An Invitation to Stop
by Avi T., Congregational Leader, Tents of Mercy Congregation
Of all the symbols related to the biblical "High Holidays" - a stoplight is not traditionally among them. Apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, shofars and even fish are images which classically signify the season. Rosh Hashanah (the "head of the year") is the first of these fall holidays. Following it come the ten Days of Awe - days of preparation, prayer and self-evaluation leading up to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
These Days of Awe are like a red light. Imagine you are driving. You have a destination, maybe a meeting - and you are in a hurry. Suddenly a traffic light turns red, and you have to stopi. The red light does not "take into consideration" your destination or how soon you need to get there. The red light causes you to do three things:
1. to allow those on the intersecting road to pass through,
2. to stop and evaluate your journey, and
3. to "congregate" with other cars at the light and then leave the light in one flow.
None of us like to stop at a red light! Most of us sit at the light, annoyed that we even had to stop. But everyone agrees that in order for traffic to flow with few accidents, we need to stop at red lights. The High Holy Days are an invitation to stop, to consider where we are heading, who we are going with, how we are getting there and most of all, who is directing our journey. We pause and acknowledge the Director of our path and the Author of our life. This is a time when we look back to the starting point of creation and acknowledge the Beginner and the Finisher of our life's race.
Stop, Listen and Praise
"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of horns, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD'" (Leviticus 23:24-25)
The Shofar (ram's horn) is a silent object until we breathe into it. Then it receives a voice - the sound of a trumpet. In Genesis 2:7 God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him; and he became a living soul. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord - including shofars and humans.
At Tents of Mercy we have developed two Rosh Hashanah traditions. First of all we prepare ourselves to give to the needy in our city. This year we were blessed with groups from Maine and Texas who helped us prepare and distribute 600 baskets of holiday food items. Following these distributions it is endearing and deeply touching to see residents walking around town with our bags in which they received the holiday food. Our city is being marked with the heart and love of Yeshua for His people. Secondly, we gather as a network of congregations and blow the shofar in recognition of the Author of our life.
As the shofar sounds, heaven is opened. God in His mercy closes what is passed and opens a fresh page in the Book of Life. May He clear the path before you as you enter into the next stage of the journey!
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