Blog 32--We Remember--"A Simple Reaching Out" Lev 19 -23
February 1, 2021, 8:21 AM

Day 32 (oh no—now we can’t just look at the calendar to see what day we’re on!!! Stick with it!!)  Leviticus 19-23

What I see: everything in Leviticus so far has to do with a person’s, and a community’s, relationship with God. Anything that gets in the way of that—improper offerings, sexual improprieties of all sorts, dabbling in witchcraft, worship of any other god, disordered power relationships between slaves and owners that take advantage of slaves, child sacrifice (Molech), and not caring for the poor—all these and more have to do with keeping God, Adonai, the one Lord, first in the life of the people of Israel. Everything else is a distraction or a turning away from the God who saved his people. God expects that his people will be dedicated to him alone, over all other relationships that they have. This is where we begin to understand the concept of a ‘jealous God’, but only because God wants what is best for his people. He wants them to be in good relationship with him and with each other. He wants them to prosper. He wants them to understand who he is, but it is difficult for any of us to grasp the full picture, full power, full importance of God: Lev 22: 31b “I am the LORD; I sanctify you, I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

Our relationship with God is reflected in our lives and in our daily relationships. How do we treat others around us? (I always say ‘we’ but please know that I am mostly asking myself these questions!!) What gets in the way today, besides EVERYTHING?? I’m serious. Some days I feel as though I am swimming my way through an ocean of distractions, against the tide, in order to find my way back to God.

But today I want to give a brief overview of the 7 Festivals for the Israelites required by God, and still practiced by Jews today. (Remember that these festivals would have been celebrated by Jesus and his family, and many of them figure prominently in his life, death and resurrection, especially the Passover.)

The word that God uses when he tells his people to institute these days of remembrance is, in Hebrew, moadim, or moad. This means “appointed time” or perhaps to understand better: “appointment”. God wants to meet with his people, to have them set aside sacred time. Sabbath is the only weekly festival; the other seven are annual festivals.

  1. Sabbath (Shabbat)—weekly ‘festival’ of rest
  2. Passover (Pesach)—celebration of freedom from Egypt (Springtime—close to Easter)
  3. Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot)—This festival directly follows the Passover celebration and ties in with it by continuing to use only products without leaven, or yeast. At the Passover, the people were told that they needed to be in a hurry so they could not let their bread rise, but leaven also signifies the way sin works its way through our entire lives, as yeast causes and entire loaf of bread to rise.  (Same time as the Passover)
  4. First Fruits (Bikkurim)—a celebration of harvest that closely follows Passover and that offers God the very first cutting of wheat or grain. The people were to thank God first for what he had given them. The people were not allowed to eat of the harvest until they had given God the very first offering as an awareness of their dependence on him. (late March into April)
  5. The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)—50 days after the Passover, or Pentecost. This is another agricultural celebration that thanks God for his generosity, but it is also coupled with a commemoration of the Israelites “entering into a covenant or formal agreement between God and Israel at Mount Sinai. This is a joyous time, since it is the moment at which God and Israel entered into a figurative marriage with each other, the hopeful springtime of their relationship.” (late spring in May or June)
  6. The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah)—The Jewish New Year, characterized by the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. (September-October)
  7. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)—the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. Falling in the month of Tishrei (September or October in the Gregorian calendar), it marks the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (Follows Rosh HaShanah—late September-early October)
  8. The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth) + the Eighth Day (Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah)—the festival of booths and the eighth day celebration of the gift of Torah. The Eighth Day always falls the day after the week of Sukkoth, and is a more recent addition. In Leviticus, God only commanded the Festival of Booths. (Five days after Yom Kippur—late September-early October)

I want to add one short anecdote—I have been able to participate in the Festival of Booths and I love the symbolism of that week. Observant Jewish people build portable booths, often out of branches, leaves or other natural things, kind of like lean-to’s or tents, but the booths are purposely imperfect—there are spaces in the roof and it is not a completely enclosed space. While God instructs the people to live in the booths for a full seven days, for today’s Jews meals can be eaten in the space, and even if it rains, the rain comes in the booth (or sukkot), reminding people of the blessing that God has given them in the warmth and security of their homes. Jews can remember what it meant to be a traveling people, going from Egypt to Canaan, with the insecurity of moving house/tent whenever it was time to do so, and also helps people remember the gift of what they have now in a permanent home. The booths can be uncomfortable, especially for people in the Northeast, far away from the warmth of Israel, and yet it is one of the most joyous celebrations in the Jewish year, especially for children.

The booth also allows those inside to see the stars, the sky and the natural world, to feel the coolness of the weather, and to be more closely connected to the natural world. Once again—fewer distractions between God and God’s people!!

[Note: The Golub corporation (Price Chopper), who are practicing Jews, provide portable booths in their parking lots for Orthodox Hasidic Jews who are traveling during this festival. We do not have a booth in the Johnstown PC because the population of Jews is lower in this area, at least that’s why I think we don’t have one here!]

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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