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A Year Later


First giving all praises to the Holy Unity if Israel, Yahwah, and to all those who stand for righteousness in His name, peace and blessings in this High Holy Day season!

I sat down to write something for this High Holy Day and in the process of preparing materials I came across this from last year. This was written 8/10/2014, it is somewhat long and I know most of us don't like overly long articles, but, hopefully, you will find it worth the investment in time and attention.

Renewing the Covenant

As I was sitting and meditating on the significance of this High Holy Day- Succoth, I was reminded of Ezra and his reading of the words of the law into the hearing of the recently returned Judeans from the Babylonian captivity. Why? Because it was done during Succoth. This led me to research this act more thoroughly, and herein I am sharing what I found.

I had also been thinking on the relationship between laws given in Leviticus and those given in Deuteronomy that touch on the same subjects, and wondering which took priority. I concluded that Leviticus in some instances gives the broad expression of the law, while Deuteronomy gives more detail in terms of application for a people preparing to put these guidelines into use. Knowing the challenges that lay before the people at this juncture of their journey, Moses gave the following instructions.

“9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, and unto all the elders of Israel.

10 And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,

11 when all Israel is come to appear before YHWH thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear YHWH your God, and observe to do all the words of this law;

13 and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear YHWH your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.'”

Deuteronomy 30:9-13

There are generations which have never heard the basic teachings that are the foundation of our way of life! The importance of this cannot be stressed enough; without this simple act the collapse of the society is inevitable. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Britain, expresses this succinctly in the following quotation:

“At the end of his life, Moses gave the people the penultimate command – the 612th of the 613 that comprise the Torah. It was a command of far-reaching significance. The Israelites were about to cross the Jordan, and enter and take possession of the Promised Land. There they would begin life as a self-governing nation under the sovereignty of G-d.

It would not be easy. With his prophetic eye turned to the furthermost horizon of the future, Moses had been warning the people throughout Devarim that the real dangers would be the ones they least suspected. They would not be war or famine or poverty or natural disaster. They would be ease and affluence and freedom and prosperity.

That is when a nation is in danger of forgetting its past and its mission. It becomes complacent; it may become corrupt. The rich neglect the poor. Those in power afflict the powerless. The people begin to think that what they have achieved, they achieved for and by themselves. They forget their dependence on G-d. At the very height of its powers, Israelite society would develop fault-lines that would eventually lead to disaster.

No one has set out the terms of survival of a civilization more starkly than Moses in Deuteronomy. Nations begin to die from within. Affluence leads to overconfidence which leads to forgetfulness which leads to decadence which leads to lack of social solidarity which leads in the end to demoralization – the prelude to defeat. Israel’s very existence, said Moses, would depend on memory, mission and morality – remembering where it came from, what it is called on to do, and how it is called on to do it.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Covenant and conversation, 04/09/2010

This is what motivated Moses to give the above instructions. The guidelines he had been given to pass on to the Hebrew Israelites contained a moral imperative that was to serve as the standard for their inter-personal relationships with one another. Without this moral imperative, the society fragmented from corruption and mistrust.

“Once every seven years, on the second day of Sukkot in the year after the sabbatical year, the king was to gather the people together in the Temple courtyard and read to them from the Torah – specifically, selections from Deuteronomy itself (the details are set out in Rambam, Hilkhot Chagigah, chapter 3). Hakhel was a re-enactment of the covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai (Rambam ad loc. 3: 6). It was intended to remind the people of their history, the laws they are called on to keep and the principles they must live by. It was to be a ceremony of national rededication – a renewal of their inherited and chosen destiny, a reminder of the duties they owed to their ancestors, their descendants not yet born and, primarily, to G-d Himself.

We do not know how this command was carried out in practice. Yet one thing is clear from the biblical record. It is what the leaders of the nation did at critical junctures in their history. Joshua did so at the end of his life (Joshua 24). King Josiah did so when the Torah was rediscovered during a restoration of the Temple:

Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the Temple of YHWH with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets-all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the Temple of YHWH. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of YHWH – to follow YHWH and keep His commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. (II Kings 23: 1-3)

Ezra did so for the generation that saw the return of exiles from Babylon:

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8: 2-3)

Hakhel has a significance that goes far beyond its specific details. It belongs to a unique form of politics – covenantal politics. Philip Selznick, in his The Moral Commonwealth, explains: “The compact creates a self-conscious moral order. Most vividly at Sinai, the agreement with G-d is an agreement to uphold a code of responsible conduct. G-d’s commands are obeyed by fulfilling obligations to family and community; a social ethic is the linchpin of the covenant” (ibid., 478-9). Covenantal politics are moral politics; they involve ideas of duty and obligation. They are also interwoven with a particular view of the history of the nation, whose fate is seen as a reflection of its success or failure in honouring the terms laid down by its founders.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Covenant and conversation, 04/09/2010

This most significant point here is that the leadership must recognize the need for a return to the foundational instructions; it must acknowledge where there has been a drifting away from the ethical principles contained within the fabric of the guidelines and principles which comprised the covenant that initially bound the people together, with one another and with their God in a perpetually renewed covenant.

” What Moses understood so clearly is that a nation that loses its sense of purpose cannot survive. Purpose does not come from nowhere. It is shaped by historians and prophets; taught in schools and homes; rehearsed in prayer; symbolically enacted in rituals; and recalled periodically in Hakhel-type moments. It is essentially religious, for if not, then it becomes (as the late Yeshayah Leibowitz never failed to remind us) idolatry – a nation worshipping itself. It may sound strange, yet I truly believe, that finding a contemporary equivalent of Hakhel is our most pressing task if free societies are to survive.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Covenant and conversation, 04/09/2010

The Marriage of the Lamb memorial only takes the community back to the ceremony that took place in the year 2000. It places at the center of the covenant a man, i.e. the lamb, and not Yahwah. It links our freedom and salvation to our relationship with an image and not thru our adherence to the instructions of Yahwah, the first of which states implicitly that no image or likeness of anything under the heavens, the water or the land is to be worshipped. Our covenant is with Yahwah; the people did not pass before Moses after committing to obedience to Yahwah and His instructions. They requested that Moses be their Emissary, their mediator with Yahwah.

And then they asked for a King like the other nations; thus, the Kingdom of Israel, whose king is of the seed of David, came into being, causing the people to now bow before a man. Yet, he still remained a man, and he, like those who bowed to him, ultimately had to submit to the will of YHWH as expressed by His messengers or thru His word.

This is the demanding task of a Messianic personage; to not allow himself to become an idol to the people. Equally demanding is the task of the people to remember the true source of their freedom and to whom they are ultimately committed; they must strive to avoid the trap of taking the apparently easy road of consigning their responsibility to their God to a man, and unquestioningly following him/her. The Messianic Personage is anointed by the Most High; when it was time for Moses to leave, YHWH anointed Joshua as his replacement, and He has shown that He will take the people and their king and do with them as He pleases if they do not give ultimate respect to Him!

Every covenant between Yahwah and His people requires individual commitment; no one is coerced into accepting what is offered. He or she has the right to express their reasons for questioning a decision, and those reasons must be investigated. If they are valid, then the necessary adjustment for that person or group of people must be made. If they are found to be invalid or unacceptable, the person or persons must decide whether to accept what is presented as is, or to accept separation from the people. It’s their decision.

This year is the second sabbatical since 2000, a time to revisit the significance of the event and its place in the prophetic history of the sons of Jacob. This Succoth let us remember with whom we have renewed the covenant.

Peace and blessing and happy Holy Day season to one and all!

Anaviel Ben Eleazer

Now, a year later, so many momentous events have taken place; the transition of the Anointed, Ben Ammi, on December 27th was, of course, the most significant. There have been numerous others in the course of the last year, even within our immediate family, so many brave souls that unflinchingly paid what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion”. Truly, they will eternally live on in our hearts, minds and souls.

And now there are new souls flowing up to what has become known as “Zion”, looking to learn of the ways of the Most High of Jacob. They come with the words of the Book that has been opened to us, yet which is still in many ways closed to them. It is our responsibility to receive them with open minds and hearts, with patience, love and compassion. The House of Jacob is being made whole and we must accept the Prophetic responsibility of being our Brothers’/Sisters’ keepers.

Thus, this Jubilee Year must be a healing of the wounds and a reaffirming of our common direction and wholeness as the Yah Family. How many true “sins” have been committed? And if the only problem is differences of opinion, then let us sit and reason together as Brothers and Sisters, remembering the prohibition against holding grudges, and find the common ground that we can all stand on and share.

It is no coincidence that the attached advert appeared in the Jerusalem Post 27/09/2015, just last week. The time has come for Israel to be whole….

Anaviel Ben Eleazer

4/10/2015


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