It was on this day in the year 1790 that the first advertisement, offering private Hebrew instruction in an American publication, appeared in The Pennsylvania Packet, placed there by Abraham Cohen. In those days, there were no organized Hebrew schools and so the private tutor was the primary way for most Jewish youngsters to learn the Hebrew language. Over 200 years later, this private method of teaching Hebrew is alive and well, but with a little bit of a different twist. Many Hebrew tutors, today, find themselves teaching the language to non-Jews.
There are websites devoted to targeting a non-Jewish audience who wish to learn Hebrew. These people, for some strange reason from the Jewish perspective, are wanting to learn their Hebrew language and customs. This curiosity doesn’t end with the Hebrew language. About thirty years ago, companies starting popping up with the expressed interest of selling Judaica – tallits, shofars, etc. – to a specific buyers they called, “Christian Zionists.” Most of these companies have thrived.
Personally, this interest started about thirty years ago when I traveled to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles. It was there that I was first exposed to the reality that there was more to the Bible than I ever imagined. It was also there that I became intrigued with the Hebrew language, the main impetus coming from a song, sung in Hebrew, that I heard while in Jerusalem that same year. The song was written and performed by a young woman whose inspiration came from a prophecy in Isaiah which said:
“For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a lamp that burns.” (Isaiah 62:1)
It was the desire to learn this Hebrew song that led me to Jacob Levinson, the local rabbi who ended up teaching me the basics of Hebrew. He was intrigued with the notion that a young Christian would be interested in learning such things and, so, he enthusiastically agreed to teach me. Eventually, he also taught a small group of others from our church and continued to do so until his death. Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching others what I’ve learned, and for all I know, those people have gone out and taught others themselves.
What’s the point of this? It’s to demonstrate how just one person can make a difference in so many lives. Abraham Cohen sought to make a difference in his day by teaching his pupils the language of their ancestors. Elisheva Shomron, the young lady who sang that Hebrew song, made a big difference in my life, whether she knew it or not. I’d like to think that over the past 25 years, I may have made a difference in someone else’s life, who then went out and made a difference in someone else’s life – and on and on it goes.
So consider this: maybe that’s how the prophecy in Isaiah 62 comes to pass. One person at a time, being a light, ignites a spark in someone else who then becomes a light for the next person, who passes the torch onto someone else. Before you know it, a spark has become a flame.
Sometimes it’s hard to think of ourselves as being instrumental in another person’s life. Actually, when you get right down to it, we aren’t the ones who do it. It’s the Presence of the Creator in us using the talents and gifts that He gave to us that causes the spark to ignite a flame. Still, we have a role to play and we must embrace it. Isaiah went on with the prophecy saying:
“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night you who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth….Indeed the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the world: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him and His work before Him.’” (Isaiah 62:6-7, 11)
Perhaps that spark that was ignited in me so long ago and the one He ignited in you was intended to play a role in what we’ve just read. Perhaps that spark was intended to provoke us to proclaim and not keep silent about the things He is doing in the earth today. In fact, our proclamation is to be directed toward Him; to petition Him to bring about the promised restoration spoken of so long ago. In consideration of that fact, I intend to do my part – how about you? Remember that one person, submitted to the Father and His will, can make a difference in the lives of so many.