Ah, the holy days; a phrase that brings to mind thoughts of honeycakes, sukkahs and the hope of Messiah’s return…the hope, that is, of Messiah’s very soon return, like before lunch maybe? But this time of year also carries its own unique weight in my home, combining our family’s personal traditions with the honor of the past. My family sometimes embraces the holy days as an extra notch in our responsibilities, as we not only are members of our Messianic congregation, we have been its worship leaders for more years than we can remember! In fact, depending on which days of the lunar calendar the moadim (appointed times) happen to fall, sometimes we end up leading music at as many as 12 different services during a three-week period, driving 1200 miles back and forth to our congregation. As much as these holy days carry an air of refreshment and hope, we generally like to set aside these days of the fall for exhaustion and possible sickness. But we haven’t missed the point.
Each year we gear up with great anticipation that perhaps this might be the year of His return. We endeavor to prepare our hearts and minds for what we hope is coming. During the Ten Days of Awe, I try in my own meager way to be good;” attending services, crying at the blowing of the shofar, avoiding or dealing with conflict with friends and family, and leading music that is 30 years old, but still beautiful. The days keep marching and we find ourselves at Yom Kippur, quite possibly the most simultaneously amazing and terrifying day of the year for many Jews. This day is like salt in a wound. This is the day, according to tradition, that the Books are sealed for another year. Did I do enough? Did I clean up the messes I have made over the past year? Can He really forgive me? Of course, as a child of the One who is Redeemer and King, I know I need not be anxious, yet I don’t really enjoy Yom Kippur very much. But I guess that is the point. We fast and pray and hope and fast and pray some more. At the end of the day I stop briefly to release a somber sigh and think, “Well, I guess He’s not coming back yet. Another year…hmmm.”
Enter Sukkot, my second favorite holiday of the Jewish year (Pesach is first). We set aside a day to fight with lumber and hemp. Because of my purist understanding, we do not use nails in our sukkah; we tie handcrafted wooden dowels together with hemp. The finished booth is a thing of absolute beauty. The Sh’ma is lovingly engraved on the front, boughs of various leafy trees adorn the top and the oil lamp is lit. We sit beneath the clear Wisconsin countryside night sky, reading Scripture, banging on drums, singings songs, eating challah and enjoying our friends and family.
Eventually we tire and our family contentedly nestles in for our first night in the sukkah. Invariably, my head gets nearly impaled on a sharp branch that the wind has blown through the top of the roof. I wake to the full moon shining so brightly it may as well be a Broadway spotlight penetrating my closed eyelids. Though the nights get colder, darker and more uncomfortable, as we wake up shivering, hungry, and wet from the morning dew, there is a certain recognition that this is about dor v’dor, so by all means, we must be sure that our children carry on the traditions.
Our hearts turn again and again during the High Holiday season to thoughts and hopes for Messiah’s return. And if not this year, then next, and we will play the songs, attend the services, lead the worship and eat the honeycake, until the day we tabernacle with Yeshua forever on His holy hill.
Deanne can be found this Sukkot dwelling with friends and family in their Kansasville, Wisconsin sukkah.