I really should be packing. Or, I should be asleep. We have an early day tomorrow to get in some touring in northern Israel before checking in by mid-afternoon at the hotel for the Congress. But, I’m processing. This trip continues to just blow my mind and alter paradigms.
When we set out, we had a rough plan of places we wanted to take in, but intentionally avoided filling the schedule so much that we would be continually pressed for time. Our spoken desire was to just ‘be.’ We wanted to breath and take in the Land and let Abba give us a few Divine appointments. Well, we may not have seen physical rain during the Chag, but we certainly have been rained on spiritually, over and over, as Abba has watered abundantly our souls.
Earlier I wrote, Dayenu!! Today, was a double dose of the same outpouring.
On Friday, I dropped a WhatsApp to our host simply asking, “Is it possible for us to attend Simchat Torah here in the village on Monday?”
His immediate response was, “Yes offcors i will be” [sic]
He dropped by later to give us time to be ready and some light instruction.
About noon today, we were ready and he walked the ten of us down to the synagogue. We waited outside with many others as the men inside finished rearranging furniture for the day’s festivities. We were greeted with many warm smiles and a few hellos, though most locals do not speak much English. The several who could were very curious and asked many questions. In every conversation on this trip when the questions turn to why we do what we do, there is always amazement that we as non-Jews would obey Torah!
After the warm reception, the ladies were escorted in a side entrance and upstairs to the balcony while the men were taken into the main area (sanctuary?) of the synagogue. I expected a seat in the back, but rather, before we could even sit down, an older gentleman was draping a tallit around me and motioning for me to move to the middle of the room and grab one of the seven or eight Torah scrolls and walk it around the room with other men parading. Al and Tommy Wilson were also encouraged to join the procession.
It was a bit like a relay, without the race. One man would take a lap or two then hand the scroll to another waiting man who would do the same, etc. The scrolls never sat still during the hour and half service. Men with sons, young men, old men, everyone took a turn or three.
Prayers were being chanted from the raised platform in the middle of the sanctuary with many call and response type of prayers, but the whole event had a very festive tone to it. It was, after all, Simchat Torah. Joy in the Torah! It is the equivalent, and had the same dignity and exuberant excitement, of walking the Messiah around the room. To heighten the joy for the little ones, there were a few men occasionally throwing handfuls of candy which would send the kids scattering under seats and sliding down the aisles.
Most touching was watching the many fathers with small sons who wanted to participate. Each father patiently aided his sons in their efforts to carry the large scrolls. Much like our Father, the little ones did as much as they could out of love and desire, then their fathers made up the difference. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
As the early afternoon service wound up, it came time to put the scrolls back into the Ark. The gentleman seated in front of me stood and pulled off his tallit, handed it to me then pulled me to the scrolls. I donned the tallit and got it adjusted then picked up the scroll and walked it on the bema at the front to hand to the gentleman carefully setting all of these scrolls into the Ark. Dayenu!
As we walked back to the house we just looked at each other in amazement. Who are we?!? This community has completely embraced us.
We spent the balance of the afternoon lounging, napping and generally enjoying the High Sabbath with expectation for the evening. Tzemach, our host, invited us back for the evening outdoor event including live music, food and dancing. It was even more amazing than the morning.
Lights were strung up, seating, food and music were going. Many of the songs, though different tunes, had lyrics we knew from the Hebrew worship music we have been listening to. It was wonderful to be able to follow along.
Before things got into full swing, I asked Tzemach’s father if we could get a picture with him. He misunderstood and took me to a gentleman who could translate and explained we could take all the pictures we wanted. (In the morning we had been given permission by one person, but later, after a number of pictures, we were told not to take any…) I explained that I wanted a picture with him. He quickly went and got his wife so we could get a group photo. Later, he embraced me and, in local custom, kissed me on the cheek.
Two encounters were very interesting and instructive.
In one, Dorothy was talking with a lady who spoke pretty good English. The lady had many questions and Dorothy was explaining that we keep Shabbat, eat clean, keep the feasts, etc. The lady asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Yes,” Dorothy replied to which the lady said, “That is the only difference…” At that moment, something broke the conversation, but it was clear, she knew who we were/are and embraced us.
Later, a still more powerful encounter occurred. This moshav (village) has been without a Rabbi for a while. Well, after the festivities started, a visiting Rabbi from a nearby town was given the microphone to make some comments and encourage this part of his flock. I don’t think he had any idea we were there. He proceeded to talk about “Yosef” stating multiple times, clearly and emphatically, “Yosef chai l’galut!” (Joseph is alive in the diaspora!) You could have picked our jaws up from the floor!! Later, this Rabbi came and grabbed a couple of us and pulled us into the dance and then he returned near the end to shake all of our hands. He asked no questions.
As we walked home sharing stunned chatter, I intimated that there were numerous people in that crowd who knew exactly who we were and what we believe. They were very warm, but guarded in revealing too much that they knew or understood. Dorothy agreed with my assessment. We had been embraced!
My paradigm shift continues. Spending so much time up close and personal with so many of Judah, sitting in his sukkah, both here and in the Golan, I can tell you, we are kindred spirits and Abba is doing an amazing work removing barriers and drawing us together. I am more convinced than ever that we just need to ‘be’ and let Abba work out the details.
As I process this more, I’ll share more, but the best thing each reader can do is to book tickets and get over here to Israel and see for yourself. Don’t bring an agenda. Pray our Father teach you. Like me, you don’t know everything, and much you think you know needs surgery… This last ten days has been the most pleasant Spirit-filled surgery I have had in a long time!