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 …
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you in The Name of The Lord Yeshua h’Meshiach, Jesus Christ. May He be blessed and glorified, and may you be blessed and encouraged. In ALL things may HE have the preeminence.
It’s a “Yellow Day.” We were told that we were about to be blessed with more very oppressive heat, but this sha’arav (dry desert heat) that took everyone by surprise, has literally covered the country with the thick, hard to breath dust and sand of Iraq and Syria. The saying that it is “an ill wind blows no good” seems to be clearly illustrated in dull yellow. Thick layers of dust cover everything from the pomegranates at the shuk to the laundry on the line, as well as trees, plants, birds and cats and the entire contents of our homes.
As the countdown to Rosh Hashanah races toward us, an apparently unheeded weather advisory was issued to stay indoors and refrain from any unnecessary exertion. Particularly at risk are the young and old, people with heart or lung problems and pregnant women. Local airlines were grounded and visibility is nonexistent.
Actually, because the sun is obscured, the 34-37 degree Celsius (in Jerusalem about 100 degrees again), the heat does not feel quite as oppressive as it is expected to feel for the rest of the week when and if the sand moves out of the area and the temperatures continues to soar.
At the shuk today many people covered their mouths and noses in an attempt to breathe easier, but the mood was dusty and yellow.
The weather, though an obstacle to preparations, will not prevent Rosh Hashanah from arriving at sundown on Sunday night, so we must do what we can. Today, Tuesday, is my last day off so I had no choice but to join the throngs who also felt that they had no choice but to keep shopping.
Rosh Hashanah is the Feast of the blowing of Trumpets (rams horn − the shofar) as I said in my last email. We are commanded in scripture to have a festive meal and to do no customary work, aside from the blowing of the shofarim, but of course many things have been added.
As this is considered a New Year celebration, there is the giving of gifts, not big ones, but gifts of thanksgiving, just to bless one another. It might be apples and honey, or a beautifully engraved honey vessel, another trademark of the holiday. When wishing one another a sweet new year, apples dipped in honey are served. Even in the streets, scouts or other groups offer plates of apple slices dipped in honey to passersby’s with the greeting “shana tova o’metock o bracha” (a good new year, sweet and blessed). Sweets, dried fruits and nuts or small household items are shared and perhaps towels or a bowl. At the traditional dinner, fish is served among many other foods, with the blessing, “May you be the head and not the tail in this new year.”
But of course, this is only the first of the three main fall feast and they are BIG.
The month of introspection has been ongoing as people prepare their hearts for Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). It’s a bit more than a week after Rosh Hashanah – the most solemn time for a Jew when the entire nation grinds to a serious halt with fasting and prayer, repentance and introspection. This is the day it is said that the book of life in heaven is open and our destiny for the year ahead is sealed. The day is taken deeply seriously by even the secular. It’s when the entire nation repents and stands before God and not just here. Jews in the diaspora, your nations, will likely take off from normal routine and take a day of fasting and prayer. It is a fearsome day to most.
So Rosh Hashanah holds within it the weight of the narrow path ahead. That in turn leads to the great rejoicing of the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles. Whew! I’m tired already!
There are very interesting things to observe as Rosh Hashanah approaches. I hope that this doesn’t sound superstitious as I feel that it should be reported. A black and white poster is posted around a neighborhood when someone dies. It usually says “Blessed is the Judgment/Judge” and has the name of the person who passed away, their family, the time and place of the burial (usually within 24 hours), and the address where the family will be sitting the weeklong shiva (mourning and receiving people). The amount of signs DOUBLE during this season. Why? I don’t know nor does my boss (the doctor) as we brace ourselves. He shares with me each morning who else has gone.
Indeed, as I have shared before, my dear earthly Father went between the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah. He told us that he wanted to hear the shofar blown, and a rabbi came to the hospital to blow it. He was gone before the second sounding on the following evening. I have asked Rabbis about this. Their reply,” Well, the books are open. He Who is All Wise and has written our days opens them again.”
In any case, I see the notices up, two to a spot, all over town.
And restitution is made − SOMETIMES!
My heart broke as I was in the shuk at a small dry goods shop that I frequent. The owner is a religious, a kippa-wearing (kippa- the small skull cap worn by religious Jews) man about 75 years old from, I believe, of Uzbekistani background. He is usually very soft spoken and kind, and in this season, when people are seeking a clean heart, I did not expect what I found. The shop was full of customers but the proprietor and another man of the same age (indeed they could have been brothers) were engaged in a screaming match over an item or a refund.
“You should not be allowed to wear a kippa! You are a sinner! You are not a religious man, but a fraud!” shouted the suit clad distinguished yet disgruntled customer.
‘You are nothing but a lowly Kurdi (from Kurdistan) and you tell ME that I can’t wear a kippa? You don’t deserve a kippa! Take it off!” the proprietor shouted.
These are about the worst disgraces they could have thrown at one another. I wanted to jump in and say, “You are brothers! It is almost Yom Kippur! What are you doing?”
I was also concerned for their blood pressure, but mostly it just grieved me to see this display of anger between two men who obviously knew one another. I lifted them in prayer and then turned back into the crowds where I watched the assortment of people. Many were poor and elderly, mixed with tourists and young, strong men pushing about carts trying to deliver crates of fresh fruit and vegetables, nimbly maneuvering through the dense crowds. The ever present street cleaner deftly reached between some 20-30 shoppers to whisk away a can of olive pits, the remnants of the many free tastes. The beggars line the entrances to each alley and compare their take as they chat with one another. Even the thick yellow can’t diminish the character of the shuk before a holiday.
As I rode the train back home I couldn’t help but notice two big men speaking English and looking quite perplexed. One was covered with tattoos and holding 2 books that I recognized right away as being Christian. They were trying to make sense out of our train map. The train only goes from one place to another. One line, back and forth, but it can still be confusing. Seeing a number of Hebrew speakers trying to help them, I went over and asked them in English if they needed help and where they were going.
We were soon deep in conversation and I was able to tell them that I was also a believer. They were from N. England and this was their first time over here. “You know? This country of yours gets a bad rap,” one of them said.
I smiled. “Yes I know. What have you found?” I asked them.
“Well, all that we hear is that you people are so rude and cunning but all that we see is the most kind and helpful people and you know, we have been in all of the Arab neighborhoods, and we are starting to understand that this is not so simple.”
I smiled and we carried on talking for quite awhile until it was time to get off. We DO get a bad rap and it is hard to take, so filled with lies. It is painful and hardest on Sabras (native born Israelis) who have no idea why they are so hated. So this conversation was refreshing.
It reminded me of the woman in line in front of me at the market. It was the first day of Rosh Hashanah sales and the store was packed. The wait in line was long. Suddenly the woman turned around and said, “What is this? Everyone is shopping for the war?”
People turned around and I asked, “Is there a war? I didn’t hear the news today yet.”
She sighed. “No, but why is everyone here today?” she asked.
“Getting started for Rosh Hashanah” was the obvious answer.
“We still have 10 days. Why today? I’m tired and want to get home. I’ve been up since 4 a.m.”
“Well, I leave for work at 6 and am also up at 4am, but why are you?” This is a perfectly acceptable question for Israelis.
“My daughter works and I have to babysit for my 1 year and 1 month old Granddaughter.”
I smiled back at her as she nodded joyfully. “How WONDERFUL! Brachot (blessings). I wish I could do that again because my children and grandchildren are living outside (of the country) right now.”
Her face fell in pity and she slapped her cheek. “Oh no! I’m SO sorry. The only thing worse than being tired from babysitting is having your children living outside.”
We nodded as her turn came. “I’ll do a bigger shopping tomorrow morning,” she said.
“And I will be at work again − that is why I’m here now.”
She turned back to me and in all honesty said, “Give me your list. I’ll shop for you if you want.”
And that is the Israel that I walk among.
God BLESS you,
Your sis J