Yes, we have covered this before in one or two of our blogs, but it deserves repeating:
Shabbat is easier than many people make it.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn
of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 KJV
Sabbath is a topic that we get a lot of questions about – many of those questions are about what we are or are not “allowed” to do on Shabbat. We get a lot of questions about washing dishes or cleaning up after ourselves during the 24 hours of rest. Many believe it is a sin to wash dishes on Shabbat. Others claim they cannot wash dishes on Shabbat because they are homemakers and washing dishes is a part of their normal daily “job.”
Whatever your reason is, I always try to teach sisters to do this: Put yourself in their shoes. Whose shoes? The shoes of those in the Exodus. Or, I guess in their sandals! Take yourself back in time and think of what life was like way back then: a nomadic family with limited resources, limited supplies, and no cooler or travel grill. What would Miriam do???
During the Exodus, their lifestyle would have been one of living in their shelter out in the desert, cooking meals over open fires, grinding flour by hand – often with something like a mortar and pestle, no refrigeration, no cold cuts, no theroses, and no convenience store along the way. It would have been much more challenging than our lives are today when it comes to food preparation, serving, storage and clean-up.
Ask yourself: Would they have left dishes laying around the campfire or tent until after sundown the next day? Chances are, by morning, there might not be much left to clean up because leaving food scraps around the camp would encourage all kinds of critters to come and wash the dishes for them! They would have likely known that some things just must be done to prevent worse from happening.
So, like I said, put yourself in their sandals and think about cleaning up after yourselves. So many will ask, though: Should you and Could you do any of these things? We aren’t supposed to do work. So isn’t cleaning up after one’s self WORK? You will find, I am not a strong proponent of those who preach the long list of Sabbath restrictions often found in rabbinics, where it is recommended that you run a sink of water and let everything sit until the next evening.
I much prefer the instructions which encourage us to be sensible. Cleaning up after yourself is not work, it is practical and prudent. There is nothing wrong with washing up some of the dishes as you go through the day. Even some strict rabbinic believers will suggest setting aside 1 dish per person. Then, when that person is done eating, they simply wash their dish, rinse and set aside to dry for the next meal. Imagine how nice it would be after sundown if you did not have to clean 6 of everything times 3 meals!! We tend to do this and leave only the difficult dishes such as caked on foods or pots and pans. That is all we leave for later.
Take for example, this lesson we learned some time ago, thanks to two mice who decided to invade our home during the middle of an autumn week. We live in a woodsy area, and although our own yard is quite clear of trees, we do have woods in the back. Mice sneaking into the house in autumn is a common occurrence, unfortunately.
On mid-week that week, I noticed the mouse evidence in the kitchen and, as usual, was completely grossed out!!! Out came the SERIOUS cleaning supplies as I washed and sterilized every counter-top and rewashed all the dishes, pots, and flatware!
Not knowing if we had caught all the mice by Shabbat, it was clear that we were going to have to take extra measures this week for clean-up. I made sure that all the dishes were washed throughout prep-day, dried then put away. Normally a few may linger after preparation is finished, but not this week! I was serious about this: After I made our ice cream, I even stuck the ice cream tub into the refrigerator over-night on Thursday to allow it to completely thaw before washing it Friday and putting it back in the freezer. Normally I would leave it on the counter or in the sink to thaw – not this week!
Here’s the thing about mice: they have been around since the dawn of time. They are annoying and can carry illness and disease. They are NOT allowed in our home, especially the kitchen!
We tried to make as few dishes as possible for Shabbat dinner Friday evening, and as few pans as well. Then we washed them, and stuck them in the oven, microwave, cupboards, wherever they fit to ensure no one would be leaving trails that would need to be rewashed in the morning.
Now, we could either leave our dishes over-night and all day on Saturday in the sink allowing mice, if there were any left in the house, to get all over them, pooping and peeing as they go. Or we could be sensible, quickly wash, dry and put away the dishes we had used. We chose to clean-up as we went along, ensuring there would be no further contamination of the kitchen should any mice be left.
There are two other examples I can give. One that happened a few months ago, and one that just happened this past Shabbat.
Countless times I have heard people say, even if you spill or break something, you must just push it off to the side and not clean up anything until after Shabbat. Everything involved with cleaning up would be working on Sabbath.
I am not sure what I did that Saturday a few months back. I don’t honestly know how it happened, but it happened. One of my tempered glass bowls that I loved using for cooking and preparing foods was used as a serving bowl for something dry and was sitting on the island in the kitchen. Ever have one of those days when you just seem to be butter fingers? Yup! That was me. I picked up the bowl, and it just seemed to throw itself up in the air, bouncing from hand to hand until it slipped through my grip and went crashing to the floor in a million tiny shards. That glass flew into places I didn’t even know existed until they sparkled in the setting sun!
Now, according to some rabbis, we must just push it aside and keep on Shabbatin’!
No. Not this mess. There were micro-shards everywhere. On the floor, of course, but also on the stove, counters, island and believe it or not, I discovered a shard on top of the refrigerator the other day! It HAD to be cleaned up or someone could have been hurt.
We swept with a broom, mopped with a wet disposable mop, then vacuumed, just in case. There was no way that disaster could have been ignored.
This past weekend, picture this: Friday evening. Sun has set, Shabbat has been opened with prayers. Dinner is served, and we are going to eat on TV trays while watching a movie. As we go to settle in, I hear water running in the one bathroom and something does NOT sound right. I set my food down and wander in to discover the floor is flooded. The toilet sprung a leak.
I have read before, in a case like this, many suggest it is wrong to mop up the mess on Shabbat. Just toss towels into the water and leave it until morning. But we were concerned water may have leaked under the cabinets and into the wall between the bath and the office.
Here are the big questions:
Should we just toss towels in it, or wipe up all the water?
Should we fix the toilette leak? Or just turn it off and wait until the next evening?
In this case, I would mop up the water, tossing the towels into a basket or the tub and wait until we could put them in the washer. I am not going to wash the load until the next evening. There is no harm in leaving wet towels for a day. We did this and also turned on a fan to dry out the bathroom cabinets and wall, just in case.
As far as the toilet, I would weigh the options. Is it the only bathroom? If so, then it gets fixed as best as possible. Ideas for this could be to shut off the water to the toilet and, using a bucket, get water from the tub, pour it into the toilet after using it and allow that to flush the toilet.
If the leak is bad enough, it might require new parts which would need to be purchased immediately. We would do this with as little fuss as possible, making as few people work as possible. In this case, it could be considered an ox in the mire situation. If it continues to leak, it could make the entire bathroom need to be renovated. THIS is going to be a personal decision for each individual family to make. It is not up to us to find fault if they have the urgent need to accomplish this task. It is between them and Yahweh. Remember, too, that Shabbat is a day of rest. Having to deal with complaining children or family due to uncomfortable situations is NOT going to bring Shalom into the home, nor is it restful.
In our case, it is not the only bathroom we have. Additionally, the leak was from the valve inside the tank squirting up, hitting the lid and spewing out all over the floor. We could leave the lid off, and turn water on and off inside the tank if we needed the second bathroom for some reason. In the meantime, we could just use the other bathroom and work on it the next evening.
Urgencies and emergencies happen, and each family will need to weigh them for themselves. What their needs are, what they can successfully do without, and what will allow them to clear up the issue while not disturbing the desired shalom of Shabbat. Also, cleaning up after ourselves is not a bad thing to teach ourselves, our children and grandchildren.
I like to use this example when I explain cleaning up after one's self. Imagine Saturday morning, and I went to the library where I got out four books to read and study. I go through three of them and decide they won't work toward the idea I want to execute. So I leave them laying around, go back to the library and grab three more. Now I have seven books laying around. Yet if I had just grabbed those three I am not using, stuck them back on the shelf before grabbing the next ones, I would still only have half the mess. Makes sense, doesn't it? Children can learn this principle, too. If they are going back to their room for more books or toys, take the ones with them that they already have out. Simple. And it doesn't make it work, it just makes it sensible.
The Sabbath is to be a day of rest, yes, but it is not meant to be a day of mess making and laziness.
Blessings - Judith
"And these are they which are unclean unto you among the swarming things that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and the great lizard after its kinds,..." Leviticus 11:29 JPS Tanakh
Bible references for touching unclean things, such as mice, their feces, and things they may have contaminated.
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Lessons From A Mouse In The House
As a new decade begins this coming week, I realized 2019 was the fifth anniversary of Torah For Women Ministries. In that time, we have evolved in ways that I never expected. From having been blessed in those years and led to move on a ridge in the Appalachians to recognizing what we are NOT identified as in the denominational quandary surrounding believers these last couple of years. We are a caterpillar emerging as a butterfly.
In recent weeks, we received several private messages asking, “What are you?!” While in posts and comments we have been labelled as being one belief system or another, all the while not knowing how to fully explain our faith base. People like words or terms they are familiar with. Yet there isn't one that sums us up completely. We KNOW who and what we are, we KNOW what we believe and how we act out our faith. Yet to explain it to Christians and other Torah observant families is sometimes difficult.
I realized this past week that we need to clarify. The major reason why it has been so challenging for me, personally, to explain is because of what everyone worries about these days: The NUMBERS.
Truth be told: my concern has been that the followers of Torah For Women Ministries will fall away, and we will lose the base of women whom Yahweh has blessed us to reach. This concern does not come from a desire within me to have large numbers as a tally or a score card. No, it comes from concern that, if we lose those followers, the number of sisters which we are blessed to touch will decrease and then, the number of families we can touch in this tumultuous time of immorality will shrink. The result could be that fewer families are led to His Truth.
Yahweh called me to teach those women and families of whom Paul spoke to Timothy. I have shared these verses countless times before. Yet the last few weeks, while struggling with a few personal things regarding people close to me, I have realized it is time to stand up and stand firm against this fallen world. If the numbers drop because of what I am about to say, then Yahweh will find other ways to testify to those sisters and families. I will have to accept, for now, it is not my calling to reach those who choose to leave, and that Abba will put someone else in their path to touch their hearts.
So here we go:
When did TFW come into existence?
Sometime in 2014, Jim came to me and said he felt led that we should go into ministry together, and not long after Shofar Productions Ministry was born. I kept praying to Yahweh to reveal to me what my role was to be in this journey; what responsibility was I to play in this new endeavor?
Some months later, I felt very strongly impressed that we needed a women’s ministry aspect and that I was led to start this division within Shofar Productions Ministry. I mentioned it to Jim, and he said he had been waiting for me to come to him about this! He spent the next couple of months working on a website for a women's ministry. He worked hard focusing on Torah For Women’s website and a day or two before my birthday at the end of October, 2015, the website was launched. TorahforWomen.com was officially “born.”
What is the main mission of Torah For Women Ministries?
Although the focal point Yahweh initially put upon my heart was 2 Timothy 3:6-7, and the need to help sisters of faith recognize when someone with false teachings of any kind is creeping into their homes, over time, verses 1-5 have clarified this goal. Therefore verses 1-7 have become extremely important to our women’s ministry as the moral and political path of our world has gone topsy-turvey, and as women of faith have begun to compromise even the most basic of commandments of Yahweh.
2 Timothy 3:1-7 KJV says “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
THIS is the vision Yahweh laid upon my heart almost 5 years ago, and it is coming to pass in our followers, my friends and even our families. As television, movies, and even social media invades our lives, compromising is running rampant. More and more people find themselves in positions to compromise their moral standards and say “What else can we do? We can't fight against what is happening!” But we CAN.
We can stand up. WE MUST STAND UP.
Lately, I witnessed a large number of sisters RISE UP against immoralities and cancel television services, movie services, internet programs, social media apps, and even more to protect their homes and families. I PRAISE YOU SISTERS!!! Thank you for being great examples of morality to your friends and families!!! KEEP IT UP!!! Those who are willing to stand their ground are the ones who are standing against what Paul warned would come in the last days. You are doing the very best to protect children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren from the evils of this world! I am hugging you all!!! Warriors for Yahweh.
What “denomination” do you consider yourselves to be?
THIS is so complicated to answer. But there is one thing we know we ARE NOT:
We ARE NOT a Hebrew Roots ministry. There – I said it. Recently we have been accused of being Hebrew Roots, yet we do not call or considered ourselves Hebrew Roots. Why? Because that movement has been for some time, filled with anger, venom, and seriously false doctrines. It has gone down pathways we do not desire to be associated with in any way as those teachings and beliefs are NOT of Yahweh! We backed away from this pathway long before many others did because Yahweh led us away when we witnessed more and more strange doctrines creeping in and leading people astray.
In 2015, I did everything I could to scrub our women’s ministry of any and all ties to the Hebrew Roots Movement. If by chance you stumble across anything that leans on that movement, I would gratefully appreciate it brought to my attention, and I will review it as soon as possible.
What then do we consider ourselves to be? Well, we ARE Messianic, yet we don’t often use this term because it causes many to believe we follow all of the rabbinic traditions tied to Messianic Judaism. We believe the Bible reminds us of Yeshua’s words that the burden is easy, and the yoke is light. (Matthew 11:30) Many of the cultural traditions taught in a rabbinic path make applying His Truth very burdensome. So we stay away from those rituals that are not biblical.
We ARE Word of Faith, yet we DO NOT abide by the “send me your seed money so I can buy an airplane” doctrines many in that movement preach to their followers. Some teachers in this faith base have also gone the path of radical grace – where anything goes, the law is dead, and you will be forgiven. We believe that once we accept Yeshua as our savior, we are led to follow His path in life, and wish to live as an example of Him. Therefore, we are led to follow his teachings of: Love God, Love your neighbor, and Upon these two hang ALL the laws and teachings of the prophets of Yahweh. (Matthew 22:40) We believe Yahweh's promises in the Bible, His WORD, and with Faith we pray on those Words and believe that they apply in our daily lives. In upcoming blogs, I will be sharing some amazing examples of this from our own lives - living witnesses and testimonies of His Word.
We ARE Pentecostal, and believe in the indwelling of His Holy SPirit. Yet we have seen things claimed in recent years to be “moves of the Spirit” which Yahweh has testified to us are of the adversary. In fact, in one meeting we attended, I had a personal witness from the Holy Spirit that one woman seated near us was so filled with the adversary, I could not even be within 10-15 feet of her without being overwhelmed by the evil feelings oozing from within her. It took some time for that evil to disturb the pastor 30 or so feet away, yet he, too, witnessed what was in her and had her removed. Many then prayed with and for her against what was overtaking her. We do not believe all that takes place in His Name right now is of Him, yet we do believe in the Gifts of the Spirit; and they do exhibit themselves in the Body of the church.
We ARE Torah Observant – and many wonder what exactly this means. We follow the Feast Days written and commanded in the Bible, while NOT following those standard “Christian Holidays” many do in the name of Christ. We will go into that more specifically in a series of upcoming blogs.
What we DO follow:
Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Shavuot
Fall Feasts: Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot
The Monthly Feasts of Rosh Chodesh which take place at the beginning of every Hebrew month (New Moon)
We celebrate Purim because of the preservation of the Jews through the story of Esther, and Hanukkah because of the restoration and rededication of the Temple. Had these not taken place, our Saviour, Yeshua, would not have come forth through the lineage of David. Yahweh ensured that would happen by having warriors rise up against the evil being exercised upon His people.
We eat a Biblical diet which means we do not eat unclean meats as explained by the Bible. (Leviticus 11) This means we avoid pork of any kind (YES! That means we don’t even eat pig bacon! LOL); we also do not eat rabbit, snake, alligator, shellfish, or any fish without fins and scales. Eating Biblically, to us, includes avoiding ingredients derived from these unclean meats as well. Oh, might I add here, we also avoid consuming anything that contains HUMAN ingredients – and YES, there are foods as well as supplements and medications which contain human ingredients.
So, in summary, we may sound complicated to define by a mere term or title. Jim and I have tried to put “a name” to what we are, and sometimes we joke that we are a “mouthful” – I came up with this:
“Pentecostal-Word-of-Faith-Torah-Observant-Believers-in-Yeshua!!!” Can you remember all that? It’s a lot.
Yet it describes pretty well who we are and what we believe. So, that is us, in a nutshell – a rather BIG nutshell, but a nutshell.
Where we are going this next year is to continue on the journey Yahweh started us on: we will continue teaching believers how to go back to the strong teachings of the bible. We are going to help you understand how to tie both the Old and New Testaments together in our modern times so that you will be able to stand up in love against all that you will be coming against. It is our prayer that you will stand with us and be blessed by the journey we are going on together. May the NEXT five years be overwhelmingly blessed
for us all!!!
We love you, Shalom.
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Re-introducing Torah For Women for 2020
In advance of tomorrow and next week's celebrations, I wanted to say:
A blessed Rosh Chodesh Tevet and a Happy New Year to all.
What perfect timing this year for our calendar to play out – as we get a new beginning in two ways. A new month promises great blessings each and every time one comes around. It is a time to close out the things from the previous month and lay claim to the new things Yahweh has in store for us for the year 2020.
This is also the time of year when many who celebrate a new start of their calendar will choose to rededicate their lives to greater accomplishments. Whether in business, personal life, health and fitness, or somewhere else, many choose this time of year for rededication – which is perfect for those of us who follow Yahweh’s calendar to share with those around us about Hanukkah.
We are just past the midway point of the holiday time as we will be lighting the fifth candle tonight in our hanukkaiah. What is Hanukkah all about? It is a time when warriors, The Maccabees, fought against all the evil forces who tried to come against Yahweh’s people. A small group stood against those evil force, and reclaimed the Temple of Yahweh that had been defiled and desecrated. Upon reclaiming, they relit the candles on the menorah, rebuilt, then rededicated the altar. They also rededicated their lives to following His principles and teachings, just as many will do at this time of year for themselves.
May you be blessed in your endeavors and promises to yourself and to Yahweh!
As a handy helper for those who will be working toward following the Feast Days in 2020, we have put together the list of Holy days we will be celebrating so that you can mark your calendars. We are attaching it below in a handy printable format so that you can print it out for your family.
If you prefer to print each month individually, we use the following resource to design the calendar to fit our needs:
Also, for an explanation as to why we prefer to follow the Hillel calendar, please see our book on the topic at:
A quick note here: Often the Hillel II calendar has extra days for certain Holy Days – they will list the celebrating of two days. For example, rather than one for the time of Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), they list two days. Should this appear, we follow the Biblical teaching of the Hebrew date upon which it is supposed to fall, not the calendar dates. If we see this approaching, we will do our best to give you a heads up and quick explanation.
In 2020, it is our hope and prayer that many great and wonderful changes will be taking place in all our lives, just as it is our hope and prayer each and every day for the same.
May you be blessed.
NOTE: When the PDF opens, the blue links can be direct accessed to HebCal with more information regarding those calendar dates. The PDF can also be easily printed for your home display.
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Calendaring for 2020
When we look at what scriptures say about sexual immorality, we will see that the term often used in Greek is “porneia.” This Greek word is the origin of English words such as pornography or pornographic, which are very unmistakably defined in English speaking countries as sexually explicit acts and materials. Additionally, when exploring possible translations for “porneia” into English, we see terms like whoredom, fornication, and idolatry used. Words that fit right into the standard impression of pornography. All this added together creates a picture of what many would describe as compromising one’s sexual purity.
Many in modern society seem to feel morality is a very grey area, others feel it involves only premarital sexual relations, yet those who desire to stand with traditional morals see this as surrendering sexual purity at any level, including after marriage. One might ask here, after marriage couples have clearly had sexual relations, so what can then be surrendered?
Sexual impurity within marriage can happen when people stray from Biblical truth, and would involve selling off or sacrificing that which is supposed to remain sacred to the marital bed. Someone who goes outside of marriage to satisfy sexual desires of any kind is selling-off the intimate relationship which belongs solely between a husband and wife. The intimacy as Yahweh designed it to be – one man, one woman, one flesh. Sexual immorality would, therefore, be defined as any type of sexual expression outside of a Biblically defined marital relationship, which The Savior speaks of:
“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” Matthew 19:4-5 KJV
What does scripture say about the consequences of sexual immorality? First, we need to look at
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 KJV: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Those who stray from Yahweh’s teachings on morality will not inherit the kingdom He has planned for the righteous. If our hope lies in being with Yahweh for eternity, then we ought to follow his counsel.
Now, some teachers teach that sexual immorality is a form of idolatry. In fact, we are one of those ministries who believe this can be shown in scriptures. “How is sexual immorality tied to idolatry,” you ask.
The scripture quoted above is from Paul, who issued this counsel during a time where pagan religions were still strong, and idol worship was very much a part of many people’s lives. History shows these pagan religions weren’t just continuing to attend temple worship for social aspects. These temples still very much included the worship of specific idols. A large part of that worship involved sexual immorality, temple prostitutes, as well as immoral acts committed in the names of their false gods.
Our bodies, as believers, are the temple of Yahweh’s Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of this, too:
“…don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own…” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 WEB
As the Temple for the Holy Spirit to indwell, we should not be using that temple to mimic acts of pagan religions. This would be sin. You can see how Yahweh feels about these acts: they are detestable and have eternal consequences. Continuing in this lifestyle would be dedicating your Temple to an idolatrous life and profaning Yahweh’s Holy Temple.
Jesus says to people in the Bible to go on their way, and sin no more. (John 8:11, John 5:14) At the Pool of Bethesda he adds a clause, “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14 KJV)
This is just one example of warning that is written for us in scriptures. Sexual immorality counsel in scripture is often accompanied by warnings which we should heed, just as the man at the Pool was told. (Rom 1:24, Gal 5:19-23, Eph 4:18-19).
There is irrefutable proof that sexual immorality renders one unfit to be in the presence of Yahweh. If what we seek is to be worthy of being in His presence always, we need to remove sexual sin and impurity from our lives, move away from any temptations, repent, and return to God’s design for intimacy.
Additional Scripture References:
“God gave them up [also] in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, to dishonour their bodies between themselves:” Romans 1:24 Darby Bible Translation
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:19-23 WEB
“…being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Eph 4:18-19
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December 2003 was a tough one. I remember when dad had called sometime around Thanksgiving that year. He was almost begging me to go to my sister’s in Ohio for Christmas that year. He kept insisting it was going to be his last. I don’t remember if I had ever given him an answer because I kept thinking that if I said no, maybe he would have more faith in Yahweh’s healing power and miracles. I always believed he would be healed of the disease that attacked him.
Then things changed. To be honest, I don’t even recall what day I received the phone call. I just know it was before December 24th. I know that he and mom were out picking up things for their trip from New York to Ohio, including, I believe, a Christmas tree.
Christmas was always a BIG DEAL to dad. From Yule logs in the fireplace (even when we lived in Tucson!) to presents and stockings, Dad was “all in” for Christmas. The tree was always very important to him, too. Our family did Christmas BIG.
Even when my kids were little, we did everything every other family did, and more! I learned as a young mom how to bake gingerbread and make gingerbread houses. I LOVED constructing and decorating them with all sorts of hand-made decorations, as well as all sorts of foil-wrapped candies. One of my favorite candies to use was always those spearmint leaves. They made adorable bushes around the houses, all topped with little plops of frosting snow. One year the kids and I made about 28 gingerbread houses all decorated to the hilt – we gave them out as gifts to youth leaders, teachers, music instructors, and close friends. It was such fun to give a hand-made gift from our hearts. The kids treasured that time we spent creating those gifts.
So, there we were in 2003, receiving the call none of us expected, and the kind of call everyone dreads. Especially around the holidays. Dad was in the hospital – in ICU. He had been battling against Hep-C for some time, as well as the attacks against his organs from that disease and the drugs to fight it. He had been fighting hard and fast. Yet, there he was, suddenly critically ill. My heart sank. But I packed, fully convinced this was just a quick trip, and that he would be JUST FINE. A short 24 hours later, we all knew better.
There we were, gathering as a family, getting ready to say goodbye. Those last hours were so hard, horribly painful, and yet so beautiful all rolled into one. A lot of the details escape me now, many just in a fog – probably my own way of not letting it stir in me the same hurt I felt back then. Yet there are other details that remain emblazoned upon my mind as if written in indelible ink forever. Things like walking into the hospital room and seeing my adorable just-turned-9 son, hands folded, kneeling in prayer by the bed-side of his precious grandfather while also singing Silent Night. The grampa who understood that little boy’s love for science and nature better than anyone on the planet; the grandpa who used to send him those colourful instructions for science experiments from the Sunday Funny papers.
How I rubbed my father’s arm, talking with him and praying for him, while with every single breath, he quietly called my mom’s name. Literally with every single breath, as if he had something of great importance to tell her. “Carol. . . Carol. . .Carol. . .” The worry I felt in my heart as I anxiously awaited the arrival of my two eldest who were driving to get there in the midst of the snowstorm that had crept in off Lake Erie.
I remember even praying for that snowstorm to hit the following day so that the kids could enjoy the sleds and hills near the cottage. I sat there talking with dad and saying how I KNEW he felt it was time to go home, I begged him to wait for the girls to get there to say goodbye, and I remember asking him, “Dad, it’s Christmas. If you could, give the kids one more gift before you leave us. Make it snow. . .” I KNOW my dad didn’t have the “power” to make it snow – I knew that was all up to God. Yet it was the simple thoughts and distractions I used to fill the final hours with my daddy.
Then, he breathed his last breath. I don’t recall what time it was. I just know it was December 24th, Christmas Eve, 2003. And the man the kids had always thought was their Santa Claus, had gone home to be with God. We awoke the next day, Christmas morning, deeply saddened and heartbroken, yet filled with such peace and joy at the same time. We needed to celebrate with the children who were excited about opening gifts, yet crying because Grampa wasn’t there. We needed to keep going because that is what he had wanted. In our hearts, we all knew that Christmas was the perfect time for him to go home – his favorite holiday. Yet we also wondered what the coming years would bring as the season approached each and every year. How would our hearts handle it?
The kids opened presents, and Justin got the sled he had been wanting. So, we bundled up and went next door to where mom and dad lived. There were BIG hills to sled down. We stayed out for what seemed like forever, having such a fun time! The rest of the day, we drank hot cocoa and reminisced about all the fun times he had with dad.
We all, even mom, went from laughing to crying to laughing again. We all knew that the next day, December 26th, we would be planning the funeral or memorial service. And we did just that. People came from all over to say their goodbyes. The funeral home was overflowing with people! So many that they couldn’t all fit for the memorial service. Many had to simply pay their respects and leave. The final words were spoken, then the veterans paid their tribute with Taps and the gun salute. And we all gathered Dad’s things and went to the dinner provided by the Tea Ladies in town. Then back to mom’s house.
The time flew by, we said our goodbyes, everyone went home. I stayed behind with mom for a bit extra. She had asked me to stay, and I was so glad I did. We got that chance we needed to create a new bond together, become adult friends, which we had not had time to do as yet. It was precious. When I finally went home, it was back to business and busy-ness of homeschooling, day trips, and living life.
There you have it – my Christmas story. You know, many people believe that Dad’s passing on Christmas Eve and the events around it are my reasons for why it was so “easy” to “give up” Christmas. I have even heard some in my own family make that claim out loud – that because dad died on Christmas Eve, I could just tuck it away and ignore the sadness that might creep in each holiday season. Yet that is not true at all. It wasn’t until about ten years later that I started to discover how I wanted to celebrate the biblical feasts instead of the typical holidays.
There were ten years of holidays where I dealt with my personal grief and mourning around the December holiday times. And to be completely honest, it was the memories of that Christmas Eve, the fun times as children, and the joys of raising my kids with the holiday traditions that make it HARDER, not easier to “Quit Christmas.” Yes, I said it – those memories tug at my heart-strings every year, even to this very day.
A friend recently said to me that these are the things that make it so difficult this time of year – that tempt us to return to Egypt. And that is so very true! Missing the traditions we created, that have become a part of our very being. The photographs of the children in their “jammies” Christmas morning, of Dad, dressed in his red Santa hat handing out gifts from under the tree. Precious memories, all of them, and yet also, TEMPTATIONS.
Having mushy feelings, missing those traditions and still aching for time with my dad, the memories of watching little Justin sing Silent Night and beg Abba not to take his Grampa. Those are not going to turn me away from what Abba wants for me – and that is to follow Him. When it all comes down to brass tacks: I want always to know that I am working toward being the best ME that Yahweh can mold me into. And if that means I have to sacrifice the typical holiday season for that which He has taught me is true and right, then so be it.
I don’t often bear my heart full-open, I don’t often put it out there on my sleeve for the world to see. Not because I don’t like to share, but simply because, when it comes down to fulfilling the calling that Yahweh has placed upon me, the teachings, messages, and blogs I share are not based on my emotions. They may come from my experiences in life but are based on biblical teachings and principles – messages that Yahweh would have me teach to those who are seeking.
I know deeply how it is not easy to give up something that is such a part of your past, your memories, your life. Yet who are we? Yeshua asked the rich young man to give up much; he asked Peter to give up a lot and follow him. He told several who were healed, to go and sin no more (John 8:11; John 5:14), fully giving up their former life and desires. Each of these was asked to give up something that meant “the world” to them. What are we each willing to give up for Him?
As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder,' 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not give false testimony,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth." Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross." But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
I quit Christmas not to avoid the memories of my father dying – I quit Christmas for Yahweh. Because I still have those joy-filled precious memories of great times shared with family and friends, they are there and always will be a part of me.
It wasn't easy when Jim started to discover details about our traditional holidays - things which made us question if they were right to continue. The more he researched and shared with me, the more we felt led away from those events which had initially meant a lot to us.
In the end, we quit Christmas because there are countless reasons as to why it is not a biblical celebration, AND it is a time of year where a number of Yahweh’s commandments are broken by participating in the celebration. Over the next few weeks, I plan to expound upon these in a series of articles, but for now my prayer is that you will search your own heart regarding this holiday season. And discover for yourself: is this what Yahweh would have you do?
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I want to take a few minutes to talk with those who are struggling over what to do about the upcoming holiday season. Many people have been led to observe the Biblical feast days. Some of these believers may be in a marriage where their spouse does not agree. This can lead to conflict because of the pressure to follow holiday traditions which one spouse believes are no longer appropriate while the other believes these are not only appropriate but also testify of Yeshua. These traditions may include others such as family, friends, or the couple’s former church group, too.
When the topic of attending comes up, a Torah observant person may feel pushed to participate in things like: making handmade Christmas cards; decorating houses or churches; gifts or cookies made for prisoners, soldiers, the local shelter, retirement home, or hospital; cookie exchanges; caroling; dinners, parties, and gatherings; gift exchanges. All these are things a Torah observant person may find objectionable.
What can couples do?
Here are some ideas:
1) How about having a one-for-one exchange?
For every event the non-Christmas observing spouse agrees to go to, the Christmas-observing spouse would need to do something for them in exchange. The non-Christmas activity should NOT be something in the distant future, such as “I will go to that dinner party, if you agree to celebrate Passover with me.” Spring feasts are too distant and may lead to future conflict if the non-Torah spouse becomes unwilling to fulfill their end of the bargain. OR, if for some reason their job or other circumstance prevents them from being able to fulfill their side of the deal.
Instead, an exchange of item-for-item at this time of year: For example, If you go to the church cookie party, you could bring Hanukkah cookies to the event. If it is a cookie decorating party, bring snowflake cookies or Hanukkah cookies to decorate. You could discuss with the other decorators how Yeshua was in the Temple court on Chanukah DECLARING himself THE Living Water from which ALL who are thirsty come and drink. This could even lead in to how ALL biblical Feast Days pertain to Him.
What about starting a new tradition with those same friends? If you go to the event, how about creating a “Snowman Supper” after January first? Waiting until after the first, you are out of the typical holiday season, removing a lot of the pressure for gift giving, and the Christmas table-talk. You could serve homemade breads, soups, and other warm, wintery foods. Plus decorate the table with snowmen and snowballs, serve snowflake-shaped Pizelles for dessert sprinkled with “snow” (powdered sugar!), or an adorable snowman cake.
Do you find yourself agreeing to go to the fancy company dinner? In exchange your spouse could sit one evening with you to make Hanukkah cards at home which you deliver to a local Jewish home? Or hospital for Jewish patients? If you plan ahead to make plenty of Hanukkah cards, you could send some of these to the event where church members make Christmas cards for the prisoners & soldiers – not everyone in prison or the military is Christian. You also might enjoy sitting with the group making cards, and make Hanukkah cards right there along with them! It would open doors to discussing the history of Hanukkah – the story of the restoration and rededication of the Temple.
If the church or group balk at the idea of accepting your hand-made Hanukkah cards, saying they only want Christmas cards because they are trying to teach about Yeshua, I have a helpful hint for that, too. Your reply could easily and kindly be, “I thought maybe this would help you get the foot in the door. What a blessed way to impress upon the Torah observant people that you respect how much they love the Old Testament. Then we can go back and teach them about Christ as time goes on! I LOVE to share new ways to get Christ’s foot in the door!” What can they say to that! You are helping in the evangelistic effort that may end up helping spread His Word!
2) I would suggest that if you decide to go to any party at all, an adult dinner party is the best option to choose for your attendance. Why? Because it is ADULTS. The likelihood of there being things such as Santa are slimmer than if children are attending.
Also, you can steer the conversation toward common topics: business, the world (although politics ought to be avoided because you are trying to avoid conflict!), books you have read, movies, or your latest accomplishments. There are so many subjects which can be shared that steer away from the holiday – so much flexibility!
3) As the month goes on, continue to choose from your spouse’s Christmas list of events those LEAST tense or stressful (AKA offensive) to you and your beliefs.
While attending, maybe openly and kindly discuss Hanukkah and the other feasts you have celebrated, using ideas we mention above. Remember to only do this IF you can without causing conflict. The people your spouse works with or knows in church may not understand exactly why you are so "different." Please, steer away from any condemnation of Christmas at this time. From experience, I can attest to the fact that this never ends well!!! People are very attached to holiday traditions at this time and this is NOT the best time to address someone with how everything they are doing is “wrong” or “sin.”
4) I understand how difficult it is to push aside SOME of the traditions this time of year because they are so obvious. Like going to that dinner party – you may find you have to sit and stare at all the decor around you. The restaurant or venue will be decked to the hilt with all the trappings of the season. Trees, lights, mistletoe, ornaments, greenery, and more – this can be very difficult to ignore. Yet, let’s look at it this way: if you are traveling, get delayed on the road and need to eat food – won’t you need to stop SOMEWHERE to eat? Yes. For that, won’t you need to ignore all those things that surround you and accomplish the task? Look at the dinner party as a similar thing.
I believe the most difficult part may be the constant Christmas music – it will be playing all night & will NOT be all Christmas hymns. You will be hearing about sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus, Snowmen, snowfall, chestnuts, and such. These songs are a big difficulty for me, especially while eating. So many preach “Jesus is the reason for the season!” While at the same time singing about grandma getting run over by a reindeer!
How can you tune this out? If you have ever had a young child take lessons to play an instrument, you are probably already very good at TUNING IT OUT! Think of that Christmas music from the perspective of your young child’s practice time that very first day!
Tuning it out will help you relax a bit so that you don’t end up having the music make a knot in your tummy resulting in not enjoying dinner at all.
For number 5, I want you to consider doing this:
5) Ask yourself: What was the defining thing for you “quitting Christmas?” Does your spouse TRULY understand that part of your heart? I ask this because I have learned that I don't always say things the best way for Jim to hear them. I think I have expressed it well, yet we have a glitch. I may need to rephrase things. You may believe you explained it so that they understand, but this may be a time to ask them why THEY think you gave it up. They may think that you simply “hate” all the “nonsense” that goes along with it: Santa, materialism, and lack of focus on the Saviour.
Give them a chance to explain their understanding of your feelings, and then gently discuss any reasons that weren’t clear for your not celebrating.
It may take time to work out a plan together, and a lot of patience on both parts. You also may not be comfortable with temporarily finding a middle ground, but for now, it may be the best option for your family and your marriage. Please remember to do all of this in prayer as well as prayers together. Ask Yahweh’s wisdom and discernment, as well as His blessing upon all your efforts.
The key for us as believers is: PLEASE do not allow a strong belief and desire to follow Yahweh bring up in your heart a venomous bite that causes lashing out or angrily expressing your new beliefs. Instead try, with all gentleness of heart, to explain you are trying to avoid what the Bible describes as sin. Yeshua did not want us to sin – how many times in scripture did he heal people and then command, “Now go and sin no more!” Try to explain this to your spouse with all the love of Yeshua overflowing from your heart.
I will say, of all the battles we fight against Egypt, I think CHRISTMAS is one of the toughest - it pulls on SO MANY of our hearts and our memories, especially childhood memories. . . A dear friend recently said to me, “That is EXACTLY the reason that everything about this holiday bothers me so deeply…It is a HUGE PULL ON MY SOUL to return to Egypt.” JUST LIKE Egypt pulled on the hearts of the Hebrews in the Exodus.
My prayer is that you can try standing your ground, yet also try to enjoy your spouse’s love and company. May you be able to impress upon them the depth of your commitment to both Yahweh and your marriage.
Blessings and Shalom.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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