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Archive for June, 2011

 

“On the day of first fruits, when you present to the Lord an offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (Numbers 28:26).

My eyes open and focus on the sleeping alarm clock, 2:25 a.m. Actually, I think, I feel pretty good. Praise God, I am surprised that I can function at this hour. Choosing what to wear today, I decide my pink print top has black flowers and works with the black skirt. My new pink hat and scarf make me feel like a little Jewish lady getting ready for synagogue. David wears his white shirt and black pants complete with suspenders and kippa. Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to wear the white walking shoes I brought for slogging through Hezekiah’s tunnel and end up wearing most days. I cave to vanity and wear the cute black sandals. Anxiety sweeps through my spirit about going into the streets of Jerusalem at 3:00 a.m.

Fear keeps us from doing too many things, I reason with myself. 

I contemplate the long trudge down to the Sephardic Synagogues in the dark!Davidis ready. We step out of theGloriacourtyard. I look apprehensively down toJaffa Road. Surprisingly, I see people roaming to and fro. Mothers push baby strollers with toddlers following. Groups of women and girls walk alone. Couples stroll on well lit streets. Soldiers patrol. When we get down toJaffa Roadwe see many Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish men and women. A few people wear jeans. We see some women wearing pants. TheOldCitypulsates with Jewish activity. With no cars around, pedestrians fill the streets all the way to the synagogue. We see more soldiers. When we get to the synagogue, I become a problem. When we toured here earlier, I failed to check out how to get up to the women’s area. I did see their balcony above where the men meet. We peek into the glass door. Only men sit around a large table, studying. David says,”Let’s go in and ask.”

“I can’t go in there,” I step back into the shadows.

 David enters to discretely find how to get me upstairs. The rabbi teaches a lesson in Hebrew. By 3:30 a.m., some at the table have their heads down and others stretch their legs and drink coffee. David quietly whispers to a man standing nearest the door, asking how to get upstairs. The man doesn’t understand English or can’t hear. Next, David asks a young student who understands English, but has no idea how to get upstairs. He asks another man, who stops the lesson and asks the rabbi! David succeeds in disrupting the entire room. So much for being discrete! The rabbi tells David to go outside and up a flight of stairs. When we arrive around the corner we find a locked door.

A group of teenaged girls wait for their rabbi to lead them to their next synagogue tonight. The young girls talk and giggle. The mood feels light, in spite of, or maybe because of, the hour. We follow them to the Eliahu Hanaui Talmud Torah Congregation. The helpful rabbi tells us seating is “mixed,” meaning men and women can sit together. Anyway, that’s what I thought it meant. After sitting a few minutes, I understood that “mixed” means both sexes can sit on the same level. Fortunately, David and I sat near the middle of the room. David sits beside me on the women’s side, but only a few inches from the men. We quickly shed our jackets. The packed room is hot in spite of fans struggling to bring in the cool night air. My first time at a synagogue service, I have high expectations.

The speaker, Rabbi David Aaron, speaks about what it means to be Jewish and whole. Several times he says, “We are not God, we are one with God.” Yes, I agree. Then he says, “They say Yeshua was God, but He was not and He was not the Messiah.” Suddenly we feel alone and rejected along with our Messiah. Immediately I go into prayer mode. Even though John 4:22 proclaims “salvation is from the Jews,” we know most Jews don’t recognize Yeshua as their Messiah. We didn’t think it would come up tonight because tonight is about Moses and the Ten Commandments. I’m saddened for those sitting around me. These are God’s chosen people yet they don’t see His gift of salvation through Yeshua. It hurts me deeply because I love Him and I love them. God reminds me of two very important truths. Many times Yeshua stood in front of congregations in synagogues like this, and so did Paul and the disciples. I was once an enemy of God’s, but through Yeshua I’ve become reconciled to God. Again I remember the Scripture in Romans 11:26-29, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins. As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” My mood brightens and I feel encouraged as I remember God’s extraordinary plan for these faithful Jews.

David Aaron describes what the Messiah will be like – a man who embodies the goodness and fullness of God. Jesus did all that and much more, such as, miracles, and fulfilling prophecy. God Himself testified about Jesus at His baptism and, oh yes, He resurrected people from death, including Himself. There could be no clearer proof of God’s temporary blinding of the Jewish people than this back to back denial and statement of Messianic expectation.

Aaron mentions the Talmud, but surprisingly never mentions the laws of Moses (Ten Commandments). God’s gift of His Law constitutes the reason for this holiday. Aaron only refers to them as a passing reference to mitzvot, which sounds more like doing good deeds than obeying the 613 laws in the Torah. He hypes his own books and seminars on this holy night reserved for God’s Book. In closing, he spells his name for us, A-a-r-o-n. Apparently, among the stay up all night and study Torah crowd, he expects many would not be able to spell Aaron. It only proves that kings who conquer enemies are more popular than the original high priest, Moses’ brother, Aaron! He doesn’t spell David for the group, just Aaron.

He stands up after his presentation. David and I sit there, as the room gets noisy. People begin to mill around, visit, and take down chairs. A few minutes later we creep up to the empty loft and open David’s Bible. David confesses feeling the need to pray up here in the quiet. We take turns reading Psalms 119. As we take turns reading, the Lord restores us. Afterward, we feel ready to go to the Wall. We return to the streets, joining the crowds streaming to the Wall. Now everyone hurries. Dawn approaches. No need to rush, theKotelPlazacrowd arrived earlier. I head down the steps at full clip, not aware David has a difficult time keeping up because of his sore knee. He must take each step down with his good knee. Right now he stands in awe of the cabbage leaf cure! Little does he know I abandoned that gig early in the evening!

Staircases down to security flow with men, women, and children. I start pulling off my bag and camera for security check. Security waves us through. No time for inspections now. The plaza transforms into a sea of people mostly wearing black. David holds up his camera taking a few pictures of the crowd. A young Israeli girl, perhaps about twenty years old, starts yelling at him in Hebrew. I get the words, “Yom kodesh,” but not the rest. Yom is day. Kodesh is holy. Holy day. She shouts angrily, “Shavuot.” She says that Shavuot is a holy day. No pictures! David puts his camera away. Thousands gather here. The partitions dividing the men and women’s sides extend almost entirely across the plaza.

 As we talk, David realizes he stands in the women’s area! We back off until we join more men in the mix. The sun rises, incredibly changing the scene. The early glow of the sun reflects off ancient stones surrounding us. From shadows to light, the crowded Kotel teems with prayers and conversation. We find seats near the exit. We’re not supposed to sit here, but the guards don’t bother us. They shoo other people away from the precious sitting space. For the next half hour we soak it all in. We wait for a shofar to blow or for people to break out in song and dance. None of that happens. People begin exiting like fans leaving a football game early. We join the crowd walking toward Jaffa Gate. The path back begins with the longest steepest hill yet. My cute black shoes drag up the hill. The tide has turned as people stream out of the city and home for breakfast. What an unforgettable morning!

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