The sounds of the shofar reinforce G-d’s call to us
The feasts of Israel
In the months of September and October of this year 2019 the biblical fall feasts will be celebrated again. They come back every year. And it looks like we just celebrated them last week. Because time goes fast and we have the assignment to make the best of the time given to us by the Eternal. At the same time, time stands still, because old bad behaviors such as anti-Semitism and considering yourself to be more excellent than the other are just still alive. The feasts of Israel are biblical feasts and aim at least to evaluate and adjust our own behavior and attitude. All prayers and hymns during these festivals are aimed at improving ourselves, at brotherhood of our congregation, at respect for all people of goodwill and at the Eternal who loves and believes in us eternally.
Time of the fall festivals
In the month of Tishri, the three autumn festivals take place: Rosh Hashanah (Feast of the Trumpets), Yom HaKippurim (Great Day of Atonement and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). There are ten days between the first and the second feast (see Leviticus 23: 24-27). These days are meant to reflect on us further, so these days are also called: the Awesome Days (Hayamim Hanoraim, also known as: Asèrret Yom Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Return to the Eternal One). The Eternal One looks at how we behave ourselves. And although our evil deeds cannot take us to hell, just as our good deeds cannot help us to heaven, our deeds do count.
Promotion to heavenly citizenship
I would even argue that on the basis of everything written about good works in the Bible, the Almighty can see from our actions whether our faith is real or dead. That makes our actions much more important than we would think. The Tanakh makes it very clear: the grace of the Eternal is for everyone. But the relationship between people and G-d should be a two-way street. Grace does not mean: it does not matter how you behave. Grace means: no matter how well you behave, eternal life is something no person can acquire for himself. From a love relationship between man and G-d we are, by His grace, promoted to heavenly citizens.
When we see that we have done certain things wrong, the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit, can cause us to regret. In Hebrew it is called teshuvah, literally: return. This New Year’s celebration is also called: Yom Terua, Day of Blowing on Ram’s Horn, see Leviticus 23:24. This impressive sound is made on one of the oldest wind instruments in the world for them, says our tradition, who have fallen asleep and are no longer aware of their wrong behaviors. On this day, all Jews do not think and pray for themselves, but for the whole world. We pray for peace. We pray that G-d will soon approach the time when the powerful of the earth will also be righteous and the righteous will have power. That the children of men will form one bond of brotherly love, that national haughtiness and oppression will disappear like so much smoke from the earth.
Another name for Rosh Hashanah is: Yom Hakese, Day of Hiding. The day is hereby named after the text in Psalm 81: 1-3, “For the chief singing master, on the Gittit, from Asaf. Sing cheerfully for Adonai, our Strength; welcome the G’d of Yaakov. Lift a psalm and hit the drum; the lovely harp with the lute. Blow the trumpet on the new moon, at the appointed time, on our holiday. ”It is true that all other festivals fall on full or almost full moon. Only Rosh Hashanah falls on a new moon. The moon is then hidden from our eyes. The expression “at the appointed time” is literally in Hebrew: bakese, at the hidden time; kasá means: hide. For on Rosh Hashanah, Israel humbles itself and hides its greatness through its awe at the Day of Judgment.
The Almighty also places a covering over His people, to hide her sins, to protect her and to forgive her, out of grace. That greatness, though hidden, consists of our calling to be a kingdom of priests and a holy people (Exodus 19: 6). The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah (Israeli New Year) and Yom Kippur (Great Atonement Day) is called Shabbat Shuva. This is due to the fact that the Haftarah reading begins with the words: “Shuva Yisrael!”, Return Israel (read Hosea 14). Everyone should return, everyone has strayed. There is no one righteous, so that he or she could be exempt from this return, that is the vision within Judaism. But there is also no one who is so bad that he or she could not return.
Reconciliation is so important
Great Atonement Day is such a celebration and let us come into contact with G’ds reconciliation in such a way that we become convinced of the importance of reconciliation. That which Adonai accomplishes in His love for us, we should in turn work out together. Shaul says about this: “G-d, who reconciled us to Himself through Yeshua and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). On the eve of Yom Kippur the service takes place called Kol Nidre, in which we pray that all our oaths, breaches of oaths, promises, obligations, curses and vows, which we have uttered without thought, will be broken and forgiven. Yom HaKippurim or Kippur, Great Day of Atonement, see Leviticus 23:27, belongs to the Ten Yamim HaNoraim (Awesome Days) with Rosh Hashanah.
Yom Kippur (Great Atonement Day) is the most holy day of the Jewish year. It was the only day on which the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and invoke the four letter (YHWH) name of Gd. For Israel it means that it will come to faith (Zechariah 12:10). Kol Nidre is sung on Erev Yom HaKippurim (the evening of -). That is the text in which every personal vow to the Eternal is dissolved. The idea is, among other things, that no one can ever fully meet his or her obligations towards the Supreme. Everyone sometimes makes a mindless statement or promise. Every brash pronunciation and idle use of language is canceled. I can add: every bondage that exists between us and G-d is locked, like a prison, and we can move freely.
Lion eating straw
It is customary to confess our sins during service, as Aharon pronounced (Leviticus 16:21) and as people confess individually (Numbers 5: 7) and as David opened himself to the Eternal (Psalm 32: 5). For Israel, Yom HaKippurim, as described above, means that it will come to faith as a whole (Zechariah 12:10; see also Romans 11:26). For the believers, the fullness of the Gentiles has entered at that time (Romans 11:25) and the Last Judgment through Yeshua (John 12:47) is about to take place. There is also the fulfillment of G-d’s atonement with all things (Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21: 4), so that even “the cow and the bear will feed together, her young will lay down together, and the lion will straw eat like the beef; then an infant will play at the hole of a viper and a weaned child will reach out to the nest of a poisonous snake” (Isaiah 11: 7-8).
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
A foliage cabin has an inside and an outside. From the inside we make the cabin cozy and inviting. From the outside, the inside must be visible, with the ability to look from the inside as far as the stars. In that respect, such a hut is like a municipality. The Feast of Tabernacles begins on 15 Tishri and continues until the Closing Feast, Shemini Atzeret, followed on the following day by Simchat Torah, Joy over the Torah. It is a mitzvah, a biblical assignment, to keep you in your tabernacle during this time. It is a reminder of living in these types of buildings during the trip to the Promised Land. There is a reference to that exodus in every biblical celebration. That is also very important. In many places in Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, G-d reminds us of that harsh journey. But also the importance of moving away from Egypt and the necessity of taking up the new territory, also in your soul, see “… that you, as far as your former way of life is concerned, discards the old man, corrupted by his misleading desires, that you are rejuvenated by the spirit of your thinking, and put on the new man, who according to the will of G-d was created in true righteousness and holiness ”(Ephesians 4: 22-24).
The Eternal wants to achieve three things with our stay in the sukkah, namely that we realize well: 1. where we come from; 2. how inadequate we are and how dependent on Him; and 3. how others are in a process similar to ours, also on the road, so that we can understand each other. We walk through these three points and recall that the sukkah, the tabernacle is supposed to be a shaky structure that is put together without nails. You must be able to see the stars through the “roof”. In short, in the Netherlands such a house is not exactly a warm home. As an outward symbol, it does well indicate how we ought to be inwardly toward God and each other. And that is with an attitude of humility and the awareness of how fragile we are and how dependent we are on the Eternal.
To bless while waving
A lulav is part of the celebration. A lulav is a bundle of branches, consisting of one palm branch (literally: lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassot), plus an etrog, a lemon-shaped citrus, as described in Vayikra / Leviticus 23:40. The branches are tied together (on Erev Sukkot) and held in the right hand, while the fruit is held separately in the left hand. During the beracha for waving the lulav, both hands are brought together, the etrog being close to your heart. The place where the stalk has been held is held up until after the beracha. When you start to wave, you turn the etrog upside down. The waving is a prayer of waving to the Almighty. And a blessing gesture to the four corners of the world. The latter means that the lulav of branches and a fruit must be composed of Israel.
What do I contribute to making a broken world whole?
We are part of that world and we are broken myself. It can help us to dedicate our brokenness to the Eternal One during these festivals, at the quiet moments in a service, or during a song, and ask ourselves to forgive us for our awkwardness and to comfort others when they have fallen victim to it. What do we do to come up with solutions, instead of making a problem bigger? It requires a switch to thinking in terms of solutions. That this change may take place soon. That the sound of the shofar will reinforce G-d’s calling and that it will reach our ears.