October 7, 2011

It is Friday. Yes, we can. I’m not sure what that means.

Here is what I’m doing today.

Studying in front of a fire sounds peaceful, but in reality, I have to take a quiz. A quiz that, in order to pass, I need to listen to four lectures and know the contents of a 200-page book that I have not read. So, the fire is not helping my peaceful mojo all that much.

So, Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight and ends at sundown tomorrow. Like we talked about yesterday, it is a time of atonement — a time when Israel was to make sacrifices and send away a scapegoat who would carry the sins of the past year into the desert. This obviously doesn’t happen anymore because there is no temple in Israel. However, Jewish tradition now has three main components of Yom Kippur — repentance, prayer and fasting.

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, we pray, asking God to forgive our sins and reconciling with anyone we need forgiveness from or need to forgive. This need for reconciliation is something many of us still take into account before we take communion, the symbol of our atonement. I didn’t even know about this tradition, but it is quite fitting, because a friend and I had a talk this week and worked through some things that had separated us. We admitted and forgave, and it was a good preparation for Yom Kippur — the day we remember that God freely forgave us and provided a way for us to be reconciled to him.

The prayer part is done together. There is an evening Yom Kippur service on the night it starts, and then many people go to services for much of the next day. Often, people read the book of Jonah, which reminds us that we are quick to run from God’s plan in rebellion, but he is also quick to offer compassion. Part of the communal prayer time is to recognize that our sins affect others. All of our sin is against God, but the ramifications often spread to our family and friends. People pray, asking God to please forgive them and begging him to write their names in the Book of Life. As believers in Jesus, we know that we don’t need a yearly atonement any longer. Jesus paid the price fully and completely and victoriously through his death. Although it is a solemn holiday and people are asking God for forgiveness, there is also an undertone of joy. People wear white, as a reminder that God has promised to make our sins as white as snow. God is gracious and compassionate and always willing to forgive when we repent. It is his character — it is who he is.

The third part of Yom Kippur is fasting from sundown to sundown. Although many Jews and Christians fast, this is the one fast commanded by God in the Torah. Many people don’t eat or even drink water; they fast to demonstrate the seriousness of their sin, and the need for God to forgive.

Here is a confession: I do not fast. I like food. Not eating food makes me sad (and crabby). Every once in awhile I feel like I should do it — Jesus did say when you fast, and throughout Acts,  the Christians fast and pray often. But I don’t. Honestly, I’m scared to. It is uncomfortable, and I loves me some comforts. But I suppose that is the point. Atonement is uncomfortable; it requires a sacrifice, a penalty, someone willing to suffer. So, for Yom Kippur, I have decided to fast from food, not because I fear that God hasn’t forgiven me, but because I know many people who have not been reconciled to God. They have not recognized their need for Jesus’ atoning blood; their eyes are still blinded to the truth, and their hearts are still enslaved to sin. So, I will fast tomorrow so that I remember to pray for them, to lift up these people to the Lord, asking his Spirit to call them to him because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

So there we are — the Day of Atonement. Remember today and tomorrow that Jesus has atoned for us, that God is so willing to forgive when we turn around, when we repent. Remember it with joy, not fear, because our God is good to us! Consider fasting and praying for those in your life who need Jesus. I’ll be back next week, quiz done and well-fed.

Have a good weekend!


Yom Kippur

October 6, 2011

It feels like fall today, you guys. There’s a breeze, and leaves are swirling around, and most importantly, new episodes of my favorite shows are back on TV! I cried at Parenthood this week. Yeah, I cry at fictional characters interacting in fictional situations. Jealous?

Here is how God celebrates fall.

So, we’ve got another biblical holiday this week! Although, that exclamation point is probably a bit much because it’s the one somber holiday that God commanded. Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement) starts this Friday at sundown. It is the holiest day of the whole year for the people of God. In Leviticus 23, God commanded the Israelites to abstain from work and to deny themselves (fast) for a whole day. People examine themselves and their sins, asking God for his forgiveness.

Yom Kippur is the day, each year, when the people of Israel must atone for their sins. There are very detailed instructions in Leviticus 16 — the high priest must sacrifice to atone for himself, and sacrifice to atone the altar and the Most Holy Place. God dwelt there, among sinful people, and it needed to be made holy. Then the priest would bring two goats — one to sacrifice as a sin offering for the people, and one to be a scapegoat. The priest would symbolically place all of the sins of the people for the past year on the scapegoat. A man would then lead the goat, heavy with the burden of Israel’s sin, into the desert and let it go — the scapegoat would carry away, upon its head, the wickedness of their hearts.

It’s a fascinating story. Please, please take a second to read Leviticus 16. I hadn’t read it in awhile, and it’s amazing to look at the process required to atone for our sins.

First Fruits of Zion wrote a newsletter about Yom Kippur, reminding us that Hebrews 9 parallels this process by showing us that Jesus, the Messiah, has become our high priest. He is the one who made  atonement for us, not through sacrificing a bull or a goat or a ram, but through sacrificing his body — broken, burdened, crushed under the weight of, not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of all humanity throughout all time.

The Bible is cool, you guys. There are so many parallels, so many stories that get retold and fulfilled and given new meaning. It’s like a much, much cooler Lost. Or maybe Lost is like a much less cooler Bible. Or maybe … OK, the analogy isn’t working. Let’s move on.

You are not supposed to work during Yom Kippur, and you are supposed to fast. I plan to do a fast, and I’ll talk about my reasoning more tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know so that if you want to consider doing it,  you could start praying about it today.

OK, I’ve gots to go, folks. Have a good day, friends, in grateful remembrance of Jesus who atoned for us.


October 3, 2011

I saw Moneyball this weekend. Here’s what I learned:

1. I apparently don’t know all that much about baseball because I had no clue that the Oakland A’s had a 20-win-in-a-row season a few years ago. I also don’t think I knew that there was a team called the Oakland A’s. I did know that the Red Sox won the world series, though, so I felt proud of myself for that.

2. Brad Pitt is looking kind of old, but still lovely.

3. Apparently Moneyball is a popular flick with the kids because we had to sit in the third row. As in, we had to go up some stairs to leave the theater after the movie was over.

4. Landry’s dad is in Moneyball for a second. So is Jenn-ay from Forrest Gump.

That’s about all I learned. I bet you’re happy you’re here getting these updates.

So, I made my challah on Friday. Challah is usually made at Rosh HaShanah, and pretty much every week for Sabbath. Apparently, people usually make two loaves before Sabbath to commemorate the double portion of manna that God provided on the days the Israelites weren’t supposed to do any work.

I used this recipe, and it was super simple. It’s pretty much 9 billion cups of flour (which to a normal person is six cups), eggs, salt and honey. Oh, and yeast. The scary, scary yeast.

Pretty much, you mix a whole lot of flour into water and yeast. (Also, sorry for the quality of these pictures. I wanted them bigger, but it’s not working. Someone help me!)

When it’s all mixed in, you knead it and make sure it’s not too sticky. Then you put it in a bowl and let it rise for an hour and a half. There’s a lot of waiting involved in making bread.

Right when I left the bread to rise, I started having flashbacks to an old Psalty the Singing Songbook story that I had completely forgotten up until that moment. Did you guys listen to old Psalty growing up? I loved him and all his singing friends. Anyway, when I was little, we had this Psalty book, and I think there was a story about Psalty’s three kids (Melody, Harmony and Rhythm!) disobeying and deciding to bake something without their parents’ permission. They were baking something with yeast, and when Psalty and his wife (Psaltina!) got home, the entire kitchen was overflowing with dough that had risen and was oozing out the back door. Their disobedience ruined the house, and they got in so much trouble, and I’m sure it was some kind of lesson about yeast/sin affecting everything and such.

This must be the reason I have always been scared of making bread with yeast, you guys! I had some kind of subconscious idea that yeast is bad and will ruin your whole house and Psalty will come home and yell at you! Luckily, this did not happen to my challah bread, and with two or three years of counseling, I think I’ll be able to overcome this issue.

Here’s the risen bread. I thought it was going to rise more than that (and fill my entire kitchen) but it didn’t.

After it rises, you split it in two, and then split each half into three parts and make long ropes. Like this.

Then you braid the ropes together and let them rise some more. Seriously, make sure you have some time when you make bread.

Then you brush the braids with some egg yolk and bake it. Ta da!

The bread actually turned out really well. My roommate Heather and I dipped it in honey in anticipation of a sweet new year.

So, Rosh Hashanah is over, and next up is the Day of Atonement in about a week. These days in between are supposed to be a time of reflection as we prepare for judgment and atonement.

Speaking of judgment, I have a theology test today. I studied for about four minutes yesterday and then fell asleep on the couch. Pray for me.

Happy Monday — see you soon!

Shofar, Sho Good

September 30, 2011

My mom is clever too. She came up with that one.

I ate one of my eggs! I’m not sure why that deserves an announcement, but that was pretty much the most exciting thing that happened yesterday, so deal. Also exciting was finding a decent parking spot at school, realizing that my dirty hair holds a curl quite well, and discovering that Target has Honeycrisp apples again! It’s a nonstop party in my world, you guys.

OK, before we move on to the serious stuff, I think you should just look at this picture right quick.

Anyway, Happy New Year! The Jewish new year of Rosh Hashanah  is not like the American one. There is no drinking or kissing or wearing weird hats. They save that for Purim.

God commanded the people of God to remember on Rosh HaShanah. Remember what He had done — the promises to Abraham, the Exodus, the mighty miracles in the desert. It is a time of remembrance, and it also starts the serious reflection time during the Days of Awe that lead up to The Day of Atonement ten days from now.

I went to a Rosh Hashanah service at Yeshuat Tsion last night. Yeshuat Tsion (the salvation of Zion) is a messianic congregation — Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah. They started the service with about a half hour of praise and worship. Some of the songs were in English, and others were in Hebrew. There were women dancing at the front while playing tambourines and a guy blowing a shofar. I was surprised at how active people were in the worship — I’m mostly used to churches where people stand properly in their pews, clapping only when prompted by the worship pastor (if then). A tambourine that has no place in worship! But then I remembered that God invites this kind of active praise. The word for “rejoice” in the Bible is “nagila” — literally to twirl and dance in praise of God. This is the Jewish way, this is the way of the people of God. We might do well to praise the Lord with their same passion.

They blew the shofar during the service, as God commanded. There are short staccato blasts and long mournful ones. I picture a man in robes at the foot of Mt. Sinai, blowing the shofar, calling all of Israel to remember the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of blazing fire that warmed them by night.

Part of the tradition of Rosh HaShanah is to wear white as a sign of the new year. I wore a white sweater to fit in. It definitely worked;  I’m sure no one noticed the black girl in the back.

You also get apples (Honeycrisp!) and dip them in honey — the sweetness on your tongue makes you hopeful to God for a sweet new year.

It says "very active" yeast. I'm afraid of it.

You also dip challah bread in honey during Rosh HaShanah. I’m going to attempt to make it tomorrow. That is probably illegal because you’re not supposed to work on this holiday, but in between watching Up All Night, trying not to get salsa on my white sweater, and attending all kinds of Jewish services, I didn’t have time to make the bread. Especially because it requires lots of rising and kneading and more rising and other things that scare me. If it turns out, I think it’ll be really good. It seems really simple to make — it’s mostly flour and honey. Also, the recipe said poppy seeds were optional, and I’m totally adding them. I prefer to be unable to pass a drug test whilst celebrating my Jewish holidays.

Many people start preparing for atonement at Rosh Hoshanah. They pray and reflect and hope that God will write their names in the Book of Life. The rabbi at Yeshuat Tsion reminded us that we are grateful to God that Jesus came and died as our atonement — once and for all. We don’t have to convince God, year after year, that we’ll be good enough or right enough because he has made us righteousness when we had none. Blessed be he.

OK, have a good times all around fun weekend, friends. I’ll be back soon, probably with a picture of some sad-looking, burned challah bread.