Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sukkot

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Sukkot

Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days.”(Leviticus 23:24)[1]

Tishrei fifteen to twenty-one is celebrated for the “Season of Joy.” After completing the sobering Fast of Yom Kippur (self-evaluation and teshuvah), we celebrate the love and provisions G-d has given us. According to Leviticus 23:40 and Deuteronomy 16:14, we are commanded to be happy and rejoice in Hashem. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe and the Highest King wants to celebrate with His people. Instead of complaining, we rejoice and eat yummy kosher foods! Those with a willing and contrite heart were to bring their offerings to Hashem. It is a joyful act to the giver, as well as to the receiver-happiness. It is also a loving way to rejoice in all of Hashem’s provisions He has given.

Sukkot is an ingathering of raising up tents or booths; praising Hashem for delivering us out of the land of Egypt; knowing G-d completed everything. They were to tell their children for all generations to always remember that Elokim is their/our G-d. It is a celebration of resting in Hashem; remembering and praising Hashem for delivering the Israelites, and the mixed-multitude, out of the Egyptian’s hands (slavery) of four hundred and thirty years.

Sukkot is also one of the three appointed times known as “Pilgrimages.” The three pilgrimages are: Passover (Pesach), Shavuot, and Sukkot, as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:16. These appointed times, along with Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzah), First Fruits of Barley (Ha Bikkutium), Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are the festivals of Hashem.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days. The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations; seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations. Those are the set times of the LORD that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it— apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD. Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the LORD [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your G-d seven days. You shall observe it as a festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages. You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your G-d. So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:33-44) [2]

Also read:

And Moses instructed them as follows: Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your G-d in the place that He will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel. Gather the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere the LORD your G-d and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the LORD your G-d as long as they live in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)[3]

Sukkot is the last fall festival. It is also called Booths. On the seventh day of creation, Adam and Chavah were to rest. As you remember, they were created last on Day Six. Many ask why they had to rest when they didn’t even work the garden for a week. It wasn’t anything they did or didn’t do to earn that rest.

The Sabbath/Shabbat/Shabbos was blessed, sanctified, and made Holy. It is a remembrance that everything is completed in Elokim. There isn’t anything we can do to improve what Hashem has already done.

During Sukkot, the priests were divided into three groups. One group was in charge of the offerings and sacrifices. The second group was responsible for drawing water for pouring ceremony. Then there was the third group who would cut the required amount of willows; located from the brook. The High Priest went from the Water Gate, located at the South Gate that went downward to the Siloam pool. A golden vase was used to draw up water from the pool by the priest. During the ceremony, a silver vase would be filled with wine by the High Priest to be carried by the High Priest as the head in the procession line; leading the way to the Temple. From the eastern gate, the Beautiful Gate, the large willows were cut. As they journeyed back from Motzah Valley, the processions line of people sang beautiful praises to G-d. The willows carried were swishing from side to side; creating a sound of a rushing wind (Ruach), and the pilgrims waved their “lulavs” (myrtle, willow, etrog, and palm branch). The first group, a choir of the Levites sang the same songs as the people from Psalms 118:25—The Hallel

“Hosanna, save now!” The branches would be beaten harshly against the altar. The priests would stand in procession thirty feet apart, take one step, wave the willow, and take another step. The waving of the willows created a wind represents the Ruach. The waving during the purposeful steps continued in this fashion all the way up to the temple. As the two groups converged on the temple, another priest stood on the southeast corner of the temple wall and played the flute calling them into the temple. Since the flute was the pierced instrument, he was called the pierced one.

“The LORD is my strength and might; He has become my deliverance. The tents of the victorious resound with joyous shouts of deliverance, “The right hand of the LORD is triumphant!” (Psalms 118:14-15)[4]

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD. They said: I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance. This is my G-d and I will enshrine Him; The G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him.” (Exodus 15:1-2)[5]

It’s so amazing what Hashem has set before us in the Torah. Hashem desires and longs for us to dwell with Him. There is a very important connection with Pesach and Sukkot that brings them together on a whole new level, chiastically. Passover is the first gathering, Sukkot is the last (bookends), the seventh gathering. On the seven-branch menorah, the first branch and the seventh branch are joined together—a pattern. We have a beginning (Pesach) with its completion (Sukkot), number seven completes. However, when we get to the end, we are back at the beginning—spherical—never-ending. If we were to look at NASA photographs of Rainbows, we’d soon discover they are complete circular formations. No beginning and no end.

Let’s take a closer look that may help bridge the gap for understanding:

Pesach represents the beginning of their (Israelites) first night of freedom, out of Exodus. They had food and shelter provided. Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah, and a covenant given. Sukkot is the last holiday. What we have is freedom to be in covenant with Hashem with His Divine protection—a marriage! It is an Eternal marriage covenant of the Bride, and the Bridegroom.

 

During Sukkot, the children dwelt in booths when Elokim brought them out of Egypt. Looking back, we can understand how we, too, are included. As they slept in booths, He brought them/us out the first night. The Book of Exodus tells us they journeyed to a place called Sukkot on the first night, which commemorates the place called Sukkot. The Talmud speaks of the covering of the cloud—The Clouds of Glory. A pillar of cloud is our protection!

Genesis reminds us that Jacob left Laban’s house and the first night he slept, he built booths for his cattle—sukkahs. Like Jacob, he left a form of slavery under Laban and had lots of cattle. The Torah states an accounting of four hundred and thirty years that the Israelites endured slavery in Egypt. Before Elokim delivered them out of Egypt they had a “settling down.” In Egypt, they had shelter, a home, and they knew when their next meal was. After they left to go to Sukkot everything changed. They had no plans or knew what to expect. They had to learn how to trust G-d. They had their own choices, yes, but not wise discernment. Exodus tells us they ate unleavened bread as they had no time to take provisions. They had Matzah—this connects Pesach! ONE NIGHT—TWO Holidays (Pesach and Sukkot).

The first night they realized they were no longer slaves of Egypt while sleeping under their Booths. The act of faith brings us to a new level—trusting G-d for everything! He saw the efforts they made to follow Hashem, and His kind response stirred to give the Children safe protection and provisions. Sukkot teaches us that Hashem is our true Provider, and His covering is for our Shelter to dwell in. The Children of Israel lived in “booths” for forty years [in the wilderness] with high temperatures. G-d provided a cloud covering, water, and manna. Their sandals and clothing never wore out.

Sukkot is a seven-day celebration, and the eighth day is a High Sabbath, as is the first day. The number eight implies a type of “New Beginnings. The Orthodox Jews observe the first two days and the last two days of Sukkot, followed by Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. We are to observe Hashem’s festivals by building a Sukkah and waving the Four Kinds.

Hoshanah Rabbah is celebrated on the seventh day of Sukkot. Hoshanah Rabbah completes the seven-day festival of Sukkot (but there’s the eighth day), and the completion of the days of Judgment finalizes our fate for the following year. The days are issued during Rosh Hashanah and completed [for us] on Yom Kippur. One might say our fate is now sealed for what is determined the following year. During Sukkot, there is a judgment on the amount of rain that’ll be given during the next year. (Talmud “Rosh HaShanah” 16a)

Hashem is calling for us:

“To be sure, they seek Me daily, Eager to learn My ways. Like a nation that does what is right, That has not abandoned the laws of its G-d, They ask Me for the right way, They are eager for the nearness of G-d.” (Isaiah 58:2)[6]

We are to take the “willow” as if this was a willow ceremony dated back to the Ancient Bible times when our prophets took an additional willow on Sukkot on the seventh day. They were very large willow branches (eighteen feet each) and were set around the altar in the Holy Temple for Sukkot every day. The “Four Kinds” were included in the ancient ceremony.

During the synagogue services on Hoshanah Rabbah, the people who stand around the bimah (Torah reading table) hold the Torah after it’s taken from the Ark. The congregation circles the Torah seven times while holding on to their Four Kinds; reciting the Hoshaanot prayers. The ones who circle seven times conclude with gathering the bundle of the five willows; striking the ground five times symbolizes our sins. No matter how hard we beat the lulav on the ground to remove its leaves, it isn’t easy to do. This is symbolic to our sins and how hard it can be to remove our sins without G-d’s help. There’s a huge mess left. This reminds us how much we need our Hashem to remove our sins. Everyone (men, women, and children) are encouraged to participate in the celebration. In the synagogues, the whole Book of Deuteronomy and Psalms are read (at midnight), followed with more prayers. After services, they continue to celebrate with a festive dinner in their sukkahs with honey cake for dessert. Because of Diaspora, eating in the sukkah includes the eighth day—Shemini Atzeret.

Shemini Atzeret is a joyous time celebrating the end of Sukkot in diaspora (exiled lands). Shemini Atzeret is known by its Biblical name in the Tanach. (Leviticus 23:33-44, 2 Chronicles 7) Though we still dwell in our sukkah, the first night has no blessing. It’s a memorial for the departed souls. The prayer, Yizkor is said the first night. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the eighth day. It is customary to light a small “yahrtzeit” candle while reciting the Yizkor on Shemini Atzeret to pray for our deceased parent(s).

The blessings are given as the annual Torah readings to commemorate Sukkot. The first two nights are both celebrated with the lighting of the candles (women and girls light the candles), reciting the appropriate blessings (Kiddush), festive meals, dancing, and by not working. It is permissible to cook as long as it’s not on the Shabbat. Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion and the restart of the Torah readings that goes back to Genesis—the rolling back of the Torah. The combination of the two days (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) is called “YOM TOV”—a major holiday when most work ceases. The Shemini Atzeret prayer commemorates the rain Hashem sends to Israel, and the Yizkor prayer gives thanks and praise to Hashem for His mercy to remember the souls departed. The highlight of Simchat Torah reminds us to have “Joy of the Torah!” Remember to light the candles before sunset on the first night, and just after sunset the second night. The ninth day is finished with Havdalah.

Simchat Torah, during the celebration, Synagogues bring out the Torah as it’s held in dance, marching, and song. It is customary for every man to participate in the celebration and to Aliyah. There are two definitions for Aliyah. One, the honor of being called up to recite one of the blessings over the Torah, and the other is immigration to the Land of Israel. It is an honor for every man to be called up to read the blessings of the Torah. The children are also encouraged to Aliyah—give blessings over the Torah.

While living in exile, a synagogue may not be possible to attend depending on the location one resides at. Hashem honors those who do their best at home; blessing Hashem, his wife and children, taking part in the Readings of Torah, home service (meeting with like kind) and study. Hopefully, there is a way to move into a Jewish community. There are many who live in exile wait for the call of Hashem to Aliyah to Israel.

The Sukkah (booths): Let’s celebrate the amazing miracle of the Exodus remembering our faithful and Righteous G-d who delivered the Israelites, and the mixed multitude, from the harsh and crushing slavery of the Egypt! The sukkah (booths) celebrates the Clouds of Glory that protected and surrounded our ancestors during the forty years of sojourning in the wilderness; completely relying on G-d’s provisions leaving Egypt.

(Leviticus 23:42-43) Jews, and non-Jews, build sukkahs that are temporary dwellings to commemorate Sukkot. Sukkot is celebrated by eating and sleeping in a sukkah during the week of Sukkot. Many live in colder regions in which it may not be possible to sleep or eat in a sukkah. It’s important to remember that if one can’t build a sukkah (perhaps it’s against rental/leased homes policies, or health reasons), Hashem will be honored to see us trying our best to please Him during the appointed times.

In the Sukkah, we can read from our holy scriptures, share devotionals, and invite guests (Ushpizin) for a meal. The gathering of people will give more opportunities to share what an amazing G-d we have. If there are children or adults who have special needs, or elderly parents with health issues that would cause suffering to sleep outside on the ground, there are other ways to show chesed—loving-kindness. For example, we can play beautiful Hebrew music, tell the Exodus Story, and help them build mini sukkahs—to eat! That’s right! All one needs is a box of Graham crackers, M&M’s (trademark), or other colorful candies, green frosting, and a whole lot of fun! Place three squares together; using frosting for the glue. Spread green frosting along the top (roof) and let the decorating begin!

The Sukkah is generally made of wood or bamboo with at least three sides. The roof should have some clearing that allow the stars to be seen during the nights. Palm leaves, or other greenery can be placed along the top that allows some coverage and shade during the day.

If a kosher sukkah is desired: There are important factors to be considered before building a kosher sukkah (Instructions can be found at http://www.chabad.org).

May your week of Sukkot be a blessing!

Shalom!

[1] Leviticus 23:24. Sefaria

[2] Leviticus 23:22-44, Sefaria

[3] Deuteronomy 31:10-13, Sefaria

[4] Psalms 118:14-15, Sefaria

[5] Exodus 15:1-2, Sefaria

[6] Isaiah 58:2, Sefaria

 

 

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Yom Kippur- Day of Atonement

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Yom HaKippurim/Yom Kippur

~Day of Atonement~

 

On the tenth day of the same seventh month you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial. You shall do no work. (Numbers 29:7)[1]

Mark the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD; you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the LORD your G-d. Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin; and whoever does any work throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people. Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements. It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:27-32)[2]

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a High Holy Sabbath, the holiest day of the year. It occurs on Tishrei Ten (September/October). It is a day of humbling ourselves before our Holy G-d. Yom Kippur is also referred to as Yom Hakippurim that means “day like Purim.” The Book of Esther is the story of redemption. The term Yom Kippur derives from “Yom” which means day and “Kaphar/Kofer” which means to atone for as in covering, protection, redemption, and ransom. Kaphar/Kofer (pitch) was used on Noah’s Ark as a covering to keep the water from seeping in. Pitch was also used on the basket (little ark) that Moses floated in down the Nile among the reeds—another connection. Kaphar/Kofer was the pitch used to not only cover, but to conceal and keep it protected from damage and leaks. This teaches us that the sacrifices on Yom Kippur atone for by covering, protecting, and concealing Israel for another year. The Day of Atonement was a day of grace and compassion. Hashem would give the Israelites a “New Beginning” as a covering for their sins.

This is the sixth festival of the appointed times. It is the last day of Teshuvah, a beautiful time for people to draw nearer to G-d in repentance. We celebrate in humbleness with fasting for twenty-five hours. (Leviticus 23:27-28) People generally dress in white on this day to resemble purity.

There are seven festivals, and Yom Kippur is the sixth holiday. At the concluding season of repentance, Elul One begins on the first of the sixth month. It is the only day the High Priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies; encountering Hashem face-to-face by calling upon The Name–HASHEM. The High Priest would make blood sacrifices for the sins of the people. A bull and two goats were offered for the atonement. The bull would be the atonement for the Mishkan; while the two goats would be chosen by drawing lots which one would carry away the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16)

L’Adonai would be offered to the Hashem, and the other goat, Azazel, would have the sins of the people confessed (through the laying of the hands from the High Priest) upon that goat and carried away into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:21) If G-d accepted the sacrifices and atonement from the High Priest, the bloody garments that were hung up turned white, according to tradition. We are reminded if our sins are like scarlet; they will be white as snow through forgiveness. (Isaiah 1:18) This is the day we will see Hashem face-to-face; prophetically on a future Day of Atonement.

The Heavenly doors are opened during this ten day period; however, the doors will be closed on Yom Kippur as Yom Kippur is Judgment. The “Ten Days of Awe” is the time to reflect on ourselves for teshuvah. The Day of Judgment will be the day that atonement is executed. Do we look at it as a big judge in a courtroom wearing a long, over-sized black robe; ready to pass the death penalty on us? Or would we look at it as a day of rejoicing and praising Hashem for His redemption? We can find joy knowing that we are Hashem’s Chosen people—signed—sealed—and delivered!

Beast and man were created on Day Six. When Adam and Eve (Chavah) sinned, they needed atonement, the sixth feast. The sixth spirit is Knowledge, or “Da’at”. This isn’t head knowledge; rather it implies intimacy and maturity in Hebrew. It is a type of knowledge or knowing that loves something or someone enough that they will give their life for the other. When a man neglects the Knowledge, his fallen state becomes more extreme and he identifies more with the beast he hunts. The Spirit of Knowledge patiently works and builds understanding in the relationship. The Spirit of Knowledge is a deep mature love that exhibits the awareness of the needs and desires of another. It is a spirit that moved on the sixth day of creation to inspire the creation of Adam & Chavah (Eve)—the mother of all living.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew letter “VAV” is also the number six (in Hebrew), and means to attach. When man sinned, they could no longer continue living in the Garden, nor could they dwell with the Father as sin separated them. Through the mercy of Hashem, He will bring our redemption.

As we mature and grow in Torah, we can abide in:

✡ Mercy and Grace (A husband should protect his bride)

✡ Covering of sins (Hashem brings redemption, compassion, covering)

✡ Healing (loving one another with loving kindness)

✡ Restoration of relationships (restoration)

✡ Repents & seeks forgiveness

Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy.

Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy

Let’s look at the Story of Jonah for some more connections. Let’s consider Jonah’s actions when disobedience comes into play.

Yonah was called by Hashem to go to Nineveh with a message from G-d to repent from their sins or they would be destroyed. But he ran away to Tarshish, instead. Why did Jonah run from Hashem? Can anyone really hide from the King of the universe?

When Jonah knew Hashem was giving Nineveh a chance to be forgiven, life no longer mattered to Jonah. He wanted them to pay for their evilness. Jonah was the son of Amittai (Truth). Yonah saw his dreadful journey coming true after Hashem told him to go to Nineveh and accept their apology.

Looking back at the story while Jonah was on the ship, he was on the lowest level; sleeping in the height of the storm. Jonah ignored Hashem when He called out to him. The sailors cast lots. He told them to throw him overboard. He didn’t know Hashem had a whale ready for action. After the sailors tried to help Jonah, they threw him overboard, regretfully. While he was in the belly of the whale, Yonah still wanted to die, but Hashem had different plans.

Jonah’s Prayer of Distress:

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights. Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me. I thought I was driven away Out of Your sight: Would I ever gaze again Upon Your holy Temple? The waters closed in over me, The deep engulfed me. Weeds twined around my head. I sank to the base of the mountains; The bars of the earth closed upon me forever. Yet You brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my G-d! When my life was ebbing away, I called the LORD to mind; And my prayer came before You, Into Your holy Temple. They who cling to empty folly Forsake their own welfare, But I, with loud thanksgiving, Will sacrifice to You; What I have vowed I will perform. Deliverance is the LORD’s! The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.” (Jonah 2, Sefaria)

While Jonah was in the belly of the whale he thought he would never see dry land again. He was in the whales belly for three days and three nights. After Jonah delivered the message, Nineveh repented and Hashem relented the ra’ah (evil) that would have destroyed them with Hashem’s burning wrath. Jonah, in his disappointment and anger, prayed for Hashem to take his soul because it would have been better for his death than to have lived. (Jonah 4:8) Hashem remained quiet and gave him a lesson with the worm instead.

Yonah (Jonah) sat up on the hill; overlooking the city of Nineveh in hopes Nineveh refused to repent so that Hashem would destroy them (Nineveh would probably be what ISIS is like in today’s world). He made himself a Sukkah (booth/tent) to sit under for shade. The question is, if Yonah had shade already, why did Hashem place a kikayon plant over (covering) Jonah’s sukkah? Ra’ah was first mentioned when Hashem wanted to send Yonah to Nineveh because they had done evil (ra’ah) in the sight of Hashem and were going to be destroyed. They made a teshuvah! Elokim relented the ra’ah He was going to place on Nineveh. It’s interesting how the role of events play out when Yonah (Jonah) felt a dreadful ra’ah coming his way and he needed Hashem’s protection. Yonah became very angry towards Hashem because he already knew that Hashem would change His mind, which only partially answers why Jonah ran from Hashem. The Book of Jonah states, “I knew that you are a gracious and merciful G-d, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and relent from doing harm.”(Jonah 4:2)[3]

Hashem revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to Mosheh (Moses) on Mount Sinai after the sin of the golden calf. It was Hashem’s grace and mercy that saved the Jews and mixed-multitude from destruction. Looking back in the Book of Jonah, it is revealed that Jonah’s father’s name is Amittai (root word is Emet, truth), son of Truth. Was Jonah looking for Divine Justice on Nineveh? Go back to Jonah sitting in his sukkah and the plant created for extra shade (covering) even though he knew that Elokim had spared Nineveh. Yonah found great joy in the plant that provided shade over his head. He felt loved. Then the worm ate the roots of the plant, and when the plant faded and died, Yonah (Jonah) once again wanted to die; stating that he was “grieved to death.” (Jonah 4:9, Stone Edition, Tanach) Why was Yonah upset over the plant dying? What did the plant represent?

The plant demonstrated Hashem’s lovingkindness and mercy given so that Jonah could see His Compassion. So if the plant giving shade is the countenance of Hashem’s compassion, what is the face of the worm? Justice.

Hashem was trying to show Jonah that there’s a conflict between having compassion, and applying justice. Jonah needed to learn G-d is a G-d of Mercy—Forgiveness given undeserved. Hashem caused a plant to grow from nothing in a world it didn’t belong, and Jonah had compassion for it.

Nineveh belonged in the world—G-d’s creation; yet, Jonah wanted them to be destroyed without mercy. Nineveh was very evil indeed, but because they had Teshuvah, who didn’t deserve Hashem’s compassion and forgiveness, we can appreciate what we can become with a changed heart! Yes, their sins were forgiven. They couldn’t change their past actions, but they could change their future. We are also given that same opportunity because He loves us. Our heart defines our character when others (who have hurt us) need forgiveness.

As we enter Yom Kippur we need to acknowledge that even though we can’t change our past we can reflect on our past, and reevaluate our impending changes for the future; giving all Glory to Hashem. We need to seek Hashem for forgiveness (Teshuvah) for our sins, ask Him to help us have Chesed (loving kindness) for others, to be forgiving of others (even if they don’t deserve it), to honor Torah, and to follow G-d’s way.

When we love Hashem’s Creation, we can nurture it, have unity, and restore healing.

“Remember us for the sake of Life, A King Who desires Life, Inscribe us in the Book of Life For Your sake O’ G-d of Life. Who is like You O’ Father of compassion, Who remembers his creatures for Life with compassion.”

How to observe Yom Kippur:

  • Self-reflection—acknowledge your sins
  • Fast for twenty-five hours—drink plenty of water the day before.
  • Tashlich ceremony—a beautiful tradition for family to go out to a body of moving water such as a stream or river and toss in bread crumbs, or tiny rocks, if it’s not on the Sabbath. This is done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but can be celebrated during Yom Kippur. This reminds us of G-d’s forgiveness by casting our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
  • Teshuvah (Repentance)—Seek Hashem for the forgiveness of sins. There are also five prayers that are recited:
  • Kol Nidre—to annul all vows.
  • The Shema
  • Amidah
  • Avinu Malkeinu—“Our Father, Our King,” (It’s a prayer during a time of fasting).
  • Minchah (Leviticus 18) – while this is read in the synagogues, the Midrash explains that we shouldn’t uncover the “nakedness” of others, just as Hashem didn’t uncover the “nakedness” of Israel. It is also a reminder that sexual immorality is a sin, but can be forgiven.
  • Viduly—prayer of confession upon the sins made.
  • Neilah—closing the gates (Day of Atonement).
  • Seek Forgiveness—if you have acknowledged your sins, it is time to approach those you have hurt, offended, or transgressed against with sincerity and honesty to ask for forgiveness. If they are resentful and do not accept your apology then it’s in Hashem’s hands. Sometimes we have to wipe the dust from our shoes and turn it over to Hashem. But we must try first.

Practice the customary restrictions that remind us of humility:

  • No perfumes or oils on body,
  • Baths and showers are skipped.
  • No animal products (leather shoes) are worn.
  • Fast from foods and water for twenty-five hours—this can be omitted for those with medical issues, pregnant, nursing, young children, or elderly.
  • Donate money—if it isn’t plausible, donate your time to those less fortunate.
  • Attend Shul or a synagogue if possible.
  • Nosh—after the sun goes down on sunset on Yom Kippur, it’s time to break the fast and eat! The first meal is the pre-fast meal—the meal of separation. The second meal is after the fast. Both meals are to be prepared before the fast.
  • G’mar Hatima Tova (Say to others): May you be sealed in the Book of Life!
  • G’mar Tov (Say to others): May you have an easy fast!

 

Shalom!

[1] Numbers 29:7, Sefaria

[2] Leviticus 23:27-32, Sefaria

[3] Jonah 4:2, Sefaria

 

 

 

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Last Breath Gives Hope

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Last Breath Gives Hope

It wasn’t long before it would be too cold catching the last awesome waves before fall. My high school friend and I decided to head for the beach and hit some waves (body surfing). Of course, by the time we arrived, it was cloudy and riptide warnings were given. But we were strong swimmers and knew what we were doing (so we thought).

No one was at the beach—not even a Lifeguard. It was all to ourselves! The waves were very big, and inviting. We were having a blast. My friend wasn’t too far from me, but the distance was enough that caused a separation by a couple of waves; allowing her to get back to shore without much effort. Without warning things shifted, the waves became extremely HUGE! I tried to swim in but I had to turn back to swim over the waves to not be crushed (which meant going out further). Unfortunately, without knowing at the time, I was entangled in riptides and deeply snared.

The waves soon became too immense and powerful. I was getting tired. How many more waves could I swim over to avoid being smashed underwater while realizing the uselessness of trying to get back to shore? I was too far out to body surf to shore. The waves were crashing over more waves. The scenery of fun faded; only death was around the corner. The powerful waves brought mayhem with no way out. It no longer mattered that I knew how to swim in riptides; unfortunately, pride got me into a life-threatening situation. Tired muscles feeling like rubber, numb, and panicked, I was in a terrible position without time to think things through. The ability to stay above water was a concern. The riptides were overpowering me in my weakness.

Looking at eye level over the surface of the ocean while the waves tumbled over me, salt water in my eyes, my view became blurry while being swept underwater; a reality check on life—almost too late. I was slammed underwater.

The waves began to thrash about; dragging and twisting me in every direction. I opened my eyes in salty water; hoping to see which way the bubbles were going. The bubbles were whirling in all directions. I managed to find my way to the surface and gasp for air just as another wave came crashing down; spiraling downwards and dragged once more along the ocean floor like a Raggedy-Ann doll (I can still see it in my mind).

I, again, attempted to get to the surface. When I felt the ocean floor with my hands, I placed my feet on the sandy ground, with all my might; I pushed up and swam as hard as I could. Hopelessly, after reaching the surface, little air received before another enormous wave crashed down on me; spiraling downwards, again. At that point I couldn’t do it anymore. I was out of breath and out of all my strength. I was going to drown—I was out of time! No one could help me, my mistake was horrific. My family and friends would be devastated.

Out of breath, beyond exhaustion, unable to fight, packed with sand from dragging along the ocean bottom, too far from shore, out of hope, I cried out to G-d (obviously in my mind—not outwardly to get water in my mouth). I told G-d I couldn’t do it anymore and asked Him to help me. I needed Him! I was so scared (thirty-some years later, and I still tear-up).

As soon as I called out to G-d for help something powerful happened! Though I couldn’t see who or what, an amazing strong Almighty Power reached down into the depths of the riptides that bound me. With a rushing of water, I was brought (carried) up out of the water– able to gasp for air. G-d or one of His angels protected me. Miraculously, the waves were still large (though in a peaceful state); none of the waves dragged me down. I was freed from the snare. I was able to swim in a zig-zag motion. I soon could see my friend. She was running up and down the shoreline calling out my name. When I got to shore, my friend grabbed my arm and helped me up the dry sandy beach. I collapsed. She said she didn’t know what to do. She said she would see my head pop out of the water just as another wave would crash down over me for long periods of time–expecting to find a dead body floating.

We had made an enormous mistake acting cool, haughty, and prideful—especially me. When we are tempted with sin, like riptides, we need to stay away from it. When we act out in our Nefesh (Flesh), we become prideful and haughty (by saying I can handle it, I’ve done it before), and become entangled. And before we realize it, Ha’satan (Satan) has his grip on us. The enemy uses our own desires to trap us.

Out of breath, out of time, out of hope (from our own efforts),  Hashem  can lift us out of the dirt (or should I say water). In my own efforts I had nothing. I was overpowered and weakened quickly. In Hashem’s strength, hope was found: Behold a mighty strong arm WHO can reach into the depths of darkness and bring us to His Light!

I didn’t know who G-d really was (no relationship), but I knew G-d is the Creator of all things. I wasn’t walking in the right way I should have. But when I called out to G-d with my last breath of life, pleading for His help, Hashem answered my cry (knowing I would SEEK after Hashem years later). I am humbled by the love and mercy Hashem has for someone like me to give me ‘time’ and set my path to be introduced to Him many years later, properly. Hashem loves you too. If you do not know Him yet, Hashem is just a thought, a call, a cry out to, and a prayer away. Do not delay in seeking Hashem. We never know when we will have our last breath of life.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is G-d from of old, Creator of the earth from end to end, He never grows faint or weary, His wisdom cannot be fathomed. He gives strength to the weary, Fresh vigor to the spent. Youths may grow faint and weary, And young men stumble and fall; But they who trust in the LORD shall renew their strength As eagles grow new plumes: They shall run and not grow weary, They shall march and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)[1]

Our G-d is very gracious, and merciful. From the depths of chaos, and darkness, Hashem brought order with peace (Shalom). Let’s look at the Book of Genesis for more understanding:

Genesis 1:2 teaches us “the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from G-d sweeping over the water.”[2]

  • The Ruach (wind) of G-d was moving over the surface of the waters.
  • Moving means “hovering.” Like a bird hovering/fluttering over its young.

In my attempt to enter water in chaos, the deep was not in order. The disorderly waves could not be controlled by man, only by its Creator G-d of Majesty. In my weakness and last breath in despair, my call out to G-d (protective mother bird) did He move quickly: hovering over the waters; bringing hope and protection by removing the darkness and chaos that captured me. The waves remained large, but a given order of peace moved over the waters.

G-d said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)[3]

  • Elohim divided the ohr (light).
  • Ohr is a light. Eternal Light, light of life, light of instruction, Hashem’s shining face. Proverbs 6:23 “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah light.”
  • Choshech, darkness, obscurity.

Pride and haughtiness is a sin of rebellion, and like all sins, man becomes ignorant into believing their sins are hidden in darkness (Choshech). Sin will find itself out (Numbers 32:23). Sin is a snare, entangled with destruction or death.

The Eternal Light of G-d (Ohr), sees all, and knows all. Darkness cannot comprehend G-d’s light and power. All creation must obey the word of G-d. Torah is the Light, and the Lamp. Hashem has all power (Gvurah) over the chaos, darkness, and terror. With His word, the water became peaceful and the rage was gone—Be still and know that I am G-d.

I have shared this story during home school, as well as with youth groups. It’s too easy to let pride take over. It can be hard for someone to ask for help when the sin has entangled them. My life-threatening experience was extreme, thankfully, most people will never endure that. The good news is we have forgiveness. And through forgiveness, we are cleansed with Hashem’s righteousness.

Leading up to Cleansing:

It is thought-provoking the near-drowning encounter Hashem allowed me to go through that in every way of a human being in that situation, there was no way out by man’s own effort. I was trapped with limited air. His power is mighty. He never lost control, nor did Hashem lose me. He had a hold of me in His hand even when I felt everything was hopeless.

“Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your G-d; I have strengthened you, even helped you, and even sustained you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:14) [4]

In Exodus, we are reminded that after the ten plagues, and the Israelites were released to leave Egypt; including pleasing items (livestock, silver, gold, and fine linens). After three days, the Pharaoh regretted releasing the Israelites (and the mixed multitude), commanding his strongest soldiers and chariots; bolting after them.

Hashem brought the Israelites out of Egypt in a route that would be a long way, not a shortcut. The Children of Israel would have traveled through the land of the Philistines had they have taken a shortcut. Hashem wanted to free the Children from all Egyptian influences. He wanted His soon-to-be Bride to unlearn “Egypt” and follow Him in the Torah, the Divine Way, and to be free of bondage and to be in covenant with Him.

We will begin to see two patterns, a separation.

  • Day One of Creation—Light and Darkness
  • Day Two of Creation—the separation of the upper and lower waters: Mayim (earthly), and Shemayim (heavenly).
  • Day Three of Creation—Wet and Dry Land, Resurrection, Eternity.
  • Water and Fire
  • Life and Death

Life and Death, Light and Darkness—spiritually and physically:

When Pharaoh pursued the Children of Israel, the Children became terrified; feeling trapped with no way out. They feared for their lives; sadly, some of the Children of Israel were willing to return as slaves under bondage; deceiving themselves that it was a life worth living. Others began to rebuke Moses; blaming G-d for bringing them out into the Wilderness to their graves.

“‘They said to Moses, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this thing you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:11)[5]

Moses spoke to the Children by way of G-d’s assurance and tells them, “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of HASHEM that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again!” (Exodus 14:13)[6]

“The angel of G-d who had been going in front of the camp of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and went behind them. 20. It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel and there were a cloud and darkness—while it illuminated the night—and one did not draw near the other all the night.” (Exodus 14:19-20)[7]

Separation of Upper and Lower Waters, Dry Land, Fire and Water:

The Children of Israel needed to have faith knowing Hashem was all-powerful to save them from death, and to trust Hashem would never abandon them. Hashem told Moses to spread out his rod over the Reed Sea (Yom Suf) and split it with a mighty wind. Dry land came forth for the Israelites to journey the crossing. The path of the Israelites was upon day land, while the path under the feet of the enemy sinks; grabbing hold of the chariot wheels while the riders of the chariots were dragged to their death.

“At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, The floods stood straight like a wall; The deeps froze in the heart of the sea.” (Exodus 15:8)[8]

  • Mayim—Earthly waters.
  • The water was shrewdly, and with its Chokmah (wisdom), the water sent judgement to Egypt, and a salvation to Israel. Water separated to dry land. We are reminded of Isaiah 63:13 about G-d’s vengeance upon the Nations. Waters can also remind us of the ocean depths of chaos, the Abyss and without form.The Heart of sea–Body of water that roars.

Let’s looks closer:

“Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me.  (Jonah 2:2-4)[9]

The lowest of the sea is unapproachable to man, and the heart of Heaven is less approachable by its height by man.“The heavens for height, the earth for depth, and the heart of the kings cannot be fathomed.” We are reminded in our human limitations, the King’s heart remains unsearchable. (Proverbs 25:3)[10]

Hashem knows the inner depths of the sea like the inner depths of our hearts. The heart of man is wicked, and through repentance (Teshuvah—turning back to the Father), our life is restored and reconciled to Hashem. He wrote His Torah on our heart. Our mini Menorah within becomes lit when we become crushed, and broken. But we can overcome with Hashem’s help.

Let’s look at connection of Creations Day Three and Five:

On the third day of Creation water was gathered; dry land appeared with plants, trees, and fruit-bearing seed. Land, trees, plants and fruits are visible. On the other hand, within the depths of water, man cannot see below the surface; physically by standing on land. In the depths of water, fish are hidden—concealed. The depths of life are a mystery and below the surface it is hidden. The Torah is Eternal, Hashem brings Resurrection.

Dry land and water are two layers. We also have two layers; one is our surface and the other is our concealed inner-self. Our top layer is the surface of our strengths, weaknesses, talents and abilities. It’s our personality and character seen. The inner-depth lies in wait; undeveloped with our hidden strengths, talents, and abilities until discovered.

Fish and birds were created on Day Five. Fish and Birds swim rapidly through mighty currents and in swarms. We are to take the Torah out to the Nations—rapidly! Man’s identity is found in the Torah— Israel swims in Torah. The Jewish people have been scattered; thankfully, Hashem is gathering His Chosen back to Israel, and bringing in the “other sheep” who are to become grafted into Israel.

Let’s take a closer look at numbers two, three and five more in-depth:

Two: Division, Separation, Conflict. The body, our vessel is more inclined to pull into the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination). This comes from the fall when Adam and Chavah ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is “Free Will” that has two sides to discern. The world we live in, the lives of those around us, by our words and deeds (good or evil) spoken or given, we can use it to build up or destroy (tear down). We become what we choose to be. We are our own manager of our soul. We can choose life and blessings, or death with curses. May our thoughts and deeds mirror Hashem; as two becoming one. Choose Life!

Three: Creation Day Two was not called “Good” until Day Three (Gathering). It brings balance to what was separated. There are three forefathers, better known as the Three Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was named “Israel.” Israel is where Hashem will gather His chosen people. Three resembles the three Pilgrimages: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This also brings us to the understanding of being liberated from slavery (Passover), receiving the Torah (Marriage Covenant on Shavuot), and Sukkot is living in booths under the “Clouds of Glory,” under Hashem’s protection.

 THE SUKKAH (Hashem’s covering)—His PROTECTION.

On Tishrei fifteen to twenty-one, Sukkot is celebrated for the “Season of Joy.” After completing the sobering Fast of Yom Kippur (self-evaluation and teshuvah), we celebrate the love and provisions Hashem has given us. According to Leviticus 23:40 and Deuteronomy 16:14, we are commanded to be happy and rejoice. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe and the Highest King wants to celebrate with His people. Instead of complaining, we rejoice! Those with a willing and contrite heart were to bring their offerings.

It is a joyful act to the giver, as well as to the receiver-happiness. It is also a loving way to rejoice in all of Hashem’s provisions. Sukkot is an gathering of raising up tents or booths; praising Hashem for delivering us out of the land of Egypt; knowing His work has completed everything. They were to tell their children for all generations to always remember that Hashem is their/our G-d. It is a celebration remembering and praising Hashem for delivering the Israelites, and the mixed-multitude out of the Egyptian’s hands (slavery) of four hundred and thirty years. Sukkot is also one of the three appointed times known as “Pilgrimages.” The three pilgrimages are: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:16.

The three signifies Hashem, Torah, and Israel. Esther 4:16 teaches us that Esther (Hadassah) fasted three days and three nights. It should remind us that Jonah was inside the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.

Five: The Five Books of the Torah are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The world was created by the Breath (Ruach) of Hashem using “Hey” (the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet), in order to reveal Hashem and His Will of Torah. “By the word of HASHEM the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts.” (Psalms 33:6)[11] The fifth Festival is the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur. The five Books of the Torah are foundational to understanding the Bible, and our life force (the giving of the Torah is our Covenant and marriage to Hashem—Redemption). Ohr (light) is mentioned in Creation Day One five times. Are we seeing more amazing connections?

Moses was sent upon the waters (Sea of Reeds) in a basket covered in pitch—a covering. The Water is the Torah and oil is the Wisdom within the Torah. Water is drawn from the well by a bucket. The bucket will distribute the water like a vessel—serving the Giver of the Torah. Torah cannot be given without wisdom. Wisdom is found in Torah of oil and water: “A truly wise person must recognize the importance of having both properties—oil and water—mingling with ordinary people freely, but ensuring that socializing with the masses does not cause him to be corrupted by the materialism of the world.” [12]How do we view ourselves? Prideful? Humble?

The Torah is the Blueprint of both man and creation. Just as the world is round, so must be the Torah; having no beginning or end. The cycle repeats itself. When the Torah Portions are read to the end, the Torah is rolled back to the beginning. This gives us an opportunity in life to “roll back” and start over with lessons learned for a better year breathing Life (Chesed/loving kindness) toward others; while growing closer to Hashem by walking in His Ancient Path. When we follow Torah in obedience, the path becomes narrower so that we can see more of G-d and less of ourselves.

We have been called to observe, keep, and guard (obey) His Torah. We are to be vigilant and safeguard Hashem’s Instructions—Torah. We are to take Torah—His Emet—into the world to illuminate Hashem’s Light to the world without the dark world affecting us. The reality is, without Torah and without Israel, the world has no reason to exist.

When we become cornered in a situation (feeling helpless and hopeless from our own efforts), we are reminded that the Israelites experienced a horrible predicament. They were at the edge of the sea when the Egyptians were angrily approaching with powerful soldiers and fast chariots. They realized they needed a Higher Power—HASHEM! We, too, are limited in our abilities. When we become trapped, or in my case, without air while drifting under the depths of the sea, are we able to split our own sea with the help of Hashem. When we cry out to G-d, His Power is made known and additional strength is given.

Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey; they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.”[13]

Shalom!

 

 

[1] Isaiah 40:28-31, Sefaria

[2] Genesis 1:2, Sefaria

[3] Genesis 1:3-4, Sefaria

[4] Isaiah 41:14, The Stone Edition

[5] Exodus 14:11, The Stone Edition

[6] Exodus 14:13,The Stone Edition

[7] Exodus 14:19-20, The Stone Edition

[8] Exodus 15:8, Sefaria

[9] Jonah 2:2-4, Sefaria

[10] Proverbs 25:2, The Stone Edition

[11] Psalms 33:6, The Stone Edition

[12] The Wisdom in The Hebrew Month, Zvi Ryzman, Pg.88

[13] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1831859/jewish/Why-the-Need-to-Split-the-Sea.htm

 

 

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Our Shepherd’s Voice

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Our Shepherd’s Voice

 

Have you ever questioned why G–d refers to human beings as sheep in the Tanach? Is it because we’re cute and cuddly? Maybe it’s because sheep (people) like to run about merrily. There are other reasons that would be more accurate; however, the ones mentioned certainly contribute. Running wild in an open field, aimlessly, certainly invites mischief. Sheep need constant care, direction, and protection from a shepherd, just as man needs their Shepherd.

“We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and HASHEM inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)[1]

We may not always understand Hashem’s ways, but His ways surpass our understanding. Having raised sheep, I can testify that our sheep needed proper direction, protection, and constant care.

I would like to tell two short stories about two different flocks of sheep. It will be fairly easy to understand the connection to why people are referred to as “sheep.”

The first group was a wild bunch–a mixed multitude of breeds. Most were the typical fluffy sheep, white in color; however, there was an additional sheep that was a blackish-cinnamon mix in the fold. Even though he was different from the others, he enjoyed spending the day with the other sheep. Sheep are very social animals and share in the joy of eating and sleeping together. They are often seen running gleefully in all directions.

Whenever I walked into the pasture and called out his name, he would stop what he was doing and run to me. Often, centered in the middle of the crowded flock, it was extraordinary to see his head pop-up every time he heard the familiar voice of his shepherdess.

I do believe that is the response Hashem loves to see when He calls to us. Will we hear and obey (Shema)? As His flock, we need to recognize Hashem’s voice and know Him by His Name (Isaiah 52:6), believe G–d reigns, and raise our voices, singing in glad song. Hashem’s sheep, like my blackish-cinnamon mixed lamb, are to be obedient and run to Him joyfully. We are reminded in Psalms 23 that Hashem is our Shepherd and He will guide, comfort, and protect us.

While raising sheep, they constantly needed their shepherd (my husband) or shepherdess (me) nearby. If the lambs found a gap in the fence, they would crawl under it. We also had a mischievous neighbor (children) who liked to open the gate occasionally. There were large dogs that lived down the road that delighted in chasing sheep and relished having lamb chops for dinner. The sheep were naïve and carefree; unable to detect danger.

They had plentiful water, grass, and feed to eat, but they seemed to never hesitate to wander off. One would hope since they followed each other out of the pasture, that upon returning home, they would follow suit. NOPE! It wasn’t easy getting them back into their pasture. They would go in separate directions; willfully-minded! Does that sound familiar?

“‘HASHEM said to the Satan, Where is it that you are coming from? “The Satan answered G–d, and said, “From wandering and walking about the earth.’” (Job 2:2)[2]

Like the dogs desired lamb chops, the Adversary prowls along…seeking someone to devour. When His sheep choose to follow their own agenda, we become easy prey for Satan (haSatan).

Sheep can become alarmed and separate rapidly. Imagine holding a dandelion in your hand, blowing it, and watching the seeds scatter in the wind. When frightened by sounds and sight, sheep scatter in like manner.

Sheep have excellent hearing and rely heavily on their eyesight. If one loses its way and gets stuck in a corner, all it sees is darkness. The poor sheep is unable to figure out that all it needs to do is back up and turn around. It could simply turn its face to the light to be out of darkness—freed from bondage. Sadly, if the shepherd doesn’t notice the trouble the sheep is in, it will remain in darkness, alone and depraved of sustenance, leading to death. Likewise, without turning our face to His light we will remain spiritually dead and starve to death. We need the guidance and protection of Hashem who brings our redemption. Will we turn toward His Light? Hashem’s Light is Truth (Emet).

What of the second group of sheep? The previous owner had neglected them. They continually went into other farmer’s fields searching for food. My husband and I took in this drove of sheep. They were the black-faced sheep called Suffolks. They were pregnant and in four to six weeks they would be ready for lambing. They were very scrawny and needed proper nutrition in order to deliver healthy live lambs.

We provided for their nutritional needs. We prepared with specialized paint, iodine, string, and a clean sheepfold so everything would be ready when the time came for the mommies to deliver. Of course, when the time arrived, it was almost midnight during a BLIZZARD! Thankfully, we had a spotlight set up from the house that shined light towards the corral and sheepfold. While my husband was at his place of employment, I was on watch. Sure enough they had begun to deliver—all at once! I was grateful for all preparations we had done. Sheep become anxious easily. Lambing can be challenging enough. The blizzard intensified their tensions. The stressed ewes would deliver their young, stand up, and walk off. The umbilical cord not yet cut, the lamb would be in tow—connected to the umbilical cord! Yes, I was a little apprehensive as well.

I had string, scissors, iodine, and special paints ready for action. Trying to keep a ewe immobile long enough to tie the strings, apply iodine, dab on some paint, and cut the umbilical cord was a bit like a well-choreographed musical. Sheep don’t always accept their offspring and it’s important to identify which lamb belongs to which ewe. The paint is used to mark the same alphabetic letter on the mommy and her lamb in the same color. The letter/paint system came in handy considering all thirteen- fourteen sheep delivered twins and triplets!

The ewes delivered their lambs wherever they were; on top of snow drifts or the muddy banks in their large pen! While some acknowledged their lambs, others were first-time moms and didn’t know what to do. I am happy to announce a good report that a shepherdess can be a midwife for her flock with multiple deliveries without assistance!

As a shepherdess, I was responsible for supplying their provisions, assisting with deliveries, guiding them to where they were supposed to be, and providing the opened doorway into a clean warm sheepfold. Their fresh food and water were readily available. I cannot recall the amount lambed-out, but it had to have been over thirty lambs. It had been a long, cold winter’s night.

One of the lambs wasn’t doing well. I took it inside our heated home to provide additional care (I had placed him on the bathroom floor and wrapped him in bath towels to keep him warm). Unfortunately, the poor lamb couldn’t retain its temperature. My heart broke when he died. I felt so helpless and wept at the loss of this little lamb in spite of the many survivors. Even though I lost one lamb during that horrible blizzard, others have voiced that it was remarkable to have lost only one lamb under those circumstances. It was heart-wrenching to have lost just that one. As a shepherdess, wrapping the lamb in towels reminds me of when Hashem clothed Isaiah in His salvation and righteousness:

“I will rejoice intensely with HASHEM, my soul will exult with my G–d, for He has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness has He cloaked me, like a bridegroom who exalts [himself] with splendor, like a bride who bedecks herself with her jewelry.” (Isaiah 61:10)[3]

Hashem sees all and places His spotlight upon the Torah—Light. He has given us “Free Will” to choose “Life” or “Death.” Will we stay in Hashem’s sheepfold, close to the Master, follow His Ways, or will we choose to wander our way—away?

“[He is] like a shepherd who grazes his flock; who gathers the lambs in his arm, who carries them in his bosom, who guides the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)[4]

Here is another very interesting parallel for us to gleam from:

“‘Our teachers have said: Once, while Moses our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moses ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moses approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love—by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.’”(Shemot Rabbah 2:2)

As His sheep, we may not always do things correctly. We might stand dumbfounded in a dark corner, lie in the mud, or just walk around aimlessly before we begin to learn to follow Torah.

We need to turn our face away from the dark corners in our lives and look to G–d. He will guide our feet in His paths of righteousness. He guides and provides for us. He breathes Life! Hashem is Sovereign, and the Torah is our lamp and a light to our feet (Proverbs 6:23). Will we turn our faces toward Him? Will we come running to our Shepherd who prepares a table for us as written in Psalms 23? Will we trust in Hashem and in His promises?

It’s important to learn to ignore the many counterfeit voices calling out to us. Those other voices are an imitation, only seeming authentic. When we walk in His Ways, His Torah, we will become refined; discerning the difference and easily identify the truth.

Let’s do a comparison with Jeremiah 23:1-2 and Ezekiel 34:1-22 (read the entire context).

The Coming Messiah—the Righteous Branch:

 “Woe to the shepherds who lose and scatter My sheep of pasture!—the word of HASHEM. 2 Therefore, thus said HASHEM, G–d of Israel concerning the shepherds who tend My people: You have scattered My sheep and dispersed them, and you did not pay attention to them; behold, therefore, I visit upon you the wickedness of your deeds—the word of HASHEM. 3 And I shall gather together the remnant of My sheep from all the lands wherein I had dispersed them, and I shall bring them back to their cotes, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will establish shepherds for them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid nor be terrified nor suffer losses—the word of HASHEM.” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)[5]

Hashem has clearly sent a warning. The G–d of Israel has His hand upon Israel. He will gather His chosen ones (His sheep), the remnant, as well as the non-Jews who will be grafted into Israel—not the other way around. In other words, contrary to the false teachings of replacement theology, the Jews were NEVER removed from the Covenant that was given to them on Mount Sinai, or replaced, by G–d, our Creator!

 “My sheep wander on all the mountains and upon every high hill; My sheep have scattered upon the whole face of the earth, but no one seeks and no one searches. 7 Therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of HASHEM: 8 As I live—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM—[I swear] that because My sheep have become spoils, and my sheep have become food for every beast of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not seek out My sheep, for the shepherds tended themselves, but did not tend My flock— 9 therefore, shepherds, hear the words of HASHEM! 10 Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will seek out My flock from their hand, and I will cause them to cease herding sheep, and the shepherds will no longer tend themselves; thus I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, and they will no longer be food for them. 11 For thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am here, and I will seek out my sheep and I will tend them. 12 As a shepherd tends his flock on the day he is among his separated sheep, so I will tend to My sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of cloud and thick cloud. 13 I will remove them from the peoples and gather them from the lands and bring them to their soil, and I will tend them upon the mountains of Israel, in the streams and in all the land’s habitations. 14 I will shepherd them upon good pasture and their fold will be upon the heights of Israel’s mountains; there they will lie down in a good fold and graze upon fat pastures, on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:6-14)[6]

The days are drawing near when Hashem will gather His scattered “sheep” and will bring them home into the Land of Israel—The New Jerusalem for the Kingdom of G–d. Hashem will take vengeance on those who have brought harm to His Sheep, as well as on those who led His sheep astray with false doctrines. He will seek after His sheep to bring them Home into the Land of Good Pasture, Israel, protected by Hashem!

~The Restoration Of All Israel~

Israel is G–d’s flock. In His timing, Hashem will bring all of Israel back home to the Land of Israel completely restored. Those who have brought harshness and deep affliction upon the “Apple of His Eye,” causing scattering, assimilation, division, and unspeakable conduct such as the Holocaust, will not escape the Day of Judgment. No amount of evil will ever crush the Light of the Jewish people, for HASHEM’s Chosen ones carry the Light to the Nations!

 “They will no longer be spoils for the nations, and the beasts of the land will no longer devour them; they will dwell securely, and none will make [them] afraid. 29 I will establish for them a planting of renown, and they will no longer be decimated by famine in the land, and they will no longer bear the shame of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, HASHEM their G-d, am with them, and that they are MY people, the House of Israel—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM. 31 Now, you are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man; I am your G–d—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM” (Ezekiel 34: 28-31)[7]

 

Israel will be planted firmly in their land; forever under the protection of G–d. Nothing will come up against them with fear or harm.

“HASHEM will be the King over all the land; on that day HASHEM will be One and His Name will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9)[8]

We are called to “trust” G–d for His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The ways of man lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). Man’s ways of understanding leave out the Ruach (Spirit). When the Ruach is left out, the flesh leads; disregarding the Ruach. The Ruach is to lead (head), the Nefesh (flesh) is the feet (lowest on body). We are at dirt level when the Nefesh leads. We are called to trust the Will of G–d. When we trust in Hashem, we affirm our faith in Him.

As Hashem’s sheep, we will encounter many hardships during our journey in “our wilderness.” On our journey, though difficult, we will learn that Hashem does everything for our good. Learning to accept that, our Emunah is strengthened by trusting in Hashem’s promises.

“Emunah” is a Hebrew word which means having the faith that goes beyond belief. It’s the understanding that G–d is above us and much wiser—Sovereign. It’s the acceptance that throughout life, our trials and tribulations become lessons learned for our benefit.

“Bitachon” is a Hebrew word which means “Trust.” It’s a powerful sense of optimism and confidence built on Emunah. Bitachon gives us the confidence to accept the trials with the ability to move forward in life. Sometimes life brings many hardships, failures, loss of loved ones, tragedy and brokenness. Emunah is the ability to reach into our past without fear or anger, grasp it, and have the “Bitachon” knowing that we can stand up from our brokenness and take those difficult steps forward.

“Faith/Emunah” is when we accept the brokenness and difficulties in our life and truly see the validity in the lessons given for our benefit in order to grow in His righteousness (whether we understand its reasons or not) is spiritual maturity. Trusting G–d with all things is accepting, knowing, and believing that no matter what trials are given Hashem has our best interest in all things. G–d is Good!

For His Glory!

[1] Isaiah 53:6, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[2] Job 2:2, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[3] Isaiah 61:10, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[4] Isaiah 40:11, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[5] Jeremiah 23:1-3-4, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[6] Ezekiel 34: 6-13, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[7] Ezekiel 34: 28-31, The Stone Edition, Tanach

[8] Zechariah 14:9, The Stone Edition, Tanach

Categories: Musings & Blessings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rosh Hashanah

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Rosh Hashanah

As we venture into this amazing Holy Day, it is important to understand connections. Many believe that Elokim is our Creator, but so many people have missed the connections along the way; namely, knowing what Hashem’s festivals are. One might say, “I thought I was following the map, I saw the street signs, but I didn’t realize there was more to it, and I got lost along the way.”

Rosh Hashanah is the fifth holiday to be observed. There is also a connection of Rosh Hashannah to Creation. Let’s seek further:

Birds and Fish were created were created on Day Five. They swim/fly fiercely and rapidly, taking the seed out in the water/wind currents—carrying Emet (truth). The Hebrew letters were part of creation [Hebrew letters have a specific meaning for its function]; therefore, we must factor in the Hebrew letter five as “Hey.” Hey is to “Behold.”

There are (7) Spirits of G-d, (7) Days of Creation, (7) Festivals, (7) Candlesticks (Menorah- 7 branches).

  • The Spirit of Power (Ruach Gvurah—Mighty Warrior) alludes to the strength to carry out a task or commandment of Hashem.
    • Wind—Spirit—Ruach
    • Provision
    • Birds scatter seeds –taking the Torah out to the Nations.
    • TESHUVAH-RETURN means to have Repentance/ to turn back to G-d!
    • To mend ones way by making a change in our direction following Hashem’s way.
    • The seeds that fell under the tree on the third day will grow and provide a resting counsel for the birds that return from the scatterings and migrations of the fifth day.
    • The Ruach haKodesh- Set Apart.

There are (3) Themes which are in the fall months.
1. Remembrance
2. Hashem’s Sovereignty
3. Shofar

The call to remembrance -100 blast of the shofar.
There are (3) types of blasts: tekiah, shavarim, and teruah. The tekiah is one long blast signaling the alarm. The shavarim consists of three medium blasts of wailing, and the teruah consists of nine short blasts like broken sobs. The one hundredth blast in called the last trumpet.

Some of the reasons for the Trumpets blown:
• Proclaim Hashem as King on the anniversary of Creation! Yes, it’s an anniversary of creation—us!
• To announce the 10-days of Awe as a warning that Elokim will enforce His decrees.
• To remind us that we said we would listen and do all of Hashem’s Commandments at the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
• To remember that if we don’t change our ways, we are responsible for our own destruction.
• Cities will tremble, so will man.
• It reminds us that the shofar will be blown on the Day of Judgment. This is a self-check in asking ourselves, “Where are we in our walk? Are we really following the TORAH? Wake-up!!
• The shofar will be blown on the day of resurrection. Hashem is our victory.

Let’s get started:

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing the shofar, a holy convocation.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:                   

“Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.” (Leviticus 23:23-24)[1]

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar which holds a great significance. It is also the Sabbatical month—set apart. The number seven also represent spiritual completeness.

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations. You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded”. (Numbers 29:1)[2]

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day festival, and means “Head of the Year” and a Day of Blowing (shofar). This Hebrew calendar date is on Tishrei one which is mid-September to mid-October. These are the Holy days of Hahsem, and His spiritual covering for the Bride.

During the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, the “Ten Days of Awe” begins; ending on Yom Kippur. Yamin Norai’m is Hebrew for the Ten Days of Awe. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, the Orthodox Jewish men will go to Mikvah (ritual bath). During this time G-d opens His three books and decrees a person’s destiny that determines the life and death of that individual for the coming year. The three books are viewed during Rosh Hashanah and judgments are made on Yom Kippur. The Book of Life, the Book of Death, and the Book of Judgment are the three books our names can be recorded in. If an individual’s name is written in the Book of Death, true repentance (Teshuvah) can remove that name from Death to the Book of Life, according to the promises in scripture.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as “The Day of Remembrance.” It is the day the shofar is blown as a call to repentance. To become “Awakened!” (Leviticus 23:24) It’s a remembrance of the Sovereignty and Kingship of G-d, and the binding of Isaac. Although the Father can forgive at any time, during the Holy Days, Hashem is in the field; drawing closer to us. There are many scriptures that support these three books. G-d’s Book of Remembrance is found in Malachi 3:16.  A Daniel 7:10 state the judgment was set, and the book was opened. Hashem will have two thrones of judgment. One throne will be strict justice and the other of mercy. Exodus 32:32-33 reminds us of the conversation between Hashem and Moses when Hashem said, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will erase him from My book.”

Rosh Hashanah is the destiny (tsaddikim) for the righteous, and death (resha’im) for the wicked, according to rabbinical tradition. There will come a time when the books are sealed, and what we have done in life with our choices to repent, or not, determines our fate. There are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur called the “Ten Days of Repentance” also known as “Aseret Yemei.”

Day of Judgment is coming. The Books will be opened and where our names are recorded seals our fate. It’s never safe to assume “you’re in”

G-d is a G-d of mercy, but also of Justice. The Blowing of the shofar will be exciting and joyous for His Chosen Ones. Sound the shofar!!!

“‘Wash yourselves clean; Put your evil doings Away from My sight. Cease to do evil; Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow.  “Come, let us reach an understanding, —says the LORD. Be your sins like crimson, They can turn snow-white; Be they red as dyed wool, They can become like fleece.” If, then, you agree and give heed, You will eat the good things of the earth; But if you refuse and disobey, You will be devoured [by] the sword.— For it was the LORD who spoke.’”[3] (Isaiah 1:16-20)

Elul is the time when Hashem moves closer to us. Hashem is in the field—I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. (Song of Songs 6:3) This is the time to reevaluate ourselves, judge our choices in life, attitude, behaviors, intentions, and thoughts and seek repentance. Repentance is more than just saying we are sorry. The Hebrew word to repent is Teshuvah. It means to make a turnaround, to go back to G-d. We don’t want our names blotted out by our own choices to sin. This is a good time to ask others to forgive us of any offense and for those we have offended, to forgive freely. Our prayers on Rosh Hashanah convey a deeper understanding of Hashem’s existence, and it reminds us to appreciate His sovereignty. Our attitude is a reflection of our inner self. Everyone is accountable for their actions.

It’s essential to understand one of our greatest responsibilities is to value the life and needs of others. This is the time to draw near to Hashem in humbleness. Seek His divine will. We all have made mistakes and sinned. It’s important to remember not to allow the past mistakes to govern and determine our future. We, as human beings, have free will that determines who we are.

Rabbi Richman’s parashat Bereshit humbly reminds us:

“The world is created anew each day by G-d as an expression of G-d’s love for His creation. Live each day anew for each day comes but once and each day holds a world of potential never before fulfilled, just waiting for you, today, to make the most of G-d’s creation.”[4]

Do we give our free will to the Nefesh (self-desires), or do we place our Ruach above free will? Will we hear Hashem when He calls? Will our choices and behaviors honor or shame Hashem? G-d is known for His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy:

“‘The LORD came down in a cloud; He stood with him there, and proclaimed the name LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.’” (Exodus 34:5-7)[5]

Davening is a Yiddish word for Jewish prayers with a deeper meaning. Moses had a desire to “see” Hashem face-to-face, but Hashem revealed Himself to Moses in a cloud covering, according to Exodus 34:5, in a different way. Hashem revealed to Moses His perspective of how He sees us with mercy:

  1. The Lord—Hashem is merciful. He gives us opportunities to request forgiveness and try again.
  2. The Lord—Hashem is merciful for the one who went astray to come back.
  3. G-d (El)—His mercy is given even though His Name signifies power over nature as ruler of mankind.
  4. Rahum—Compassionate
  5. V’hanun—Gracious. G-d is gracious when we do not deserve it. He comforts those who are afflicted. Mercy.
  6. Ereh apayim—Slow to anger. Hashem gives us time to overcome our sins.
  7. V’rav hesed—Abundant in Kindness. He is kind to us when we are lacking in merits.
  8. V’emet—Truth. Hashem never breaks His covenant with us.
  9. Notzeir chesed la’alafim—Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations. Hashem remembers the deeds of the righteous.
  10. Nosei avon—Hashem forgives our inequity, contingent upon our repentance.
  11. Pesha—Hashem forgives willful sins, extended to those who willfully rebelled against Hashem. He gives us an opportunity to repent and teshuvah. A restoration.
  12. V’hata’ah—Forgiver of error. Hashem forgives unintentional sins,carelessness.
  13. V’nakeh—Who cleanses. The Father will forgive and cleanse those who are repentant and returns to Hashem. In His mercy and graciousness, He is merciful to forgive us.

Hashem will forgive those who truly have teshuvah and return to Him in humbleness. How many times do we misuse His mercy and grace like a drive-thru window and take His forgiveness lightly? We often take it for granted because He is extremely patient with us instead of allowing our sin to destroy ourselves as soon as we mess up. G-d IS merciful to forgive us!

We (Israel) are to be a Light to the Nations. We are to take the Torah and teach others about G-d’s Emet. May we draw near to Hashem, fall to our knees in repentance, be renewed in the Hashem and shout for joy for our KING! All praises and Glory to Hashem!

As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah there are three types of turning to be observed:

  • Turning to G-d (tefillah).
  • Turning to those we have offended and humble ourselves(teshuvah).
  • Turning to those in need by love offerings, physically helping;setting our own needs aside: poor, widow, orphan, etc. (tzedakah)

How to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah:

  • Teshuvah—Return to the Father. Repent and ask others for forgiveness. Hashem is in the Field! Restore the relationship with Hashem and others (if possible).
  • Be humble.
  • Blow the Shofar on both mornings! This is a memorial to proclaim Rosh Hashanah! Because He is in the field, and we anticipate the coming of the Messiah. It reminds us that Hashem provided a Ram in place of Isaac in the thorny thicket.

Don’t blow the shofar if it’s on Shabbat.

  • High Holy Sabbath. Do not do any ordinary work.
  • Holy Convocation. Gather with like kind and like mind on this special day to celebrate.
  • Tashlich ceremony—a beautiful tradition for family to go out to a body of moving water such as a stream or river and toss in bread crumbs, or tiny rocks, if it’s not on the Sabbath. This is done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. This reminds us of G-d’s forgiveness by casting our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
  • Rosh Hashanah Seder plate, dinners, and blessings
  • Lighting candles each evening. The candles are lit by the women and girls. The candles are lit eighteen minutes before sunset on the first night, and after sunset on the second night.

 

And the LORD will manifest Himself to them, And His arrows shall flash like lightning; My Lord G-D shall sound the ram’s horn And advance in a stormy tempest.” (Zechariah 9:14)[6]

It is a time when Israel remembers the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and they have self-reflection, repent, and call out to our Father Who is our Redeemer and Shield. During this time, Hashem draws nearer to listen to His Chosen children, and gathers them to the Promised Land– rejoicing.

Like a mother coming quickly to the cry of her baby, our Father Hashem will return:

Like a woman with child Approaching childbirth, Writhing and screaming in her pangs, So are we become because of You, O LORD.” (Isaiah 26:17)[7]

Remembering the promise Hashem made to Abraham, G-d will carefully gather His people back to Him on the great blowing of the shofar. The “Book of Deeds” is not necessarily deeds that we have gone off to do. The deeds are Hashem’s deeds on what our Father has already told us to do in the Tanach. Are we walking in the Torah? Don’t wait until later to seek the Father. We are never promised tomorrow. We all have been given a number of days. We are to use each day given wisely—bringing Heaven down to earth.

As our Father draws nearer to us, that is when we need to draw nearer to Hashem, just like Moses did. We should not hide when the Father draws near us like Adam and Chavah did in the Garden.

May we come to Hashem with a contrite heart that desires to please Hashem.

Shalom!

 

 

 

[1] Leviticus 23:23-24, Sefaria

[2] Numbers 29:1, Sefaria

[3] Isaiah 1:16-20, Sefaria

[4] templeinstitute.org/events.htm/feed/rosh_hashana-store/beged/archive/red_heifer/

red_heifer/red-heifer-fact-and-fiction.htm

[5] Exodus 34:5-7, Sefaria

[6] Zechariah 9:14, Sefaria

[7] Isaiah 26:17, Sefaria

Categories: Jewish Festivals | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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