to do. This is absolutely classical act in that culture. Israel is sure that all is done to gain time and opportunity to soften the West with words about peace and compromise and just continue to create the nukes. This situation needs prayer and intercession before the throne of God for divine intervention and revelation of the real intent and design of the Iranian government.

We need your prayers for our staff and schedule this week. We have recording session for teaching for Television in Russia and in Israel. We have a congregational barbeque on Wednesday and a annual general assembly for Netivyah on Thursday evening and we have guests from Brazil, Holland, and England visiting us this week. To get all of this done and keep up with our regular schedule also it will take a small miracle. So, please pray for us and for our staff, and especially for Yuda and Lydia. It is time for Lydia to give birth this week to their baby. Keep them in your prayers.

God bless you all for your care and support for us personally and for Netivyah Bible Istruction Ministry.
Joseph Shulam

The Jerusalem Prayer List – September 27, 2013

Yesterday we had finished reading the Torah with the last chapters of Deuteronomy and immediately rolled the scroll of the Torah to Genesis and we read the first chapter. Tomorrow, we start the reading of the Torah from Genesis again. The reading cycle in all Jewish Synagogues and also among many of the Jewish Disciples of Yeshua the Word of God is read every Shabbat. We read from the Torah and from the Prophets and also from the New Testaments. It is really amazing how much of the New Testament text is complimentary to the reading of the Torah and the Prophets. The topics of the Gospels and the letters and the book of Acts all recall or mention or quote from what is generally called “The Old Testament.”

Beginning the reading with the first chapters of Genesis is always a challenge. I have to teach tomorrow in the congregation and teaching from first chapters of Genesis is a challenge. Tomorrow I want to teach on Genesis 3:9, “Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” I suppose this is the most eternal question that God is asking about man. This question is actually not for Adam and Eve only. It is a question for every one of us, human beings, who have sinned and attempt hiding from God. God is actually looking for every one of us and asking us, “Where are you!” This of course is not because God does not know where we are and where we are hiding from him. It is because God wants us to find ourselves under His canopy of grace.

One of the interesting things that people don’t pay much attention to is that it was not God that was actually walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. In the American Standard Version translation the Hebrew is reflected better: “And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.” What Adam and Eve heard was not God walking but the sound of the Voice = Word of God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. The Aramaic translation of the Torah dated around 180 B.C. translates this text: “And they heard (Mimra de-Ya) the Word of the Lord God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.” This term (Mimra de-Ya) is a key for understanding the whole concept of Gospel of John and that Yeshua is the Word of God, the Logos! Already in the first chapters there is an introduction of the Voice = The Word of God that makes sound when walking in the Garden. God is a Spirit and Yeshua, the Word that has put on Flesh, is making noise that Adam and Eve can hear. God being a Spirit would not make noise moving around the Garden. God would not crush the dry leaves or broken branches of trees when He moves around the Garden. Only a person of material flesh that has heavy feet would be crushing dry leaves and make sound when he is walking in the Garden. We can’t continue in this short prayer list to dig deeper on this issue, but we can say that in Genesis 1-6 all the secrets of the Universe are found.

We ask you to continue to praying for the sick in our fellowship. Chana S., has been moved to a hospital for the terminally ill, but actually she is progressing a little. I have not been able to go visit her because I have had more than a week of sever sinus infection and am taking antibiotic. However, I have heard that Chana S., is having some progress and now she can eat with her left hand and is also trying to say some words. Please keep her in your prayers. Chana S., had a major CVA, but we believe and pray for God’s healing power to restore our dear sister’s health.

Please also keep Udi, Ahuva, Ilana, Leah, Miriam, Tania, Sarit, Sara and Zvi, Zvi D., Bat-Sheva, and now also Hannah and me too in your prayer for healing. For brothers and sisters in Japan please pray for: Shoko san, and Tomoko san, and Sadako san, and Ms. Watanabe who is suffering from sever Rheumatoid Arthritis. Pray for Paulo our dear young brother in Brazil. Pray for those whom you know and they are not on this prayer list. There are many people whom you know personally and I don’t know that need your prayers for healing and a divine touch of God’s Grace in their lives.

The Jewish Holiday season is over and now the building process will progress much faster. We had the Muslim Ramadan for one whole month and that was a delay in our building process, and now almost a month of Jewish Holidays and that too was a slow-down. Well, now things are going to be moving quicker. Please keep our building program in your prayers. We are still waiting for the Lord to impress some of you to make bold moves for Jerusalem on the basis of your love for the Lord and for the Jewish people and the command of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 15.

The food distribution program is also growing and although I am only on the sidelines of this program and our dear Yuda B., is actually doing all the work with the other young leaders, I do see and hear the tremendous appreciation and compliments that people pour out for Yuda dn the young leaders and for Netivyah. People come to pick up their cards every month and I am just sitting in my office and hearing what these people are saying and actually it fills me with joy and a blessing for all those of you who are partnering with Netivyah to feed the needy of Jerusalem.

The last week has been a festival in the U.N. in New York City. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has managed to win the hearts and minds of many American people by sweet-talking the U.N. and the American press. This is a matter of serious prayer because the smiles and sweet-talking and statements without facts on the ground that Hassan Rouhani spread like butter on a hot toast are blinding the USA administration and lowering the resolve to stop Iran from building an atomic bomb.

Iran was able in this last week to thrive on the support that they receive from Russia and North Korea and disarm the United States and the West with smiles and sweet-vain-empty statements about friendship and peace. You have to know the Arab and Iranian mentality and to understand that telling people what they want to hear is a strategy a weapon and a tool in order to accomplish their goals. Please pray for the good Lord to intervene in ways that only He can.

Peace on you our dear brothers and sisters, keep Israel in your prayers and keep the Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in Israel in your prayers and your care!
Joseph Shulam