Archive for the 'Jews' Category

The Apostle Paul’s Trip to Jerusalem

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Recently I had a conversation wherein the subject came up of the Apostle Paul’s ill-fated trip to Jerusalem. It was one of those instances where I had my own frame of reference regarding that incident and assumed the other person shared it, though as the conversation progressed things were said that didn’t quite mesh with my understanding.

It was two days before I remembered: there are two interpretations of Paul’s motivations in going to Jerusalem. One that he was bravely risking imprisonment and death for the sake of testifying to the Jews about the Lord, and the other that he was arrogantly stuck on going to the Jews, despite the fact he had specifically been called and “sent to the Gentiles” and in the face of all God’s warnings to him not to go.

I hold to the second opinion, and have for years, ever since I heard Col Thieme’s interpretation and exposition of the relevant passages.  In light of the conversation, though, I reread the section in Acts that deals with this, and came away more convinced than ever that this interpretation is the one most solidly supported by Scripture. However, recalling my own surprise when I first heard it years ago, I wondered if it might not be the standard opinion.

So I checked our commentary (Eerdman’s New Bible Commentary Revised) and discovered there that the author of the section in Acts did indeed hold to the notion that what Paul had done was the Lord’s will, despite all those warnings from the Holy Spirit not to go — from the Holy Spirit himself as well as  from numerous Spirit-filled brethren, including Luke, the Spirit-inspired writer of Acts, Philip the Evangelist, Agabus, already established as a genuine prophet, and Philip’s four daughters all of whom were said be be “prophesying,” ie, in this case giving a message from God (albeit one that is not recorded) — despite all these warnings, when Paul ignores them, the writer says, “We must not infer that Paul was wrong here…”

And I’m thinking… why in the world not? It sure looks wrong. Is there some reason to think that Paul was infallible? He was human like the rest of us. He had to be given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from getting arrogant (2 Corinthians); in  Romans 7 he lamented that the good things he wanted to do he didn’t and the bad things he didn’t want to do, he did.  In Galatians he says the flesh wars continually against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Why would we think he was any “holier” than the rest of us and that it was impossible he could have made a mistake? Sure he was an Apostle, but he still had a sin nature.

Here’s the commenter’s justification for why “we must not infer that Paul is wrong” in this:

“These friends tried to dissuade him because they foresaw the risks to which he would be exposed at Jerusalem…”

This makes it sound as if it’s merely the friends’ human opinions and discernment that motivated them to speak, rather than God. That they had no opinion on whether God wanted him to go or not, merely that it was “risky.” But that’s not what Scripture says:

“After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:4)

That seems pretty clear. First the message itself: “telling Paul … not to set foot in Jerusalem.”

And second, the source of the message: “through the Spirit.”

The Spirit said to him, “Don’t set foot in Jerusalem.”

The commenter ignored this and focused, apparently, on the fact that because Paul was wanting to do a “good” thing (witness to the Jews), and was willing to give his very life to do it, and that, when he refused to relent despite his friends warnings and they said, “The will of the Lord be done,” this indicated their recognition that “Paul’s movements were divinely guided.”

That is, because he wanted to do a good thing, even if it meant his death, and wouldn’t be persuaded to abandon the plan, that must have been God guiding him. Even when a few verses earlier it says the Holy Spirit was telling him not to go there.

Perhaps the problem is the commenter is not taking into account the fact that there are three basic categories of God’s will: directive, permissive and overruling.

His directive will was “Do not set foot in Jerusalem, Paul.”

Like all of us from time to time, Paul had his mind set on his own good plan, and refused to heed God’s instruction to the contrary. He probably thought if only he could tell all those Jews in Jerusalem, (many of them no doubt former friends and colleagues) what had happened to him, if only he could show them how the Hebrew Scriptures overwhelmingly pointed to Jesus of Nazereth as their Messiah, they’d believe.

So God let him continue. Because there were many things Paul needed to learn, and many things we can learn from it as well. That’s God’s permissive will.

The same permissive will that allowed Abraham to go in to Hagar, Jonah to set off for Spain when he was supposed to go to Nineveh, and Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We have volition and God will honor it.

Then there’s God’s overruling will where He just steps in and intervenes. In this case, it was when the Jews blew up in outrage as a result of Paul’s testimony and refused to listen to him further. At that point God moved in, motivating the Roman authorities to have him brought back to the barracks for questioning, at which point they found out he was a Roman citizen. From then on he was in their protective custody, all the way to Rome, which I believe is where God really wanted him to go. (Romans 15: 15, 16)

I love God’s impeccable timing in this, as well. In Acts 22 Paul gets up before the “Brethren” and starts out by reminding them all of his background, how he was born in Cilicia but brought up in Jerusalem, trained there under the best teachers, a Hebrew of Hebrews, blameless before the Law, yada yada.  Then he recounts his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and how he was blinded and went to Ananias who restored his sight and told him he was to be a witness for Him to all men.  After that Paul says,

“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’

“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You.

‘And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’

And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

Note that Paul is recalling what the Lord said to him in the Temple in Jerusalem back when he was first saved:  “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.” And after Paul protested that surely his own personal experiences and reputation would convince them: “Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”

I do not consider this to be a “coincidence,” but a HUGE CLUE as to what is going on and what the Lord wants.

He allowed Paul to repeat His initial instructions to him with his own mouth and then, the moment Paul repeated the part about being sent far away to the Gentiles, his Jewish audience erupted, cutting him off. End of Testimony.*

They started screaming and shouting and tossing cloaks and dust, until the Roman commander intervened and brought him back to the barracks.

That was all Paul really got to say to them. He never got to the Gospel, or the Hebrew scriptures. Mostly he talked about himself, not the Lord; about his amazing experience, which the Jews had no use for.

And even though on the next day the commander brought him back to the Sanhedrin “wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews,” he still got nowhere.

In that incident, he’d barely opened his mouth before the high priest ordered “those standing beside him to strike him.” At that point he got into a petty argument with said high priest (that “white-washed wall!”) about protocols of the Law, then tried to appeal to the Pharisees for support, based on his own former membership in their ranks. But that only led to another shouting match, wherein the Sadducees and Pharisees were at each other’s throats over whether or not Paul had seen “an angel or a spirit.”

Not whether he’d seen the risen Christ, not whether Jesus was the Christ, nothing but bickering about irrelevancies.

So once again the commander came to his rescue and from there on Paul witnessed to Roman soldiers and officers — Gentiles — while the Jews kept coming up with various plots to kill him. The entire episode was a wash when it came to witnessing to the Jews….

Thankfully God still had His hand on things (having known in eternity past that Paul was going to defy Him by going to Jerusalem) and used it to accomplish His will in spite of Paul’s disobedience.

Which is one of the coolest things about our God, and about this story — that even when we blow it royally, and Paul did, He’s always there to protect us from our idiocy, and then pick up the pieces and get things back on track. Often He uses our failures to accomplish His will in spite of us, and, if we let Him, in the process teach us much about ourselves, about Him and about His amazing grace plan for our lives.

….

*As I wrote this it occurred to me that the Lord was also telling Paul what He was going to do with him right there in that very situation — “send him far away to the Gentiles.” Not that Paul would have picked up on it at the time, merely that we can look at it and see that that’s exactly what He did.

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Munich Massacre Widow Still Seeks Justice

Iconic news photo one one of the Munich hostage-takers

In the summer of 1972, I was living in a dormitory at the University of Arizona, taking Organic Chemistry in summer school. That was five days of lecture and three days of labs, each of them three-hours long. The labs required a full written report for each session as well. It was a lot of work, and I had no job. Also no money… that was the summer I counted out pennies for a taco at Taco Bell, though mostly I lived on oatmeal, green grapes and “cup custard” sandwich cookies… I lost a good deal of weight, but at the end of three months I started getting sick all the time and went back to a more nutritious diet.

Clearly I had little time for radio, newspapers or TV, yet even I managed to hear about the massacre of the entire Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympic Games that summer.

During the Games’ second week, PLO terrorists sneaked into the Israeli dormitory one night around 4am, killed two of the Israeli team right there, took the other 9 hostage and in the end killed them all.

The movie Munich with Eric Bana is based on this event, focusing on the actions of Israel’s Mossad to bring the criminals to justice… or to exact retribution, however you wish to look at it. I think they accomplished both. (It’s a good movie; I recommend it)

Recently The Times of Israel ran an article on Ankie Spitzer, wife of slain Israeli fencing master and Olympic team coach Andre Spitzer. For decades she’s been trying to get the Olympic authorities to commemorate her husband and the other murdered athletes within the framework of the Olympic Games themselves.

Why at the Games? Because all the victims were Olympic athletes or coaches, and all were attending the Olympic games when they were killed. The International Olympic Committee has allowed official commemorations for all sorts of other tragedies, some of which had nothing to do with the games or the athletes, so remembering the Israeli deaths seems entirely appropriate.

She’s been at it for 40 years, stymied by the committee’s fear of alienating Arab nations who have threatened to boycott the Olympics should there be any such official remembrance of the slain Israelis. This from the representatives of the so-called Religion of Peace. And in the context of an event that supposedly celebrates “Man is Wonderful! Lets All Just Get Along!”

Except for the Jews, it would seem.

Here are a couple of quotes:

 The International Olympic Committee, while promoting peace and fraternity, also has a history of honoring the despicable. In 1936, some 11 months after the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, the committee allowed Hitler to host the Olympics in Berlin. In the 1980s, the committee bestowed its highest honor, the Olympic Order, on Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and Erich Honecker of East Germany. In the 1990s, the committee welcomed Saddam Hussein’s psychopathic son, Uday, as the head of Iraq’s National Olympic Committee even though it was well-known that he regularly tortured and killed athletes who underperformed during the Games.

And,

 “They are a corrupt organization, led by greed rather than the Olympic spirit,” said Spitzer, noting that a great deal of funding comes from the oil-rich gulf states.

The whole situation illustrates one of the major fronts in the unseen spiritual war around us — which is the fact that the kingdom of darkness HATES Israel. It will do anything it can to destroy the Jews, being God’s people, the nation and race to whom He has promised a messiah and human king who will rule over them  personally on this earth during the Millennium.

If Satan can wipe them out, then God will no longer be able to keep His promises to them…not only that they’ll have a special part in the Millennial kingdom, whose king is directly from the line of David, but that He will preserve them as a nation until that time. If He can’t keep His promises then He is proved weak, unjust, misguided, unrighteous, untruthful, in short, not God.

This Times of Israel article provides a good outline of events seen from Ankie’s perspective and is well worth your time. Read it HERE.

For further information check out Wikipedia’s article on the Munich massacres as well. You can find that HERE.

Update: And now that the 2012 Olympics have begun, with this year’s opening ceremonies including a moment of silence for Britain’s victims of Islamic terrorism in the London bombings which occurred the day after London was selected to host these very games, the Olympic committee’s refusal to hold a moment of silence commemorating the murdered Israeli athletes only confirms their hypocrisy.  You can watch the memorial  production for the Londoners — one NBC chose not to air Friday night HERE.

A Book I Am Supposed to Read

Some time ago, maybe March or April (I’ve forgotten)  I reserved a book from the Library. I’d seen the title somewhere — I’ve forgotten that now, too. I’m thinking maybe PowerLine Blog. They often do reviews of current books, and I recall thinking this book might be interesting. It’s a #1 bestseller from this year, and had a gazillion holds on it, which is why I didn’t get it until last week.

It’s called In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson, and it’s about an American family in Hitler’s Berlin. I thought it was fiction, and by the time I got the notice that it had arrived at the library and was waiting for me to pick it up, I had no idea why I’d even reserved it. Did I really have time to read it? After all, I’ve just come to the conclusion that I need to start pruning things out of my slate of activities to give more time to writing.  Well I’d give it a look at least.

Shortly after that notice arrived came another telling me the Brad Thor novel I’d reserved had also arrived. I’d just finished rereading The Last Patriot (my previously posted review of it is here) and was eager to start the next one in the series. I figured that would likely be the first of the two books I’d read. So Friday I picked up both of them around lunch time.

Also at this time, as many of you know, I’m in the middle of writing a novel about an embassy and Ambassadors to an evil empire. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if I can really make this analogy work, and have been seeking the Lord’s counsel on this matter repeatedly.  I’ve also been listening to Pastor John Farley’s series on discernment in the spiritual life, particularly about how people and organizations who are energized by evil are compelled to hide it, thus they do everything they can to appear good, right down to being in the church itself. The Bible says they may even come as pastors (disguised as “ministers of righteousness”) teaching false doctrine to the unwary (2 Co 11). It’s been a fascinating study.

Anyway, I got home with my books and started looking at In the Garden of Beasts.

It’s not fiction, it’s nonfiction that reads like fiction. So says the material on the cover flaps. It’s about a real man and his daughter. The man, William E. Dodd becomes America’s first AMBASSADOR(!) to Hitler, “in a year that proved to be a turning point in history!”  What? An ambassador? Did I know this when I reserved it? I might have, but I had completely forgotten if I had.

He’s there with his wife, son and 24-year-old daughter Martha. The tale is told from his and his daughter’s perspectives. It’s a story about an ambassador and embassies and all the things they do. I found out in the very first chapter that he was born October 21, 1869. The date I had picked up the book and was examining it? Friday, October 21, 2011.  Weird.

It’s about “Hitler’s ascent from chancellor to absolute tyrant.”  Which is more or less the story path my villain is to take in Sky.

More… the prologue from the author reads like an illustration of recent Bible lessons. Here’s an excerpt:

I have always wondered what it would have been like for an outsider to have witnessed firsthand the gathering dark of Hitler’s rule. How did the city look, what did one hear, see, and smell, and how did diplomats and other visitors interpret the events occurring around them? Hindsight tells us that during that fragile time, the course of history could so easily have changed. Why, then, did no one change it? Why did it take so long to recognize the real danger posed by Hitler and his regime?

<snip>

Every morning [my two main protagonists] moved through a city hung with immense banners of red, white and black; they sat at the same outdoor cafés as did the lean, black-suited members of Hitler’s SS, and now and then they also caught sight of Hitler himself… But they also walked each day past homes with balconies lush with red geraniums; they shopped in the city’s vast department stores, held tea parties, and breathed deep the spring fragrances of the Tiergarten, Berlin’s main park. They knew Goebbels and Göring as social acquaintances with whom they dined, danced and joked — until, as their first year reached its end, an event occurred that proved to be one of the most significant in revealing the true character of Hitler…

<snip>

There are no heroes here… but there are glimmers of heroism and people who behave with unexpected grace. Always there is nuance, albeit sometimes of a disturbing nature. That’s the trouble with nonfiction. One has to put aside what we all know — now — to be true, and try instead to accompany my two innocents through the world as they experienced it.

These are complicated people moving through a complicated time, before the monsters declared their true nature. “

Could it be any clearer that I was supposed to read this book?

Yes.

After looking through it and reading a couple of chapters and marveling at all the above, I picked up the Brad Thor book, just for a peek. This is a dangerous practice that all too often leads to six or seven hour reading marathons as I delude myself with the assurance that I’ll read just one more chapter and then I’ll put it down. Besides, I’d already read its first chapter at the end of the Thor book I’d just finished and I wanted to find out… Wait… what’s this after page 6? Someone’s ripped out page 7/8?  And here’s another:  page 51/52, also missing. And 53/54 practically gone as well. I could just go ahead and read it, but I’ll be frank. I want to read ALL the pages of the book as it was written and the very idea of just skipping over them grates.

Better to bring it back and get a new one and not let someone else get this rude surprise. So I took the Thor book back, the person at the library threw it away, took it out of their catalogue and reserved a new book for me. Temptation removed.  “Read this one now,” God says to me, in reference to In the Garden of Beasts.

Very well then. I will. And I have started it. It is fascinating, definitely “addictively readable.” I’m learning many things. One that stood out: they didn’t call it a swastika at the embassy, but the Hakenkreuz or “broken cross.”

The Torah of Liberalism

The “Torah” of Liberalism. So is titled the final chapter of the book Why are Jews Liberals? by Norman Podhoretz, which I mentioned in my last post.

 Throughout the book, he has laid out a brief history of the Jews in Europe and the US, detailing the terrible treatment they received at the hands of the conservative religious folks of their day, the absurd beliefs of the latter (eg, that Jews kidnapped and killed Christian children because they need their blood to celebrate their Passover; or that the Jews started the plague by poisoning local wells) and the nasty treatment these sorts of beliefs produced, examples of which I gave yesterday.

Then came the Enlightenment in France, when resident intellectuals challenged the religious status quo and began to talk about equality of men, whether they accepted Christian doctrine or did not. As science began to take over as the religion of choice among the intellectuals, the Jews gravitated to them, even though in many ways they required as much of a shift from Jewish beliefs as Christian conversion did. Though many of these atheistic intellectuals (like Voltaire) expressed anti-semitic sentiments from time to time, that was ignored (much as it is today) because of these peoples’ antipathy toward Christianity as well as their promotion of equality.

Thanks to the Enlightenment, the Jews were released from their ghettos and allowed to join society as regular people, though they really didn’t find true freedom and prosperity until they came to the United States where their lot improved fantastically, also as I mentioned yesterday. Podhoretz continues to follow their political journey through the last century, and specifically through the run of presidents since and including FDR, the latter seen as something of a Messiah figure to them.

Throughout this time they consistently allies with the Democrat Party, partly because of how it carried on Enlightenment ideas, partly because it was in opposition to conservative Christianity, which as I said, terrified them, and partly because many of them had emigrated from Eastern Europe as devotees of Marxism (Ironically, Karl Marx was a Jew, but both his parents converted to Lutheranism before he was six). There was also an involvement in labor unions, which Podhoretz traces, so the contributing factors are varied. In any case, they were so committed to the communist/socialist/liberal viewpoint that it was practically impossible to consider any other.  One lifelong Democrat was quoted as saying he was sure his right arm would shrivel up and fall off if he ever dared pull the voting lever for a Republican.

Reagan made some inroads in this area after the disaster of the Carter administration, but the ground was lost by George H.W. Bush whose policies with regard to Israel were very negative… Even though more and incidents of antisemitism were erupting on the left and more and more support for Israel was blooming on the right, the Jews continued to be Liberal… and so we come to the final chapter which was the most surprising of all: “The Torah of Liberalism.”

Having exchanged a belief in the God of their Fathers for the supposedly nonsuperstitious and “scientific” Marxism, they were befuddled when that turned out not to work so well even as capitalism after WWII “began producing wealth on a previously unimaginable scale that surpassed even the rosiest utopian dreams of Marxist theory” (to say nothing of the complete collapse of the Soviet Union). Unable to go back to God, or to keep on with Marxism, they moved through a series of downgrades — first to social democracy, then to American liberalism. According to Podhoretz, “To most American Jews, liberalism is not…merely a necessary component of Jewishness; it is the very essence of being a Jew… a religion in its own right, complete with its own catechism and its own dogmas and, Tertullian-like, obdurately resistant to facts that undermine its claims and promises.”

In other words, in the face of facts to the contrary, some rely upon denial to maintain their belief system. That’s bad enough. Worse are the ones who defend their  position by claiming that their liberal faith is ‘the new Torah’  — “and,” says Podhoretz, “in the most literal sense of pursuing tikkum olam, the ‘repair of the world,’ a concept that (with the scantiest of justifications from the sacred texts) they have singled out as the essence of Judaism.”

Podhoretz then quotes the publisher’s description of a recent collection of Jewish essays entitled Righteous Indignation:

“In this ground breaking volume, leading rabbis, intellectuals, and activists explore the relationship between Judaism and social justice, drawing on ancient and modern sources of wisdom. The contributors argue that American Jewry must… dedicate itself to systemic change in the United States, Israel and throughout the world.”

Specific “justice issues” addressed in the essays include “eradicating war, global warming, health care, gay rights and domestic violence,” and amazingly, in every case the “teachings of Judaism” turn out to be right in line with these issues and the systematic change liberals are devoted to making.

“Repair of the world?”  This was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. How weird that the Jews would throw off their old beliefs in the God of their fathers and the promises He made to Abraham, Moses, David… about the Millennial reign of their king, who will indeed repair the world… only to try to reproduce it on their own. In fact, in an earlier part of the book he mentions how they saw communism as the means of actually making a world where there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female, but everyone equal. That is, they see Liberalism as the means of bringing in the Millennium — without having to wait for their King.

And that just blew me away.

He Will Bless those Who Bless the Jews

As I said in my Sunday post, I recently read a book called Why are Jews Liberals?  by former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz. I found it fascinating and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this area. I found it particularly fascinating where politics and religion intersect.

There were several things that prompted thought for me. As I said, Podhoretz briefly traces the history of the Jews throughout the church age — the time when the franchise for bringing God’s word to the world was shifted from the nation of Israel to the (mostly) Gentile Body of Christ. Instead of a particular nation that was tied to physical ancestry, the truth of Salvation is now disseminated through various gentile “client” nations where enough freedom exists for the gospel to be preached, and for people to believe freely and be able to gather together to study God’s word and grow in grace as believers. The church age is a time when, as Romans says, there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave or free, no male or female, but all (Believers) have equal privilege and opportunity as members of the Body of Christ.

The first client nation was the Roman Empire, where the early church flourished and eventually got distorted into a state religion. That religion dominated the middle ages and much of Western History thereafter and unfortunately some of its leaders had what I consider to be very odd ideas. Whereas the muslims were commanded in their koran to kill the Jews, and drive them out (if they could) Christians were not. But that didn’t mean they were to treat them well.

Indeed, according to Podhoretz, it was from St. Augustine that the notion of the Jews as a “witness people” began (though this is not obvious from a quick investigation through Google) (he did cite his reference but I didn’t make a note of it when I had the book). That is, the Jews were destined “to live as testimony to both evil and Christian truth, but were not to be killed, for like Cain they bore a sign.(14) ‘Let them live among us, but let them suffer and be continually humiliated’. In obedience to this concept, then, the Catholic Christians of Western Europe gathered Jews into “ghettos”, not to kill them, but not to give them any opportunities either. Unless he converted to Christianity, the Jew had to wear specific types of clothing, was not allowed to attend school or hold any job but money lending. Their misery was said to be the proof that Christianity was true.

Eeerch! Say WHAT?!!

Their misery would be proof that Christianity is true? What a concept! I would think that the proof that Christianity is true lies with the Bible. And only that. The idea that the God of all grace would need to deliberately use someone’s misery to prove the truth of His word just strikes me as … wrong. 

And what about Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The fulfillment of that promise is played out starkly in Podhoretz’s narrative. And I’m happy to say that it was the United States that ultimately provided the greatest freedom — and prosperity — the Jews experienced in all their history since the fall of Jerusalem. It’s amazing the number of European Jewish immigrants who came here virtually penniless, were quickly employed — often self-employed — worked their butts off and ended up some of the wealthiest people in our country.

Just think: Levi’s began with a Jew (Levi Strauss). Sears, Levy’s Department Store, Goldwater’s, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, Goldman-Sachs, Calvin Klein, Costco, Starbucks … okay so some of those are current. It’s amazing how many of them are in Hollywood… amazing how many things we take for granted, that are pleasures and blessings of life that have come from Jews in this country.

But then, the greatest blessing of all comes from a Jew as well, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who, of course was the one mostly being pointed to in God’s promise that in or through Abraham all the families of the earth should be blessed.


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