Important Announcement from Lois (updated Jan 2012)

Shalom everyone –

Our Rabbi Home PageIf you discovered my writing here and are wondering where to find me, my blog is now at Our Rabbi Jesus: His Jewish Life and Teaching ( The site focuses on how understanding the Bible in its original context can shed light on how we live today. The site is a work in progress, but I hope you’ll subscribe to its email list. (My goal has been to send something monthly, but its actually been about once a year.) You can also find updates on the OurRabbiJesus Facebook page. (Click “Like” to stay connected.)

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi JesusMy main activity right now is actually writing books. In March 2009, Zondervan published Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (co-authored by Ann Spangler). The book explores the first-century world of rabbis and disciples, festivals, prayers and the Torah, and how restoring Jesus to his Jewish reality sheds light on his life and ministry. For more info and a preview, see this page. (You can get the book from your local bookstore, or online at Amazon, B&N or CBD.)

In February 2012, Zondervan will release the sequel, which I’ve been working on for the past couple years: Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. There, I ask the next question — what are the implications of Jesus’ Jewish context for how we live as his disciples? I also contemplate some Jewish ideas that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ words and yield practical insights for following him today. For more info and several excerpts, see this page. Available soon at bookstores, or online at Amazon, B&N, or CBD.

En-Gedi Home PageIf you want to read some of my earlier writing, see This is the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry I founded with Bruce Okkema in 2001. For six years we organized seminars and published books and audio/video materials. I’ve been writing independently for the past five years, but you can find many of my earlier articles there, as well as my first book, Listening to the Language of the Bible.

I do also travel and speak. If you’re interested in where I’ll be or inviting me, check out my calendar here.

Blessings –

Lois Tverberg

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 10:45 am  Comments (1)  

Early Reviews of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Final Cover

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

I thought I’d share few more details about Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, my book that will be released by Zondervan in March 2009.

First of all, here is the final version of the cover. (In an earlier post I included a preliminary cover for the book. Feel free to share your thoughts.)

And, here are the some of reviews the book has received so far:

“Spangler and Tverberg, with the rigor of a scientist, the drama of a story teller, and the passion of a disciple, present a stirring depiction of Jesus as a first century Jewish teacher which will greatly benefit the scholar and the lay person alike. Supported with careful analysis of ancient sources and recent archaeological discovery this study is a profound call to follow the Jesus of Scripture.”

—Ray Vander Laan, Author and Founder of That the World May Know Ministries

“If we could turn the clock back to the Jewish world of the first century, what would it be like to follow in the footsteps of Jesus the Jew? This highly readable work is rooted in rabbinic sources and reflects current Gospel research. Spangler and Tverberg vibrantly introduce the reader to valuable aspects of the Jewish background, life style and teachings of the Rabbi from Galilee. Through their engaging personal style and reflective Judaic approach toward understanding biblical discipleship, Spangler and Tverberg have “hit a home run.” The authors draw their readers in to learn at the feet of the Rabbi and leave them begging for more.”

—Marvin R. Wilson, PhD, Ockenga Professor of Biblical Studies, Gordon College

“For disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) who know little about his Jewishness, including his rabbinic and Hebraic teaching style, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus is the place for them to start. Spangler and Tverberg have created the perfect introduction for the uninitiated. This book will have a deep impact on the thinking of ordinary Christians throughout the world.”

David Bivin, Author, Founder and Editor of Jerusalem Perspective

“Last year over a million pilgrims visited the Holy Land. Few however would have learned as much about the historical Jesus as you can by reading this terrific new work by Spangler and Tverberg. Drawing upon personal experiences as well as the latest Jewish and Christian scholarship in Israel, the authors skillfully guide you on a wonderful journey into Jesus’ first-century Jewish world—exploring his culture, his lifestyle as an itinerant sage, and his well honed rabbinic teaching methods and subtle but startling messianic claims. This book makes you really eager to sit at the Rabbi Jesus’ feet and learn from the One we joyously serve as both Messiah and Lord. I commend it to every follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dwight A. Pryor, Founder and Director of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies

The book is available for pre-order from Amazon at this link.

Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm  Comments Off on Early Reviews of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus  

Ushpizin: A Great Movie for Sukkot

Right now all over the world, Jewish people are celebrating the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) in small “booths” or “tabernacles” they have built in their yards. They live in these little huts for seven days (or at least eat their meals there), in order to remember God’s care during their 40-year wilderness trek to the Promised Land, because God commanded it in Leviticus 23:39-43.

They are also commanded to pick leafy branches and fruit of four species and wave them each day in thanks for God’s harvest. Pious Jews scrimp and save in order to purchase a flawless “etrog” (a citron, a lemon-like fruit), which often costs $50 or more, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars. One of my friends asked a Jewish man why he would spend so much, and he said, “Why would I worship God with less than the very best?”

If you want to see how these ancient traditions are still observed by Jews in Jerusalem today, you have a superb opportunity in a movie that came out a few years ago called Ushpizin (oosh-pee-ZEEN). The word means “visitors,” and refers to the tradition of showing hospitality to visitors in your sukkah during the Feast of Sukkot.

The movie revolves around the lives of Moshe and Malli Bellanga, an extremely poor couple who live in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. Both of them are what Jews call ba’al teshuvah, (“masters of repentance”) meaning that they became observant as adults, and they are still learning to live as ultra-Orthodox Jews. Soon you find out that the husband has a pretty violent past, and his old friends are convicts.

Convicts visiting Moshe & Malli

In fact, two escaped convicts presume upon them to host them in their sukkah, making their lives miserable and testing their new-found faith. The question of the movie is whether Moshe has truly repented of his past, or if he still is the man he used to be.

The movie, Ushpizin is one-of-a-kind in that it is the only movie ever made by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who normally stay far away from public media. When it debued in Israel in 2004, it won all sorts of awards because of its delightful story and excellent acting. (You can read the story here.) It’s a real favorite of mine.

The entire movie was played by ultra-Orthodox (“Haredi”) Jews living in their own neighborhoods in Jerusalem, so you get an amazingly authentic glimpse into their very private lives. Considering how stifling its strict rules would seem to be, I was amazed at the characters’ humor, faith and gentleness.

You might think the movie is hard to find, but I got it at my Blockbuster movie outlet. Several libraries in my area of Michigan have the DVD too. Of course you can buy it new or used on Amazon. It is in Hebrew with subtitles. Not only will it teach you about Sukkot, it is a delightfully hilarious story. I highly recommend it.

Let me know what you think!

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 4:49 pm  Comments (2)  

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – Almost Done

Greetings from Lois after some months being away from the blog. It’s not that I haven’t been writing! I’ve been busy working on a book. Finally we’re nearing the end of our edits after several long months of writing.

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

The book is called:

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith

Zondervan will be releasing it in March 2009. Here’s an intro from the back cover:

It is 30 A.D., and you are studying with the greatest rabbi of all time…

What would it feel like to sit at the feet of Rabbi Jesus, sensing his power and learning firsthand about his kingdom? By immersing yourself in the culture, customs, prayers, and feasts of first-century Jews, you can enrich your own understanding of the Bible and of Jesus—drawing near to the greatest of all rabbis.

Delve into the culture that surrounded him and gain a richer understanding of Scripture and of the deep roots of your own Christian faith. Watch Jesus teach, understand what he is saying, explore his faith, and experience a more intimate relationship with him, coming to know Jesus not only as your Savior, but as your Rabbi, the one who teaches you how to live.

I worked with a co-author, Ann Spangler, who has written several popular Christian books including Praying the Names of God, Women of the Bible, and most recently, The Tender Words of God. She’s an award-winning writer who has quite a gift for storytelling. Here are the chapter titles from the table of contents:

1. Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus
2.  Why a Jewish Rabbi?
3. Stringing Pearls
4.  Following the Rabbi
5.  Get Yourself Some Haverim
6.  Rabbi, Teach Us to Pray
7.  For Everything a Blessing
8.  A Passover Discovery
9.  Discovering Jesus in the Jewish Feasts
10.  At Table with the Rabbi
11.  Touching the Rabbi’s Fringe
12.  Jesus and the Torah
13. The Mysterious Kingdom of God
14.  Becoming True Disciples of Our Jewish Lord

If you want to read more about the book on Zondervan’s website, visit this link. While you’re there, you can watch a video of Ann and myself. We were asked to give a 45 minute devotional presentation at Zondervan’s summer sales meeting. Ann speaks first about the background of the book, and then I spoke about Jewish prayer.

Let me know what you think!


Published in: on September 13, 2008 at 1:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Healing Hearts in Israel

In comparing what Jesus said to his Jewish contemporaries, much of what he taught was in line with what others taught, often expanding on their words. But one teaching of his was utterly beyond anything that anyone had ever said, and has no parallel. What was it? “Love your enemy.” It’s beyond me, that’s for sure.

What does it look like when it’s radically lived out? There is a small ministry in Jerusalem that does this very thing. Years ago, an American man, Jonathan Miles, discovered that a great many infants in Gaza had heart defects that would certainly lead to death, but had no hope of medical help where they lived. Only a few miles away were state-of-the-art hospitals in Israel, but because of the conflict between Jews and Palestinians, no way for the Jewish doctors to reach out to the Palestinians. So he and a few other Christians decided to regularly cross over into Gaza and bring children for heart surgeries, donated at cost by the Israeli hospitals. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, they’ve also been helping children in Iraq, another long-time enemy of Israel.

You can’t imagine the profound impact this has on the people involved. Families are sometimes fearful of going to Israel, having heard all sorts of lies about the evil Jews who live there. Sometimes they face accusations of their neighbors that they are collaborating with the enemy. But when they meet compassionate doctors and loving nurses, it completely changes their world. When they go home and tell their families their stories, it makes an enormous impression on them, challenging their ancient hatreds.

The changes that come over the children are remarkable too – many of them have distinctly blue skin from lack of oxygen and are too weak to walk. Right after the surgery they turn a warm, healthy pink, with a healthy life ahead.

All the connecting is done by a team of passionate, prayerful Christians who make it clear that they believe it’s “Dr. Jesus” doing the saving. They often share about their faith. But yet the medical care comes from Jews, who are loathed by the people who they are helping. The name of the ministry is “Shevet Achim” which means “brothers dwelling” – it comes from Psalm 133, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”

Just a couple days ago they screened another large group of children from Iraq and will be bringing twelve of them to Israel, even though they don’t yet have donations to support them. The hospital needs $5000 to cover its costs, a tiny fraction of what such a surgery would cost in an American hospital.

If you can’t guess, I’m a big fan and supporter of this small but wonderful ministry, and heartily encourage you to learn more. Their website is here. And here’s a link to a video from one of their last trips to Iraq. Their first baby from Iraq made international headlines – you can see the NBC story here. Be sure to sign up for their emails.

Published in: on March 5, 2008 at 11:04 am  Comments Off on Healing Hearts in Israel  

Sites for Audio Study & Sermons

I know that the reason people come to this site is to look for applicable Hebraic insights on Christian living. There are plenty of sites that talk about the Jewish roots of Christianity, and plenty more that have academic articles about the Bible in its context. What is rare are sites that preach sermons on Christian themes from a Hebraic perspective, and give devotional insights for today. Here, I just thought I’d mention a few sources of good audio talks from a Hebraic point of view. If you are a couch potato who is growing in girth by reading all the time (like me), buy yourself an iPod, download some, and go get some exercise.

One good source is the website of Narkis Church in Jerusalem, Israel. Every time I’m in Israel, I attend here on Shabbat morning. The church has a fascinating history, and one of its former pastors, Bob Lindsey, was a key scholar in studying Jesus’ Jewishness. A lot of American graduate students in biblical studies in Israel go there. If you’re in town, don’t miss the excellent 9:30 AM Shabbat Bible study where the students and scholars all meet before the service. They have plenty of visitors.

Their current pastor, Charles (Chuck) Kopp, shares the teaching with all of the talented scholars and grad students, and rarely preaches himself. Many of the sermons are really excellent examples of how to apply Hebraic studies to Christian life today. A lot of the speakers are academics who save their devotional thoughts to share here. Some who I really like are Randall Buth, David Pileggi, Gary Alley, Sharon Alley and Halvor Ronning. I haven’t heard all of them, and I know there is some variability, of course. They invite some speakers who are not at all in this field. An excellent guest talk was by John Townsend, co-author of the bestseller, Boundaries. The link for the Narkis audio page is here.

Another good audio source is the Jerusalem Perspective website, where there are more sermons from Hebraic scholars, mostly given at Narkis Church. Their audio page is here. For some you need a Premium Content subscription. If you hate spending money for online content, ignore your feelings and sign up anyway. JP has an enormous amount of good material and it’s a small, but very worthy organization to support.

One other good audio source is Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids – Rob Bell, of course. You likely might already know of him, because his talks are some of the most popular podcasts online. He loves Hebraic study and is a hilarious speaker. I don’t agree with him on everything, but often I just love his original insights. The link to the Mars Hill audio page is here

Just to update you, I’m still in the thick of writing. I’m learning a lot and wish I could share it here, but I need to focus on that, so again I’m giving you some favorite resources. And with these, you can also get some exercise while you’re learning too.

Published in: on February 16, 2008 at 9:43 am  Comments Off on Sites for Audio Study & Sermons  

Update and a favorite book

Hi friends –

I’m glad for all who keep checking my blog and I apologize for the lack of posts. If you’re wondering what’s going on with me, I’m buried deep in writing on the book project that is due May 1. And also, my father died a couple weeks ago. He was 87 and had health problems, and he was a strong Christian who wanted to go home to be with Christ, so I’m at peace with that. But you can imagine that family matters took up a lot of precious time.

And since I’m one who tends to push off writing until the deadline, now I’m really pressed. I’m actually doing A LOT of writing right now, so I just don’t have energy to do much more for the blog. So your prayers for writing would be great.

For those of you who are itching for something good to read, I just thought I’d tell you about one of my very favorite books. (Go to the bookstore at for the first books on Hebraic studies that I’d suggest.)

jewish-values.jpgThe book that I can’t recommend highly enough is The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. It has incredibly insightful, profound daily articles about how to live the way God wants you to, according to Jewish thinking. A person is supposed to read it each day and once a week, over Shabbat dinner most likely, discuss it with family and friends.

I actually did this -met with some friends over coffee and discussed it each week, and we were utterly transformed by our conversations about its approach to life. Really. It’s little stories would get us all choked up (“verklemp”) and every week we’d say “Wow, that was brilliant.” We found over time that our entire attitude to life changed.

Here are some of my favorite chapters – you’ll have to get the book to read what they’re about!

Find Excuses for Behavior that Seems Unkind
Don’t “Steal” Another Person’s Mind
When, If Ever, Is it Permitted to Lie? (There are actually 3 reasons.)
Feed Your Animals Before Yourself
Teach your Child that what Matters Most to God is Goodness
Learn Even from Those Whom You Disagree

I should say that it really does look at life from a Jewish perspective, and sometimes it talks about why it disagrees with the Christian way of looking at things. I don’t always agree, but its way of looking at things is very fresh and insightful, and helps me think about why I believe what I do.

Here’s a link to buy it at Amazon. It lists for $29.95 but you can get it there for $19.77 + shipping. Or, buy it used for about $10 there too. You won’t regret it.

That will hold you over while I get my other writing done.

Blessings – Lois

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 8:22 am  Comments Off on Update and a favorite book  

The Greatest Day of the Feast

This past week has been a week of great celebration among the Jewish people. On the biblical calendar the past seven days were the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. In Lev 23:  God tells his people in the fall to bring the fruits of the harvest to the temple and commands them to rejoice and give thanks. He also tells them to build a sukkah, a tabernacle or booth, and live in it for seven days. This is so that in the midst of their harvest that they remember that it isn’t their own strength that sustains them, but by God’s loving hand.

Western Seminary Sukkah

This past week I celebrated this with the Hebrew class at Western Seminary here in Holland. They built a sukkah last Friday in class!  This is the first sukkah ever built at this seminary of the Reformed Church of America, so it was a historic occasion. As is traditional, it is made out of temporary materials and the roof is made only of branches, and one side is left open, to emphasize the fragileness of the human condition. You are supposed to be able to see at least one star through the roof. It blew over on the seventh day, which seems completely appropriate!

Today the Hebrew class celebrated the Hoshana Rabbah, what John 7:38 calls last and greatest day of the feast. This is a day that is filled with fervent prayers for rain. In Jesus’ day, there was a great water libation ceremony in the temple, and hundreds of thousands of people would crowd into the temple, beating their willow branches and shouting “Hosha-na” meaning, “Save us, we plead!” You have to remember that in Israel, there has not been one drop of rain since April, and the very lives of the people depend on the early rains of fall to come. Our class read the words of Joel 1: 10-12 to picture the emotions of the Hebrews there:

10 The fields are ruined,
       the ground is dried up ;
       the grain is destroyed,
       the new wine is dried up,
       the oil fails.

 11 Despair, you farmers,
       wail, you vine growers;
       grieve for the wheat and the barley,
       because the harvest of the field is destroyed.

 12 The vine is dried up
       and the fig tree is withered;
       the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—
       all the trees of the field—are dried up.
       Surely the joy of mankind
       is withered away.

And then we read the promise in Joel 2 that if the people would repent, God would send rain and save their lives and give them food. And then, God promised that he would pour out his Spirit on his people too!

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
       “return to me with all your heart,
       with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

 13 Rend your heart
       and not your garments.
       Return to the LORD your God,
       for he is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and abounding in love,
       and he relents from sending calamity.

 23 Be glad, O people of Zion,
       rejoice in the LORD your God,
       for he has given you
       the autumn rains in righteousness.
       He sends you abundant showers,
       both autumn and spring rains, as before.

 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
       the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

 28 “And afterward,
       I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
       Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
       your old men will dream dreams,
       your young men will see visions.

 29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
       I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

 Then we took the branches from our blown down sukkah and we beat them as we shouted a liturgy from a modern Jewish prayer book, with “Hoshana” at the end of each line. You can see an example of the kind of prayers they pray here. They go on for 30 pages!

Then, the professor, Tom Boogaart stood and read what Jesus shouted in John 7:38-39:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Wow! You can see how Jesus is pulling in the prophecy to point toward the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost. He brings all these ancient prayers together and then shows how he is the fulfillment of them.

Finally, our class celebrated by dancing to the song U’shavtem Mayim. The Hebrew of the song means “We draw water with joy from the wells of salvation!” (Isaiah 12:2) We formed two circles and kicked up our heels to dance with joy at how God poured out his Living Water on the earth through Jesus. I didn’t get a picture of us, but if you want to see this dance performed go to this link.

What an amazing celebration! The Talmud says, “He who has not see the joy of the Hoshana Rabbah has not seen joy at all in his life.” How very true!

Published in: on October 5, 2007 at 1:31 pm  Comments Off on The Greatest Day of the Feast  

New look and address for Life at the Wellspring

Just a quick announcement – I’ve done some things to enhance this blog. One is that it now has a simpler web address – (The old link still works, and will always work.) I switched from using Blogger to using WordPress – it has more features. Now I just need to start writing a few more blogs!

Published in: on August 20, 2007 at 7:42 am  Comments Off on New look and address for Life at the Wellspring  

Life on a Kibbutz in Israel

Some of you might be interested in hearing about where I’m staying for my Greek class (see below) – I’m at a hotel that is on a kibbutz. This one is called Kibbutz Tzuba, and it was begun in October 1948, only a few months after the State of Israel was founded. Some of its original members still live here – they are Holocaust survivors who lost everything and came here to start life over in the Promised Land.

We’ve been learning about what a kibbutz is from staying here, and it is quite interesting. The first tiny homes are still standing – we use one of them as our classroom. Originally two couples lived in each little house with a sheet dividing the rooms down the middle – like a small dorm room. At the very beginning, they lived in tents.

Of course, kibbutzes were founded out of a philosophy of socialism – to live in community and hold everything in common. The idea is that even though an individual might not be able to survive on his own, by combining efforts, people gain security from each other. As an American my first reaction is negative, but it seems that this has been many people have lived since ancient times. Whenever resources are scarce, people tend to live in large families or groups who can support each other. Coming to Israel in the 1940s and trying to build an existence out of nothing was that kind of situation, and if not for the kibbutzim, people wouldn’t have survived here.

Early on they tried to be utterly self-reliant, grow their own food, and teach their own schools. They would not hire help, or work outside for others. They would even donate all their clothes and wear those belonging to others. They still have a large communal dining room where we have been eating our meals too. Instead of having coin-operated washing machines for the hotel, they invited us to put our clothes into their communal laundry. Loads are washed in mesh bags to keep each person’s things separate. (I tried this once, and I got back extra bonus items lost from another person’s load – my wash has only been done in my bathtub since then.) (Several pictures of Kibbutz Tzuba are here.)

They also tried to be extremely egalitarian – each person would take on tasks as needed by the larger group, and no person was considered to be the boss of any other. Of course they did have someone who acted as the “organizer,” but each year a new person was elected, and last year’s organizer might next work in the chicken coops. Every buying decision was made by the whole group. I guess in the early years a major debate ensued over whether they would put a teapot in each family’s room. Many were opposed, because they thought it would break down the community that people had when they gathered in the kitchen for tea each evening.

They have large amounts of land and have done a lot of farming. But now they’ve built this hotel because they have a beautiful view and are quite close to Jerusalem. They also have a windshield factory too. They are always looking for new industries to sustain their members and have done quite well – a lot of kibbutzim have not succeeded. They think that within another 5 to 10 years they will have to privatize or reorganize, because people are not willing to make the sacrifices the original members did. About 500 people live here now.

One interesting thing is that the “Cave of John the Baptist” which was in the news a few years ago was found on their property, so they bring people on tours to see it. (It wasn’t that impressed, personally.) There is a water source at the bottom of a valley that was used as a mikveh by Jerusalem residents in the first century. They found a goofy looking figure scratched into the wall that they think is a drawing of John the Baptist. They suggest that maybe early church members went there to honor him, not that he lived there himself. Oh well, it draws tourists.

If you are traveling in Israel, the hotel here is really lovely and it would be a very nice place to stay. For more pictures, see the hotel website, as well as my roommate Elise’s website.

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 8:34 am  Comments (1)