Putting the Class in Classical – Israeli Folk Music: Part I: A Brief Survey

By "Joyful" Joe Miterko

I love classic music; music that has been composed decades, if not centuries, beforehand and still remains with us today. We can learn so much from these compositions; what the time was like politically when they were written, who the composer was and what his or her life was like, and more. Were pieces composed based on a reaction to surrounding events? Or did they spark controversy themselves (like Stravinsky’s Write of Spring)?

 Within the framework of classical, you have the genius works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin and more.   In addition, Broadway standards and showtunes never seem to date; they are timeless pieces we still sing today.  I love the sound of the big band and jazz orchestras that often perform them.

Israeli folk music, then and now, fits this paradigm perfectly with no exceptions. There is a wide array of flavors that make up the genre. From the Chasidic (Eastern European) tradition to the work of the Chalutsim (pioneers), the genre is filled with goodness that can still be applied to music for today.

It is important to note that in the galut (Diaspora), before the State of Israel was birthed and established, the Jewish people were composing music in addition to creating other forms of art. One of the most popular innovations is the piyut (pl. piyutim) or liturgy that takes on the form of poetry. These prayers would be set to a musical backdrop; often chanted in the synagogue.  One of the most famous of the piyutim was composed by Solomon ibn Gabriol entitled “Adon Olam” (Master of the World).  This poem has multiple Scripture references, including Psalm 118:6a and Isaiah 44:6b. Another classic piyut was written by Rabbi Daniyel ben Yehudah (“the judge of Rome”) entitled “Yigdal Elohim Chai” (Exalted is the Living God) is based on Moses Maimonides’  (also known as the Rambam) Thirteen Principles of Faith; the essential doctrine and creed of Rabbinic Judaism. In addition, the classic song "Ani Maamin" (I Believe) follows the Twelth principle. These poems and prayers share in a huge part of Israeli folk music as it is today.

Fast-forward to the 1860s European Jewry was experiencing the haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment). There were many Jewish writers and philosophers who started pushing the bouJndaries in thought and what Judaism is and should look like. This paved the way to Zionism and the resettling of the Land of Israel (then called Palestine). Waves of excitement were emerging with this new Zionist spirit. Many songs started to emerge that were nationalistic in nature. One of the most classic examples of this time period is “Artsa Alinu” (We Ascended to the Land).The lyrics translate to “We Ascended to the Land. We’ve already plowed and sown too. But we have not yet reaped.”  There is a sense of longing to fully take the Land back with a sense of joy with the progress they have made.

While Israeli folk music tends to be upbeat and joyful, there are somber moments that demonstrate the struggles and realities that the Jewish people have faced for centuries  “Eli Eli” (My God, My God) was  composedby Hannah Senesh (1921-1944), a Hungarian born Jewess who decided to immigrate to Palestine under the British Mandate,  Yet she undertook a dangerous mission. She joined the British Army in an attempt to rescue her own people from the ashes of the Holocaust. However, when she parachuted into Hungary in 1944, she was almost caught immediately. She tragically died at the age of 23. “Eli Eli” translates to, “My God, My God, may these things never end: the sand and the sea, the rustle of the water, the lightning of the sky, and Man’s Prayer”.

Yet another classic we cannot forget about is Yerushalayim Shel Zehav (Jerusalem of Gold). This song came much later, but still has that fire that that initial chalutsim carried. Israeli composer Naomi Shemer wrote this famous piece in 1967, as an entry to the “Voice of Israel” music festival competition. And it took off from there. Here is famous Israeli singer Shuli Natan singing this beautiful piece. Many, including the popular jamband group Phish have covered this song. Shemer originally wrote the lyrics as a notion for longing to return to Jerusalem. However, before the song was completed, Jerusalem was in Jewish hands again by the miraculous Israeli victory of the Six Day War. After that, Shemer changed the lyrics around.

Another famous piece that is an “elephant in the room” is Israel’s national anthem – HaTikvah (The Hope). Somber as well, the lyrics are based from the poem by Naphtali Imber entitled Tikvateinu (Our Hope). However, the melody is unknown. Some attribute it to the Sephardi Hallel or the Tefilat Tal (Prayer for Dew).  Others say that composer Samuel Cohen wrote it. It had been sung in momentous occasions, happy and sad. After the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the survivors sang it. On the other hand, Czech Jews also sang it while they were entering Auschwitz-Birkenau. This song, as we can see, has a range of emotion, as does other Israeli folk music.  

There is so much rich history behind Israeli folk music and what the chalutsim did. They are responsible for some of the most cherished melodies that we sing today. We should be incredibly thankful for the modern State of Israel and what God has done; therefore singing these melodies should be a mandate on our hearts. We should sing them as an expression of thanks to God for what He has done and His Hand that continually saves our Jewish people.

Re(Jew)vinating Jazz Part II: Klezmer and Messianic Worship

By Joyful Joe Miterko

As we saw in Part I, Klezmer music combines a vast range of emotions, from sadness to simcha (joy). The question then becomes: what do we do with it? As a Messianic worship community, should we embrace and incorporate Klezmer music into our worship? If so, how?

First off, when considering this question, it is important to remember that Klezmer started out as Yiddish theatrical music. It would be awkward to walk into a synagogue and hearing the worship team rehearse “Yidn Mitn Fiddl” . However, the Messianic community has experimented and pioneered a distinctive sound based on Ashkenazi roots. Over the years, this style has evolved and continues to do so until today. As Klezmer was a product of Yiddish revival, so too, Messianic Jewish Worship incorporating Klezmer is a product of Jewish revival amidst our people Israel.  

Enter names like Stuart Dauermann, Steffi Rubin, Jhan Markowitz, Sam Nadler, and Mitch Glaser, . They were all members of the musical group The Liberated Wailing Wall. Birthed by Jews for Jesus in 1971 in San Francisco, their goal was to create a new style called “Jewish Gospel” that combined music from the Old Country with Messiah-centered lyrics.  They toured around the world and played in various venues; from college campuses to churches, to major folk music festivals. The group comprised of various teams and stood until the year 2000. Many Messianic congregations still use much of their material as do even church hymnals.  You can find them all over YouTube. Here are a couple of classic albums from the early days.

 A second group that also broke ground with Messianic music and Klezmer was the singing group Kol Simcha “voice of gladness”. This group was pioneered within Congregation Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia, PA in the 1980s. Beth Yeshua has always had a rich musical lineage, and this is a capstone part of its rich history. Such greats like Mark Dayan, Bruce Cohen,, Steve and Linda Brown plus many others were involved in this group. Like the Liberated Wailing Wall, they would have concerts and performances in many venues. Take a listen to one of their more recent songs that feature a lot of Ashkenazi flair.   In addition, Rebbitzen Debbie Chernoff composed a very famous piece that has zounds of Klezmer influence in it entitled “Psalm 30”.  Their music is still widely known and popular.

Joel Chernoff of LAMB did something revolutionary as well. Not only is he an accomplished songwriter, he took the harmonies and rhythms of classic Klezmer and incorporated them into a worship setting without the “bells and whistles”. In other words, The Liberated Wailing Wall and Kol Simcha were rather larger ensembles. LAMB, however, was much smaller, only comprising of a duo.. Joel and his band--mate Rick Coghill did the best they could to incorporate Eastern European feeling within just a duo context. Many congregations still sing Joel’s music today, including some very Ashkenazi-sounding tunes like “Clap Your Hands” and “Shuvee”  

There are countless other examples that could be mentioned about Klezmer’s influence on Messianic Jewish Worship. Now, you might be thinking, “Ok, well, that was then in the 70s and 80s, but this is now. What does Klezmer have to do with me?” It has a lot of relevance to you! First of all, we are commanded to rejoice always (1 Thes. 5:16). Klezmer has the elements of rejoicing. I’m not saying that every song in your worship set must be an “oom-pa”, but taking ideas and experimenting with a hybrid is great too. Klezmer is continuing to evolve, and so too can Messianic Worship continue to do the same.

Second, using Klezmer pieces does not mean that you must use the exact arrangement the original artist used. Make it adoptable for your congregation. I once heard of a group that took the song “The Day of the Lord” by Paul Wilbur and transform it into a reggae Police-type of feel.  There is so much creativity that can be employed. There are no restrictions to Messianic Jewish Worship. What suits your congregation is best. But Klezmer can enhance the color palette of your worship set.

Remembering where we came from and knowing where we are going are two important parts of a whole. Our past can be conveyed through Klezmer’s deep, rich history. And we can preserve it and carry it on to future generation. Let’s re(Jew)venate some Jewish Jazz!

Re(Jew)vinating Jazz Part I: A Survey of Klezmer Music

By “Joyful” Joe Miterko

 

            To some of us, “Klezmer” sounds like the name of a faraway planet. To others of us, it sounds like a gourmet pasta dish served at a five-star Italian restaurant. Both of these are incorrect. It is a rich musical genre that gets greatly underappreciated in many circles.

            Usually, when my musician friends ask what Klezmer is, I answer, “Have you ever seen the musical Fiddler On the Roof? Or have you ever danced the hora at a Jewish wedding? That’s Klezmer. L’chaim!” There is so much more to it than those simple answers. These experiences are just a glimpse at the vast world of the genre; an appetizer before the meal, if you will. For a long time, Klezmer was the heart and soul of Eastern European Jewry. Today, we can learn how it can spark a creative engine for us.  

            The name “Klezmer” comes from two words combined in Hebrew: כלי klei (instrument, vessel) and מרז zemer (song). Its origins can trace back to the late 1800s in Eastern European shtetls (small Jewish villages), and it is a product of Yiddish cultural revival. For example, Avrom Goldfadn, a Ukrainian playwright, started writing and staging Yiddish theatre.  Alongside of him, Zelig Mogulescu composed, arranged, and produced the scores for these plays. One of the most important of Mogulescu’s pieces is “Rozhinkes mit mandlen” (Raisins and Almonds) , which is still widely regarded as an important work in Jewish culture today.

            Sadly, the Ashkenazim (Eastern European Jews) faced a large amount of antisemitism through boycotts and pogroms. As a result, life was hard. Many lived in poverty. Engagement with the outside was brutal. One consequence included that Jews were not allowed to perform in public places.  So, Klezmer groups and ensembles started out very small with very few members. Despite the small size, it also became known as wedding music, because most Jewish weddings would integrate a festive nature with their tragic surroundings. One of the most common tunes in weddings was “Firm di Mekhutonim” (Escorting the Bride and Groom). Even though these were intense situations, the simcha (joy, gladness) still went on!

            In the early days, common instruments included the clarinet, violin and cymbalon (an Eastern European version of a hammered dulcimer). These were considered “quieter” instruments, because they would not resonate like a brass or woodwind instrument would.  Unfortunately, with the dawning of the Shoah (Holocaust), the fame of the music dwindled and declined. Many people forgot the message of joy they had heard. Within ensembles, the mood became more saddened and composers would write darker pieces. After the Shoah, though, Klezmer made a revival and people began to experiment with it. More instruments were added to ensembles including the upright bass, accordion, percussion, other woodwinds (flutes, saxophones), and brass (trumpets, trombones, and tuba). American musician Abe Schwartz started combining sounds of jazz and blues (that were so prevalent in the outside world) within the genre. One of his famous contributions is “Sher Medley”.  

            There is a tremendous amount of music to listen to; whether it be the older or more contemporary version of Klezmer. Currently, I am blessed to live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Very often, I get to hear Klezmer blaring outside my window; it is pure bliss. For many Ashkenazim, the older tunes from Eastern Europe still are important in family gatherings, lifecycles, and all year round. It reminds them of the joy of simchas (special occasions) and the bitter history of the past.  They still listen to such greats like Naftule Brandwein (“King of Klezmer Clarinet”) and Giora Feidman

            Then, as time progressed, more experimentation and creativity went on. Musicians wanted to make Klezmer more hip and accessible to younger generations; it was no longer their grandfather’s music. These included ensembles like The Klezmatics, mandolin player Andy Statman, and trumpeter  Frank London. All of them have tried a lot of blending and succeeded. While instrumentation is updated to include electric instruments (guitar, bass, Fender Rhodes, etc.), the listener can distinctively recognize that it is the classic sound and feel. Some is very heavily orchestrated, while often times it is not. The tradition and lineage still matters to these modern artists.

            Not only does the Jewish world hold on to Klezmer, but even the outside world is beginning to love and embrace it, which is exciting! A group called Golem seeks to combine the classic sound with a punk/rock feel. In addition, the popular band Snarky Puppy has a song that features quite a lot of influence from Ashkenazi flair. There is also a favorite of mine called, “Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas” by a one-album-wonder group named The Klezmonauts that recreates popular Christmas carols into something completely different. In fact, my extended family that is not involved with the Messianic movement absolutely loves this album!

            As we see, Klezmer can convey a lot of feelings: both joy and sadness, dancing and sighing, happiness and mourning. It is an expressive art that is important in the world around us. And I think you can be a cool cat by listening to the Jewish Jazz - Klezmer!

The Importance of Theologically Informed Music

by Tony Wray (of Hazakim)

One can argue that in recent decades the reach, audience, platform, and marketing power of faith-based music has grown significantly. Our studios, production teams, larger budgets, and increased media exposure rival that of the “mainstream” secular industry. Marketing campaigns replete with pretty faces, attractive graphics, special effects, clever hashtags, television appearances, and packed out stadiums have replaced poorly funded tours at small congregations. A variety of sounds and genres, including family-friendly alternatives of your favorite secular artists, abound. According to recent statistics, the Christian music industry boasts an impressive 1,400 radio stations and 80 million listeners nationally; bringing in half a billion dollars annually. While none of these facts are a moral problem in and of themselves, I would submit that amidst all of the glitz and glam, we run the risk of forgetting the “main thing”: namely, a Yeshua-centered, theologically informed approach to our music.

Among the myriad of Christian and Messianic artists that are signed to record labels and making music, the methods vary as greatly as do the musical styles. This article is, in no way, an attempt to generalize or paint with broad brushes the entire Christian and Messianic music world. Neither is it an indictment against the more popular artists in the Body of Messiah as a whole. Furthermore, I would never contend that there is only one way to do music ministry and that you must pack complex theology and apologetics into every song “Hazakim style”. I do believe, however, that some of the trends in more recent popular Christian music (and by extension Messianic music, to a lesser degree) should concern us.

Before I begin I feel it is important to define what I mean by the phrase, “theologically informed music.” Theology is the study of God and His attributes. If we, as believing musicians and artists, purport to communicate or share the truths of this God, namely the God of Israel, it should follow that a proper understanding of Him and His Word would inform our approach. Indeed, our music should rely and rest on good theology. So what is good theology? I’m glad you asked…

From the very beginning of the Torah, we learn that God created all things in the cosmos, including man and woman, for His glory. We were given dominion in the earth as custodians over creation and were gifted with life so that we might know God’s love and reciprocate that love back to Him and each other. When sin entered the world through humanity, death, decay, hatred, and deception came with it. The whole story of Scripture is the story of God’s unfolding plan to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden. This plan was ultimately realized in the coming of Yeshua the Messiah through His death and resurrection, and will finally culminate with His glorious return when all things are placed under His feet.

Then the peace, fellowship, communion, and love that once existed between heaven and earth will be restored. This is the Good News, also known as “the Gospel.” So what or who is the focus of the Gospel? As Rav Sha’ul (the Apostle Paul) so eloquently stated in His letter to the Romans: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (11:36).

The Gospel is undoubtedly the grace and love of God for us, on full display – but the focus is Him. In this Gospel story, He is the main character. He invites us to be supporting actors who participate in this glorious story with Him. Ultimately, even those who reject Him are playing a role in the story of His glory. Some will glorify Him through their own judgment, but through faith, we are able to glorify Him through salvation and eternal life. What an amazing Gospel!

Yeshua is the embodiment of the Divine Word through whom and for whom and to whom all things came into being – including sound, rhythm, rhyme, melody, harmony, and the very laws of music. The role of everything in creation, the very reason we were created, is to glorify God, which is why music was created.

Understanding this narrative – the narrative of Scripture – is theology. Making music for and about God with a poor understanding of this narrative leads to a skewed presentation of the Gospel. It has been said that theology without doxology (liturgical praise or worship) leads to cold, dead religion. When our approach to God is merely cerebral knowledge without a heart of praise, we are living outside of our intended purpose – to worship the Lord with all of our being. Doxology without theology, however, leads to something far more dangerous: idolatry. Without a clear understanding of God, His Gospel, His attributes, His story; we run the risk of creating gods in our own image. Often, when we as humans imagine God outside of an informed Biblical theology, the “god” we end up worshipping is ourselves.

I would argue that sometimes our worship music has more to do with us, than it does with God. At times the focus of our “praise and worship” is born out of a poor theology, focused on our own crown, and not an occasion for us to cast our crowns at His feet. In addition to this, we can sometimes produce theologically shallow music that seeks to connect with the listener solely through its introspective and emotional appeal. It is much easier for human beings to get excited about listening to another mundane creature’s struggles and feelings than it is for human beings to get excited about a complex and lofty God. But perhaps our lack of excitement about God-centered music as opposed to man-centered music is a symptom of the fall. Perhaps God doesn’t excite us because His glory steals the show… Either way, the lofty God is who we were created to know and adore!

Am I saying that emotional and introspective music is wrong or that every song has to be a sermon? Of course not! There are Books of the Bible, such as Esther and Ecclesiastes, that are less overtly theological and to some degree a personal, introspective kind of worship of God that is spiritually healthy. Even the Psalms of David are full of the king’s praises to God for the mighty deeds God performed on his behalf. It is good for us to worship God in a personal way saying, “thank you Lord for saving me and keeping me.” But David never ended his psalms with himself as the focus. The focus of David’s attention was the God of Israel: his rock, his fortress, his salvation, his Lord, and his deliverance.

David saw God’s deliverance as an occasion to magnify God’s attributes and even, at times, make very profound theological statements. Some of David’s music even prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Portions of his psalms, such as Psalm 22, would even be cited in the Messianic apologetics of Yeshua and His disciples and are used as “proof texts” for Yeshua’s Messiahship to this very day. The psalms of David were anything but theologically shallow. David possessed a sound theology. He understood, by Scripture, the attributes, story, and centrality of God and His Messiah. David understood that it was all about God. Praise God for His Word, which is sufficient to provide us with sound theology and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

In addition to the Psalms of David, the Bible contains many other illustrations of what theologically informed music should look like. In Exodus 15 we find the song of Moses, Miriam, and the newly delivered children of Israel. This song, while highlighting the wonderful deeds of the Lord on their behalf, gives all glory to God and magnifies His attributes of holiness, omnipotence, justice, mercy, and sovereignty. This song even makes boasts of the Lord that our modern day worship would be afraid to proclaim; praising God for the physical destruction of His foes! Indeed…this song is not shy about the power of God and is rich in theological content. They didn’t simply sing “We love the Lord because He makes us happy and gives us freedom…” Neither did they simply sing, “Nothing can stop us now…” No, they used God’s deliverance as an occasion to highlight and glorify His divine attributes and cast their crowns at his feet.

The Book of Revelation also contains several song passages. One such passage, which contains the song of four heavenly creatures, is Revelation 5:9 which reads, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Again we see the four living creatures putting the Lamb’s glory on display – using His redemptive deeds as an occasion to glorify Him.

In this age of relativism, self-importance, and image based marketing, may the Lord enable us, by His Spirit, to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The truth is found in Scripture, and Scripture is the basis of our theology. Our theology informs our music and our art, and our art informs a dying world. In previous eras the battle to balance relevance and ministry, for the believing artist, was not as intense as it is now.

The temptation to make “me” the focus is much greater in a “me” centered world. Despite our given genre of music, we would all do well to take a page from the songs of Scripture as well as the hymns of old which glorified the Lord through theologically informed music. Lyrics containing such glorious truths that the hearer and participant can do nothing but extol the Living God and glorify Him, as they were created to do. In a world of moral insanity, where God’s glory is rarely put on display by human beings, we need lyrics like these now more than ever before. Even if we were to boast of Him in a million songs, it cannot make up for the degree to which He is dissed in our culture. In the words of a theologically rich hymn of old, let us boldly proclaim His Greatness!

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,

Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Messiah shall come, with shout of acclamation,

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.

Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,

And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Getting Your Heart Right

by Mykie Collins

The most powerful, unprecedented and just absolute best worship experience I have ever had in my entire life was at the 2015 YMJA southeast retreat last year. I mean, I was singing notes I have never hit before, I was creating melodic runs I in my own right mind can never again create, singing new songs that have never been heard and worshipping more freely then I could have ever imagined possible. I… actually that is the weirdest part, I wasn’t even singing. Yes, this worshipful sound was coming out of my mouth but I had actually lost complete control of what I was doing. God fully took over. There I was sitting in a cabin with Shanna Mattson, Jabin Thomas, and Matt Adams (some of the most amazing worshipers I have ever met) two guitars, one hand drum, and me the one singer. Honestly I can’t explain what happened that night and give it justice, but I will say this; you know how every worship leader’s prayer is to be lead by the Holy Spirit when leading a service? I’m just like “DUDE that WAS the Holy Spirit.” I wasn’t leading a service, I wasn’t leading anything. I had no clue what was going to come out of my mouth next. I wasn’t trying to surrender, I WAS surrendered. My body was a mere vessel.  My heart was His. In that moment I had a taste of what God could make me capable of. I was singing the way I had always longed to. It was as if He was saying “Give me all of your heart, and I will give you this moment every time you worship. Give me every fear and every desire of your heart, and you will be able to worship me uninhibited by the boundaries of your own capabilities. Give me all of you and I will give you all of Me.”

I told you that story because it is crucial to what I want to write about; preparing your heart for worship. Simply put, to prepare your heart for worship all you have to do is completely surrender to God. Give him every aspect or your heart, every deepest desire, every secret, and every ambition. IT’S LIKE SUPER SIMPLE AND EASY. Oh wait, actually that goes against everything our flesh wants. Our human nature says “Don’t worry God, I can handle this. I am not ready to give it to You right now.” We want to shove everything that God wants to fix into the same drawer we shove old receipts in and pretend we are all “together” and ready to worship Adonai freely. We can get excited to lead or participate in a powerful worship service only to find ourselves walking away unchanged when Yeshua was standing RIGHT THERE next to us ready to take anything we wanted to give Him. But most of the time we don’t give it to Him. We hold on to so much hurt, we hold on too tightly to our dreams, and we don’t truly believe that God can heal our wounds or exceed our wildest expectations.  What if when we worshipped, we actually, I mean REALLY, wholeheartedly trusted God enough to open our hearts wholly to HIM? Deuteronomy 9:23 says, “And when the Lord sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, ‘Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.’ But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You did not trust or obey him.”

Adonai wants to give us so much more than we trust He can actually do.

I learned this the hard way myself, as many others who read this will relate. I, as many others who are called to worship, dream of a day when God gives me more. I dream big because I have a big God who placed big dreams in my heart. However, I am impatient, which naturally leads me to doubting the dreams Adonai placed in my heart and being frustrated with HIM. I held on too tightly to my own idea of my future specifically in regards to worship, and when things were not unfolding at the pace I thought fit for my life, worshipping became harder. My heart was not prepared to lead worship anymore.  During this difficult time I remember thinking, “Lord take me back to the place I was when I was at the Southeast Retreat worshiping you freely! That’s how I want to worship you every time! That’s how I want to lead worship.” I know now what He answered me back with. “Give Me your heart. Let Me take control. Trust Me.”

We must first prepare our heart by acknowledging that Adonai needs to be in control. If we are leading worship, we must know that He has equipped us with all we need and that freedom in the Ruach is obtainable when we are in complete surrender. If we are worshipping and not just “leading”, having a breakthrough is possible, hearing His voice is possible, anything and everything the Lord has is obtainable. But He will only give it to us when we are ready. We will only ever be ready when we are in completely surrendered to the Lord’s authority over our life. As difficult as it can be to accomplish, the idea is simple to prepare your heart to receive the blessings in store from worshiping Our Creator is worshipping in complete surrender. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

 

Don’t Lose the Liturgy: Reviving Our Future Hope through Ancient Prayer

by Jamie Eaton

If you’ve spent any time at all in the Messianic Community, you know as well as anybody that the variance of expression truly runs the gamut from very charismatic to orthodox. But no matter where you go, one thing remains the same. In every congregation, in every country, in every corner of the world we are all united by the prayer that stands as the centrality of our faith: The Shema.  There is something so comforting about knowing that no matter where I am; I carry that prayer with me and it echoes in the hearts and minds of the people around me as well. The burden set deep in my kishkes to see Jewish people return to their Mashiach cries out “Listen up! Our G-d is one and the same! It says so right here in the Shema! Could it be any more obvious?” It is from here that my deep love of liturgical prayer stems and my desire to call my unbelieving Jewish brothers and sisters into the full knowledge of who their Messiah is, using the customs and prayers of our people, begins.

Merriam Webster defines liturgy as ‘a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship or customary repertoire of ideas, phrases or observances’. When you put it in those terms it all seems very boring. Some years ago, I found myself at a crossroads in my walk with the L-rd. I primarily identified as Jewish but I felt stagnant in my worship. I could recite the prayers by heart, so in my mind, there wasn’t a “need” to fully engage and I often found myself checked out during service. I could not relate to my community and there was no resonance within me to maintain a Jewish lifestyle. “I love the Lord”, I thought,” All these extra prayers seem unnecessary to express that love”.  I was bored. It was this very boredom that shook me to my core and frightened me.  Was I walking away from my faith? Was I turning my back on my foundation? If I could not find worship and relationship with my G-d through the prayers of my people, if I couldn’t find engagement in the energy and traditions of my family, how could I expect anyone else to find those things? I was at a loss. I am forever grateful to The L-rd, who in His mercy ,knew that I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone , and called me to move south, to North Carolina and to Congregation Sha’arei  Shalom and to sit under the leadership of Rabbi Seth Klayman. G-d used this move to snap me out of my boredom. He brought me to a place of complete dependence on Him, taught me about obedience to spiritual authority and He used this time to stir my heart to a renewed love of traditional prayer, through a change in attitude about how I view worship, an attitude that is taught and cultivated at Sha’arei Shalom.

At Sha’arei Shalom, we call our worship  Avodah, a word that translates to “work” in Modern Hebrew. In a more traditional sense, it means to serve G-d. Historically, this word was used to describe sacrificial offerings made in the Temple and with a particular focus on the epitome of sacrificial rites, the complex and emotional main service of the high priests on Yom Kippur. Our attitude towards musical and liturgical worship stems from a mixture of the emotions stirred up by these definitions. They blend and move together to create a deep need to engage people in the beautiful and meaningful traditions of our ancient faith. Our liturgy, our practice of Jewish tradition, is what separates us from the larger body of believers in the Church and should be what attracts Jewish people to our synagogues.  How we practically apply this attitude is the practice of placing the same importance on liturgy as musical, song based worship and pouring just as much energy and creativity into our planning and practice sessions regarding its use.  This comes to life in researching or creating new melodies, not separating the liturgy and the music in our order of service or set list, reciting the prayers with musical accompaniment and changing things up every often. In fact, we try not to do the same melody in secession, pulling from several versions of each liturgical piece that we have in our song book. We also seek to fully understand the origination and theme of the prayers and to see our Yeshua in them. 

I believe liturgy is essential in showing non-believing Jewish people who Yeshua is. As I mentioned, it’s comforting to walk into any synagogue in the world, sing the familiar words and tune of the Shema.  This comfort is what allows people to relax within our congregational doors and makes them receptive to new thinking. This comfort and familiarity creates a peace that flows into the soul, one that longs of a home not forgotten and of a Father calling out to His children in Truth and Love. Our mission as believers in Messiah is to walk out that Truth and Love in excellence and to point the non-believing people Jewish people in our midst to the reality of our Jewish Messiah, that He was a Jewish man, who engaged in Jewish traditions and that belief in Him does not make you less of a Jew.  He was not just a nice Jewish carpenter who came to do good things to hasten Tikkun Olam. He is foremost the Son of G-d and our great Salvation, He came once already to redeem the world and He is coming back for His bride, to buy us back  once more and to take us home with Him! Spreading this news is our great Commission and in order to accomplish this goal we have to meet people where they are.  We must speak to them in a language they understand and I truly believe traditional liturgy is a language we all have in our arsenal to use. To use it effectively, we must love it and put energy and effort into it. With this energy and effort we can revive our traditional worship and remain relevant and attractive to our non-believing Jewish people so that they will have the opportunity to know what we know; that Yeshua is our King and He Lives!

Worshipping in Response to His Glory

by Whitney Tattersall

“Is there anything more worthy of our tongues and mouths than to speak the things of God and Heaven?” –John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

I’ve been told my entire life that God wants a relationship with me and I have always believed it. But it’s taken me years to realize that the relationship He wants with me will not flourish like it should if I don’t know who He is, and in turn, who that makes me. And for me, there is no place where I have been more blown away by His character than when I am worshipping Him.

If we live our lives truly wanting to walk as men and women of God, then understanding who He is is one of the most important things we will ever do. Not only because He is the greatest mystery ever to exist, the King of Kings, and the hope of salvation for all mankind - but because it is in Him, His promise, His sacrifice, and His character that we discover who we are as children of God.

We’re made in His image and in His likeness and I believe that only when we turn our fickle gazes away from our screens, our selfishness, and our pride – that we will have our eyes opened to the person He is calling us to be for His kingdom.

There is no room for pride in sacrifice. And true worship is a sacrifice.

Praise be to the God who has designed our relationship with Him to be so filled with mercy that when we worship Him we not only discover the joy of who He is, but the promise of who He has designed us to be.

I never want leading worship to become just another opportunity for me to sing – because it isn’t. It’s different and it should be. Each time I should approach with the knowledge that I come into a throne room that deserves all my attention.

This is not another time going from app to app on my phone, this is not another mindless hour watching Netflix, and this is not another shift at work.

This is a response to the revelation of my king – and to give anything less than all I have is treating what He’s called me to as if it has the same level of importance as the things this world sees as valuable.

We are meant to cast off those things like fear, discouragement, and embarrassment – as the thoughts of what could be for the promise of what WILL be.

And when we worship in desperate pursuit of the King who holds every answer to every burning question in every broken heart – His power can break the chains of this world and throw them away forever. My Abba wants me to choose Him. So to take a step back and rip my fickle gaze from my own needs to His glory is an act of worship that does not go unnoticed.

This is the kind of worship this world needs. Sacrificial, freely given, shut the world out, pursue His heart because He is worthy of our praise – worship.

It is our calling as worship leaders and as worshippers to further draw His creation into the incredible promise and joy of worshipping Him that they were designed for.

When we sing words like, “There’s no place I’d rather be than here in your love,” are we doing everything we can to live that? Do we know what it is to be in His love? Do we know Him?

Worship of Him sets the standard for the kind of earth shattering, focused, and surrendered life He is calling us to live. Not to mention, the kind of relationship He has desired with us for so long. Worship shows us that sacrifice is painful, yet full of blessings beyond compare.

 And if worship is a sacrifice, then let it remind our hearts that the greatest sacrifice has already been made. That our only true response to that revelation is purposeful worship of His character.

Yeshua, to you, Yeshua

All of my dreams all of my life,

My plans I give to you, Yeshua

For without you there’s no life in me

-Shaneh Et Chayai- ELAV Records

Authentic Worship

By Dr. Greg Silverman

Today’s worship word is “authentic.”  Authentic means genuine and true, the real deal!  To begin our journey, let’s make it clear that King David was an authentic worshipper.  He was a great worship leader who laid a foundation for what became worship patterns for the entire nation of Israel. 

 

What “qualifications” did David have to lead such a worship movement?  What does it take to lead others in worship?  Answer:  to be a worshiper yourself!  I remember when I first started learning this principal.  I joined Congregation Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia around 2001.  Within a year or two I had begun leading praise and worship.  I began first as a substitute piano player for what was called the “A” Band (I guess to differentiate it from the “B,” “C,” or “D” bands?).  Later I began directing youth worship teams and eventually adult teams as well.  I recall a very special conversation with a friend of mine in the congregation.  He loved worshiping God and taught me something important:  a music minister’s number-one job is to worship!  Perhaps this seems too obvious, however it is so important to not be confused about this basic principle.  It is vital to remember that music ministry is not about how great the sound system is, which guitar player got placed on your team, whether you are scheduled for a Friday night service or a Saturday morning one, or even about how many people showed up to the congregation that day.  The main focus is not to make people clap their hands, stand, sit, or kneel.  There is certainly nothing wrong with clapping, standing, kneeling, or having a totally awesome sound system.  As a matter of fact, those things can be really quite great!  Yet, the music minister’s main responsibility is to praise God himself, so that the people have a leader to follow.  If he does that, then the congregation will enter into the Presence of the Lord Almighty.  That certainly takes the pressure off.  We, as music ministers, do not need to try and force people to do anything.  Just praise Him, and provide the opportunity for the people to enter into His Presence together with you.

Back to King David – he was a true worshiper himself.  David praised God not only in public but also in the private of his prayer room.  This character trait is what qualified him to be such a great leader for guiding and teaching the nation of Israel how to bless the God’s Name.  In reference to King David, the Scripture says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  David had a heart after God’s own heart.  In the book of Psalms alone, we have access to the inner desires and motivations that caused David to be who he was.  This is what made David tick.  He was thankful to God because God is so good (Psalm 100:5); he came to God because of God’s awesome might and strength (Psalm 24:8); He knew he could go to God for mercy, forgiveness, and even physical healing (Psalm 103); and those are just a few of David’s reasons for worshiping.

We see David’s heart of worship in others songs located elsewhere in the Tanach.  We have record of David’s prayers and praises right before his death.  Here are some of his last words as recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:10-11,  “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in Heaven and earth is Yours.”  David had the right idea that life is all about God, and worship is a good way to express love toward God.  After a full life of experiences maturing from a shepherd boy to the King of Israel, David knew God and knew how to worship Him.  David, the king, viewed God as his King.  David, the top boss of the nation recognized his Lord as the Creator and CEO of all Heaven and earth forever.  David thought his Lord had very high worth, and at its most literal sense, the word worship means to ascribe worth.

I have the unique opportunity to travel and minister to a variety of Messianic congregations across the country.  As I travel, one of the things that delights me the most is meeting authentic worshipers and worship leaders.  These are people who are gushing out praises to Adonai from the depths of their beings.  Of course there is always room for us to grow.  However, I am glad to report that our Messianic movement is full of true worshippers who humbly give praise and glory to our One True King, Whose Name is Yeshua HaMashiach.

 

Worship: Communication with God

by Emma Leitson

One of the ways I talk to God is through worshipping. I used to lead worship at my congregation before I went to college, but now, in college, I did not have that opportunity. In the beginning, transitioning to college was very difficult. I left my family, my friends, my whole life behind and I had to start a new one. The first couple weeks, I began to feel very alone. I had a difficult time making friends, and the majority of the time, I was in my dorm room with nothing to do. I have never felt this feeling of loneliness before and it hit me hard. These times of loneliness, however, were the times I felt the closest to God. I would pick up my guitar and either play worship music or write a song to Him. I would cry out to Him and praise him for all the things He has done for me in my life. 

I felt like David. When David was in the depths of despair and loneliness, he still chose to praise God. I know for a fact that my loneliness had a purpose. God begin to speak to me in ways I never thought He could. I begin to truly rest in his presence. I begin to love the times of quietness and loneliness, because in those moments, I felt God and his abundance of peace and love. He was there for me when no one else. “Whenever I sit down or stand up, You know it. You discern my thinking from afar. You observe my journeying and my resting and You are familiar with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold Adonai, You know all about it” (Psalms 139: 2-4).  How comforting it was to realize that God knows me better than I know myself. He knows my every thought, my actions, my purpose. 

The weeks went by and I still continued to worship God. He gave me song lyrics such as, 

“take me back, back to the time

when I was dead but then you made me alive

take me back when I first found you

my first and only love, father you have made me new.”

 

He began to work wonders in my life. I was truly captivated by Him as He began to change my life and “make me new” in Him. He blessed me with a solid group of friends who fully desire Him. I started to feel more confident not only in myself, but in Him. To this day, I crave my quiet times with Him. I absolutely love reading His word and resting in His presence. I thank God every day for the periods of loneliness because those are the times when He brought me to Him. I learned how to wait and fully trust in Him. And, when I did, he brought more blessings than I could have ever hoped for. 

There are, of course, still times when I struggle here at college. But, God taught me to always continue to worship and praise Him, because He is the comforter and the healer of broken hearts. He is the joy of my soul, the praises of my mouth, and the song in my heart.

Foundations of Worship by Antonio Rios

Introduction
How often do we struggle with the various authority structures in our lives? Whether our parents, employers, government, congregational leadership or police officers, we all wrestle with our God-given authorities. We may not necessarily show our frustration, rebellion, disappointment, anger or disrespect publicly, but to God, it doesn’t matter. The Lord is the one who gives authority, and He is the one who takes it away.

Question: If the authority is failing to walk in the ways of God and the people are being oppressed (in any way), whose fault is it, really? As the old saying goes “The Buck Stops Here”, but just where is “Here?”

The Ancient Oath
Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 states, “I say, “Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases.” Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing?”

“Because of the oath before God?” What oath? Did we miss that memo somewhere? Apparently, so. Somewhere in time the people of God made an oath that would last throughout eternity. I would like to know what the oath said, so that I could do my part in upholding my end of the deal.

Testamental Agreement
If there were an ancient oath between the Children of Israel and the Lord, there would have to be Testamental Agreement. Both the Tanach and the B’rit Chadasha would verify Ecclesiastes 8:2-4.

In Romans 13:1-7, Rav Shaul says the following, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not the cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore, it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this, you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

This passage agrees with the writer of Ecclesiastes. Specifically, those who resist authority have opposed the ordinance of God. That means we have Testamental Agreement. Did the

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Lord leave the oath out of Scripture? Is it possible that we could find clues that lead us to what might have been contained therein?

The Law of First Mention
The law of first mention is a critical clue to uncovering/discovering important details about our Father, God. If we want to find out God’s opinion on ruling authority, let’s start at the first mention of a king in scripture.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, the Lord speaks to the Children of Israel and declares to them the following regarding a king, “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”

The follow on to Deuteronomy 17 is found in 1st Samuel, when the Children of Israel cry out to the Lord and Samuel for a King. This is the first mention of a king being requested by the Children of Israel in Scripture. When it was time to ordain and crown Saul as King of Israel, Samuel had this to say, “When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. Now, therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you as it was against your fathers. Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great that you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.” Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside

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from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things that can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, but I will instruct you in a good and right way. Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1st Samuel 12:12-25)

The ancient oath! There it is in verses 13-14, 20-21, and 25. You mean to tell me that the woes of the Children of Israel throughout the ages had more to do with the people than the king? How is that possible?

If the Lord is the one who bestows authority and places rulers, then it makes total sense. If the Children of Israel had been careful to obey the voice of the Lord and walk in His commandments, then the Lord would not have had to turn them over to their lust. If the King of Israel had turned from the Lord, but the people had stayed true God’s word, then the Lord would have removed that king and replaced him with one who would walk in His ways. However, we see time and again throughout scripture that the people went their way, and both the nation and the king were ruined. You see, God would have protected the people from harm had they kept their end of the oath. This was a tragedy to learn from and an oath that still affects us today.

The Buck Does Stop “Here.”
Let’s define “Here”. “Here,” is me. It is each one of us. According to the Lord, we have as much, if not more responsibility than our authority in ensuring their and our success. Our success is tied together. What an incredible wake-up call to the all of us.

The Lord has set up various kinds of authority structures in our lives, and each of them depends on our walk before the Lord. Parents, government, employers, congregational leaders and yes, even police officers. We must purpose now, more than ever, to uphold the ancient oath of our forefathers. Firstly in our homes with our parents, secondly in our congregations with our leadership, thirdly in our communities, fourthly with our employers, and finally with our local, state and national governments.

Our mutual success and blessing are found in our walk before the Lord. Instead of resisting authority, opposing the ordinance of God and breaking our oath, let us purpose to walk in righteousness before the Lord and watch how He changes the difficult structures of authority into agents of blessing. It’s not about how we or someone else can do it better; it’s about God, and He always does it better.

Let us as individuals, families and congregations show the world a more excellent way. The ancient way.