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Judaism and the Festivals of the Lord #3

The Feast of At-One-Ment!

                 JUDAISM AND THE FESTIVALS OF THEW LORD #3


DAY OF ATONEMENT continued:

From the book "Festivals of the Jewish Year" by Gaster, written
in 1952/53.


     In the more primitive language of ancient thought, what
strikes him most forcibly at this stage of his atonement is the
discovery that God is enthroned not only in heaven but also in
the human heart. As a well-known tenth-century hymn expresses 
it: 4

Where Angels through the Azure fly, 
Where Beams of light illume the sky, 
Where rides Celestial Cavalry, 
Where Dim, Ethereal voices cry,
Is seen the wonder of Thy ways.
Yet dost Thou not disdain the praise

Of Flesh and blood who eager throng 
About Thy Gates and, all day long, 
Hapless raise their plaintive song, 
Invoking Thee to right their wrong; 
And this Thy glory is.

Where, in the clear and cloudless height, 
Jostle the cherub hosts, and bright 
Flaming Legions pierce the night, 
'Mid all the Ministers of light,
Is seen the wonder of Thy ways.
Yet dost Thou not disdain the praise.

Of them who, in the here below,
Do Naught of bliss and comfort know, 
Who, Overwhelmed with grief and woe, 
Tread their Petty Pace and slow;
And this Thy glory is.

Where Quires celestial at Thy side, 
And Regiments of grace abide, 
Where the great Bond of Souls is tied, 
And all the Thund'rous cohorts ride,
......

4 "Aaher Omexz Tehillateka," by Meshullam b. Kalonymos (d. 97o),
Adler-Davis, Atonement, ii, 68.
......

     
Is seen the wonder of Thy ways. 
Yet dost Thou not disdain the praise


Of them who, Unredeemed, late 
And early in their Vigil wait, 
Watching at the heavenly gate, 
Yearning that Thou wilt mark their fate, 
Zealous that thou wilt purge the stain, 
And take them back to Thee again. 
And this Thy glory is.


     The worshiper now feels that he can attest by his own
present experience the truth of what is said in Scripture about
the inherent compassion and condescension of God: 5

A ll justice holds He in His open hands, 
And all avow that constant He remains. 
B eyond all veils He sees, and understands; 
And all avow: He probes the heart and reins.

C lamorous Death through Him gives up its prize; 
And all avow: no champion is as He.
D wellers on earth are judged before His eyes; 
And all avow: His rule is equity.

E rstwhile "I AM that which I AM," He said; 
And all avow: He was, is, and will be,
F or His renown is as His name widespread; 
And all avow that nonpareil is He.

G od thinks on them who think on Him alway; 
And all avow: He keeps His promise true. 
H e portions life unto the living; they
Avow that He doth live the ages through.

I n His wide covert good and bad find room; 
And all avow: His good on all is thrust.
......

5 "Ha-ohez be-yad middath mishpat." Adler-Davis, Atonement, ii,
152.
......


K nitting our substance in the very womb; 
Yea, all avow: He knows we are but dust.

L ong is His arm and doth all things embrace; 
And all avow: by Him all things are done. 
M id darkness dwells He, in His secret place; 
And all avow: He one is and alone.

N o king there is but He doth him install; 
And all avow: He is the world's great King. 
O mnipotent, He rules the ages all;
And all avow: from Him doth mercy spring.

P atient, from froward man He turns His gaze; 
And all avow: He pardons and He spares.
R emote on high, He guards His servants' ways; 
And all avow: He answers whisper'd prayers.

S inners ne'er beat in vain upon His door; 
And all avow: nor is His hand clos'd tight. 
T he wicked seeks He out, says: Sin no more; 
And all avow that He is just and right.

U mbrage with Him comes slow, compassion fast; 
And all avow: He is not soon enrag'd.
V engeance and W rath by Mercy are outpass'd; 
And all avow: He swiftly is assuag'd.

Y oung and old by Him are levelled,
And great and small are equal in His sight; 
O ne net of judgment over all is spread;
And all avow that He doth judge aright.

Z ealous is He for blamelessness, and they 
That blameless are do reap His rich reward; 
And all with one consent avow and say: 
Blameless in all He doeth is the LORD.


     At the same time, he is supremely conscious of the fact
that, however accessible the Divine may be, man has to make
active contact with it in order to achieve regeneration;
atonement, as a modern rabbi has expressed it, is at root
at-one-ment. The classic formulation of this yearning for
communion is the great poem of Jehudah Ha-Levi (1086-1 I45) which
forms one of the most prominent elements of the Sephardic morning
service:

Before Thee, Lord, my every wish is known, 
Ere that one word upon my lips do lie;
Lord, grant me but one moment of Thy grace, 
One moment only, and I gladly die.

One moment, Lord, if Thou wouldst but accord, 
Gladly would I commit into Thy keep
All that may yet remain of this frail breath;
And I would sleep, and sweet would be my sleep.

When I am far from Thee, my life is death; 
My death were life, if I to Thee might cling; 
Yet lo, I know not wherewith I might come 
Into Thy presence, nor what service bring.

Teach me, O Lord, Thy ways, and grant release 
From Folly's prison and her heavy bond;
Show me to bow my soul, while yet I may, 
And when I bow it, spurn to respond,

Now, e'er the day come when unto myself 
A burden am I, and my head bends low, 
And age and slow corruption take their toll, 
And I grow weary, and my feet are slow;

Ere that I go where erst my fathers went, 
And reach the final goal, which is the tomb--
A stranger and a sojourner on earth,
Whose only portion is her ample womb.
......

6 "Adonai negdeka kol ta'avathi." Pool, "Atonement," p.128.
......

My youth hath all in wantonness been spent, 
And ne'er have I prepared for my long home; 
The world was too much with me, veil'd my sight, 
That ne'er I thought upon the world to come.

How now can I my Maker serve, when I 
Serve this dull clay, and am the thrall of lust? 
How seek the lofty height, who yet may lie 
Tomorn a-mouldering in the silent dust?

How can my heart respond to present joy, 
Which knows not if the morning will be bright, 
When day conspires with day but to destroy 
And but to ruin night conspires with night?

My dust shall yet be wafted on the winds, 
My flesh into the common earth descend; 
What shall I say, who am pursued by lust 
From life's first dawning to her bitter end?

What profit lies in time or length of days, 
An they be empty of Thy grace? What thing 
Have I for guerdon, if I have not Thee? 
Naked I am; Thou art my covering.

Yet wherefore words, which are but words alone? 
Before Thee, Lord, my every wish is known.


     The Scriptural readings in the morning service offer an
inspired blend of the ritual and spiritual aspects of the day.
The Lessons from the Law are taken from Leviticus 16 and Numbers
29:7-11 and describe respectively the ancient ceremonial of
"purgation" (kippurim) and the special sacrifices appointed for
the occasion. The Lesson from the Prophets, on the other hand, is
taken from Isaiah 57:14--58:I4 and represents, in striking
fashion, the sublimation of the traditional rite through the
progress of Jewish thought.

Is such the fast that I have chosen? 
The day for a man to afflict his soul? 
Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, 
And to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? 
Wilt thou call this a fast,
And a day acceptable unto the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? 
To loosen the fetters of wickedness, 
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free. 
And that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry
And that thou bring the outcast poor to thy house? 
When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, 
And that thou had not thyself from thine flesh?


     The symphony of the Yom Kippur devotions reaches its most
thunderous movement in the so-called "Additional Service" which
today serves as a substitute for the extra sacrifices offered in
the Temple on this occasion.
     The principal feature of this service is the recital of what
is known as the Abodah, i.e., a detailed account of the atonement
ritual anciently performed in the sanctuary. Originally, it would
appear, this consisted solely in excerpts from the relevant
tractate of the Mishnah. In course of time, however, synagogue
poets felt tempted to compose elaborate versified paraphrases of
this somewhat prosaic narrative, and these came to be substituted
for the original Talmudic text. No less than thirty-five
different versions are known to us. Two, however, found special
favor. The one, by the fifth-century Palestinian poet, Jose ben
Jose, is today the standard form in Sephardic congregations; the
other, written by the Italian hymnologist, Meshullam ben
Kalonymos in the tenth century, is adopted by the Ashkenazim.

     Both begin with a brief review of human history from Adam to
Aaron, intended to demonstrate the primordial character and
divine authority of the priestly ritual about to be described.
This is followed by the description itself, the latter adhering
closely to the text of the Mishnah while at the same time
elaborating it with a number of poetic images and tropes. At the
end comes a poem (in various versions) portraying the glory and
splendor of the high priest when he finally emerged from the holy
of holies.

     The recital of the "Abodah" is regarded as the most solemn
moment of the Atonement services, and when the precentor reaches
the passage which describes how the high priest pronounced, this
once in the year, the ineffable name of God, every member of the
congregation follows the ancient gesture of his ancestors and
"bows and prostrates himself and falls upon his face," exclaiming
in a loud voice, "Blessed be the Name of Him Whose glorious
kingdom endures for ever." 7
     It has long been recognized that the final poem of the
Abodah, that which describes the radiance of the high priest,
bears a remarkable resemblance to a passage in the apocryphal
Book of Ecclesiasticus - a resemblance so close, indeed, as to
suggest dependence. Here is Meshullam ben Kalonymos' version of
that poem: 8

There shone a splendor on the high priest's face 
When safe he came forth from the holy place,

Like as the spangled curtain of the sky; Like as the sparks that
from the angels fly:
......

7 The more sedate Sephardim, however, content themselves with a
decorous bow.
8 "Mar'eh Kohen." Adler-Davis, "Atonement," ii, 166.
......


Like as the azure skeins we wear so proud; 9 
Like as the rainbow poised within the cloud;

Like as the sheen which our first parents wore 
In Eden's garden in the days of yore;

Like as a rose within a garden bed; 
Like as a crown about a kingly head;

Like as the radiance in a bridegroom's eye; 
Like snowhite robes in all their purity;

Like courtiers stol'd for audience with their kings; 
Like as the daystar when the morning springs.


And here is the passage from Ecclesiasticus 10


How glorious was he when he shone forth from the Tent, 
and when he came out from the curtained chamber; 11  
As a shining star from amid the clouds, 
and as the full moon on the festiva1; 12
As the sun dawning on the palace of the king, 
and as the rainbow seen, in the cloud;
As the blossoming foliage on the festival, 13 
and as a lotus by streams of water;
As a flower of Lebanon in summer days,
and as the glow of frankincense in the censer; 
As golden vessels, [basin and bowl,] 14
tricked out with precious stones; 
As a green olive-tree in full bloom, 
and as a verdant tree rich in leaves.

......

9 On the praying-shawl; cf. Num. 15:37.
10 Eccles. 50:5-21. Our rendering follows the Hebrew version,
discovered in 1896-1900. This differs in many places from the
Greek text, from which the standard English translation was made.
11 i.e., the holy of holies.
12 i.e., on Passover or Booths, which commence at full moon. 
13 i.e., on the Feast of Booths; cf. Lev. 23:40.
14 The text is defective; it is here restored on the basis of
Ezra 1:9-10.
......

When he was clothed in the glorious garments, 
and robed in the raiment resplendent, 
When his lustre beamed upon the altar
and bathed the court of the temple in beauty; 
When he received the portions from his brethren, 
himself standing by the dressed sacrifices, 
Then (his) sons formed a crown around him, 
like the saplings of a cedar of Lebanon,
And they compassed him round about like willows of the brook,
even all the scions of Aaron in their splendor,
with the offerings of the Lord in their hands, 
before all the congregation of Israel.
When he had finished ministering at the altar, 
offering oblations unto the Most High, 
Then the scions of Aaron, the priests,
Blew on the trumpets of beaten work; 
They blew, and they cried in a voice majestic, 
to make memorial unto the Lord. 15
Then promptly all mortal flesh
fell upon their faces on the ground, 
Prostrating themselves before the Most High, 
before the Holy One of Israel.
And the choir gave forth its voice,
and over the throng made their voices ring out; 
And all the people of the land
intoned prayers unto Him Who is merciful.
And when (the high priest) had finished ministering at the altar,
and had brought unto it its due,
Then he went down, and he lifted his hands over all the
congregation of Israel;
And the blessing of the Lord was upon his lips,
and he was glorified (in pronouncing) the Name of the Lord; 
And for a second time
all the people fell down before him.


     This remarkable resemblance has recently inspired the
ingenious theory that the passage from Ecclesiasticus was
......

15 Cf. Num. 10:10; I Chron. 16:4.
......


anciently used in the synagogue as a supplement to the formal
recitation of the Abodah from the text of the Mishnah, and that
the modern poems are but later substitutes for it. In support of
this conjecture, it is pointed out that the relevant verses of
the apocryphal book are indeed prefaced by a rapid survey of
world history (chaps. 44 ff.), just as is the modern
Abodah-service in the synagogue. 16

     The high point of the afternoon service is the reading (or
chanting) of the Book of Jonah as the Lesson from the Prophets.
The reason for this selection is that the central theme of the
book is the value of true repentance and the clemency of God
toward all who evince it, even though they be confirmed
idolators.

     Jonah ben Amittai, a prophet of Jehovah, is commanded to go
to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and call upon it to repent
its evil ways. Instead, however, he flees to Jaffa and there
takes ship for distant Tarshish.
     During the voyage there is a violent storm. Faced with the
prospect of shipwreck, the sailors start calling on their several
gods and throwing cargo overboard to lighten the ship. Jonah,
however, lies fast asleep in the hold and has to be roused by the
captain and reminded of his duty to pray to God. The crew then
casts lots to determine - in accordance with ancient belief - who
has offended the gods and thereby caused the disaster. The lot
falls on Jonah, whereupon they inquire his identity, provenience
and occupation. The prophet tells them that he is an Hebrew and
adds, formally if not accurately, that he "fears Jehovah, the
Lord of heaven, who made both sea and dry land." At these words,
the sailors grow very frightened, and ask him what might be done
to allay the tempest which is raging more furiously by the
minute. Jonah replies that he should be cast overboard, because
it is obviously as a punishment for his disobedience and flight
that God has em-
......

10 Cecil Roth, "Ecclesiasticus in the Synagogue Service," Journal
of Biblical Literature, LI (1952), 171-78.
......


broiled the waters. The mariners, however, are reluctant to take
such a drastic step, fearing that the prophet might perhaps be
mistaken and they would then be taking his life without cause. So
they first try desperately to row to shore, and only when their
efforts prove unsuccessful do they finally throw their passenger
to the waves, at the same time offering sacrifices to Jehovah and
vowing further gifts should they reach safety.
     Meanwhile, Jehovah has prepared a "great fish" to swallow
Jonah, and for three days and three nights the prophet remains in
the belly of the monster, praying to God for release and
promising to make offerings should he be delivered. "They that
wait on vain idols," he adds - in a smug, oblique allusion to the
mariners - "eventually renounce their pledges, but I will indeed
make offering to Thee and loudly proclaim my thanks. Whatever I
vow, I will certainly pay." Thereupon Jehovah orders the fish to
disgorge Jonah upon dry land. Then he commands him for the second
time to go to Nineveh and deliver his message.

     Now, Nineveh is a huge city, and it takes a full three days
to cross it. But the prophet has not been walking about in it for
more than one day, proclaiming its imminent doom ("Forty days
more, and Nineveh will be overturned") when the inhabitants
instantly turn to repentance, proclaim a fast and, upon orders of
the king, clothe themselves in sackcloth and sit amid ashes.
Thereupon God relents his decision and spares them.
     At this the prophet is exceedingly annoyed, for he feels
that he has been sent on a fool's errand. "Isn't this just what I
was saying back home?" he complains to Jehovah. "That was why I
fled to Tarshish in the first place. I knew all along that you
are a gracious and merciful and longsuffering God, and that you
would relent of the fate which you had decreed. Now I am sick to
death of the whole business, and if you want to punish me for
disobedience- well, I would rather be dead than alive!" But
Jehovah merely replies: "So you are as annoyed as all that?" and
says nothing more.
     Then Jonah departs from the city and, constructing a rude
shack some distance from it, sits down in its shade to see what
is going to happen. While he is sitting there, Jehovah creates a
gourd to grow over his head and shelter him from the heat. But
the prophet's joy at this unexpected relief is shortlived, for
the very next morning, in the flush of dawn, Jehovah orders a
weevil to start gnawing away at the gourd, so that by sunrise it
is completely withered. Then he orders a sultry wind to blow from
the east, and the sun beats fiercely on Jonah's head until he
feels faint and wishes to die. At that moment, however, Jehovah
addresses him. "So you are really annoyed about the gourd?" he
asks. "Yes," replies the prophet, "I am really annoyed." "Well,"
rejoins Jehovah, "there you are having pity on a gourd for which
you never labored and which you yourself did not rear - a gourd
which happened to spring up in a night and perish in a night.
Should I not, then, have pity on Nineveh, that great city,
wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons who know not
their right hand from their left hand, and also much cattle?"

     One of the major points in the Book of Jonah is the contrast
between the instant trust and piety even of the heathen and the
lack of confidence and the infidelity of the servant of God. When
the storm rages at sea, the idolatrous mariners immediately call
upon their gods; the prophet, however, remains asleep in the
hold. When he reveals to them that he is the cause of their
misfortune, they nevertheless refrain, out of pity and humanity,
from casting him overboard, and do so only as a last resort.
     Moreover, even then, they will not consent to so drastic an
appeasement of Jehovah without themselves acknowledging his power
by sacrifices and vows. Similarly, when Jonah eventually goes to
Nineveh, the inhabitants of that evil city do not even wait for
the completion of his mission before expressing their repentance.

     Nor is this merely a popular demonstration, a mere outburst
of public hysteria; it is an act officially ordained by the king,
who himself participates in it (3:6). Nor this alone; in the
original text there is a subtle point which, even at the risk of
grotesqueness, serves to emphasize the ready piety of the
heathen: because they seek deliverance not only for themselves
but also for their cattle, even the dumb beasts are obliged to
observe the general fast, and they too are clothed in sackcloth
(3:7-8)!
     Nowhere, perhaps, has this basic lesson of the book found
better expression in modern literature than in Father Mapple's
sermon at the Whalemen's Chapel in Melville's "Moby Dick":

     As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it is a
     story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears,
     the swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the
     deliverance and joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men,
     this son of Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the
     command of God - never mind now what that command was, or
     how conveyed - which he found a hard command. But all the
     things that God would have us do are hard for us to    do -
     remember that--and hence, he oftener commands than endeavors
     to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves;
     and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness
     of obeying God consists.


     The ancient rabbis, however, not content with such purely
general homilies, sought also to explain why the Book of Jonah
had been selected especially for the liturgy of the Day of
Atonement and, more specifically, why it was recited in the
afternoon rather than the morning service. To both questions they
found ready answers. On the Day of Atonement, it was observed,
Israel is naturally apprehensive lest, for all its repentance, it
fail to receive divine forgiveness. God therefore reassures it,
through the Book of Jonah, that if He was ready to accept the
penitence of heathen Nineveh, he is all the more ready to accept
that of His own people. And the reason why the book is read in
the afternoon is that this is a time of day when prayers are
especially acceptable; for was not Elijah the prophet answered on
Carmel "when noon tide was past . . . at the time of the
afternoon sacrifice" (I Kings 18:29,36)? 17

     In ages less enlightened than our own, when it was
considered blasphemous to see in the stories of the Bible
anything but the record of historical fact, commentators and
ecclesiastics were often put to considerable pains to
"authenticate" the more grotesque and bizarre elements of the
Book of Jonah, and wondrous and ingenious were some of the
explanations they propounded.

     What troubled them most, of course, was the incident of the
"great fish," for they knew - or thought they knew--that the more
common type of whale or shark does not in fact possess a gullet
wide enough to swallow a human being. The creature in question,
it was patiently pointed out, was a special kind of whale - the
so-called right whale, of which Melville tells us that its mouth
"would accommodate a couple of whist-tables and comfortably seat
all the players." Indeed, even in the edition of Jonah contained
in the Cambridge Bible for Schools, published toward the end of
the nineteenth century, there is a special appendix citing
instances of whales having swallowed human beings, and carefully
identifying the species!

     Moreover, even if the prophet was swallowed, how, it was
asked, could he have managed to survive in the belly of the
monster for three days and three nights, seeing that its gastric
juices would at once have poisoned him? Not so, replied the
learned Bishop Jebb, the "great
......

17 The English Bible distorts the sense by rendering "at the time
of the offering of the evening sacrifice." The Hebrew term is
minhah, "mealoffering." In the Biblical context, all that is
really meant is that Elijah was answered at the moment when the
smoke of the meal-offering ascended from the altar. But the word
came to denote the afternoon sacrifice in the Temple, and it
survives as the name of the afternoon service. Hence the
rabbinical explanation.
......


fish" which Jehovah prepared was a dead fish, in which all such
noxious elements had already ceased to function. That, too, was
why, at the end of the appointed period, it was able to disgorge
the prophet whole, unchewed and undigested!

     Others found an even more fantastic explanation: "Great
Fish," they said, was the name of a ship, which God provided to
rescue His servant, and which eventually landed him on terra
firma, the "belly of the fish" being simply the hold or steerage.
(This vagary, it may be added, actually finds place in Ferrar
Fenton's curious Bible in Modern English, likewise published at
the end of the nineteenth century.)

     Others again tried to surmount the difficulties of the
narrative by the ingenious supposition that the whole incident of
Jonah's being awakened by the captain, thrown overboard and
swallowed by the "great fish" was simply what he dreamed when he
was lying fast asleep in the "sides of the ship"!

     Lastly, if these interpretations failed to carry conviction,
there was always another way in which the inspiration of the
sacred text could be defended without embarrassing commitment to
its factual truth: the story could be taken allegorically. Jonah
is the Hebrew word for "dove," and--following the allegorical
interpretation of the Song of Songs, in which the beloved is
addressed as "my dove" - this became a favorite symbol for the
people of Israel. The whole story, therefore, though told as if
it referred to the historical Jonah ben Amittai, was really an
allegory of Israel's constant disobedience to God's command and
of its vain attempts to flee from His presence. The "great fish"
was simply the personification of that lawlessness and chaos, or
perhaps even of the Exile and Dispersion, in which it would find
itself "engulfed" for a certain span, until finally released by
the mercy of God!

     Such extravagances are now, by and large, a thing of the
past. We now know that the Biblical writers made abundant use of
current folklore in order to bring home their message; and the
story of Jonah and the "big fish" reveals itself as a skillful
Hebrew adaptation of a widespread theme. An ancient Indian tale,
for example, relates that once upon a time there lived a princess
who refused to marry anyone except the man who had set eyes on
the Golden City of legend. The hero Saktideva accepted the
challenge, and proceeded to roam the world in search of that
fabulous place. In the course of his travels, he set sail for the
island of Usthala, to seek direction from the king of the
fishermen, who dwelt there. On the way, a storm arose, and the
ship capsized. Saktideva, however, was swallowed by a great fish
which carried him to the island and eventually disgorged him
whole. 
     The same story is told in Ceylon about the hero Buhadama;
while an ancient Greek legend relates that Heracles was once
swallowed by a whale near the port of Jaffa, and remained within
the animal's belly for three days. 
     Similar tales, it may be added, are current to this day in
the popular lore of Melanesia and Indonesia and among French-
Canadians. 

     What the Scriptural writer did, therefore, was simply to
take a familiar legend, associate it with a Hebrew prophet, and
re-tell it for homiletic purposes - a process later repeated
times beyond number by the preachers of the Middle Ages.

Although the Book of Jonah deals with a historical character who
lived in the eighth century B.C.E., during the reign of the
Israelite king Jeroboam II, it was not written by him, but is
simply a folktale later attached to his name. Modern scholars
believe, on the evidence of style and of the author's evident
indebtedness to later Biblical writings, that it was composed at
some time between 500 and 400 B.C.E. - that is, in the century
following the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Exile. Its
purpose would have been to remind the renegade, "assimilated"
elements of the Jewish people that escape from their ancestral
faith and from their duty of bearing witness to God's presence
and of exemplifying His dispensation was, in the long run,
impossible and vain. The choice of Jonah ben Amittai as the hero
of the tale would have been especially pointed, for this was the
prophet who, in olden times, had inspired the renegade and
apostatic Jeroboam to extend and stabilize the confines of Israel
so that those who had been living unprotected on the fringes of
the kingdom might again be gathered within its fold. As the
ancient record put it:

[Jeroboam] restored the boundary of Israel from the entrance to
Hamath even unto the Sea of the Wilderness, in accordance with
the word of Jehovah, the God of Israel, which He spake through
His servant, the prophet Jonah ben Amittai, who came from
Gathhepher. For Jehovah saw that the affliction of the Children
of Israel was very grievous . . . and that Israel had no helper,
and Jehovah was resolved not to blot out the name of Israel from
under heaven; so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam.
(11 Kings 14:25-27)

     The situation would have had a certain resemblance to that
which obtained at the return from the Exile, and the parallel
would scarcely have been lost upon the men of that age.

(Pretty fancy foot work by the Jews, in figuring the book of
Jonah was to be made up, from the history of unfaithful Israel,
and was only figurative and not to be taken in any literal way,
as Jonah being literally called to do what the book asserts. It
was the imfamous Origin in the first centuries A.D. that became
known for allorying or interpreting the Bible from start to
finish with "this story means this" and that story means that"
and nothing was to be taken as literal theology. Hence with such
reasoning it is possible to make the Bible say anything you want
it to say, as some skeptic and atheists have asserted Christians
[all many differing denominations] do with the Bible - Keith
Hunt)


     For the rest, the afternoon service represents a certain
easing of tension after the tremendous moment of the Abodah. It
is, as it were, a kind of interlude between

                            ...................


To be continued

Note:

Certainly the day of At-one-ment pictures and demonstrates the
abundant MERCY and GRACE and LOVE of God.

The physical side of fasting on this day, a little time spent in
physical deprevation of the food and drink of life, is to teach
us that the nations of the world will needs have to go through
physical sorrow and deprevation of the physical good life, and
taste of punishment, to bring the people to the attitude of the
humble fasting person, who is to change his lifestyle to serving
God and other people in the spirit and truth, that the Lord
desires from the humble repentant faster.

It is nevertheless a "feast" day of some joy and lifting up of
the heart, for in this day, we see the mercy of the Lord towards
all nations. His plan of eventually bringing all peoples from all
nations, to REPENTANCE, and humbly walking with the One and Only
True God of the universe; when all nations and peoples will be
AT-ONE with God. Oh indeed, what an age that will be. So on this
day, lift up your head that is blowed low, rejoice in the Lord,
for His goodness and MERCY will be seen towards all nations. The
fulfilment of this day, is more wonderful than our human mind can
really comprehend. A day when the knowledge of the Lord shall
cover the earth as the waters cover the sea beds. Though we
meditate upon it, though we rejoice in the fact of it, that it
will be so one day; it is hard to really get your mind around the
truth of it. But with our looking through a glass darkly at the
meaning of this feast day, we can only get a fraction of its
reality in our mind at this time. Nevertheless friends, REJOICE
in this at-one-ment Feast. Maybe study and read the prophecies of
old that tell about the age to come, when the RESTITUTION of all
things will take place and the world will be at one with its
Creator!

I once attended an Atonement service (way back in the middle
1980s) with the "Reformed" Jewish congregation. The service was 3
HOURS long, and no one seemed to mind, not even the children of
various ages. And indeed they ALL did FAST, even the young
children (of course not babies or toddlers - actually did not see
babies or toddlers in the service ... ah, but could have been, my
memory fails me to remember). It was a most interesting service.
Oh yes, in "dress" the "reformed" Jewish congregations dress no
differently than the average person in the country ... not sure
if today they would come in sweat-shirts and blue-jeans and
garden type clothing, as a lot of "Sunday" observing groups do
today (which I personally find distastful - would you come before
the Queen, President or Primeminster in garden clothes? Maybe so
if you had nothing else, but I think you get what I mean).

Keith Hunt

September 2009


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