The Shuk in Jerusalem
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,
I greet you AGAIN in His Precious Name and for His glory Alone. May you be blessed and encouraged and may HE be glorified, magnified and BLESSED.
So quickly, again, running together, the quiet overtakes the noise. Runningis the word that comes to mind for me because in less than an hour begins the last of the three Fall Feasts, and, yes, they RUN on the heels of one another. Sukkot, known to most of the Church as the Feast of Tabernacles, is here in 45 more minutes.
The commands for Sukkot, to me, are quite beautiful.
” ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ ”So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:39-44)
“ and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.“ Not a hard command to keep…what a GIFT!
I have enjoyed the many lessons that He has taught me sitting in the booth, the little sukka built outside our rented apartment, with a rug on the earth and pieces of gaily decorated material for the walls. Palm branches form the roof, through which we can see the stars. I enjoyed decorating ours with mostly live fruit from the shuk, nearby trees, and a huge assortment of flowers and branches cut around the neighborhood. Scriptures pinned to the curtained walls in Hebrew and English.
We put a table inside and chairs and pillows and have invited many guests over the years. Both those who know Him and those who don’t yet. I have prayed that it would be a testimony to Him and a place where He would be spoken of and glorified, and it has been.
Alas, this is the first year that I have nothing even resembling a sukkah set up. Since we moved to this apartment up two flights I have struggled to decorate our inappropriate merepesset (sort of balcony), but this year even that little bit didn’t happen. I find transitions sad.
The sun is setting so I am off to my daughter’s family sukkah 2 blocks away and I will continue this letter soon. Well, it IS a seven-day holiday.
Good morning to you all or ‘chag semaech!’ (joyful holyday). I love waking early on these silent mornings and spending the richest of times with Him as the sun begins to rise and the early birds begin their songs.
At our feast that we shared last night in the sukkah of our daughter’s family, we spoke to our little granddaughters of the things of God that their young hearts could understand. How HE made the stars and HE made us and HE is big enough to take care of all. The stars, the birds, the cat trying to get the chicken on the barbeque and us. Maya, age 4, sang a Sukkot song for us in Hebrew that she learned at her gan (pre-school) and I prayed that He Who reveals Himself in such perfect ways will reveal Himself to them.
I believe that these HOLYDAYS that HE has given us are for reasons far deeper than we begin to understand. So, I like to ask The Holy Spirit to help me remember the Sukkots since we have been here, over the past 24 years. He has taught me so many layers of lessons, each a bursting revelation on my mind. I think of the night during the last intifada, when so much blood was being spilled in the streets, such a traumatic, unsettled time. And yet, there we were. STOP! BUILD LITTLE BOOTHS! SIT IN THEM! Flimsy, little temporary dwellings and we did.
I remember looking up at the sky through the branches of my palm-roof and seeing the stars through the trees above me, hearing the quiet wind and KNOWING that HE had it all in control. The understanding burrowed deep into the very roots of my being. I knew that I was indeed nothing but a flimsy little sukkah of a body containing a vulnerable soul. Yet when that soul was given over to THE KING OF kings AND THE LORD OF lords, The Holy Spirit would inhabit this weak sukkah and NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!
That knowing burst into my very being. Perhaps the sukkah is intended to be one of HIS places of revelation knowledge. NOT on our terms, only on His. He gives to us (or not) Light according to HIS choice. Have you ever waited for a Word or a Revelation and it HASN’T come? I have!
God KEEP me from running anyway even when I have NOT heard that Word from Him. God FORBID that I should ever run with a counterfeit.
Sukkot was commanded to bring in the harvest…to remember His goodness and abundance and to give back to Him and to others. It was ALSO commanded to REMEMBER WHERE WE CAME FROM, the promises, the journey, our failures in the light of His perfect faithfulness. We were ALL slaves in Egypt at one time. REJOICE IN HIS GOODNESS.
The symbols of these three fall feasts still sit together on the tables: the shofar (ram’s horn) The Word, honey, apples, the good fruits of the land, grapes and almonds, pomegranates and dates, figs and citrus. And the people rejoice.
It is such a unique season because the streets are also filled with believers from the nations around the world who have come to participate in one way or another in the fall feasts. Many come to take part in the conferences and convocations – Christian gatherings for times of prayer and teaching.
Because this IS one of the three feasts where all Jewish men were COMMANDED to come up to Jerusalem and to worship and to bring an offering in the place where The Lord put His Name. There will be the ceremony of the blessing of the Cohenim (or the high priestly blessing) which takes place at the Western Wall, when the blessing of Aaron will be pronounced and many thousands upon thousands will participate.
As I walked through the streets of Jerusalem it seemed to me that there were less sukkas this year, but the ones that we passed last night on the way home from our daughters resounded with the warmth of songs and laughter. Everyone whom we passed greeted us with “hag sameach.”
“MOEDIM L’SIMCHA!” is the way in which we greet one another now, whether friends or strangers whom we are passing on the street. These are the days called khol h’moed – or the “in-between days” of the holyday. The meaning of simcha is joy or rejoice and the meaning of moed (moedim being the plural) is an appointed time of meeting. So these are the appointed times for meeting (with) with joy. Pretty neat, eh?
But that is my translation.
Although translations are thought of as standard and pretty well perfect by those of us who are not particularly gifted with many languages, I have been shocked to learn just how SUBJECTIVE language translation can be for everyone. I have mentioned before that Hebrew seems to me to be like a sculpture, each word describing an entire object or concept including its history.
In contrast I see English as a line drawing, carefully describing details line upon line. And yet even in English, how we can misinterpret one another.
And so, MOEDIM L’SIMCHA.
No matter WHAT happens between Russia and us. Moedim l’simcha. No matter what takes place at the United Nations gathering. Moedim l’simcha. Despite the fires and floods and the awful battles at the Gaza border and wars and personal griefs that we cannot escape. Moedim l’simcha.
LORD! Give us ALL eyes to see, and ears to hear and a heart that beats with Yours!
But now I WILL leave you with a Jerusalem story:
I was coming home from work last week (between Rosh h’shana and Yom kippur) and I was T-I-R-E-D. As I approached the crosswalk on the road to my bus stop. Alas! the bus was approaching. I sighed. Another 25-minute wait. Oh well, I have learned the hard way that my days of running for the bus have past, since my last fall and broken rib. The bus pulled up to the crosswalk and stopped for me to cross. Huh? Ok, but still I wasn’t about to run to the bus stop, but he parked the bus a bit further back than usual and WAITED. It is now against the law for bus drivers to do anything special for anyone and even with the BACK door of the bus open. Ok, I sped up still figuring that he would pull away before I got there but he didn’t. I got on through the back door and passed my card up by way of other passengers to the front of the bus to be processed. I couldn’t see the driver, but the bus emptied quite a bit before I got off so I made my way to the front.
“Toda reba reba!” I said (thank you very very much) as he approached my stop.
He turned and smiled. “I would stop for you ANYWHERE and ANYTIME!”
I smiled back. ‘Orie, thank you.”
It was deeply humbling as recognition set in. He was one of our patients and I really had been quite concerned about him when he fought a grievous illness a number of years ago. Yes, I did sort of go the extra mile to accommodate his needs at times but I NEVER expected this. It was a delightful gift because Jerusalem may be the center of the world’s conflicts and The Place where THE LORD OF ALL chose to put His Name. But it is still a small town, reminding me that we are all so small, flimsy temporary dwelling, chosen to be indwelt by The Living God.
Moedim l’simcha to all of you.
your Sister J in Jerusalem