- Thursday (the day after tomorrow) is the 24 hour fast of the 9th of Av on the Biblical calendar. It is the low point of the time between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, the darkness before the dawn. After this, there is a minor day for rejoicing - the Jewish version of valentine's day - on Av the 15th. Supposedly, this is a very good day for betrothals and matchmaking in general. Then, on Thursday, August 24th this year is Rosh Chodesh Elul - the first day of the 6th month - which begins the 40 day Season of Repentance. There are forty days from Elul 1st until Yom Kippur to start thinking seriously about Teshuvah and get ready for the judgment that will take place on Yom Kippur that will decide what kind of year you will have next year.
This does not mean that the entire 40 days is terrible - and it's not like lent, where you just make a vow and then drop it as soon as Yom Kippur is over, either. There are three weeks of seriously looking at your life and making changes, then there is the Days of Creation starting on Elul the 26th. This is a seven day period of happiness and contentment at the changes you have been making, corresponding to the 7 days of creation of the world. The 6th day of Creation is Rosh Chodesh Tishri, aka Rosh HaShanah, birthday of Adam and history as we know it. It's often referred to as the Birthday of the World, because as the last Day of Creation, everything was completed. The 7th Day of Creation was the first Shabbat, and this is celebrated together with Rosh HaShanah as one long 2 day festival, as the Sabbath Bride has adorned herself with righteousness and is ready for her marriage. In our life, too, we should have completed by this time the changes we want to make leading up to Yom Kippur, because judgment actually starts on Rosh HaShanah.
It works like this, on Rosh HaShanah, those who have satisfied their teshuvah responsibilities (and only you and God know what those are in your life - it's different for everyone) are "sealed" for righteousness. That is, their name is entered in the Book of Life if it wasn't there already, and the covenant is in effect for them - that is, since they have held up their end of the bargain to love and obey God, He will now uphold His end. You will be "His people" and He will be your God. That's the deal. That doesn't mean everything will be peaches and cream for a year. The bad outcomes of our former sins don't just disappear. Cause and effect aren't suspended, the ripples still spread out. But some of the ripples might be made easier for us, and others might be eliminated, it's not impossible. But God does this only for those who have a covenant relationship with Him, that is, those who have done their teshuvah. Those who have not done so at all and don't intend to - the willfully disobedient and truly wicked - are sealed also, but with a less pleasant seal, that of "destruction." This does not mean they will be physically killed usually (although that can happen, obviously), but it does mean that God is finished playing Mr. Nice Guy and is going to get out His proverbial 2x4 to get your attention.
Those in the middle, or "on the fence," so to speak, have 7 more days - the Days of Tribulation - to get their act together and do some serious last minute fine tuning before Yom Kippur. After Tishri 1st and 2nd are over, the 3rd of Tishri kicks off the last 7 days with a fast. These 7 days will make the difference between being entered into the Book of Life and Being entered on God's 2x4 list for the following year. After the 7 last-chance days are over, it's end-game time: The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The Gates of Heaven are open and when they close at the end of Tishri 10th, your fate for the coming year has been decided. You made your bed, now you get to lie in it. I hope you will make yourself a comfortable one, class.
These days on God's calendar seem intensely personal, and they are, but there is also a national application to them. God judges nations the same way He does individuals. This is part of the reason why people in the Book of Life still have bad things happen to them sometimes - not because they did anything bad personally, but because they are in the wrong place, a place being judged for national sins, not personal ones. You see, if you live in a community where there is sin, deceit, wrongdoing, injustice, poverty, and so on, and you do nothing about it or say nothing about it, then you are complicit in the sins going on there. Like the old saying goes, if you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Too many people don't speak out or take adequate steps to alleviate the problems in their town, county, state/province, and nation. Therefore when that area is judged, they are included in the judgment. Others who truly did try their best still get caught up in the whirlwind, just by being there. After all, even though we are called to pursue justice, we are also called to come out of evil, the same way we are to shun the willfully unrepentant. There is no "if you can't beat them, join them," in scripture. That is a worldly solution, not a Godly one.
So the nations of the earth, and even individual towns, are going through the same judgment process as individuals. Each town, county, state/province, and nation also is judged by God and is either put down on His list for protection and benevolence, or put down on the 2x4 list. In this day and age, even the most righteous family, then, is not "safe" from natural and man-made disasters simply because there are no righteous, ritually clean areas to live left on this planet. It's all unclean, it's all mired in sin, lies, and injustice. Obviously, that doesn't mean you should forgo personal teshuvah. Like David said, "It's better to fall into the hands of the Living God than the hands of men." Even when He's mad it's better to be on His side than to not be.
So as world events unfold in the next few weeks, and even local events, ask yourself what God thinks about your town while you're contemplating what God thinks of your personal life. Maybe there's something you can do to soften judgement in your local area, too.
It's high time people remembered that God is not just love, God is also holiness. And a Holy God does not tolerate disobedience to His Torah, no matter how convincing the justification seems to be.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The season of Repentance.
Entry for August 01, 2006