Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Grace and Yom Kippur


Once Tish B’Av has passed and the month of Elul is inaugurated a Jew can’t help but feel the weighty awe and solemness of the season. To remember that Elul leads to the New Year (Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets) and that leads us to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the single most solemn day of the entire year; a day when even non-practicing Jews get Jewish. A day when the Levitical Priests of days gone by would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple and sprinkle the blood on the Ark of the Covenant, G-d’s Throne on Earth, to confess and make atonement for sin on behalf of all Israel. The time of the season when it is said that the Books in Heaven are open and G-d balances the Books and sets all the accounts and seals the events for the New Year, one can’t help but be in silent awe. One can’t help recoiling into oneself to take spiritual inventory of the year that has just gone by.

After the last apple is dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet start to the New Year is eaten and once everyone has been greeted with, “La Shannah Tova!”, and once the last blast of the Shofar has sounded one is left hearing the reverberating echo in the soul that acts as a supernatural alarm clock that shakes and wakes the soul from its summer slumber.

One begins to see the leaves on the trees begin to drain of color from a hearty, thick, rich, lush, green, to a pail sickly yellow, as if the trees are even in awe of the impending Judgment of Yom Kippur. One begins to truly understand the phrase, “turning over a new leaf”.

You see, during the month of Elul, we have 30 days to take an account of the entire year. To replay those security tapes in our brains, to try and recall if we have wronged anyone in anyway. To make a list of things we need to make right. To make a list of people we need to seek forgiveness from and make amends with. It is such a humbling and beautiful thing. 30 days to make sure everything is right between me and my fellow man. Then comes Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, the Feast of Trumpets, which on the one hand anticipates a great and fresh New Year, and on the other hand is a shaking to the core. For the shofar blast has announced the 10 Days of Awe; a time of getting nitty gritty, a time of getting down to business with the All Mighty G-d. Once you’re cleaned the slate with your fellow man one can channel every ounce of energy, focusing on their personal relationship with G-d and making things right between you and Him.

Once Yom Kippur arrives the Books in Heaven are closed and the unrepentant are blotted out and the repentant are sealed for a sweet new year, and those that straddle the fence has one last chance to repent.

Yom Kippur has been marked by a day of mourning, chest beating, fasting and confessing ones sins. It’s the saddest, most somber day on the Hebrew Calendar. But have you noticed that in the English language the word Atonement symbolizes the potential of that day? At-One-ment.  For this reason I have come to make it one of the most festive days of the year. For if I’ve truly spent Elul making things right between me and my neighbor, and if I’ve truly spent the 10 days of Awe making sure things are right between me and God, then even though I’m denying myself of food and other luxuries as the Scripture commands (Lev.23:27) I can be so busy thanking and praising God for His mercy, grace and forgiveness, that I won’t have to time to think of food, sex or other things I have been commanded to abstain from for that day. I won’t have to mope around mournfully because my business has already been taken care of. HalleluYah! Glory be to HaShem! I can look forward to a clean slate and a fresh start to the New Year. Now I can focus on the plans and dreams God has for me for Him!

This Elul, this Rosh Hashanah take care of business. Don’t treat Yom Kippur like April 15th and wait till the last minute and rush to get the paperwork done. This year don’t beat your chest and hang your head low on Yom Kippur. Instead, be ready ahead of time to wave your hands in the air and hold your head toward heaven in praise and thanks to God for His Goodness, His Loving-Kindness, His mercy that endures forever and are new every morning.

All too often I hear how Judaism is full of “legalism” and how there is no Grace until Yeshua came the first time. Nothing could be further from the Truth. Elul, the month preceding Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement is all about Grace. Traditionally Psalm 27 is recited in prayer everyday as well as Exodus 34:6-7

“And the YHWH passed by before him, and proclaimed, The YHWH, The YHWH El, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

This passage lists the 13 Attributes of God taught in Judaism. Let’s break the verses down and lets just see how much Grace there is in the so-called and misnomer-ed “Old Testament.”
1.    YHWH. This name denotes mercy. God is merciful even BEFORE a person sins, because He knows who will sin, how, when and why, He knows the evil lies dormant in every person.
2.    YHWH. God is merciful AFTER a person has sinned and has gone astray by not destroying them and giving them a space to repent.
3.    El. This name is about power. God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by His Name YHWH.
4.    Rachum. Compassionate; God eases the punishment of the guilty, and He does not put people into extreme temptation. Just like when a loving father spanks his child he does not use his full force as he could, but spanks hard enough to hurt, but not enough to damage.
5.    Ve-Chanun. And Gracious; even to those who are undeserving.
6.    Erech Apayim. God is slow to anger so that the sinner can reconsider and repent long before it is too late.
7.    Ve-Rav Chesed; …And Abundant in Loving-Kindness…; towards those who lack personal merits. Let’s say the scales are perfectly balance, it’s as if God purposely tips them toward the good.
8.    Ve-Emet. And Truth; God never goes back on His Word or Promises.
9.    Notzer Chesed La-Alafim. Preserver of Loving-Kindness for thousands of generations; The deeds of the righteous benefit their descendants way into the future.
10.Nose Avon. …Forgiver of Iniquity…; God forgives the one who is “torahless” which is what iniquity implies. HE forgives if they genuinely repent. Meaning doing a 180 and obeying Torah from then on out.
11.Va-Phesha …And Willful Sin…; Even those who break Torah on purpose are allowed to repent.
12.VeChataah …And Error; This is a sin committed out of carelessness and or apathy.
13.VeNake. And Who cleanses; God wipes away the sins of those who genuinely make teshuvah (repent).

What is the definition of sin anyway? I John 3:4 tells us:

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law (TORAH): for sin is the transgression of the law (TORAH).”

Now who said there was no Grace in the Law?

Kris Shoemaker - Yehudah ben Shomeyr