What's going on in Iraq?
Recently I was able to go and visit my brother Paul in Ramadi. We had a good visit but I was stuck there for two extra days. Paul is a Specialist (E4) and is with the 82nd Airborne. It has gotten oppressively hot here at last. However, this deployment I have air conditioning. Something we didn't have in the initial stages of my last deployment. And although I had air condition later in my deployment last time, I was rarely able to enjoy it because of how and where I was working. I have a chapel service for our Christian detainees recently. One asked me-through a translator-if when Jesus demanded his followers to wear crosses when he said "take up your cross and follow me." I said no-that is was a metaphor or a symbol for living a life of submission to God. The Arabic word for Submission is Islam. The interpreter-who was a Muslim-said that the cross is a symbol of Submission-or a symbol of Islam. I thought that was ironic.
On May 26 I will have my thirty-eighth birthday. Back in 2008, I was thinking about how I am getting older and how I needed to get a little further ahead. With some heard work I was able to earn my Master's Degree in just two semesters, finish my chaplain's officer's basic course and make a deployment. Hopefully, this deployment will help me to earn some capital so that I can have more options regarding the future. I felt I had no other option but to begin my career as an officer. The sacrifice is that I will be deployed. It is good to get one deployment out of the way. Also, if I had a choice between going to Iraq or Afghanistan, at this point, I'd rather go to Iraq. The country is stabilized and I am familiar with Iraq. Also, through divine providence, I was sent back to the same area in which I was deployed before-Baghdad International Airport. I imagine that I could possibly be deployed to Afghanistan within a year or two-the way things are in the world today. I have four more years in the military. After that, we will see how things go-regarding if I get out of stay in. I feel that what I need to do now is begin a doctoral program. Hopefully, I will be able to start in Fall 2011. When I get back this fall, I will take some time off. I will apply for a doctoral program. I may do some substitute teaching. I will probably do a book promotion in Chicago. I may go back to the Middle East. After finishing "Christ the Man" (basically about the first year of Christ's ministry) I have moved on in my interest to Moses and the Exodus. When I was in Egypt last time, I spent the time visiting Egypt's Coptic Christian community. What I plan to do this time is retrace the steps of Moses-from his birth until his death. I want to start in Lower Egypt (Northern Egypt) travel down to Upper Egypt (Southern Egypt) and Nubia. According to Josephus, Moses traveled to Nubia as an officer in the Egyptian military. Then I want to travel across Sinai and end in Mount Nebo in Jordan-where Moses viewed the Holy Land before he died. I will only go on this research expedition if I feel I can afford it. I need to budget my finances very carefully. Southern Egypt has many ancient Egyptian temples-things you can't see in the Cairo area-where I lived before. I believe there could be huge benefits from going on such a trip.
The Hammer of God
In what little free time I have I have been pounding away at "The Hammer of God" my book on Judas Maccabeus and Charles Martel. I want to have it up on Amazon.com two months before Hanukkah-so that people can order it for this holiday season. That means I need to have the manuscript finished and submitted in about two weeks-which is possible.
As I write this it is Shavuot. Shavuot is the Hebrew way of saying "Pentecost." Pentecost is the day Christians celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit and the "birthday" of the church. "Pentecost" means 50th day-and is the Greek name for the Jewish festical "Shavuot" which means "weeks" or "feast of weeks." According to Jewish tradition it was on "Shavuot" or Pentecost that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. This holiday is mentioned in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10. It is also called "festival of Reaping" in Exodus 16:10 and Day of First fruits in Numbers 28:26.
On Pentecost Jews would recite "My Father was a wandering Aramean…" (Deuteronomy 26:1-10) in order to remind themselves of their Aramaic roots. However, certain Jews, who wanted to divest themselves of their Aramaic heritage mis-translated this passage as "An Aramean tried to destroy my father"! (The Aramean they refer to is Laban, the uncle and father-in-law of Jacob. According to the Scripture he cheated Jacob.)
There are certain traditional Jewish practices connected to Pentecost.
- The reading of the Akdamut poem. (Akdamut means "An introduction to the words.) This is an Aramaic poem extolling the greatness of God, the Torah and Israel. It is a 90 line poem written by Rabbi Meir Bar Yitzchak around 1096. The Jewish community in Europe must have been Aramaic speaking at this time.
- Eat Dairy foods
- Read the Book of Ruth. Ruth is a story about the harvest and Shavuot is an early harvest festival. (Sukkot would be a later harvest festival that took place in autumn.) Carman appeared in a new "Book of Ruth" movie. An earlier version was made in the 1950s or 60s and is called "The Story of Ruth." The earlier version is probably a better movie but the Carman version is a little more accurate.
- Decorate the house with greenery (like some Christians do at Christmas)-the reason is to remember Moses' rescue by Bithia-the daughter of Pharaoh-among the bulrushes.
- An all night Torah study (this tradition began in 1533)
There are two "Feast of Firstfruits" one is on the "morrow of the Sabbath" during the Passover. This is when the "counting of the Omer" begins. This is the countdown to Shavuot. There is dispute about when the counting of the Omer begins. Is it the day after the Sabbath-or Sunday-or the day after the high Sabbath of the Passover? If it was the day after the weekly Sabbath then Jesus' rising on Sunday would have been a fulfillment of the "first-fruit." The resurrection of Jesus Christ is described as "first fruits" in the New Testament. Karaites, Sadducees, Boethusians, the Book of Jubilees and Catholics all state it is a Sunday. So-what are the links between Shavuot and "Christian" Pentecost? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and according to Jewish oral tradition the "Ten Commandments" were proclaimed in all seventy languages of the world and heard by all the world when they were given upon mount Horeb. (Of course there are more than seventy languages-but the ancients believed there were seventy languages.) In like manner the Gospel was proclaimed in all the languages of the world on Pentecost.