Incensed – The importance of being honest


This year’s Shabbat service before Pesach was tremendous! The Presence of the Ruach HaKodesh was especially strong during the worship service. As we were worshiping, I encouraged the congregation to lift up their voices to Heaven as a sweet smelling sacrifice.

Within a few minutes the distinct smell of burning incense began to permeate our sanctuary. Subsequently every one became excited because they believed that God was performing a miracle by responding to our worship by sending into our midst “the perfume of Heaven.”

Now before I declared a miracle I asked and I asked if someone had been secretly burning some incense but no one came forward. Since no one came forward the congregation was convinced that God had performed a miracle.

However, I remained unconvinced because the Ruach HaKodesh within me did not bear witness that a genuine miracle had occurred. Finally at the end of the service a young girl came forward and confirmed my suspicions and told me that she had seen some person lighting incense. I announced to our Kehilah what she had said and as a result the culprit came forward.

I could have remained passive and not aggressively try to find the source of the burning incense. Can you imagine the consequences of our members spreading a false report such as the following?

“Did you hear that Yeshua performed a miracle of burning incense at Kehilat Bet Avinu?”

Doing so would have an enhanced the reputation of our congregation, as well as my stature as super anointed Rabbi and worship leader.

What is my point? First of all, God does not need our help to create a “spiritual atmosphere.” He does not need smoke, lights, burning incense, or any other man made item to manufacture His Presence. Employing such means is pure manipulation.

Yeshua said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – Yochanan 4:23-24

Furthermore, speaking the truth is much more important than a loss of personal prestige.

As the Scriptures say, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” – Proverbs 12:22

Please remember that “ … nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” – Luke 8:17

Imagine the fallout – both personally and for our congregation – if after declaring a miracle we were exposed as promoting a lie? NO THANKS!

Therefore, as God’s dear children let us make every effort to avoid deceiving and manipulative words and walk uprightly with integrity and a clear conscience.

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Yosef Koelner was born in Chicago and raised in a Jewish home that his parents characterized as “Orthodox”. At birth he was given two first names, an English one, Harvey, and a Hebrew name, Yosef, which was given to him in remembrance of his mother’s deceased brother, Chaim Yosef. Rabbi Yosef’s education includes but is not limited to a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Illinois State University and a MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College as well as a Doctor of Practical Ministry from Wagner Leadership Institute. He also graduated from Ulpan Alef (Hebrew language studies) Katsrin, Israel. Additional studies include The University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and an Orthodox Yeshivah in Tzfat Yisrael. His ministry spans four decades and he is currently the Rabbi of Kehilat Bet Avinu. He can be contacted at [email protected]