Inside View Jul/Aug 2013
In March our Up to Jerusalem tour visited The Jerusalem Great Synagogue. It was a highlight of our trip to the only city in the world where God has chosen to place His name. Even Jesus visited synagogues during His time on Earth.
The Great Synagogue was founded in 1982 and is dedicated to the memory of the 6 million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust and to those who gave their lives to establish and defend the modern State of Israel.
The building’s magnificent architecture and design make it truly stunning. The exterior resembles the ancient Temple, with its towering façade. On entering the main sanctuary, your eyes are drawn to vivid stained-glass windows that tell the history, past and future, of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Zev Lanton, director general of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, graciously escorted us into a prayer and study room where he shared the story of the synagogue. Rabbi Lanton explained some of the basic elements of Judaism, focusing particularly on prayer.
He demonstrated how a Jewish man drapes a tallit (or tallis), a four-cornered prayer shawl, over his shoulders and often his head before praying to God.
Though the Lord did not directly command Jewish men to wear tallitot (or taleisim), He did instruct them to attach tassels to the four corners of their outer garments (Num. 15:38–40; Dt. 22:12). The tassels were to include a blue thread to help them remember the Lord’s commands and do them and to remember to be holy before God.
Today, said Rabbi Lanton, the tallit is placed over the outer garments and symbolizes the way to approach the holy God of the universe: by covering oneself.
It is common in Jerusalem to see people praying. At the Western Wall, the holy site closest to where the Temple once stood, people openly gather to offer up prayer to God day and night. Both men and women pray at the Western Wall.
The prayers of the Jewish people remind me of the importance of communicating with God. It is the prayer of the righteous that moves His heart. Prayer is how we commune with our heavenly Father and offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done, is doing, and will do for us.
It was through prayer that God’s own Son, who became flesh and dwelt among us, communicated with His Father. He discerned God’s will through prayer. Through prayer He asked His Father to care for His disciples’ needs. In His greatest hour of trial, just prior to His arrest and torture, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to His Father.
I cannot fathom the amount of prayer that has been lifted up on behalf of The Friends of Israel over the years. But I can appreciate that, without all those who labored to pray for this ministry, we would not be celebrating our 75th anniversary.
We publish our Prayer & Praise bulletin twice a year and mail it to our friends because we covet your prayers. As much as we depend on the generous financial support of so many, prayer is our greater need.
Through your prayers, God provides for us. Through your prayers, God directs our steps. Through your prayers, God blesses our labors. Through your prayers, God opens eyes to see; minds to understand; and hearts to believe and receive the wonderful, life-giving message of His Messiah.
Listening to Rabbi Lanton at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think that, though we do not follow the tradition of covering ourselves with a tallit prior to praying, the tallit nevertheless reflects our stature before God: We should go before His throne of grace in humility, as the creation before the great Creator.
The tassels with the blue thread remind us that God is holy, and He desires that we know His Word and live righteously before Him. As James wrote, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5:16). I am deeply grateful for your ministry of prayer for The Friends of Israel.