Thursday, October 14, 2010

Morning Devotions with Ariel

Note: This series of posts is based on my 1999 trip to Turkey and Israel. I have introduced a new character (Ariel) to help me introduce some topics of discussion that I think are pertinent to the purpose of this blog.
The alarm clock knock on my door woke me just before 6:00 at our hotel in Tiberius. Dave was going to take an early morning swim in the fabled Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and he said he’d let me know when he was going, though I was only interested in watching the sunrise over the Golan Heights. In 5 minutes, I made my way to the porch which overlooked the lake. There were several inviting chairs lined up as I made my way towards the one that held the lone occupant. I could see the early morning dawn was about to burst over the hills as I sat down. I was totally entranced by the vermillion, cerulean blue, and emerald green colors that were just starting to coalesce into a Maxfield Parrish effect when the streams of transparent rays overtook the darkness. As my lips parted to express the wonder of it all, Ariel beat me to it: “His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Habbakuk 3:3-4”
As I turned to look at Ariel I said with a wry smile, “Your delivery is impeccably timed and duly referenced!” I could see Dave wading gingerly in the water below as I waited for Ariel to reply.  “Boker Tov", he said, and I replied, "Good morning." There was silence for a few seconds, and then Ariel spoke, "As Sukkot comes to an end, the Torah scroll is rewound, and Beresheit begins again.” He spoke in Hebrew, “Beresheit Bara Elohim Et HaShamayim Va’et Ha’aretz.” and continued, “The seven words of this first verse are perfectly arranged and profoundly appointed." 

Gesturing to the north, Ariel continued,“In northern Galilee there is a special town called Safed. It has been the center of mystical Judaism since the 1400’s when the Jews were expelled from Spain. But rabbis had been elaborating on the words of scripture even in the first century. I say that because mysticism is often misunderstood. Do you know what Targums are?” “Umm,” I quickly searched my memory as I noticed that Dave was now swimming in the water, then said, “they are Aramaic paraphrases of the Torah that were created to help the returning Babylonian exiles understand the scriptures.” “Very good, said Ariel; he nodded, and continued, “Here is how the Targum states Beresheit 1:3, ‘And the Memra of the LORD said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light by his Memra.’ This Memra is The Word. It brings to mind the Gospel of John, 'In the beginning was the Memra, and the Memra was with God, and the Memra was God.' You see, John’s Logos is really linked with Memra as the agent of the Father. It builds upon the Jewish mysticism that was widely known in the first century, not the pagan Greek culture of the day. Just as the sun is shining on Lake Kinneret today, so the Son walked on the Sea of Galilee in the past. He is the divine light, as it says in Isaiah, 'Arise, shine; for your light has come.'” There were a few moments of silence, then Ariel continued, "The lesson here is that the Light, Life, and Wisdom of Messiah finds its roots in the Memra; Logos is but a concession that John had to make to communicate with the diaspora, but the richness, and true source of the Word is Hebrew."
At that point, a cat jumped into my lap, capturing my attention. I looked around and noticed that Dave was wading ashore, and Ariel began to rise. The morning devotions were over.

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