If you’re not Jewish, you can still appreciate the spirit of the High Holidays: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. If you drive by any synagogues on Wednesday night, September 12, you will see phenomenon of spiritual hunger. Synagogues easily quadruple their attendance and often more. You’ll also see this on September 13 for the day services of Rosh HaShanah and Friday night, September 21 for Yom Kippur, as well as the 22nd, for the day services of Yom Kippur.
One Conservative Synagogue I have driven past easily had cars double parked for a mile on a narrow road in Northeast Atlanta. You have to drive carefully or you may (God forbid) run over a family walking to services.
That’s a lot of spiritual hunger. Where does it come from?
Let’s face it: the children of Israel today are not walking according to God’s covenant. Idolatry and secularism abound rather than Sabbath and Torah. Israel is scattered to the four corners of the earth and the spiritual reality is not positive. On the other hand . . .
God has preserved amongst the children of Israel a hunger. Some confuse it with Jewish guilt. Others laugh at it — but they still show up like clockwork for Rosh HaShanah at the Shul or the Temple. There is a calling in the heart of every Jew. It rings with history. It resonates with covenants of old, men and women of faith. It is the voice of Abraham and Sarah going to an unknown land. It is the voice of Moses, Joshua, and the first generation, standing at Sinai. It is the song of David and the poetry of Amos, Isaiah, and Habakkuk.
That calling gets stronger at the High Holidays. God is calling his people to worship.
If you share my faith in Yeshua and the New Testament, then I hope you can see that God is working in the children of Israel even though Yeshua is a stranger to most. These are the ones beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs, said Paul. These are the one who often are foils for the good message of Yeshua and yet who have an irrevocable calling (read Romans 11:26-29 if you think I made that up).
Of all the additional prayers and melodies at the High Holidays, my favorite is the Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King). It is in the daily prayers as well, but comes to special prominence at the High Holidays. There is a beautiful melody, which I cannot find a link to give you on this blog. If you can hear the melody, the prayer is even fuller and more moving.
It is a long prayer, a beautiful chorus of pleading and confessing. It begins:
Our Father, our King, our sins are before you.
Our Father, our King, we have no other King but you.
It goes on asking for mercy, for a good year, for pardon and cleansing. But it ends on such a note of high grace. Christians who would caricature Judaism as a religion devoid of grace, take note. It ends with a prayer so perfect in its wording, so true and profound, I have no doubt we will sing it before the Temple of HaShem in the days of Messiah:
Avinu Malkenu, khaneinu v’aneinu, ki ein banu ma’asim;
osei imanu tzedaka v’khesed v’hoshi’einu.
Our Father, our King, be gracious and answer us, though we have no good deeds;
make for us righteousness and grace and save us, we pray.
We have no good deeds. This is what God’s forgiveness is all about. This is a Jewish truth. It is the truth Yeshua lived and died for. If we had good deeds, we wouldn’t have needed a cleansing. We wouldn’t have needed Yeshua. But we have none. Where is our hope? Where is our peace? It’s in our Father, our King, who loved us enough to make a way through his Son.
Save us, we pray.