APPLES AND HONEY…TRUMPETS AND ERITREA??…ROSH H’SHANA 5773
Sweet and savory smells fill the air…fresh bread and the sounds of shofarim (rams horns)… streets full of people, running, but not with the urgent stress of regular days…somehow…a bit more ‘at ease’. Inspite of the pressure of preparing large meals, there is a ‘sweetness’ in the air and a sweetness among the people. “Shana tova oo mevorachet!” (A good and blessed year to you!) “and to you too! May it be sweet and may all your prayers be answered.” The air is filled with the breath stopping sound of someone ‘practicing’ the blowing of the shofar, or perhaps trying out a new one outside of one of the many shops selling them right now. In the shuk, the season has changed. The stalls are laden with fresh dates and figs, almonds and honey, pomegranates and apples…today the green clementines (tangerines, mandarins depending upon where you are from) have made their early appearance, our first sign of the oncoming winter…What could be more of a tangible example of God’s faithfulness then the season following the season!
The words: Rosh h’shana literally means the head of the year, and it is celebrated as the ‘new year’ on the Jewish calendar. (this year is 5773) I don’t know WHY or when it became the new year as the command in the scripture is that PASSOVER was to be the first day of the year to us. I have yet to find the answer to that, but not very much is written about rosh h’shana. Levit. 23:23-25 says
“Then The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘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 trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to The Lord.”’”
This is repeated in Numbers 29:1 and is again referred to every time the orders of the holidays are explained in the scriptures. At sundown today people will gather, first at the synagogues to offer prayers, and then around heavily laden tables filled with joy and blessing. Everywhere we greet one another with apples and honey (often sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and perhaps almonds and raisins) and a blessing that their new year may be sweet. At the traditional meal, usually there is a fish served, or a fish head (“that you may be the head and not the tail” Deut 28:13 is the source of this tradition and the blessing spoken over the fish) or some ‘gefilte fish’- and Eastern European recipe, a great treat to those of us who love it and apparently really gross to those who don’t. Usually there is also meat and poultry, salads galore, a circular challa (3 twined bread) symbolizing the cycle of years, an abundance of fruits, couscous, and ofcourse deserts. There will be singing and blessing and it is a lovely evening…even with the threats hanging over the heads of the people right now. Our prayer as a body is that the people will LOOK UP and seek GOD Who can tabernacle over our heads IF there will be true repentance. He is faithful to His promises. The yearly cycle of reading comes to a close during these fall feasts, and the book of Deuteronomy has just ended. There, the blessing and the curse is spelled out; I find it a fearsome chapter- series of chapters, and I have been praying for the fear of GOD to fall upon the people and conviction of sin…a crying out for the TRUE ‘geula’ or ‘redemption’…THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD.
The 10 days following rosh h’shana are the ’10 days of awe’, the time of really seeking GOD as we approach Yom Kippur…the day of atonement. But…ofcourse the temple is no longer a place that people can go to to carry out the required order of sacrifice to ‘gain atonement’…because a new and living way has been made into the holy of holies…and they don’t know or see. This is an EXCELLENT time to pray that the seeking hearts will be met by The Lamb.
So what does all of this have to do with Eritrea?? An interesting thing happened! With the parting of our children, we are suddenly ‘A-L-O-N-E’. Thankfully, old (as in ‘long time’!) friends invited us for shabat dinner this past Friday…talk about being led of The Lord! They have (youngest among their other wonderful children) a son-who MUST be what Joshua was like- who is in the army. He was bringing home a new friend, someone whom he had met in his kehila (fellowship). This turned out to be ‘Daniel’ a 21 year old man from Eritrea. One time I wrote to you trying unsuccessfully, to explain the African refugee problem that we are having…it is just so very complex! Just to remind you, Israel is currently ‘home’ for some 100,000 illegal ‘refugees’ who have crossed the desert from Africa to come for a wide assortment of reasons. Some have come to escape war (the south Sudanese Christians for example), many have come seeking work, others for ideological reasons, still others escaping the law. For the only ethnically Jewish nation on earth…it has posed many questions. We learned so much from this wonderful young man Daniel as we sat around the table. Our host had a marvelous way of asking him to unfold his story. I was surprised to learn that his reason for coming was to escape the army, but I soon came to understand that he was part of what has been come to be known as ‘slave armies’ or armies that take young men and they are never released from ‘service’, for life or until they are too old to be of use. It is not like our army, where our young men and women serve 2-3 years, but this is ‘for life’; So Daniel, who is a mighty prayer warrior and strong Spirit filled Christian, traveled first (at age 16!) to Sudan, and from there to Ethiopia. Then his path turned to Israel, where his brother had preceded him. He told us of the Bedouin tribes- men in the desert, much like pirates…but these traffic in people: The take huge sums of money to guide them through the desert. I understood from him that at about half way, they stop, and more money is demanded of them. If they refuse to pay, or can’t pay, they are severely tortured…boiling water poured into them etc. He said that they are forced to call their parents (yes, cell phones are everywhere!) and beg for more money before they can be taken on. He said that many die during the trip (which he surprised me by saying that it only took 3 days). He said that he came for work and to see ‘the Holy Land’ which he had learned about, and learned to love, all of his life. He also wanted to see a ‘living Jew’, but MOST of all…he wanted to know if any Jews believed in Jesus, so he asked The Lord to lead him to a place where Jews worshiped Jesus…and that is where he met our friend’s son! He is a strong and healthy young man and has been given a visa for 4 months which he is confident that he will be able to renew, if The Lord wills. He has been working as a cleaning man in yeshivas (the religious schools where men live and study intensely) and he is a bold witness. Please pray for this young man to be truly led by The Lord ALL the way. After we ate, our gracious host asked him if he would like to call his parents and his face just lit up! A phone was handed to him and we enjoyed the joy on his face as he greeted his father and reassured him that he is well. Having not heard from our own younger daughter in some time, I can imagine the joy of the father’s heart to hear his son’s voice from a foreign land.
Not all of the African refugees are as Daniel however. Among them we have received many moslems, and some terrorists as well as criminals and aids patients. There is much drinking, drugs and prostitution among them. They come from Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Eretria, as well as other countries. Thankfully many volunteers work with them and also groups of believers. But it is a very complicated issue. I am so thankful for meeting Daniel, and for the family that so blessed us with an evening that lifted us, so soon after our new situation began.
A dear sister and prayer warrior stopped to greet me this past Friday morning as I arrived for early morning ifi prayer group. Soon the conversation turned to ‘the situation’ in connection with Iran and our other surrounding neighboring countries. ‘Some of what is being circulated among the believers in the nations has been really horrible’ she told me. Not knowing exactly what she was referring to, I agreed. I am often forwarded things from here, often from large, ‘glossy’ ministries, that seem to me so sensational that it embarrasses me. ‘What are you referring to?’ I asked her. ‘Is there something specific?’ She nodded, ‘Yes. A fairly large ministry sent out a real ‘scare-letter’! He ‘quoted’ some supposed sources and so I confronted him concerning this and asked if he had ACTUALLY SEEN AND HEARD THIS. ‘Well…no…not exactly, but someone SAID…’, was his answer. I was horrified! People will believe anything, but it is THE TRUTH that is so very important and sets us free.’ And…that got me thinking. I thought about all of the JUNK going out over the media, and I am sorry to say, even some ‘Christian media’…’opinions’ passing for ‘fact’…’distortions’ passing for ‘TRUTH’…and I realized what a RARE QUANTITY TRUTH IS. Everyone wants to know what is going to happen. Will there be w_r (leave the ‘a’ out with this word as it is automatically traced in emails) or not. God knows. Many others PRETEND to know. I know a wide assortment of ‘real men and women of God who hear from God’ and I feel that I can say with a certainty, that no one KNOWS. Is it possible? Oh yes. Is it ‘likely’…probably, in MY OPINION, but the day and the hour? I don’t know. Have I made provision? Yes, we have made some preparations and we have updated our gas masks. Will we rely on them and do we have a plan? When David was a boy and stepped forward to challenge Goliath, it was NOT in the power of his flesh, but in the power of The Lord. I do not know how it would go with my nation should these things come to pass. I read MANY things in scripture and I have laid them before The Lord. I am confident that He KNOWS and can and will lead me…but I also see my nation… and I weep with grief at the sight of things that so many do, and I do not know how God will choose to deal at this time. We are ‘prepared’ with some PRACTICAL things, but the issue is the heart. I want to encourage you that if you receive letters from here proclaiming that ‘everyone is in a panic’ or ‘everyone is stocking up and preparing’, take it to The Lord. Our world is ‘upside down’ as we arrive at the new year 5773…but it is ONLY GOD Who has kept is going up until now, and ONLY GOD can lead us through WHATEVER lies ahead!
May you and your loved ones be ‘found of Him in peace’ and may all of your prayers be answered! I wish you all a ‘SHANA TOVA OMEVOREKET’! שנה טובה ומבורכת
Lovingly, your sis here/
PERSONAL PRAYER REQUEST FOR OUR YOUNGER DAUGHTER. THE EYE IN WHICH SHE HAD THE CORNEA TRANSPLANT A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, HAS A RAGING INFECTION. SHE FINALLY RECEIVED ANTIBIOTIC CREAM, BUT IS ‘HOME’, ‘FRIENDLESS’ (ASIDE FROM HER HUSBAND WHO IS AT WORK…SHE IS NEW TO THE AREA) AND SHE IS AGAIN SINKING INTO A DANGEROUS STATE OF DEPRESSION. THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING HER IN PRAYER!