Cheshbon Nefesh

Don Henley, Elul, and Forgiveness

Without directly referencing God, Yeshua, the Bible, Judaism, or Elul, Don Henley’s song gets to the heart of some matters that are very important for us to consider as we approach the high holidays.

Better Than the World to Come

When we enter the World to Come we will be like the angels who behold the infinite light of God. We will be like the Messiah who beholds the glory of the Father. That’s why repentance and choosing to do right is something that only has real meaning now.

Turn the Other Cheek

In Middle Eastern culture it is customary to use the right hand for most activities. Striking a person on the right cheek with the right hand would require using a backhanded motion. A backhanded slap is considered twice as offensive as an openhanded slap and thus subject to double the fine.

They Are Our Sons

Here in Israel, everyone is a Jewish mother or father to the soldiers who serve in the IDF. It is not uncommon for a stranger to go out of his or her way to help a soldier in any way they can. The soldiers are like our own children.

Is History Important?

This is, by and large, an ahistorical generation. What has gone before is ignored and of little interest. During the Three Weeks—and any time of reflection and remembrance—we do well to consider why history is, in fact, important and what is lost when we do not deem it so.

Tisha B’Av and the Physician’s Advice

On the ninth day of the month of Av (Tisha B’Av), 70 CE, the world lost the Holy Temple, which was meant to be the house of prayer for all nations. Now not one stone of it rests upon another, as our Master predicted. What destroyed it? It wasn’t Rome.

Lessons from the Cat

I kept hearing my daughter say, "I want to help you! I am trying to help you," and I knew this was another vivid reminder of how the LORD longs to help us, often to no avail. We see something that looks like fun, and before we know it, we are caught.


The Steps of the Righteous

Last year I began to find myself less enthusiastic than I had been at the school for Palestinian kids. I wondered at the reasons. Yes, we have been through terror attacks and operations by the IDF. I have mourned with those on both sides who have lost people and rejoiced at celebrations for weddings and graduations. What was wrong?

Ordinary Heroes

I have heard that this is a narcissistic generation, and that it is a generation in which people care only about money. I have heard all these things stated as though they are true. My experience, however, proves that this is not always the case! I am grateful and fortunate to know many heroes.

Bad Ideas with Good Intentions

I’d like to encourage you to think about boundaries in your life. Think about your boundaries and maybe where you’ve crossed them with God. If you have crossed the line, turn around before it hurts you any worse. Boundaries are his kind way of marking out “safe places” for us to stay within.

Unleavened Bread and Unleavened Deeds

From Exodus 12:17 we learn the importance of being very careful not to allow dough intended for unleavened bread to become leavened. The same verse instructs us regarding how to please God with our actions.

The Downfall of America?

Yesterday, I heard a short comment from Dennis Prager, a prominent US talk show host. He speaks on topics that range from ethics, politics, marriage, and everything in between. He was expressing his concerns about several of the current GOP presidential candidates, about the baseless hatred that is now taking place in the political arena.

A Blessing for Bad News

Every experience life has to offer, from the mundane to the extraordinary, is ensconced in specific and verbally spoken blessings by the traditional Jew. There is even a blessing for when one hears exceptionally bad news, such as the death of a close friend or family member. But why?

Learning Is Worship

We can, through learning, directly express our admiration for God; we can, through learning, directly receive revelation. Whether it is undertaken individually or corporately, learning itself is a spiritual act, an act of worship. True spiritual learning is an incredibly meaningful experience. It draws one close to God in openness and praise.

If Only Abraham had Obeyed

When terror arises it is easy to entertain the sentiment, “If only Abraham had been obedient and not jumped the gun, we wouldn’t be in this mess today!” Nevertheless, we must remember Ishmael’s blessing and pray for his redemption.

Social Media and Public Shaming

Social media is a brilliant tool for exchanging ideas, sharing information rapidly, and keeping connected with loved ones and coworkers. There have been some wonderful innovations that have come through these media. However, although it has brought out some of the best qualities in human nature, it has also revealed some of the worst.

Moving Forward in Paris

At first I heard what I thought were fireworks. A rapid series of low concussions were immediately followed by the sound of shattering glass. In one split second, it was pandemonium. I saw two young men rush out of the restaurant and throw themselves into a car that sped away as quickly as it had magically appeared.

Love Speaks Louder than Words

It's tense in the Holy Land. There have been fatal attacks on young Jewish families, mothers, children, soldiers, and fathers. There have been demonstrations and Palestinian kids and youth have been killed. Our soldiers are kids, often confronting angry mobs. Their demonstrators are also kids, who feel as if they have very little to lose.

Jews and Gentiles, Rebuilding Ruins Together

As a revolutionary movement, we must continue to work for the reconciliation of Israel and the Messiah. We must reconstruct these destroyed ramparts and take our place as leaders in all of Israel and amongst the nations, and it would appear that the catalyst that launches us to this foretold headship correlates to our relationship with the Sabbath.

God, Where Are You?

To cope with the recent attacks Israelis are taking self-defense classes and buying personal weapons such as pepper spray. Most of us have had to change something about our daily routines. I’ve had to change my running route to run at a later hour when I’m not so vulnerable by being alone.

The Wedding

We joined together to bless, to encourage, and to rejoice with the couple. For a brief instant, our grievances melted away in the mutually satisfying revelry and camaraderie in our approval of the union. We forget ourselves in service to someone else. This is how it should be.

Systematic Good-ology

Let’s not fall behind in doing the kind of work the Master spent so much time exhorting us to do—the Sermon-on-the-Mount kind of work, the work of learning to be good, the work of consistently making ethically sound choices. In doing so, we will grow to become more like Jesus.

A Wandering Jew on Park Avenue

What does Judaism look like outside of our Messianic circles? One Messianic Jew has many anecdotes from her personal tour of New York City’s greatest synagogues, everywhere from ultra-Orthodox to Reform. Never is there a dull moment in Manhattan’s Jewish community.

The Power of Teshuvah

All of us can experience seasons in life where we are in a deep pit. And it may seem so ominous, and so devastating, and so dark, that there seems to be no way out. But the truth is, with God, there is always a path toward the light. Even at the last minute, God welcomes our return.

The Fire of a Thought

Waking up to devastating news is sometimes not so uncommon in Israel, unfortunately. But do we really stop to think about the wellspring of the evil that is done? We all would do well to take inventory of our own thoughts. We are in more danger from within than we will ever be from without.

Outside the Circle

Every year in Israel ceremonies are held throughout the country to commence Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for those who perished in the Holocaust. This day should also be remembered by Christians throughout the world. It was the Christian silence that also contributed to the tragic loss of so many lives.