Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Pillar of Fire

This short story is based on real events at one of our Sukkot gatherings. The Pillar of Fire was witnessed by 8 people. 🙂

One warm fall afternoon, in a small town in central Florida, two brothers eagerly awaited the setting of the sun. All their bags were packed, their tent was in order, and their mother had bought loads of groceries that she had neatly packed into coolers. She had even found kosher marshmallows for S’mores! Yes, they were going camping, but this wasn’t just any camping trip, they were going to celebrate the biblical festival of Sukkot. Some people call this the Feast of Tabernacles, Booths, or Ingathering.

“Tonight, we will sleep under the stars!” exclaimed the boy’s father.

Their mother replied, “Yes, tonight we will remember our forefather’s forty year journey in the wilderness.”

The family arrived at the campsite and were warmly greeted by other excited members of their congregation. Everyone was hastily preparing their tents. The men built a fire and the women set up an outdoor kitchen. The children played and decorated the communal sukkah. As the sun dropped lower and lower, the women gathered in the sukkah and lit the Shabbat candles to set the first day of Sukkot apart as holy. (Lev. 23:39)

The men began to sound their shofars. At last, Sukkot had arrived!

“Look, how bright and large the full moon is tonight!” shouted one of the boys.

“It’s as if I could touch it!” cried one of the girls.

Suddenly, the camp came alive with laughter, music, singing, and dancing! Everyone was praising the King of the Universe for His goodness and mercy. The air was filled with tempting smells of roasted meats and sweet chocolate treats.

“I love Sukkot!” shouted a small boy.

“Me too!” screamed another older boy. Somewhere, a little dog barked as if to give her agreement.

The camp gathered under the communal sukkah, built by the careful hands of each member. The walls and ceiling were fashioned out of palm branches. The members could look up and see the stars peaking through the green branches. Colored lights, fruits, and artwork of the children warmly decorated the structure. Everyone had a seat at the table where the Shabbat candles flickered in the darkness. Next to the candles lay the lulav and etrog for waving. The blessings were recited and one of the men began to wave the four plant species in each direction before YHWH as the bible commands us. (Lev. 23:40)

For seven days they celebrated Sukkot with great joy and excitement. The Torah was read so all could hear the words of YHWH. They learned that every year in the fall, the Israelites keep Sukkot to remember their ancestor’s many trials in the wilderness. Each year as they camp, they understand more and more about the God of Israel, their ancestors, and even themselves.

The boys began to grow sad that Sukkot was coming to a close. “Oh, if only there could be one more day!” cried the youngest boy.

“But, there is!” exclaimed his older brother. “You have forgotten about the eighth day. It is called Shemini Atzeret. It is the day that YHWH beckons us to tarry with Him one more day. It is another Shabbat for His people, and it is the best of all.” (Lev. 23:39)

When Shemini Atzeret arrived in the camp, the congregation read the final Torah portion of the year. It marked the end of the annual Torah cycle; however, it also marked the beginning of a new one. The boys learned that the end is the beginning and beginning is the end.

“Hooray!” shouted the young boy. “How awesome that our God knows us so well, He thought of everything. We get to celebrate Sukkot again and again every year until one day, He will come and dwell with us forever, and then every day will be like Sukkot!”

The men of the congregation rolled the Torah scroll back to Bereshit (Genesis), which is the beginning. Prayers and blessings were uttered reverently to King of Kings. Many people sang and danced with delight as they carried the Torah scroll in a circular procession to symbolize the cyclical nature of the festivals, Shabbats, new moons, and Jubilees. This was Simchat Torah, or the joy of Torah.

“YHWH knew that if we followed His appointed times, that we would see His great plan of redemption and eventual restoration of His people, Israel. Let us rejoice in our redemption, Yeshua our Messiah. And, let us look forward to the eighth day when the King of Kings will rule and reign from Jerusalem.” urged the congregational leader.

After the sun had set, the people in the camp began to break down their tents and pack up their belongings. Everyone was chattering about the next year’s Sukkot celebration. Where would they camp? No one was sure, but all agreed that they dreamed of Jerusalem.

The boys were given the task of taking the dried palm branches from the communal sukkah. They were to be burned in the controlled fire pit to prevent forest fires that are common in Florida.

“These palm branches are heavy and awkward.” moaned the youngest boy.

“We’re almost there.” His elder brother assured him.

As they threw the last of the branches onto the smoldering fire, something very strange began to happen. A mighty gust of wind rushed over the fire pit. The white billowing smoke began to curl around and around in a tornado like wind. Suddenly, flames from the fire were also licked into the ever growing whirlwind. The entire camp was lit up with a fiery tower of swirling wind and smoke. It rested right on top of the burning palm branches!

Some people gasped. Some just stood there with their bottom jaw dropped open. Others stood frozen. Would this fiery whirlwind turn and engulf them or their belongings?

“This is just like the children of Israel in the wilderness; God was a pillar of fire to them by night!” shouted a stunned father.

After a few minutes that seemed much longer, the pillar slowly dissipated. The camp was struck with awe. They had witnessed a column of fire just as their ancestors had in the wilderness so long ago.

On the drive home, the boys’ father explained that the pillar of fire still guides the camp. He assured them that the display that they had seen at the end of Simchat Torah would forever be a witness to them that God is alive and well in the camp.

That night as the two boy’s lay in their bed, they thanked YHWH for the gift that was forever etched on their hearts, Yeshua HaMashiach, their guiding pillar of fire.

Categories: Musings | 5 Comments

Hoshiana!

Save us!

Spiritual Imagery of the Lulav & Etrog

 

succotshake

In Jewish tradition, the 7th day of Sukkot is called the “Great Hoshana (Hosanna)” or Hoshana Rabbah. There is a special Hoshana service on this day with song and chanted prayers. In the hands of each worshiper are the branches from “goodly” trees as Leviticus 23 commands. These branches are waved and shook as worshipers move in a procession shouting, “Hoshi a na!” This heartfelt cry is translated as “Save us now!”

The arba minim (branches/4 species/ lulav and etrog) are directly associated with this cry and the service prayers. We can see this type of exclamation by the Psalmist in Psalm 118: 25-26:

(Hoshi’ana) Save
now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.

If we look carefully, we can see the relationship of the people waving palm branches[1] and crying “hosanna” when Yeshua rode into Jerusalem for Pesach (Passover). Although this custom was reserved for the season of Sukkot (Tabernacles), the people nonetheless were compelled to honor Yeshua in this manner.

The untrained eye may see the people’s reaction as disconnected; but, the real beauty of their demonstration is made clear in the simple recording of what Sukkot commemorates.[2] The fall moedim (feasts) look forward to the coronation of our Lord and King. Sukkot particularly portrays the culmination of our faith as it also looks back to the beginning of our redemption with the Pesach sacrifice. Yeshua IS the Lamb that was slain on our behalf and one day we will see Him crowned as our King! The following is the customary imagery attributed to the  arba minim. Examine each “species” carefully.

lulav

SPECIES TYPE IMAGERY
Etrog sweet taste & smell, (Citron- a citrus fruit that looks like a lemon) People who read Torah (the Word) and do good.
Lulav Sweet taste no smell (Date palm branches/ leaves) People who read Torah (the Word) but don’t do good.
Hadas no taste sweet smell (Myrtle branches/leaves) People who don’t read Torah (the Word) but do good.
ARaVah no taste or smell (Willow branches/leaves) People who don’t read Torah (the Word) or do good.

This seems to mirror the Parable of the Sower[3] and the four different types of soil or people. The Seed is the Word of God. The Sower is the Messiah. Therefore, the Sower and that which is sown are the same thing. Carefully examine the types of soil mentioned in this parable and compare them to the 4 species above.

Seed Type Imagery
1. Seeds fell by the roadside and birds ate the seed. Person doesn’t perceive the Word and the enemy steals anything that may have been sown in their heart. Aravah
2. Seeds fell on rocky places and they sprang up, but died due to lack of roots. Person receives Word with joy, but having no root (Yeshua, i.e.Life), affliction or persecution causes them to fall away. Hadas
3. Seeds fell among the thorns and the thorns choked the new seedlings. Person hears the Word, but the worries of the world or the deceitfulness of wealth chokes the Word, and it produces no fruit (no good deeds). Lulav
4. Seeds fell on good soil and produced 100, 60, and 30-fold. Person hears the Word, understands it and brings forth fruit (good deeds). Etrog

Clearly, the imagery of the Etrog (the fruit) and its Seed that fell on good soil are the “people” that we desire to be. We want to release a pleasing aroma, taste sweet in the mouth, and yield many more seeds that will produce the same fruit. That fruit and its beginning, the Seed, is Yeshua. When we are obedient to the Word, we are a living testimony of His goodness. If we’ve truly received the Seed, then we will naturally begin to produce the fruit!

2012-10-08 18.33.07

Joshua Aaron has a beautiful song called Hoshiana:


[1] Mt. 21, Mark 11, Jn. 12. Read in context, this was clearly the time of Pesach (Passover).

[2] Lev. 23:39-44

[3] Mt. 13, Mark 4, Lk. 8

Categories: Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Overcome by a Rainbow

rainbow and the throne

I can’t help myself. I have to explore the glorious rainbow a little further. I stumbled across a video on YouTube that left me speechless. The man’s reaction in the video is… contagious. His unbridled emotions upon seeing, or better yet, EXPERIENCING a double rainbow has moved me so deeply that I have to extend this topic. PLEASE take the time to watch this 3 minute video and ask yourself if you’ve ever been so completely overwhelmed by God’s creation. I think the only time I’ve ever came this close was with the birth of a child.

Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI

Did you notice his question? While overcome with the majesty of God’s bow, he kept repeating, “What does it mean?” This man realizes that this rainbow was placed in the heavens just for him. He is humbled and awed to TEARS. The wonderment he experiences overcomes him completely.

While I couldn’t see this double bow in all its vividness and glory due to the camera’s limitations, this man’s response was so passionate — so worshipful – that tears poured down my face as well. While my research has deeply affected my thoughts on rainbows, this man’s response will forever be etched into my soul.

We know what the rainbow “means”. It is the sign of YHWH’s covenant with us. It is a picture of God’s glory, His majesty, His essence. But perhaps even more striking is that it is the closest thing on earth to standing in His presence at His throne!

What will our response be when we stand in His presence? I think it will be similar to this man’s reaction to the rainbow — with one exception. Our response will be far more exuberant — wow. Even those that never knew the King of Glory in this life will buckle to the ground in awe and adoration. And they will be pierced through with what it all “means” and will also be screaming, “OH MY GOD!”

I’ll post more on the rainbow soon, but I couldn’t wait to share this little piece. Since this video has about 37 million views, you may have watched it in the past. I urge you to “see” it again and be moved by the enormity of love found in the covenant YHWH has made with us.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Musings | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Searchin for YOU

One of my favorite music artists, Matisyahu, put out a new album earlier this year called Spark Seeker. In it, there is a song called Searchin that I absolutely love. I know musical taste is subjective; and mine is all over the place. But this song has some profound things to say. Here is the main chorus:

I’ve been searching for you

I’ve been searching far and wide

I’ve been searching for you All my life, my life

It is obvious who he is “searchin” for — the King of the Universe! Then, in a mechanical type of voice, you hear the Bal Shem Tov’s words (read carefully):

In the earth there are so many wonderful treasures

And if you know where to dig you’ll find gold and diamonds and silver

And all kinds of treasures

But if you don’t know where to dig, all you’ll find is rock and dirt

A rebbe is the geologist of the soul

He can show you where to dig, and what to dig for

But the digging you must do yourself.

The digging you must do yourself.

There is MUCH wisdom in his words. A rebbe is a “teacher”; and as such, he/she points out what is holy and what is profane. But ultimately, it is us as individuals that must do the digging if we are to receive any benefit or treasure from the Word. Those that prefer to be spoon fed will find in the end that all they have is rocks and dirt. Even one gem or golden nugget is worth more than many buckets of dust.

A good teacher demonstrates to us how to search or mine out the many wondrous things in the Word for ourselves. They inspire us to dig deeper and search harder. It is in this process that the Word comes alive and changes our hearts and minds. I urge each of you to start digging even if your only tool is a spoon. If you work hard enough; even a small spoon can remove a large stumbling block or excavate a precious ruby.

The bottom line is desire. If we really believe something or really want something, it is within our nature to pursue with diligence. My hope is that we are striving for what is righteous and not the lusts of our flesh.

The digging you must do yourself. No one can do it for you.

Here is the song:

Categories: Musings | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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