Shanah Tovah! The phrase means "a good year" and is used as a greeting during Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. A few days ago, from September 18 to 20, Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish people who follow the feasts in the Bible ushered in the New Year 5781.
Rosh Hashanah is the start of the High Holidays or Yamim Nora’im and is followed a week later by the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The days in between are called the 10 Days of Repentance (selichot), or the Ten Days of Return. This season is a time of contemplation and of laying bare one's soul before God.
Most of the world start the New Year with fireworks and a set of resolutions but I think it is a beautiful thing to start the year by spending time with God in deep reflection.
A recreation of the soul
While studying the significance of these designated feasts of God where He calls for holy convocations or sacred assemblies, it was striking that these were days of no work with only the preparation of food allowed. After a period of contemplation and atonement there comes a time of celebration and feasting.
We were able to witness the celebration during the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot when we visited Israel last year. The atmosphere was busy and lively with thousands of people from different countries joining in the festivities. The Western Wall was lined with people praying, reading their Bibles, or sitting in contemplation.
Yom Kippur, this year, falls on September 27 and 28. As we are a few days away from this day, I asked God about the significance of the days of repentance and the day of atonement to me. Sacrificial offerings are no longer needed to atone for sin. Jesus Christ had already paid the price for my sins 2,000 years ago when He sacrificed His life on the cross. I was led to do some self-examination.
Admittedly, there are things I've said and done that needed to be brought before God. We have a tendency to dismiss small things which seem to be insignificant at the time we said, did, or thought about them. Before we know it, they can snowball into big things or issues which can tear apart our relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues. If we delve deeper into that, we'll see that at the end of it all we've inadvertently hurt ourselves.
It's not easy asking for forgiveness or releasing forgiveness. There is a dread that your desired expectations may not meet the actual result of that action. When you do it however there comes a release from guilt and condemnation no matter what the response is. This is because you are choosing to set yourself free from any negative ties that bind you to that person or situation. You're letting go.
I thought God was already done speaking to me during my self-examination but He was not finished - not just yet. In one of my quiet times, He showed a dream of mine that has yet to come to fruition. It was something that I had not thought about for sometime because I tucked it away since I know I needed to wait.
God is so sensitive to the issues of our heart that He will gently expose to us what needs to be dealt with.
We're still working on the matter together and am grateful for His kindness towards me and in handling it. A friend rang me up just as I was contemplating on this and she was also dealing with heart issues that God has shown her in this period. I witnessed again how gentle God was while working with her to address those things.
The heart of it all
When we read Leviticus 23 which details all of God's appointed times, feasts, and holy convocations, we can easily get lost in the requirements and to-do lists. We will see however that God emphasizes rest and celebration. If you haven't noticed yet, at the center of it all is God showing His love and care for His children. He wants us to rest in Him and have fun. Just like a doting parent, He wants to enjoy the moment with His kids.
When He created Adam and Eve, we can see in the second and third chapter of Genesis that they were walking and talking with God. They had an intimate relationship with Him. Throughout history since the time they sinned, God has been working to restore that kind of relationship with us. Through the atoning work of His Son Jesus Christ, a way has been made so that we can have that relationship again. It is now possible to walk and talk with God again. How? Jesus Christ set the example and we just follow that (Note: Read the book of John as a start.).
It is my prayer that as we approach Yom Kippur, we'll open our hearts to the Lord for His examination. In doing so, we are opening ourselves to healing, wholeness, and His boundless love.