The slaying of the First Born, an interesting read….

The slaying of the firstborn is the final, and most severe, divine measure against Egypt. Why did God need to use such a harsh tactic? Why was this particular plague the necessary conclusion to God’s barrage against Egypt? Answers may lie in inscriptions from ancient Egyptian coffins that reference an enigmatic event known as the “night of the slaying of the firstborn.”

The tenth plague unfolds as follows: “In the middle of the night (לילה; lailah) the Lord slayed all the firstborn (בכור; bechor) in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, to the firstborn of the captive who is in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the animals” (Exod 12:29). In light of the environmental plagues beforehand, the deaths of the firstborn may seem like an unexpected intensification of divine ire. Yet, the Egyptians would not have been shocked; they were already familiar with a long-held tradition that described a night on which the “firstborn” would perish. Hundreds of years before the Israelites came out of Egypt, the scribes of Egypt’s Old Kingdom (c. 2700-2100 BCE) etched funerary inscriptions onto royal coffins; one of these inscriptions says of the deceased, “I am he who will be judged with ‘Him-Whose-Name-Is-Hidden’ on that night of the slaying of the firstborn.” (Coffin Texts VI:178).

The Exodus narrative echoes this coffin text in its reference to God “slaying” (נכה; nakah) the “firstborn” (בכור; bechor) in the “night” (לילה; lailah). Even more strikingly, the Egyptian text refers to a god called “Him-Whose-Name-Is-Hidden.” This mysterious title seems to indicate a deity known to the Egyptians (based on the hieroglyphic addition that scholars call the “divine determinative” following the sentence). Yet, the Exodus account repurposes this Egyptian tradition of an unnamed god and applies it to the God of Israel whose name is initially hidden from both the Egyptians and the Israelites. Pharaoh asks Moses, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord” (Exod 5:2). Likewise, Moses asks to know God’s name when he encounters the divine presence at the burning bush: “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exod 3:13). According to Scripture, the god the Egyptians knew as “Him-Whose-Name-Is-Hidden” turns out to be the God of Israel, and the people of Egypt (and their gods) end up being “judged” by God on the night of the slaying of the firstborn.

This is why the final plague had to be the death of the firstborn: the text preserved on Egyptian coffins, which describes an unnamed deity judging the dead on the night of the slaying of the firstborn, was something that the God of Israel ironically repurposed so that the final plague would parallel the Egyptian tradition in a way that afflicted Egypt, and liberated Israel.

How to embrace mourning.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

The Scriptures take our mortality to heart. Whereas in many places in our modern world mourning and grief are seen as an affliction to be downplayed, avoided, or gotten over quickly, our ancient texts say there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Jewish tradition embraces mourning as an essential part of life.

If we were uncertain before, the pandemic has made it clear to all of us: we all experience loss—whether it’s of a life or a lifestyle. As much as we may like to sidestep or truncate the process, grief is inevitable. How then can we do it well and even embrace it through the process of mourning?

Taking Account of the Loss

Before we can process grief, we need to be aware that it exists and have a sense of how deep it goes. Picture a tree being removed from your yard. There is a large hole where it once was, now covered with dirt. For a long time, you notice the “scar” in the lawn where the tree once grew, until one day, the grass has grown over it and the spot has become less noticeable. Mourning is the process of filling that hole in the soil of our lives, of restoration from loss. 

Each hole is different and unique; its size and shape reflect the role that the person or process played in our life, not necessarily its status or perceived importance. For instance, the loss of an absentee biological father might create a small hole in comparison to the loss of a great uncle or a neighbor who had a very significant and constant paternal influence. Even a seemingly minor loss, like a new parent no longer having time to take a jog or write in their journal every morning, could result in an unexpected grief if the small, daily tradition helped them feel more like themselves.

Grief isn’t linear. It comes in waves and it’s unpredictable. It may appear at odd times with unexpected triggers. You might not feel it until the moment you would have normally practiced your personal ritual or process, or until the moment you would have called the absent person for support or advice. We have the information of loss in our mind, but we may not experience grief until those moments when we’re reminded of the hole. Maybe at the funeral of a neighbor, you find yourself thinking and even crying over a grandparent who had died three years before and not your neighbor whose funeral you are attending. Or perhaps at the passing of a parent who didn’t play much of a role in your life, you think of an older hole of not having a parent who loved and cared as you would have hoped.

Seasons and set-apart times for mourning are critical.

Understanding these realities about grief can give us more grace for ourselves and others throughout the process of mourning. It also helps us realize that seasons and set-apart times for mourning are critical because they allow us to take the time we need to fill in that hole.

How Judaism Embraces Mourning 

Grief can be disorienting. It’s often hard to concentrate or get work done, and we’re left frustrated by our inability to focus and work hard. Rather than this being viewed as a deficit, it can be seen as a God-given process to slow down and address the hole you now have in your life. In fact, this is exactly how Jewish tradition teaches us to see it.

Jewish tradition includes shiva, a seven-day period of mourning observed at home after the funeral. It’s an intentional and conscious time to process loss alongside a supportive community that shares in the grief. Psychiatrist Dr. Jorge Casariego says the shiva process “add[s] structure to the life of a mourner following a death. In the period after suffering a loss, a mourner may be comforted by the structure and routines prescribed by traditional Jewish mourning laws.”1

Traditionally, the Mourner’s Kaddish is read every day for a year when a loved one passes. In that way, we begin each day by praising God and allowing ourselves space to remember, reflect, and acknowledge our very real loss. It declares the truth that God provides peace in the midst of loss. The prayer opens: “Glorified and sanctified be God’s name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.” Every time we recite the Kaddish, we remember that God is in control and ask Him to establish His kingdom—a world without loss and grief, “speedily and soon.” Even in times of loss, the Kaddish helps us remember that our God holds all things together. In our pain, we can pray for peace not only for ourselves, but for all Israel. 

Jewish tradition builds in an annual acknowledgement of loss into the structure of our lives.

Once a year, we’re called to light a candle in honor of the person who has passed away. This tradition, called yahrzeit, is observed on the anniversary of the loved one’s death by burning a long-lasting candle in our homes.2 The flame serves both as a reminder of our loss and as a celebration of their life. In this way, Jewish tradition builds in an annual acknowledgement of loss into the structure of our lives.

Through examples like these, we see the importance that Jewish tradition places on taking time to grieve, and on the value of doing it both as individuals and as a community. We take note together of the full truth: the reality of our loss and the hope we have in our God.

Grief in the Pandemic 

But grief isn’t limited to mourning death, and as such, methods of mourning can be applied to other circumstances as well. When you stop working at a job that was a big part of your life, move away from home to a new city, or your child goes off to college, you likely experience grief. A friend of mine used to remind me of this well-known truth: “All change is first perceived as loss.”

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, there was an enormous sense of loss. We all lost the normal rhythms of everyday life, children felt the loss of school, families felt the weight of lost vacations and events, and working online without in-person interactions left a hole in our lives. 

But as much as we celebrate the end to the global pandemic, there also might be a bit of anxiety around the loss we feel as “normalcy” returns. A friend of mine is distraught at the prospect of commuting into downtown Boston again because she has loved her time at home with her family. My own children are dreading the return of in-person school. Many who work from home can’t imagine the idea of returning to an inflexible, 40-hour week in the office.

Loss is everywhere…learning how to grieve well and see it as a healing gift from God is critical. 

Loss is everywhere, experienced by all in many different ways. So learning how to grieve well and to see it as a healing gift from God is a challenge that’s critical for each of us to take on. 

How to Grieve Well

Whatever loss you’re grieving, here are four simple ways I’d recommend approaching the process of mourning:

1. Make space

Take time to acknowledge your loss. Take long walks, take some time off work, or spend some intentional time with friends. It’s become normalized to distract ourselves with stimulating things like our phones or work, but really, these things impede the mourning process or cause unhealthy ways of grieving. Grief doesn’t disappear by us not looking at it. 

Sometimes we need to know ourselves well enough to know when we need to compartmentalize. It could be helpful to set apart a designated time each day to read the Kaddish or another psalm or prayer. Intentionally creating a space for your mind, body, and soul to grieve can feel uncomfortable at first. Give yourself grace—God created us to need breaks.

2. Name the loss

A critical part of moving through the grief process is to identify what exactly you are grieving. What are you missing? I knew someone whose grandfather died. He had played a special role in her life, counseling her through all her big decisions. It wasn’t immediately apparent to her that when she lost her grandfather, she was also grieving the loss of his wisdom in her life. 

It took me six months after losing my mother to be able to admit to myself that I was angry at her, and I had lost the ability to work through that anger with her. I felt like I needed to be positive, but it was only when I named that loss and sat with it, that I was then able to forgive her and release it.

Naming things is a process, and you may often have more than one thing to name over time. It is hard to understand the role someone played in your life and what exactly you will be missing. It is more like working on a sculpture: with each strike, you get closer to forming its shape. 

3. Rely on community

Oftentimes, the temptation when grieving is to pull away from others. But God didn’t make us to bear our pain alone. We’re meant to live in community with one another, mourning with those who mourn. Others can’t take away our pain, but they can help us bear it if we let them. Find a friend to journey with—someone who is willing to be a listening ear, a walking buddy, or someone to simply sit beside you. Sometimes the most comforting thing is another’s presence. 

Sitting shiva with a community provides a space to tell stories and regale memories of the lost loved one. In order to fill the hole in our lives, we need to get a sense of how deep it is and where it goes. Talking about the person can help us do that. That’s also why it can be particularly comforting to talk about the deceased with other people who knew them, as their own stories and memories can help us flesh out and understand the hole in our own lives. 

4. Give thanks

Over and over through Scripture, we are told to give thanks to God. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:6). God doesn’t tell us to do it because He is feeling unappreciated. It’s for our own good. Even non-religious substance abuse programs promote learning gratitude and thankfulness because they know the impact they have. Thankfulness resets our lens, fills our heart with joy, and gives us a sense of abundance in our life rather than scarcity. 

Thankfulness is a key part of healing. It isn’t a means of denying pain, but a way to work through it. The reason one feels loss is because they were given a gift they no longer have. Thankfulness allows us to acknowledge the gift we were once given, and acts as a balm to the wound of loss. 

Moving Forward

The account of Job in the Tanakh tells of a man who lost everything in a moment—his family, his possessions, and his status. Yet still, he says with confidence, “The LORD gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Job opens himself to the process of mourning and acknowledges God is with him through the valley. It’s not easy to get to the place where we can say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” But God doesn’t expect us to get there alone by our own strength. Though loss itself is a terrible reality of our broken world, the way God helps us work through that loss is a blessing. Mourning is a gift, and through it, God heals our hearts and draws near to us. 

Endnotes

1. Dr. Jorge Isaac Casariego, “How Sitting Shiva Can Help,” Learning Center, Shiva (website), accessed June 24, 2021, https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/sitting-shiva/shiva-can-help/.

2. “What is the Yahrzeit?” Learning Center, Shiva (website), accessed June 24, 2021, https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/commemorate/yahrzeit/.

Interesting article on prayer.

Posture, Passion & Fasting

Poised for Prayer

Why is Posture in Prayer Important?

* Posture is [generally speaking] the visible expression of an inward attitude.

What are the bodily postures people assume in these circumstances?

  • Humility
  • Eagerness
  • Pleading or supplicating
  • Receiving
  • Attentiveness & Respect

* “…if we really desire to imitate God, we must take care that ceremonies do not express more than is in our minds, but that the inward feeling directs the eyes, the hands, the tongue & everything else.” J. Calvin, Commentary on John 17:1.

* “We should not normally, however, attempt to communicate this inward feeling of the heart to God without any outward form of expression. It is fitting, though not, of course, necessary, that the attitude of the heart should be reflected in a posture of humility, & with the hands & eyes so directed as to indicate that our desire is that our heart should be raised to Heaven from whence alone can come our help. The ideal in prayer is that the heart should ‘move & direct the tongue,’ & that the tongue ‘should not go before the heart,’ & that ‘the body should follow the mind of its own accord.’ Indeed, the feeling of the heart should be so overpowering that ‘the tongue spontaneously breaks forth into utterance & our other members into gestures.’ Nevertheless, there are times when the heart is cold & sluggish. At such times both the external exercise of the body & the use of the words & singing by the tongue can come to the aid of the heart, provided that the heart responds to the external ceremony, & the feeling of the mind goes along with the words that are used, so that hypocrisy is avoided.” Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, p. 283-4.

* “Christians often think that prayer is simply a matter of using terminology & putting standard ideas in an acceptable verbal format. God pays attention to the inflection of our voices, our expressions, our posture, & other forms of body language.” Richard L. Pratt, Jr., Pray with Your Eyes Wide Open, p. 163.

* A Practical aspect is that our minds often follow our posture. For example, if we give ourselves over to slouching, eyes cast down & shuffling our feet then depression can follow. On the other hand, when one is depressed picks up her pace, looks up & looks people in the eye, etc., then a more wholesome attitude usually ensues.

Do the Scriptures Have anything to say about Postures in Prayer?

* Kneeling

  • 2 Chronicles 6:12-13 – Supplicating (see also Daniel 6:10, Acts 20:36, 21:5)
  • Luke 22:41 – Weighted down w/ burden
  • Philippians 2:10-11 – Surrender & submission
  • Psalm 95:6 – Worship

* Prostration

  • Psalm 145:14 – Mourning (see also Ps. 146:8)
    • Revelation 1:17 – Utter unworthiness & surrender (see also Gen. 17:3 Daniel 8:17, & Ez. 1:28 & 44:4)

* Eyes

  • Luke 18:13 – Mourning for sin

John 17:1 – Ardor & seriousness: “By this attitude Christ declared that in His mind’s affections He was in heaven rather than upon earth, so that He left men behind Him & talked intimately with God. He looked toward heaven, not as if God (who fills also the earth) were shut up there, but because it is there chiefly that His majesty appears. Moreover, by looking towards heaven, He reminds us that God’s glory is exalted far above all creatures.”

* Hands

1 Timothy 2:8 & Psalm 63:1-3 (see also Ps. 134:2) – ‘an outward sign of an inward reality…indicating a pure heart.’ “…this custom has been practiced in worship in all ages, for it is natural for us to look upwards when we seek God, & the habit has been so strong that even idolaters, though they fashion gods in images of wood & stone, yet keep this custom & lift up hands to heaven; we should learn therefore that this practice is in keeping with true godliness, provided that the truth it represents also accompanies it.” J. Calvin on 1 Timothy 2:8

  • Psalm 28:2 – Emphasis in crying out for mercy (see Ps. 88:9)
  • Psalm 141:1-2 – Like the wafting up of incense (see also 2 Chronicles 6:13)
  •  
    • Psalm 143:5-6 – Though it is an aspect of the intensity of crying out for mercy, the picture is one holding out his hands to receive mercy. A sign of reception.

Conclusion: As Richard Pratt noticed, “…we have seen that communication in prayer goes far beyond words. We express ourselves through weeping or singing. We may demonstrate our attitudes through kneeling &lifting our hands. We may enhance our prayers through the practice of fasting. As we make these elements a vital part of our prayers, our communication with God will be more effective & rewarding than ever before.” Because our whole body & soul was created by God, & our whole body & soul are partners in sin, & our whole body & soul is being saved by Christ, therefore our whole body & soul out to be re-engaged in the privilege of prayer. Let me encourage you, then, to lift your heart, soul, eyes & hands in prayer to our God, as you fall on your knees before Him to seek His face!

Neméw’gishek yawen

Time for some rest….

I ye ode neméw’gishek yawen mine i nweshmogishek yawen se ge nin. Nwi nweshmo begishek ngom………emnogishget etoyek ginwa ngom.

Nin se Neaseno.

I been working hard all week writing and planning for classes and working on our lexical work which we are getting ready to publish, so am a wee bit tired and frayed around the edges. Nothing that a bit of rest can’t cure though, so the family and I are going to take some R&R today……

See ya all tomorrow then

Neaseno.

This is a good subject which requires thorough and prayerful study.

Unity of Fear

The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known (Psalm 77:18,19). This is the thunder of unity of fear. The earth “trembled and shook” in reaction to the thunder issuing forth from Heaven. The Hebrew word tremble means to quiver, to stand in awe, fear, shake. The word shook means to fear. The literal earth trembled and shook with fear when God thundered, literally, out of Heaven. We now hear the voice of God thundering, spiritually, out of Heaven, whether it be through the written or the preached Word of God; and our earth, our Self, begins to fear and stand in awe of the Lord. We know that the Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear means reverential respect and awe. When the Father thunders, the Word and the Holy Ghost have reverential respect for His Words and His movings.

When the Word does something, the Father and the Holy Ghost respect it. When the Holy Ghost does something, the Father and the Word respect it. We need to learn this same respect. It is vital that we respect what the Spirit of God is doing in our church services. His work lays the foundation for the ministry of the Word which follows. If we despise the manifestations of the Spirit in our meetings, then we cannot expect the Word of God to be opened unto us. God is not pleased to share Living Word with those who disrespect what He respects.

Some Christians have a great love for the movings of God’s Spirit, but their interest wanes when it is time for the preaching of the Word. We must be respectful toward the Word of God or we grieve the Spirit. When the Spirit is grieved our services soon become dry and dead. The glory of the Father will be absent from our gatherings, and the confirming works of the Father will not be with us unless we respect both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We need the thunder of this unity, not the tormenting fear of the Devil, but the reverential and respectful attitude, which bears evidence that the thunder of the unity of fear has been formed within us.

Sometimes the Father has the preeminence and stands in the authoritative position of rulership, while the Word and the Holy Ghost are subordinate in operation. At other times, the Word may be in the ruling position while the Father and the Holy Ghost are in subjection. And then, we may have a third order when the Holy Ghost is ruling while the Father and Word are subdominant.

UNITY OF OBEDIENCE IN THE GODHEAD There is no friction in the Godhead. Instead, there is perfect unity of obedience. They work together as One, for they are One.

Effectual Prayer

Prayer—-madmowen, dodaskewen, dotmowen, najdowen, nokanawen, etc. (Bodewadmimwen inspired)

What is it?

Prayer is seeking

Prayer is worship

Prayer is praising the Powers that be

Prayer is meditating and reflecting

Prayer can be deep introspection

Prayer is intercession, interceding for somebody or something

Prayer is travailing or asking for somebody else or something to happen

Prayer is maintenance in one’s life

Prayer is thoughtful

Prayer is heartfelt asking

Prayer is inclusive of all

Prayer is never exclusive

Prayer is compassionate

Prayer is gentle

Prayer is faithful

Prayer is pervading strength of purpose

Prayer is from the heart

Prayer is grounding or centering

Prayer is seeking guidance when needed

Prayer is enlightening

Prayer is wisdom activated

Prayer is wisdom, understanding, knowledge and prudence in all

Prayer is gratifying….

In the English language, prayer is largely defined by the idea of asking. In old English one could say, either to God or to anyone else: “I pray thee to do such and such.” The basic concept here is heart-felt request. The Jewish concept of prayer, however, is best defined by its Hebrew word “tfilia” (תפילה).

The primary meaning of the verb “lehitpalel” (להתפלל), the verb behind the noun, is self-judgement or introspection. Especially in Jewish Hassidic traditions, tfilia is understood to be an introspection that results in bonding between the creature and the Creator, as a child would bond with his/her father.

It is not a surprise that when the Jewish Christ was asked by his disciples how they should pray, he taught them what to request, making sure to address their Heavenly King as “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9). Shortly before that Jesus warned them to avoid using vain repetitions that characterized pagan approaches to prayer (Matt. 6:7).

In Isaiah we find a curious text: “… these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in the house of my prayer” (וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי). Note the wording: not “my house of prayer”, but “the house of my prayer.” (Isaiah 56:7; Barachot 7A) But how is it possible for God to engage in prayer? And with whom?

The answer lies in understanding that Hebrew prayer is not only a “request-making session.” It is a communal bonding between God and his child. The house of “his prayer” is, therefore, where God himself engages in introspection and in so doing bonds deeply with his people. They in turn reciprocate this action in their own prayers and bond with Him.

Hau Mesho,

Oh Grandfather

Odo pi ébyayak

At this time we come

Éndodmoyak i jitmowen

We ask for this help 

Mine I zhawendagsewen ge ninan shote ednesyak

And this blessing upon us who live here

Énizhopamséwat se ode Aki

As they walk together on this Earth

Nizhokmoyak émnozhewébsiyak ode nwézhobmadsewen

Help us to live this long life

Nizhokmoshek jayék gé ninan

Help all of us

Nishokmoshek épandewébniyak

Help us as we search

I géte myéwen

For the true way

Mine i débwéwen

And the truth

Mine i bémadsewen

And the way of life

Gin se mteno éje penmoyak odo pi

You alone we depend on at this time

Ahau, Migwéch.

Ho, thank you

Iw énajmoyak odo pi

That is all we say at this time

A General Prayer.

Hau nmeshomes

Oh my Grandfather

Mine gi meshomsenanek

And all of our grandfathers

Mine Mamogosnan eshe ne kasyen gego

And Creator as you are also known

Mine o Nokmeskignan

And our Grandmother Earth

E bya ygo ngom

So we come today

Ebgednegoygo ode sema

To put down our tobacco

Mine anet se ode wisnewen

And some of this food

Ik she gwien ekedgoygo

To say thank you

Mine ode kigdowen nake ode madwomen

And this talk or our prayers

Emno widoktadwiygo jayek se ninan

That we may all interact well together all of us

Mine eminangoygo i mnobmadsewen

And we may receive this good life

Ewi mnomajishkaygo mine ewi

That we may be healthy and

Ni zhokmagomen jayek

We may receive the health/help we all need

Pene shna emnobmadziygo

That we always live good lives

Ewi pamseygo se ode kiwen

As we walk about this Earth

Mine ewi mno wdabjetoygo

And that we use in a good way

Jayek gi nozhownen emingoygo

All those gifts we’ve been given

I ye i endotmoygo ngom

That is what we ask of you today

Pene shna emno widoktadwiygo

That we always live well together

Epa bmadziygo shote

Where we live about here

Gego wnikeken gode pwagnen

Don’t forget these pipes

Ewi nizhokmagoygo epenmoygo gi

That we depend on to help us

Ibe pi ebodyego gi pwagnen

When we fill them those pipes

Mine engemwiygo gode gemwenen enajdoygo

And as we sing these songs all of us asking

Gnizhokmagejek ewi byewat shote ednesyego

These powers to come here where we live

Enizhokmagomen emneseygo

To help us in things we need

Ode bmadsewen

Of this life

I ye i wa je penmoygo pene

That is why we depend always

Shna i mendowen etoyen

On this spiritual power you have

Ibe ednesyen

There where you are

Iw enajmoyan…..

That is all I have to say…….

Interesting stuff….

https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/scripture.html

I find the Holy Writings/Holy Bible very interesting as it contains the history and creation of the world(s), the history and creation of man, and the creation of all Life, as we have come to know it. There is much I find in the Holy Writings of God, and they are the writings of the God of this Universe, and I have found much wisdom therein. The Bible is also its own commentary, if one looks to the same God who caused it to be written with the willing help of man. That God is able to explain every intricate detail of the written word I seek within the pages of the Holy Writ, at least that has been my experience.

Iw enajmoyan, Neaseno ndesh ne kas.