The Shuk in Jerusalem
Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is
Greetings, to you who have the joy of knowing that you are purchased by The Precious Blood of The Lamb and that your names are written in the book of life.
“The fear of The Lord is His treasure”! Isaiah 33:6b
The fear of God. Do I really have it or do I weigh actions and appearances of others in my decisions?
Twenty-one years ago, on Yom Kippur, I hand wrote my very first letter to several friends that has blossomed into this letter. I had never seen or witnessed anything like this before: Yom Kippur in Jerusalem.
I grew up in New York City where we observed Yom Kippur as a family along with the other Jewish families. We children were quietly excused from school, which was not closed, but we were not penalized for our absence. The same happened for Catholic students who were given “free release” for weekly catechism classes. I remember first fasting on Yom Kippur when I was eight years old. But before that I remember being given a new coloring book and we KNEW that we were to be quiet and holy on this most solemn of days.
My sister and I would play quietly on the floor, ignoring the yells of the kids outside playing near our home. We knew not to envy them. It was who we were: Jewish. This day was our solemn separation. Our father would be either resting or would don his prayer shawl and be reading his Machzor (prayer book), which contains mostly scriptures and beseeching prayers from those scriptures. He was crippled and even though he was not orthodox, he would not drive on that day. Nonetheless, the city noisily buzzed around us, and we were a silent island within the city.
That is why I was AMAZED on my first Yom Kippur in Jerusalem!
Between 12-2 p.m. on the day before (called ‘erev Yom Kippur), everything was closing down as people rushed home for a light dinner and to clean up. The city and country ground to a COMPLETE halt before sundown. Soon, figures dressed in white began to fill the streets, walking with the Machzor in hand. NO vehicles…NO motors or engines…a totally silent city is an awesome thing to experience! The shabat horn wails throughout the city to announce that the Yom Kippur day of Atonement (our day begins at sundown) is here and has settled upon us. The time is NOW.
But then, to my great surprise, just as the flowing white clad figures entered the synagogues to cry out for repentance and cleansing, another phenomena appeared. In stark contrast to my own childhood, the streets began to FILL with loud unruly children (and some adults) on bicycles. The streets empty of vehicles were now full of clanging and laughter in total contrast to the mournful sobs in the synagogues. This was something I had never expected. It didn’t seem to fit. Late into the night the children and then the teenagers filled the free airspace with raucous noise.
I find this hard. It bothers me greatly. Where we live now, we are above a store in a very noisy square and last night’s din was worse than anything that I have ever remembered here or in NYC. It went on until 4am. I wept. But in the midst I have to ask God to search my own heart: Am I judging or is this a holy anger? IS it truly that children are not learning a fear of God or is it that I want to apply law’ to their behavior? Search MY heart, Lord, for I do not know my own heart and certainly Your ways and thoughts really ARE higher than mine.
I can think I’m so smart and really know nothing as You do. ONLY BY YOUR SPIRIT DO WE KNOW ANYTHING after all. I remember the illustration of a little boy being made to sit down quietly and saying, “I am sitting on the outside but standing on the inside.”
I, personally, was a firm disciplinarian, believing with all of my heart that when one learns to submit into RIGHT discipline, then we learn the great key of disciplining ourselves.
Hebrews 5:8-9 says:
“…though He was a Son yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
But God views a judgmental heart as a grave sin. Search my heart, o Lord, and conform me to Your heart.
Noise bothers my flesh greatly. “Lord! Grace!”
I went out on to my merepesset and found that with the loud roar of the voices, I was free to raise mine in prayer for the people to be open to His Spirit and that He might come to them and reveal Himself.
What a gift we have in the peace of a cleansed heart.
I think back to the first time that I experienced the feeling of being FREE from the weight of sin and its penalty. Sometimes I take that for granted now.
Late Monday afternoon I stopped at the shuk for several things. Then as I ran to the train, a strong odor stopped me. I looked up and there it was: the shuk h’kaparah −the sacrifice market that I mentioned in the last letter. Crates of live chickens were stacked beside me but the table on which they were being killed was not visible as it used to be.
In front of me I watched, an orthodox father was entering with his 3 young children. He was explaining to them what would take place as they would all go in to receive this symbolic cleansing. They were completely attentive to their father, nervous before the weight of the ceremony. These children would NOT be out riding their bikes I am certain, as in the religious neighborhoods this does not happen.
Food at the shuk has been less varied for the past week or so and WAY more expensive since our intense heat and sand storm did damage the crops. But there was no lack of vendors to help you buy your repentance from one end of the shuk to the other. Sacrifice is a word that we know as a people, but it is just that we MISSED THE Atoning Sacrifice. We didn’t recognize Him. So we continue to look and search and weep. (Those who have not as yet seen Him.) For they look for the way to atone through sacrifice, and … well… it has to be expensive…it has to be paid for…perhaps we can buy it as well.
Many religious men line the shuk offering kaparah – atonement, for sale. The money goes to charity as do the chickens. Some let you confess your sins, and most record your name and pray for you and promise to keep your name in prayer. There are many different formulas. Desperate people. Desperate to enter THE PEACE that we have been so FREELY GIVEN. They will try anything.
Will this be the year that they have their eyes open to THE SACRIFICED ATONEMENT? That is what we believers fast and pray for today with our people − that they too might KNOW HIS GREAT FREEDOM AND PEACE. OH WHAT A GIFT WE HAVE RECEIVED SO FREELY! Do we recognize how precious it is daily? Oh Lord, help me to be daily sharpened by Your Spirit.
As is the custom here, on the news broadcasts leading up to holidays, an assortment of local rabbis are given some time to share a meditation. On this morning’s news, one was talking about the scapegoat. He spoke of the High Priest taking two identical goats and casting lots for the one to be released into the wilderness while the other was to be sacrificed. It’s blood was then brought into the Holy of Holies, along with the blood of a bull, just once a year. (SEE LEVIT 16) He spoke about the lots being cast. One would be killed and one would be set free, through no fault or action of his or her own. He said it was just chance by a lot.
I thought about my own salvation. I often look at Jesus’ parable of the fishing net.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.” (Mat. 13:47-48)
For YEARS I was concerned that He might decide to throw me away because I was so aware that His great mercy had found me in His dragnet, maybe by chance. But slowly, slowly He gave me the assurance that He was well able to complete that which He had begun in me. I began to know a deeper peace and rest in my faith. It is ALL His work and none of ours, although He does call us to obedience. ONLY BY HIS SPIRIT CAN ANY OF US DO IT AND ONLY BY HIS SPIRIT CAN ANY OF US FIND HIM…EVEN MY PEOPLE, ISRAEL. HE MUST DO IT! And ccording to scripture, HE WILL!
THANK YOU FOR HAVING A HEART TO PRAY FOR ISRAEL. MAY WE EACH SEE HIM MORE CLEARLY AS WE GATHER DAYS…AND MAY WE BE SEEN AS MORE OF HIM AND LESS OF US FOR HIS GLORY ALONE.
God bless you.
your sister J