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 with grace and mercy in The Blessed Name of our Lord, Yeshua h’meshiach, Jesus, Lord, Saviour, Messiah, King of kings. May HE be known, glorified and blessed and may you be blessed and edified. May we all hunger for Him more and more, and be restored to our first-love.
As I begin this letter to you the world is in such turmoil. Terror attacks, bombs, destroying storms and fires, wars, a world being propelled out of control.
And yet, some things continue in their cycles, even if the very seasons seem to become more unbalanced.
Yom Kippur is fast approaching, on the heels of Rosh h’shana. Yom Kippur − the most somber of days on the Hebrew calendar arrives tomorrow, Friday at sundown and takes us through sundown Shabat.
It is “The Day of Awe,” the day of fasting and prayer, the day of repentance − seeking forgiveness for sin.
According to Judaism, The Book of Life is opened on Rosh h’shana, and sealed for the year ahead at the end of the Yom Kippur fast. It is the time of reckoning, of weighing, of seeking, and of judgment. It is a time of cleansing and changing and it is an awesome time.
The entire country comes to a full standstill.
NO stores, NO restaurants, NO public transportation, NO PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION. TV and radio broadcasts cease, the airport shuts down, many people neither wash nor wear leather items, the synagogues stay open and the prayer books open. Only hospitals remain open for emergencies. Ambulances make quiet rounds as people will not use phones to call an ambulance if one is needed, so ambulances quietly roam the streets and can be flagged down.
Yom Kippur (the day of the Atonement) is the singular day that MOST Jews, secular as well as religious and traditional all observe. Statistics report that somewhere between 73%-95% of all Israeli Jews observe the total fast of Yom Kippur.
LEVITICUS 23:27-28 says: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.”
LEVITICUS 16:29-31 says: “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.”
Perhaps it would interest you to read a bit of one of the sources of information:
When the second Temple was destroyed in the year 3830 from creation (70 CE), the Yom Kippur service continued. Instead of a High Priest bringing the sacrifices in Jerusalem, every single Jew performs the Yom Kippur service in the temple of his or her heart.
Forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, we begin blowing the shofar every morning and reciting Psalm 27 after the morning and afternoon prayers. In Sepharadic communities, it is customary to begin saying Selichot (*PRAYERS SEEKING FORGIVENESS) early every morning (Ashkenazim begin just a few days before Rosh Hashanah)—building an atmosphere of reverence, repentance and awe leading up to Yom Kippur.
For the week before Yom Kippur (known as the 10 Days of Repentance), special additions are made to prayers, and people are particularly careful with their mitzvah (COMMANDMENT) observance.
Just as Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, the day before Yom Kippur is set aside for eating and preparing for this holy day. Here are some of the activities that we do on the day before Yom Kippur:
Kaparot (FORM OF SACRIFICE) is often performed in the wee hours of this morning
We eat two meals, one in early afternoon and another right before the commencement of the fast.
Many have the custom to immerse in a mikvah (RITUAL BATH) on this day.
Extra charity is given. In fact, special charity trays are set up at the synagogue before the afternoon service, which contains the Yom Kippur Al Cheit prayer.
Just before the fast begins (after the second meal has been concluded), it is customary to bless the children with the Priestly Blessing.
Holiday candles are lit before the onset of the holy day.
Like Shabbat, no work is to be done on Yom Kippur, from the time the sun sets on the ninth of Tishrei until the stars come out in the evening of the next day.
On Yom Kippur, we afflict ourselves by avoiding the following five actions:
Eating or drinking (in case of need, consult a medical professional and a rabbi)
Wearing leather shoes
Applying lotions or creams
Washing or bathing
Engaging in conjugal relations
The day is spent in the synagogue, where we hold five prayer services:
Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur;
Shacharit, the morning prayer, which includes a reading from Leviticus followed by the Yizkor memorial service;
Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service;
Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah;
Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset, followed by the shofar blast marking the end of the fast.
Beyond specific actions, Yom Kippur is dedicated to introspection, prayer and asking G‑d for forgiveness. Even during the breaks between services, it is appropriate to recite Psalms at every available moment.
All around me, I observe the above traditions being applied in a myriad of subtle but real ways, both personal and public. I ask God to show me how to walk in the midst. It is amazing how the secular music on the radios playing on buses and in other public places expresses so poignantly a sincere and naively unashamed cry of the heart to KNOW and be close and restored to God, from Whom we really don’t WANT to stray. It is not unusual to hear religious songs on our secular radio stations, but I am always riveted when I hear the heart of a secular musician crying out and seeking God through his music.
In my own life experiences, this is unique. It’s funny in a way because when I first came to Him, one of the first and immediate responses I had toward His love was to turn completely away from all secular music. It represented my past and I wanted nothing to do with it. It dragged me down to my filthy memories.
Here, in a different language and culture, it doesn’t always hold the same sinful connotations for me and doesn’t stir the same memories and emotions. So it allows me a certain freedom to listen to the words with clean ears and heart. I don’t know if ANY of that makes sense to you AT ALL, but it gives me a taste of the hearts of the people around me and the ones whom I am praying for or wanting to pray for. I am thankful for that.
So, the music takes on a longing note. The party stops and people begin to say to one another, “gmar chatomah tova” or “may you end (the fast) with a good signature.” This means “MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE!” What a greeting, when you stop to think about it!
When we first came I used to answer, “Thank you. I know that I am.”
But whereas, I felt good about saying that, it impacted no one, and people would just look at me strangely. None the less, I couldn’t bring myself to use that greeting UNTIL THIS YEAR. Suddenly the question came to me, “Don’t you WANT them inscribed in the Book of Life, as you are?”
I thought, “Well…yes I do, but not in a superstitious way, but in reality!” And I thought, “So why don’t you STAND in that as a prayer as you say it?“ Stand in the prayer for them to be inscribed in THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE? YES! So this year I echoed the prayer back to each one, and as I did, I stood in my spirit in the gap for them and their families. For me it was a liberating experience in prayer and I do pray that it will be FRUITFUL which is all that really counts.
MEANWHILE, AT THE SHUK − The separate section for the shuk h’kaparah is set up. It’s the place where the rather strange old custom of sacrificing a chicken, swinging it over your head while reciting a prayer for forgiveness of sins takes place. The chickens are then donated to charity. As animal rights activists have gained more voice over the years, there is now the counter demonstration taking place outside of the cordoned off sacrifice area. I admit to this being a sometimes bizarre scene and even more surreal as it takes place in the early morning hours. BUT LOOK AT THE LENGTHS THAT PEOPLE GO TO, TO GET TO GOD. And HOW do I translate His Way to those whom I long to see rejoice at the sight of Whom they seek.
Who would think that a day of fasting for an entire nation would be preceded by such a focus on food! You would think that a mighty winter storm was approaching if you entered the shuk or the market and joined the throngs stocking up least we starve. Everyone comments every year: “Why is it that we need so much FOOD for a fast day?” I agree. It’s funny. Even at this, the holiest most profound day in the Jewish calendar, there is comic relief. QUICK! RUN TO THE STORE! WE ARE GOING TO FAST!
And fast we do, as a nation, as a people, as believers fasting for the salvation of our people. For the scales to FINALLY come off of EVERY EYE. FOR ALL OF ISRAEL TO BE SAVED AS IS WRITTEN IN ROMANS 11:25-27
“ For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
AND IT FINALLY COMES TO PASS AS ZECHIARIAH WROTE IN CHAPT 12:10-14
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.
ZECHIARIAH 8:19 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘The fast of the fourth month, The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’
HE IS ONLY GOOD AND HIS MERCY ENDURES FOREVER. May you be encouraged by His faithfulness as you pray for His purposes to be fulfilled in and for the whole house of Israel. May you be comforted in your griefs and needs and pains by The God of all comfort. May you be found hidden in Him as we face ever increasing disasters. May you fulfill all of His purposes for HIS GLORY.
your sister J