Archive for September, 2010

Xag samei’ax

Resting on the ramparts . . .

Xag samei’ax or as we say in the United States, Happy Holidays! It’s Sukkot, the sixth day of the feast of Tabernacles (also known as the Feasts of Booths or Sukkot)! Oh, to be in Jerusalem for this celebration (maybe next year!). I can imagine what it looks like in Israel today. There are sukkahs (huts) on every balcony and in every courtyard. Families gather to share meals and to sleep under the stars at night. The sukkahs (huts) have special meaning. They symbolize the dwellings God decreed in Leviticus that the Hebrews should live in following their Exodus from Egypt. The sukkah can have three or four walls and some type of thatched roof you can see through. In Israel most use palm branches. This is the most joyous of all the feasts. It is a remembrance of the forty years the Israelites of wandered in the wilderness. Why is that joyous? Because God provided even after they had disappointed Him. His love is not based on our performance. His love endures forever.

In Leviticus 23: 40, it says: “On the first day you shall take the product of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Eternal your God for seven days.” Our pastor brought the Four Species (a palm branch, three myrtle boughs, two willow branches and the citron) used in our worship celebration. The palm branch, myrtle and willow bound together are referred to as the Lulav. The Four Species were waved by one of the congregation by holding the Lulav in the right hand and the citron (related to a lemon) in the left. The traditional blessing was said, while Tom pointed and shook the Lulav and cirton three times in each direction including upward and downward. Special blessings and waving of the Four Species in all six directions represents God’s dominion over all Creation.

This year we didn’t get our sukkah put together, but perhaps next year. This year we slept with our windows open to see the stars and watch them proclaim God’s glory. This feast is the longest of the feasts celebrated by Jews. It lasts eight days, the final day celebrates Simchat Torah (the joy of the Torah). I look forward to the celebration of God’s Word!

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The Western Wall

Western Wall

This morning I logged onto one of my bookmarked favorite sites: Live Western Wall Camera at Aish.com. It reminded me my visits to Jerusalem included trips to the Temple Mount. Each time is memorable and unique. The first time is always the most memorable and I talk about it in my book. It included some confusion about being in the Dome of the Rock when my friend, Jan Buntrock, and I were actually in the Al Aksa Mosque, so much for informed American tourists. Perhaps curiosity drew me the first time. The second time I walked over to the Western Wall from the Cardo a year later, surprised I easily remembered the way. It was different this time. I felt a need and an urgency to pray in that place in particular. What I had to say to God I wanted to say at the Wall.

On that day my greatest desire was to stand in front of the Western Wall to pray and to place notes in the Wall for my friends. Just standing before the Wall, feeling the presence of the Lord, and meditating on His grace gave glorious peace that day. I felt like I was home. I placed prayers in the Wall for friends and relatives who have no idea today their names are wedged in cracks in a Holy Wall half way around the world.

Why make a special trip to the Wall of the Temple Mount? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus loved Jerusalem. He longed to gather its inhabitants together under His wings of love and protection. God chose Jerusalem as the holy city in which He would reside in the Temple on the Temple Mount. Believers were expected to come here at least three times a year to celebrate feasts of the Lord. God wanted the people to join Him here. When I’m in Jerusalem I feel I am in His hometown. When I’m at the Wall or on the Temple Mount I feel like I’m at His front door. My prayers constitute my sacrifice as I lay my soul before Him. Because of the holiness of those moments, I like to use my prayer book so I can pray prayers of praise in Hebrew. Over the years I have prayed many different places and sometimes in desperate situations, but my worship times at the Wall are precious and deeply moving times with God.

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Temple Mount

In front of the sealed Hulda Gates

The picture shows David and me standing on the southern wall of the Temple Mount in front of the sealed Hulda Gates. Worshippers entered the Temple Mount through these gates in the time of Jesus. During the feasts hundreds of thousands of believers would walk through these gates. Imagine yourself holding your dove offering, surrounded by thousands with their offerings of doves and lambs, climbing the bedrock steps, trying to pass through those Hulda Gates onto the expanse of the Temple Mount. These bedrock steps touched the sandals of Jesus as He entered the Temple. The noise and confusion of swarms of humanity increase my own anticipation. Soon I stand in front of the altar presenting my small offering as an expression of gratitude to God for His provision. This is my act of obedience to my King.

I marvel that twenty centuries later our own footprints mingle with the past as David I stand on those very bedrock steps. As a twelve year old I remember reading a history book from my Dad’s bookcase, unfortunately I don’t remember the title of the book. I remember reading the commentary regarding the Temple Mount, in particular, the Dome of the Rock. I still see the black and white photo of the top of a large rock surrounded by a wooden fence inside a large round building. Try as I might I couldn’t figure out the importance of the rock.

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