Posts Tagged With: repentance

Chodesh Elul 2018

This post is a little early for the upcoming month of Elul, but I have already transitioned my notes into an article. I look forward to hearing what Abba is telling you this year!

  • Month 6 (12thor last month on civil calendar)
  • Tribe: Gad, meaning “an invading troop”
  • Mazel: Betulah or Woman, the Virgin or Virgo
  • Sense: Action To act requires both thought and deed. It connects the head (thought/speech) to the arm/hand (fruit/deeds) and the feet (one’s walk).

Questions to ponder from last month, Av:

  1. Did you fight major spiritual warfare from Tammuz 17th– Av 9th?
  2. Were these battles particularly to prevent some type of destruction in a family, assembly, physical body, or physical house (all types of the Temple)?
  3. Did you experience a shift or release after the 9thof Av (Tisha B’Av)?
  4. Have you experienced some comfort from the Father (doesn’t mean that the test or trial is over) on or after the 15thof Av (Tu B’Av)?
  5. Were you tested in “hearing”? (See this post for clarity.)

Chodesh Elul

As the sixth month, expect to see parallels to day six of creation, and other implications of six. See my post on numbers, for more themes that relate to the number six.

Just as Friday, the sixth day, is the preparation day for the coming seventh day Shabbat, Elul, the sixth month, is the preparation for the seventh month, Tishrei. Not surprisingly, the sense for the month of Elul is action. One needs to act. And, one acts out what they really believe. Preparation certainly requires action in thought, word, and deed.

This is the month to prepare for the upcoming High Holy Days and Sukkot. While it is necessary to make physical arrangements to celebrate the fall festivals, the primary preparation is inward and spiritual, one of the heart.

The idea of organization and preparation correlates perfectly with the tribe of Elul: Gad. Gad was the seventh son born to Jacob. Seven is the letter zayin, which looks like a plowshare or a sword. Shabbat and other sevens are tools for harvest AND instruments of war. Gad means “an invading troop.” Compare the blessings of Jacob and Moses for this tribe:

Gen. 49:19 (TLV) Gad—attackers will attack him, but he will attack their heels.

Dt. 33:20-21 (TLV) For Gad he said, ‘Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad. Like a lion he crouches, and tears off an arm or even the crown of a head.  21 He chose the best for himself, for there a marked portion was reserved. He came with the heads of the people. He carried out Adonai’s justice and His judgments for Israel.’

Gad is tribe of war. 1 Chronicles 5:18 describes them as “men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow and were skillful in battle.” It requires great preparation and organization to amass a troop and train them for combat. Gadites know where to strike, because they have trained well. They attack the heel (lower nature/nephesh/appetites/ego), the arm (deeds/power/strength), and the head (the source, leader, authority). When David fled from King Saul, the mighty men of Gad joined him in the wilderness. 1 Chronicles 12:8 describes them this way:

From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the gazelles on the mountains. (NASB)

How does the month of teshuvah or repentance relate to this aspect of the tribe of Gad? Each day of this month, leading up to Yom Kippur is a training day. There is a battle, but it is not necessarily with an external enemy. The preparation of Elul is a time to search the depths of one’s heel (nephesh), arm (power- intentions and actions), and head (are you at the helm or is Elohim?).

Such great battle tactics might seem excessive for searching or judging one’s self, but in my experience (both personal and observing others) SELF is the last place most people desire to search, examine, and judge. It’s much easier to point the finger and blame others or one’s circumstances for bad behavior. This is the question that six (especially day six of creation) asks of us. Are you a beast or are you a man/woman made in the image of Elohim? In the sixth month, the same question is posited as one prepares for the High Holy Days.

Symbol of Gad

Last month (Av), we mourned the destruction of the Temple, the House of God. The second Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred among brothers.” The political climate in the U.S. is alarming. How people treat others in general is out of control. The golden rule has been left in the dust. It is time to consider what we say (or type) about other people, regardless of their actions or words. This isn’t a call to stick one’s head in the sand or to subvert justice; rather, it is a call to treat other people (even enemies) as those made in the image of Elohim. They are His shadow in the earth, even when they aren’t acting like it. We can speak of and to them with honor and respect, and do so without condoning a wicked behavior.

I’m working on a series about lashon hara, or proper speech. The mouth or tongue is an unruly member that can quickly send one on a spiral of chaos and destruction. With the tongue (or keyboard), we have become murderers, accusers of the brethren. During Elul, we have an opportunity to make amends with those we have offended before we reach the altar on Yom Kippur.

Mat. 5:21-24 (TLV) “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be subject to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna. 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Lamentations says, “Let us examine and test our ways, and let us return to Adonai.” (3:40 TLV) That is the heart of Elul. Self examination, deep introspection, and yes, judging one’s own heart, is the 40 step process during the days of teshuvah. I wonder if we can avoid looking at other’s sins for forty whole days while we clean our own house? This is true preparation for the seventh month, and also the “turn of the year[1]” on the civil calendar. It’s as if one is getting ready to enter a new time, a new realm, a new day… that’s because beginning with Rosh Hashanah (the Hidden Day), the head of the year[2], we are!

The Torah portions that fall during the month of Elul mirror this conclusion. They are Shoftim (Judges), Ki Tetze (When You Go Forth), Ki Tavo (When You Come In), and Nitzavim (Standing). Judges, when you go forth, when you come in, stand. These portions give disciples instruction for the Season of Teshuvah. (Collectively, this is Deuteronomy 16:18 – 30:20) The highlights from each section or portion[3], will inform a careful eye with the themes for the month Elul. These are things that you will battle with and walk through as you prepare for the fall feasts. Here is a sample:

  1. Adonai expects His people to set up righteous judges that will execute righteous judgement. The people are expected to obey their rulings.
  2. A prophet like unto Moses will arise, look for Him, but also beware of false prophets.
  3. Laws for cities of refuge and the accidental man slayer. (More on this below.)
  4. How to deal with false witnesses.
  5. Rules of warfare, mind the fruit trees (people), and respect the female captives.
  6. Laws concerning sexual immorality, and falsely accusing one’s virgin bride.
  7. Laws concerning divorce and levirate marriage.
  8. Offering firstfruits and tithes.
  9. Mount Ebal – curses and blessings.
  10. Covenant renewed at Moab.
  11. Repentance & Forgiveness
  12. Choice of Life or Death.

These portions cover a lot of territory, but if you look closely, they are a microcosm of our journey! The cities of refuge jumped out this year in relation to Elul. Three cities are to be in the Land He is giving them to possess and three more when He expands their territory for a total of six. Elul is the sixth month. In Chassidic teachings, Elul is the city of refuge in the yearly cycle. The thinking behind this is that we are ALL guilty of being a “man-slayer.” (Didn’t Yeshua say as much in Matthew 5:43-48? See also Proverbs 18:21) Whether we realize it or not, we have killed ourselves and others… with words. (Action)

It is in this season, a space in time if you will, that we contemplate past thoughts, words, and deeds, and rectify wrong doing through heartfelt repentance. In this safe place (in time), a city of refuge, one can truly get to know what is in their heart– the good, the bad, and the ugly. In tradition, the King is said to be in the field during Elul. This implies that He is approachable and near, not as a harsh judge on the throne, but as a loving and compassionate Father ready to receive His prodigal child. Thus, Elul is also called the month of mercy and the month of forgiveness.

What to Expect in Elul

There is warfare in Elul, but it should be with your own heart. Outside enemies (spirits) will seek to distract or divert one’s attention away from self-examination. This will be especially true on “social media.” Every year at this season, hot debates pop up with people making strong judgments (shoftim) about the “correct” calendar, the names, proper observance, fasting or not fasting on Yom Kippur, and more. Whether or not the intention is to flare up flesh and emotions, the result is the same. Be a Gadite! Don’t fall for it! The focus of these issues is NOT one’s heart and repentance or making amends between brothers. It is a deception. Reread the highlights of the Torah portions. The chaos will fall into one of those categories, and the portion teaches you how to deal with it.

In reality, the many outside distractions are a flimsy fig leave trying to cover the thing we all hate to deal with – self. The root problem is the same issue the first Adam had: Fear. Hearing the voice of Adonai walking in the garden strikes fear in the heart of those that know they are naked before Him. Don’t listen to the voice of fear.

Is. 54:4-5 (NASB) “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5 “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.

It’s the season to exchange the fig leave with a new garment provided by Adonai. Let the Holy Spirit do the work of refining, even with fire.

2 Cor. 5:1-5, 10 (NASB) For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge… 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Who doesn’t want to be washed and renewed to don fine white linen garments, like a virgin bride? Perhaps, this is why Adonai placed the betulah or virgin as the mazel to appear in the heavens at this season. The Bride makes herself ready (preparation) before the coming scales of justice in Tishrei (Libra).

In the Torah portions this month, there is a warning to those that falsely accuse a virgin bride. She has a cloth garment with the evidence of blood that proves she is innocent. Beloved, if you are Messiah’s, so do you. BUT, so is your believing/faithful neighbor, even if you disagree on certain points of halachah. Be careful with your accusations. It is the duty of the Ruach HaKodesh to bring each to the place of groaning as He refines one as heavenly gold. No one gets to escape His process of sanctification, which is the point of the festivals. Have compassion for one another as we travail together.

Virgin daughters of Zion, your King is Coming to you! May your righteous acts, the sense for the month of Elul, be bright and clean fine linen at His return at the fall feasts!

Rev. 19:6-9 (NASB) Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”

For more on Elul:

Elul

The Vinedresser, the True Vine, and the Branches

A Woman Will Encompass (Eclipse) a Man

 


 

[1]How do we know that the turn or change of the year occurs in the fall? Ask Moses. He gives at least five witnesses (see 5thone in footnote 2):

Ex. 23:16 (KJV)  And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.

Ex. 34:22 (TLV) “You are to observe the Feast of Shavuot, which is the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, as well as the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

Dt. 14:28 (NASB)  “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. (Context of previous verses places this in the fall.)

Dt. 31:10-11 (NASB)  Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths,  11  when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.

[2]For those that take issue with the use of the Rabbinical idea of the Feast of Trumpets being dubbed Rosh Hashanah, please see the above footnote. Two of the quotes are from the book of Exodus, which also tells us:

Ex. 12:1-2 (KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Verse two doesn’t call Nisan or Aviv the “Head of the Year” or “Rosh Hashanah.” Instead, it calls Nisan the “Head of the Months” or “Rosh Chodeshim.” It shall be the first (rishon) month (chodesh) of the year (shana) to you. I know this irks the Greek, western mindset. I know this because it used to irk me too, lol. But Abba has broadened my understanding, especially with seeming paradoxes such as this. Regardless of your stance on this topic, it is perfectly acceptable in Hebraic thought and in Biblical interpretation to believe (like classic Judaism) that Adonai continued to mark the “year’s” turn or change in the fall, as Moses goes on to do in Exodus 23 and 34 and in Deuteronomy 14 and 31. One can believe this and yet still believe that He marked the head or start for the months in the spring. The four verses in footnote 1 and the Yovel (Jubliee –Lev. 25:8-11) beginning on Yom Kippur, all point to the change and renewal of the shanim (years) in the fall, or seventh month. The question isn’t which is it, spring or fall; rather the answer is yes – both! I love Hebrew thought! It’s so freeing! If this is struggle for you, I pray that your heart and mind are enlarged like Gad.

[3]I love the outline that First Fruits of Zion creates for the weekly Torah portions: https://torahportions.ffoz.org/torah-portions/. (If you use their outline, there is a mistake/typo with Nitzavim as of this writing. The outline listed is actually for the following portion, Vayelech.)

 

Categories: Moedim, new moon, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Woman Will Encompass (Eclipse) a Man

“Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—A woman will encompass a man.” (Jer. 31:21-22 NASB)

 Today, like many other Americans, I watched the moon eclipse the sun in a stunning show of light and darkness. Our special glasses enabled us to watch the sun mimic the moon’s monthly phases in a matter of hours– waxing and waning, or in this case, waning and then waxing.

In the hour leading up to the eclipse as the light decreased upon the land, we all felt strange — like we were in a dream. The air felt different and the temperature began to noticeably drop. There was an otherworldly stillness even in the wind.[1] Since we never experience the sun’s light in this fashion, I can understand why ancient people considered a total solar eclipse to be a bad omen. Creation itself was confused as birds went to roost and crickets began to chirp. Even the fast paced to and fro of traffic stilled as drivers parked to look up.

© Chris Rogers

When the eclipse reached totality, the spectacular imagery felt at once awesome and eerie. There is something at the core of earth beings that senses the “wrongness” of darkness when it should be light. The ethereal beauty that the natural eye absorbs seems contrary to the subliminal implications that this heavenly sign might suggest. The change in the atmosphere occurred on both a physical and spiritual level.

The masses that gathered across the nation to view this stellar event were in one accord – all looking up. I wonder how many heard the wordless speech of the heavens?

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Ps. 19:1-6 NKJV)

David compares the sun to a bridegroom coming out joyful and strong from his wedding canopy. Nothing is hid from his/its heat. Today, the heat was abated for a short while by the moon. In Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon, and stars, his mother Rachel is figured as the moon.[2] We could say that Rachel eclipsed Jacob or a woman encompassed a man. In this way, the moon is a picture of the bride. In Psalm 19, David continues by comparing the glory of the heavenly bodies to the Torah. Hopefully, we are ones that have His Law written on our hearts.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Ps. 19:7-17 NKJV)

I pray that all the many faces that turned upward to view God’s glorious handiwork will learn to detect their errors and their hidden faults as David mentioned. Only the perfect law of liberty can reveal such things. The eternal Gospel is always being proclaimed.[3] The Torah is a Light.[4] That flaming ball of fire in the sky has a message, perhaps more than one if you’re listening. Today, it’s brightness was decreased enough that one could look up and see what is normally hidden. What did you see?

Was it a warning or a marker? Yes, but I won’t take my speculations past David’s remarks. The heavens declare the glory of God. I certainly saw and felt it today. I even considered that the awesomeness was only an inkling of what was experienced at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai or the darkened sky at Messiah’s last breath or the one accord outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh in Acts 2 on Shavuot or what will be on the Day of the LORD. There is one thing we can and should all agree on – Abba is always pleading with us to RETURN. Repent. Do the works from the first.

“Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—A woman will encompass a man.” (Jer. 31:21-22 NASB)

The sky today was a road mark and a guidepost for those within its viewing range. Jeremiah 31 is a prophecy about the return of the exiles, the restoration of our captivity. We go back the same way we went out. Return to me says Abba, and He will show you a woman encompassing a man!

The renewed thing (chadash) or a woman encompassing a man is bridal, covenantal language. The woman encircles her groom seven times in the fullness of the Holy Spirit[5] to create a new House and to tear down any walls (like Jericho) that may remain between them. The woman surrounds the man with (spiritual) protection as the gatekeeper of their home.

© Chris Rogers

Like the moon, she is rarely the visible one in their union (echad), but there is one day that she is the star for all to see — her wedding day! Though it’s a modern custom in the U.S., I couldn’t help but to be googly eyed at the grandeur of the “diamond ring” effect of the eclipse as all the figurative meanings of the sun and moon as man and woman played in the back of my mind.

Abba desires a chaste bride, and what an adornment He has for her! So rather than doom and gloom, I’d like you to consider LIFE – abundant LIFE tonight as we embark on the new moon (month) of Elul after a stunning display in the heavens. Ani l’dodi v’dodi li. I am to my beloved and He is to me.[6] The Bridegroom and His bride. That’s what I saw in the sky today.

Though the Season of Teshuvah (repentance, return) starts tonight, it is not all weeping and wailing. YHWH told Rachel in the same Jeremiah passage:

Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. “There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory. (Jer. 31:16-17)

There is a hope for your future. Though we return weeping, carrying our bag of seed, we WILL shout for joy as we bring in sheaves.[7] Our tears for family, friends, and the nations have a purpose. Like the Shekinah and Rachel, we cry for the destruction of the House and the many many children that Abba longs to come “home.” He’s always waiting, always calling. Not one is beyond His reach. He labors greatly for each and every one of them.

In the eclipse today, I saw wonder, beauty, and a future. At its zenith, I looked at my husband and said, “A woman just encompassed a man and everyone was watching.” The moon is the light in the sky for those in darkness. As she made her way between the sun and earth today, many were confused and bewildered. I saw a glorious union, the House or tent of the two made into one flesh, a glimpse of what is to come. The daughter of Laban (levanah – moon), the moon to Jacob’s sun, was seen and heard today. Can you hear her calling? Do you listen to her cries? She’s pleading for you to come home. The reunion will be glorious. The whole world will stand still and look up. May we eclipse to reveal, not to conceal.

As you blow the shofar throughout Elul, sounding the alarm, remember that even in the midst of judgment the heart of YHWH is always on reconciliation. He is gracious and compassionate. Are we? He is slow to anger. Are you? He abounds in lovingkindness and is relenting of evil. Are His people? (Darkness, gloom, the sun and moon turning to darkness, the Bridegroom and the Bride, blowing the shofar… it’s all in Joel 2. Consider reading it this Elul.)

Don’t proclaim judgment and doom and gloom without also shouting for joy about forgiveness, love, grace, and compassion. The world needs a sign from the moon. As the reflector’s of Abba’s glorious Light and the stars/seeds of Abraham, we are the only light that a dark world can see. Are we occulting His Light or are we inviting them to the feast (wedding supper)?[8] Rachel refuses to be comforted. She pleads for each one. It is the season. Send out the invitations. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”

 


[1] “Solar eclipses don’t just turn the lights out – they also make the wind slow down and change direction.” —  http://earthsky.org/earth/solar-eclipses-have-an-effect-on-wind

[2] You could argue that the moon was Leah since she was alive and Rachel was dead at this point, but later it is Rachel that is portrayed as weeping for her children in Jeremiah 31. Besides, both were brides of Jacob and could signify the same thing in this article.

[3] And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Rev. 14:6-7)

[4] Is. 8:20

[5] The seven Spirits of God (Is. 11:2) are reflected even in the time duration of a total solar eclipse, with the maximum length being 7.5 minutes!  https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/how-long-does-longest-possible-total-solar-eclipse-last

[6] Elul is said to be an acronym of this phrase from Song of Songs 6:3.

[7] Psalm 126

[8] Occult in its verb form means to hide, conceal, cover over. It is synonymous with eclipse. One of the astronomical words for an eclipse is an occultation.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim, new moon, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Elul

(In 2013, Elul began on the evening of August 6th)

elulThe Season of Teshuvah                                          

 Elul is the 6th month on the biblical calendar; it precedes the 7th month of Tishrei that contains the yamim noraim, the Awesome Days, we often refer to as the High Holy Days. Elul typically begins in August or September on the Gregorian calendar. In the year 2011, the 1st of Elul begins on the evening of August 30th. In Hebraic tradition, Elul begins the process of preparing ourselves for the coming yamim noraim (High Holy Days). While the traditions associated with Elul are not specified in the Bible, each custom has been carefully drawn from scripture to assist us in spiritual preparation for the upcoming Holy Days. The Word of G-d clearly admonishes us to be prepared for our coming King[1]. Therefore, it can only profit us to use every tool at our disposal.

 Mat 3:2-3  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (3)  For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”

Elul is called “the month of repentance,” “the month of mercy,” and “the month of forgiveness.” It follows the two previous months of Tammuz and Av, traditionally the months of the two great sins of Israel, the sin of the golden calf and the sin of the spies.  There are exactly 40 days from Elul 1st until Yom HaKippurim (the Day of Atonement) in our yearly feast cycle. Tradition states that Moses’ first trip up to Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:18) was on Shavuot (Pentecost) at the giving of the Ten Commandments. 40 days later, he smashes the tablets in response to the sin of the golden calf and then returns back up the mountain for an additional 40 days (Dt. 9:18,25) to plead for the lives of the Israelites on account of their sin. Moses returns a third time (Ex. 34: 28) for 40 days up the mountain to receive the second set of tablets on the 1st of Elul, returning on the 10th of Tishri, which is also Yom Kippur.

During Moses’ third 40 day period on the mountain, he requested to see to see YHWH’s glory (Ex. 33:18-23). And mercifully, YHWH complied, but with the stipulation, “You cannot see my face”. It was during this encounter that YHWH proclaimed His divine characteristics unto Moses. (Ex. 34: 6-7). Our Jewish brothers have broken these into the 13 attributes listed below.

Ex. 34:6-7  Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;  (7)  who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

1. YHWH! –G-d is merciful even before a person sins. Even though He is aware that future evil lies dormant within him.
2. YHWH! –G-d is merciful even after the sinner has gone astray.

3. G-d (El)–a title that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that G-d’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.
4. Compassionate (rahum)—G-d is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty and does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.
5. Gracious (v’hanun)—G-d shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it; consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.
6. Slow to anger (ereh apayim)—G-d gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.
7. Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)—G-d is kind toward those who lack personal worth, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, G-d tips the scales of justice toward the good.
8. Truth (v’emet)—G-d never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.
9.  Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)—G-d remembers the deeds of the righteous for the benefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).
10. Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)—G-d forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.
11. Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)—G-d allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.
12. Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)—G-d forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy.
13. Who does NOT pardon (lo yenaḳeh )— This is considered a good quality, since through punishment man is moved to repentance, after which he is pardoned and pure. G-d is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent.

Since Moses was given the revelation of YHWH’s glorious traits during the month of Elul which precedes the Day of Judgment and Atonement, it has been customary to incorporate the reciting of the 13 attributes during Elul. It is said[2] that this is the month that “the King is in the field”, instead of His Royal Palace. Therefore, “everyone whosoever desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all.” Although G-d always watches over the world, and is always waiting for our “return,” He is more accessible during the 40-day period beginning with the start of Elul and culminating in the first ten days of the Month of Tishrei. Why? Because He is looking forward to the yearly appointments He has with us during the fall feasts. In order to come into His presence we must first turn (repent). He must be anxiously waiting to hear our voice; ready to forgive us and sweep us into His loving arms.

Hence, it is easy to see that the primary purpose and theme during these 40 days is teshuvah (repentance). We are sinners in need of redemption; we throw ourselves on the mercy of the gracious King and grab hold of His salvation (Yeshua). This way, when our yearly appointed time (moed) to meet our maker arrives, we have prepared ourselves for His coming. We submit ourselves before our King and right any wrongs to our fellowman and our Father. Both play dominate roles in Elul’s activities. Maybe you think that you have no need of repenting; you believe you have no sin. If so, I urge you to use this time to humble yourself, search your heart, and ask the Father to reveal any hidden sin in your life.

Customs

Blowing the Shofar

There are several customs that are designed to assist us in our humbling process and to lead us to teshuvah (repentance). In Jewish synagogues and transversely in Torah observant believer’s homes, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown and heard as a call to repentance throughout the forty days of repentance. The shofar confuses HaSatan (the enemy), the prince and power of the air. When we blow the shofar, we release into the air (the enemy’s kingdom) a likeness of the voice of Yah[3]. This causes the enemy to scatter and confuses his camp. Likewise, it causes the faithful to come to repentance, calls us to battle, calls us to assemble, and will one day call us to resurrection[4]!

Reading Psalm 27

It has become a tradition to read Psalm 27 every morning and evening throughout the forty days of repentance. At first glance it may not be obvious as to why this particular Psalm was chosen; however, upon a close inspection, the motive becomes most transparent. The following rather long quote comes from an article on MyJewishLearning.com. Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal has offered us a brilliant and contemplative explanation on Elul and Psalm 27. (Emphasis mine)

“… The first three verses increase numerically: two parallel phrases of five [Hebrew]words each, then six, then seven (that number hinting at completion). There follows the central word of the psalm, One. Facing all these threats, the psalmist feels the peace of unity, and throughout this first half the reader senses no doubt, no real threat.

How strange it is that the second half of the psalm depicts a world so totally opposite. Here we find a desperate search, a constant request, a pleading before the Holy One (“do not hide Your face … do not thrust [me] aside … do not forsake me, do not abandon me”). The author is abandoned by parents and surrounded by enemies. At the apex of this section, the psalmist cries out in agony, with a sentence he cannot finish, for it depicts the worst of all: “Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living ….”

Throughout the second half, the reader hears the echo of the central term: One. The psalmist cries out, demands, asks and pleads that his two worlds are one. I, the sufferer, depressed to the ultimate limits, am that same one who trusts, who is safe, who sits in the presence of the Lord.

Before we can approach repentance or the joy of the Holiday [fall feasts], we must honestly confront again our own faith and belief. Ever since our father Abraham, we have anticipated the rewards of God’s protection, but too often we have seen our trials and tribulations as challenges to our faith. The psalmist testifies once again that love of the Holy One is achieved, not by closing one’s eyes, but, even as with less significance loves, through effort, honesty, and open confrontation.

…The psalmist challenges us, for he did not hide from life’s troubles on one hand, and yet lives within a framework of faith on the other. Reciting this psalm demands that twice a day we struggle with ourselves and our faith, in expectation that we will arrive at the Days of Awe ready for repentance, ready to celebrate on the holiday with a full heart before the Lord…”

We can each find ourselves in David’s shoes and cry out this Psalm to our Maker. After meditating on these words day and night for forty days, one cannot help but find hope in our seemingly paradoxical human condition.

On the one hand, we trust YHWH with complete confidence in faith, but on the other hand we have another side at war with our faith. Our sin and/or the trials of life causes doubt to well up and threatens to overtake us. We cry out to Yah and plead that He hear our cry and never leave our side. In the end, we must realize that like David, we must take courage, look to, and wait upon YHWH. Aren’t these the very thoughts of the Apostle Paul?

Rom. 7:19-25  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  (20)  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (21)  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  (22)  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  (23)  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  (25)  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

This is what Elul and the forty days of repentance are all about. It is our preparation. Searching the depths of our own hearts and confronting the battle in our minds between our spirits and flesh, naturally brings us to repentance and thus prepared to boldly stand in our King’s presence at the moedim (appointed times/feasts).

Selichot Prayers

yomkippurAnother primary custom is to rise early and recite the Selichot, a series of penitential prayers and liturgy, up until Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets). Because YHWH showed favor to the children of Israel during this time (forgiving them of the sin of the golden calf) then, it is considered a favored time, and one in which our prayers are readily listened to and answered. We therefore say Selichot during this time, asking the Father for forgiveness and to find favor with us, so we can start the coming fall Holy Days in confidence.

The Selichot prayers are based on Moses’ 3rd trip up onto Mt. Sinai when YHWH revealed His primary characteristics, it has hints of Psalm 27, and tenderly refers to the Father as “Beloved” as in Song of Songs 6:3. We look to YHWH, for He is our salvation (Yeshua) and our Beloved. The following is a sample of the Selichot prayers.

May You forgive our iniquities and our errors and make us Your heritage. Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred; pardon us, our King, for we have willfully sinned; for You, my Adonai, are good and forgiving and abundantly kind to all who call upon You.

Let us lift our hearts with our hands to God in heaven. Let the groan of the prisoner come before You, as befits the greatness of Your power, release those condemned to die. To Yahweh our Elohim belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him.

As a Father has mercy on his children, so YHWH, may You have mercy on us. Salvation (Yeshua) is YHWH’s, upon Your people is Your blessing. Selah. YHWH, Master of Legions, is with us, a stronghold for us is the God of Jacob, Selah. Yahweh, Master of Legions, praiseworthy is the person who trusts in You. YHWH, save (Yeshua)! May the King answer us on the day that we call.

O Elohim, You are known in Israel to be great. You are YHWH, our Father are You. Whenever we call upon You, draw us close; You are exalted and uplifted among us. You have done us favors despite our guilt, not because of our righteousness and the uprightness of our heart. Our Beloved, though we have been forsaken, redeem us for we are servants. Our sins have brought us to the point of disintegration; our soul is impatiently awaiting You. Where are Your earlier kindnesses with us—that were faithful forever and ever? We have borne anger and our strength has ebbed— O Elohim, do not rebuke us in Your anger.

Forgive, though our sins testify against us; help us, for we depend on You. Bend our stiff neck to be subservient to You, so that we can serve and honor You with love and reverence. Those who think of You have sanctified designated fasts, their awareness is too limited to request their needs. May their whispered prayer come to You, heal every person’s wound and pain. The voice of Jacob moans from Your depths, may You hear in heaven the abode of Your dwelling.

We have become guilty; we have betrayed; we have robbed; we have spoken slander; we have caused perversion; we have caused wickedness; we have sinned willfully; we have extorted; we have accused falsely; we have given evil counsel; we have been deceitful; we have scorned; we have rebelled; we have provoked; we have turned away; we have been perverse; we have acted wantonly; we have persecuted; we have been obstinate; we have been wicked; we have corrupted; we have been abominable; we have strayed; You have let us go astray.

We have turned from Your commandments and from Your good laws but to no avail. Yet You are righteous in all that has come upon us, for You have acted truthfully while we have caused wickedness. Inspire our heart to abandon the path of evil and hasten salvation (Yeshua) for us, as it is written by Your prophet: May the wicked one abandon his way and the vicious man his thoughts; may he return to Yahweh and He will show him mercy, and to our God, for He is abundantly forgiving.

Answer us, YHWH, answer us; answer us, our Elohim, answer us, our Father, answer us, our Creator, answer us; answer us, our Redeemer, answer us; answer us, You who searches us out, answer us; answer us, the faithful God, answer us; answer us… The merciful One Who answers the poor, may He answer us. The Merciful One who answers the brokenhearted, may He answer us. The Merciful One who answers the humble of spirit, may He answer us. O Merciful One, answer us. O merciful One, pity. O Merciful One, redeem. O merciful One, deliver. O Merciful One, have mercy on us—now, swiftly and soon.

While these prayers are an excerpt from a Sephardi siddur, and they don’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah, it is obvious to me that they know YHWH is the only Savior[5] and that there is no sacrifice in the sacrificial system for willful sin. Willful sin requires us to throw ourselves on the mercies of G-d. We can only find hope in His precious grace. This concept isn’t “new” to the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), it is a truth that runs from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, may we also seek the Father on behalf of our Jewish brethren in this season to see YHWH’s salvation (Yeshua).

These prayers are very lengthy (as what is offered here is a small tidbit) and cover more areas of repentance than any one of us could recall in one sitting. How many believers do you know that diligently seek the Father with such devotion and detail on a regular basis[6]? These prayers aren’t “vain repetition” as some falsely accuse. Rather they are designed to aid us, to keep us focused, to keep our minds from wandering, to help us remember, and to help us repent.

We must not forget that YHWH is King and deserves reverence and respect. Many would go through extensive preparation to meet the president of the United States; learning proper ways to greet him, practicing proper etiquette in all areas of speech, dress, and manners. They would rearrange their schedules and obligations in order to have such an honored meeting.  How much more should we prepare to meet the King of Kings! The selichot prayers are one tool to help us in our endeavor.

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine     

elul-3The four letters of the name Elul are an acronym for the initial letters of the phrase in the Song of Songs (6:3): “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” “I am to my beloved” in repentance and complete desire to return to YHWH. “And my beloved is to me” with the Divine expression of grace found in His forgiveness.

Ani l’dodi v’dodi li (I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine), is a common phrase on wedding bands and other religious articles. If we are YHWH’s, then we are His bride. He desires an intimate relationship with us; one as familiar as a man and wife. When we sin, we are breaking our wedding vows (covenant) to our husband. The penalty should be death, but our husband is merciful, praise YHWH!

He bore our punishment for us on the tree. This is the most merciful act in the history of the world! We would be hopeless without His sacrifice. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and offered Himself for us—-His Beloved! He didn’t do this to give us new wedding vows, but to renew the one’s we broke. His vows (commandments) were perfect the first time around. The problem wasn’t with the vows, but with us—-our hearts. He promises to give us new hearts; hearts with the vows (Torah) written upon them.[7]

As we seek Him during the days of Elul, may we never forget that He is our King and we shall treat Him as such—-with great fear and reverence, but He is also our Husband, our kinsmen Redeemer, and our Savior. He loves us fervently and desires us to return (repent) to Him and spend eternity in His arms.

Ideas for Celebrating the Forty Days of Repentance

  1. Blow the shofar daily, or at least hear a recording of the shofar blast online.
  2. Read Ps. 27 every morning and every night.
  3. Set aside fast days once or twice a week (not on Shabbat) if you are physically able
  4. Pray and seek the Father for repentance. Ask Him to reveal hidden sin, sins against Him and our brothers/sisters. Make amends with the people we may have intentional or unintentional offended
  5. If you have an orthodox siddur, find the selichot prayers (sometimes transliterated as selichos) and read through them in your prayer time or use the small excerpt in this writing as a guide for your own free-will prayer. It may be helpful to write your prayers to keep your focus on YHWH

[1] Is. 57:14-15;Mt. 25; and countless other places in the scripture

[2] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

[3] Num. 10:9;  Judges 7: 21-22; Joshua 6:20; 2 Sam. 6: 15; Neh. 4:20; Ezek. 33: 3-6; Eph. 2:2; Rev. 1:10, 4:1

[4] 1 Thes. 4:16

[5] Is. 43:11

[6] These prayers are also used for days of fasting, which many Jews and Torah keepers do often, even weekly.

[7] Jer. 31:31-33; Hebrews 8: 8-12

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