When the sun sets this evening, September 13 2015, it marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The Celebration takes place from sundown today until September 15, where our Jewish friends will mark nearly 5775 years in existence. Every time I meet with my Jewish friends, I make a special point to acknowledge the longevity of their culture, their heritage, and their faith.
Just think about how much historical fortitude it takes to continue on being a people in the face of adversity. Nations come and go, but Jewish culture has been a standard of civilization for nearly six thousand years. So on this day, to all my Jewish Friends, I wish you all a very Happy Rosh Hashanah.
When most people think about the New Year Celebration, images of balloon drops, fancy parties, and fireworks fill the imagination. But underneath the Jewish celebration is a sentiment of judgement. Rosh Hashanah is mentioned in the Jewish text “Mishnah” as the day of judgement when God will open the book of life and begin deciding who will live and who will die.
The hidden meaning behind Rosh Hashanah is that at the head of every Jewish year, ( or the beginning of the next) there’s an accounting for what has happened in the lives of humans on earth. Almighty God will hold this time of Yamim Noraim “the days of awe” as a time where humanity will come to know His true will.
And when I think about the past year, I’m humbled to think of all God has to judge. It’s clearly evident the world has decided to move away from His commands. Murder, Adultery, Arrogance, Malice, Lewdness, and Envy are on the lips of so many around the world. And what do we do about it?
We write on social media.
But it’s still a part of us.
It’s still a common thread in our existence.
We still keep on in the evil brooding inside our hearts.
And let’s be honest: It’s easy to live under a banner where you believe God is on your side, and he would obviously agree with the systems of government, the cultural norms, and the ways you’ve decided the world should spin. And so, we create counter cultures (Christians), fear mongers (Prophecy Groups), and pseudo-prophets who stand on the street corners of our culture and wag their judgmental fingers in the face of those who disagree with their view of God and the world all the while ignoring the systems that condone such behavior.
But it’s simple:
Religious groups will look at the world going to hell in a hand basket. They’ll call out to God and start imposing religious tradition on the people without giving any thought of their own arrogance and need for humility before God. It’s really not that hard.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote to the religious of the day:
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ (the Religious People ask)
(and God Answers)
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
Isaiah 58 3:-8
Now that’s a different way of looking at the world.
The Day of Atonement
But for those who will run away in fear of judgement, let’s not forget, in ten days we will see ushered in another major Jewish day called Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement whereby the sins of the past will be taken care of and atoned for.
So today, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, as the shofars are blown and the sweet candy eaten in homes all over the world; can we collectively begin to change the way we approach God? Can we stop focusing on the things of our own salvation, and begin looking toward the needs of the other?
Maybe it’s the man on the street corner in your neighborhood in need of food.
Maybe it’s the person in your life who is walking all Alone in the world in need of relationship.
Maybe it’s the country you live in, and your desire to see people free.
Maybe it’s the leadership of your nation.
Maybe it’s the vile wars that continue to take away the innocence of children.
Maybe it’s the disease of another who needs someone to walk with them through the end.
Whatever you think your fast would require of you before God, it’s time to change and remember…”This is the fast that I choose…”