The Joy of Toireh

Sounds of singing and ululations woke me up this morning, the eighth day of Sukkot.

“Hakafot”, I thought. Today is “Simchat Torah” – the day during which the Torah is celebrated and rejoiced in. In synagogues worldwide, Jews will finish reading the last Parashah (portion) in the book of Deuteronomy and start reading all over again from Genesis.

Until the Babylonian captivity in 597BC, the public reading cycle of the Torah lasted three and a half years. Only in exile was the practice changed to reading the entire Torah in one year. Gradually, this has become accepted by the entire nation.

Toireh – this is how Ashkenazy Jews pronounce “Torah”. The name of the feast, “Simchat Torah”, is not Biblical. It was introduced in the 8th century AD and was designed to describe the joy that fills the people once the reading cycle of the Torah culminates.

In most synagogues, all Torah scrolls are taken out of the Ark, and the crowd dances with them, circling the Bima (stage) seven times, while singing and rejoicing. When the seventh Hakafah (round) starts, some synagogues bring the Torah scrolls out to the people gathered outside, and everyone reaches out and kisses the decorated cover. This ritual takes place only once a year and attracts visitors from the entire country.

I dressed quickly and walked around my quaint neighborhood. It is located in the center of Jerusalem and was established about 140 years ago (1875). In some ways it resembles the old city, with houses built like small walls around inner courts, sprinkled with dozens of tiny synagogues in many corners. The sounds of rejoicing and celebration arose from every direction. Benches were put out in the streets to enable women and children to watch the first six Hakafot, which were taking place inside the men’s courts within the synagogues. Everyone just waited for the scrolls to be brought out on the 7th round.

The joy and laughter when that started. Forget Corona restrictions! The crowds started moving towards the scrolls, desiring to touch them for a second. “Yibaneh HaMikdash” (Let the Temple be built) and “Hoshiah Et Amecha” (Save Your people, based on Ps. 28) are some of the main songs the crowd repeatedly sang.

Hoshia Et Amecha, Hakafot 2019 in Har HaMor Yeshivah

I listened and prayed: “Answer their prayerful songs, God. Gather these stones, turn each one of them into a living stone and build a temple they can’t even fathom. The yearning and zeal for Your Word they display… the bitter tears they will shed once they realize that this Torah, that so reverently they bring out of its holding place once a year, kissing and rejoicing in, have put on flesh, and came to dwell among us long ago. Use this emotional vibe that is filling the streets right now and breathe life into it. Show them what price your Word has paid so that each one of them can turn into a stone in your Temple. Save, oh Lord, your people, and bless your heritage. Shepherd and carry them up forever (Ps. 28:9).

Even Israel’s hospitals celebrate the Hakafot. Here’s the version of the staff at one of Israel’s ICUs from last year.

Photo credit:


“I will come down and speak with you there…” (Num. 11:17)

The Great Escape (photo credit Brian Oldham, on flickr)

Moses was getting ready for an event every leader longs for: recruiting helpers that will carry with him the burden God has placed on his shoulders. God commanded him to appoint 70 elders for that purpose. Not a small number, but not that many either, considering the magnitude of the flock they had to oversee.

In verse 16 God tells him to gather those whom he – Moses – knows to be Israel’s leaders and officials, and bring them to the Tabernacle. How could Moses know who these leaders and officers are? Didn’t he have` his plate full as it was from dusk till dawn? And why does he have to bring them to the Tabernacle, to the Tent of Meeting, of all places?

Because that is exactly where they were about to be tested. The Tabernacle is where we are all tested, where our real stand with God is expressed. I assume Moses could recognize the candidates for the job only because they have been faithful and diligent to come to him, while he was sitting at the gate of the Tent and judging the people. From there he could see who brought their sacrifices as required; how they treated others; how they approached the priests and in what regards; how they ministered even before they were appointed.

Where Is There?

Earlier God made it clear to Moses where He will speak to him. The “there” verse 17 refers to is described in Exodus 25.

“There I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the Mercy Seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the Ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (Ex. 25:22; also see Ex. 29:43, Num. 7:89 and elsewhere).

Our half scaled model of the Tabernacle

Such a specific location. This is not just some unidentified spot within the Holy of Holies, or across the Mercy Seat. It was specifically within the triangular space created between the two cherubs placed upon the Mercy Seat.

How Does One Get There?

How could Moses get there? For only the high priest was allowed to enter that specific spot, and that, only once a year – on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, which starts today).

Back then, these were indeed the restrictions. But Moses, being Moses, symbolizes a path that Yeshua, the Prophet-like-Moses, was about to open wide for all of us. Today the path that leads there is wide open and the entrance fee is fully paid for anyone who trusts in the Blood (Heb. 12:9-11). Only these people can get there, and clearly hear what God says to them about us, Himself, and others.

One Important Point

We can’t just hop our way over there, skipping what is in our path. Yes, the Gate is open and the path is sprinkled with Blood that has prepared the way for us, but we still must enter in through the only Gate, that narrow one, and then do that which the priests did by each of the Tabernacle’s furnishings.

Otherwise, we won’t truly know if it is God speaking to us when we hear something, or maybe our flesh or, God forbid, some other voices.

The Process

What did the priest do by each piece in the Tabernacle in order to get “there”? And how are we to do that today?

This is a lifelong process for any disciple, who desires to always hear Him there. You constantly have to wash your heart and understanding with the blood of repentance and forgiveness (Bronze Altar), with the living water of the Word (Basin), allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to all truth (Lampstand), digest fresh Manna (Table), burn incense that is deeply connected to the process you have just been through (Golden Altar), etc.

Ot OoMofet’s Tabernacle workshops focus on this process (a discipleship program that lasts several months or can be taught in an intensive format over the span of 10 days).

For the theoretical part, you are welcome to watch (part 1) and (part 2).

Taken at one of our intense ten-day workshops.

Up and Down

How many times did Moses climb up the mountain to get there? For years I thought he did so twice. Once to receive the tablets upon which God inscribed His commandments, the second time to write them himself. But one day I marked each reference and realized there were many more times.

Eight instances in which Moses went up the mountain are mentioned in that Torah portion. God, have mercy, I thought. The guy’s already upwards of 80 years old! But then I got it: turns out we are always called to climb higher, and then a little more, in our intimacy with God. It may seem tedious to us, even redundant, until we get to that place where He is “there”. A place in which no questions are left unanswered, ascending and descending is as natural and easy as it is for a gazelle, our needs are so fully taken care of, that even eating and drinking are not an issue, and there’s nothing left for us to do – besides being!

A Crown and a Diadem

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:4).

This verse kept popping in my mind last week, as I called upon several women who support getting the vaccine, to join hands with a few who object it. Together we met for a unique zoom meeting. I wanted us to somehow stay in our different opinions and the pain each side inflicts on the other, take these differences into account, and yet together enter into a joint place at the feet of the cross. I did not want us to ignore each side’s woundedness, just not to focus on it, and altogether remember that there is a Deeper Wound that we must lift our eyes up to.

The guideline was: His Blood was poured and His Body broken for both camps just the same. And who am I to judge someone else’s servant? (I know this is a wild paraphrase of Romans 14:4; yet it’s interesting to read that chapter in the context of vaccines).

We started the meeting with breaking bread together. Then – while we were still facing God and acknowledging the price He paid – we shared with each other what the Blood of Yehua means for each of us. Some asked forgiveness or chose to forgive. Since we started taking communion but had not finished it until the very end, the entire meeting was held with each of us acutely aware that we are found within His wound. And so, instead of focusing on what the other side is doing and the damage it causes the other camp, we were able to focus for awhile on what He has done for both sides together.

Only after about an hour we ended the meeting by taking the wine together as well and sealing what we started.

A Dividing Factor

We are now on the first day of Rosh Hashana. In Modern Judaism, it is one of the two most important familial events of the year. Families gather together around a well prepared table, pronounce blessings, give gifts, enjoy one another. Yet, I know of a few families that are divided this year by the issue of vaccines, and I am sure there are many more.

The medical treatment that was designed to ensure the safety of those at risk and put an end to a pandemic, has become a point of contention and possible division. The entire issue of vaccine has an aspect that we can easily ignore. We are all so concerned with its medical and physical aspect, that we don’t realize it has become a vehicle of division, that undermines people’s sense of safety with one another! It divides congregations, even families. And so, that which is meant to keep, protect and heal – turns into a deep wound instead.

Are You Facing Something Similar?

Does the issue of vaccine undermine significant relationships in your life? Does it cause you to lose some that are near and dear to your heart?

If so, please remember that there is a choice you can make. Cooperating with the dividing flow is not the only option! It is so easy to get offended, isolate ourselves, and sever ties with those who think differently, who even disagree with us strongly. But if we go that route, that would mean we have succumbed to fear, instead of extending the only kind of love that can deal with any level of that fear.

If your relatives and loved ones that oppose you are followers of Yeshua, would you please decide to stop focusing on yours, and invite them into His wound? It’s a safe place to meet at.

If they do not know Him yet, look for ways to wash their feet. Use this unique opportunity to remove your outer garment and any inch of pride or rejection that might be motivating you, and look for a lower path to reach out. Don’t let this plague rob you even more. Yeshua did it on the very night He was about to be betrayed (John 13). His way of preparing Himself for the ultimate betrayal did not go through alienation, arguing, pulling away, staying safe. On the contrary, He humbled Himself even more (v. 4-5), removed any outer layer, and dealt with the dust and stench of His loved ones’ feet.

Alpha, Beta… Delta… Omega

Yeshua, I am not sure I can go that low when it feels that people might be even willing to betray one another in the name of safety and health. I don’t have it in me at all. So in the midst of this chaos, I choose to place my feet, my dusty and smelly and earthly feet, on You – solid Rock, my firm foundation.

The enemy uses new tactics each time he tries to assault us humans. But the fear, sickness and dissention he had spread with the beta, gamma and now delta variants of Covid, do not change anything for You. You have no variants. You do not evolve, nor retreat. You are always and forever both Alfa and Omega – and everything in between.

You are the one who began everything, and You are also the one who will bring it unto completion. You know all the variations along the way, and You have provided all that is needed to treat each one. You don’t assemble Your Health Committee to start developing a new solution each time a new disease comes upon us. Your once-and-for-all solution has been manufactured in Your “lab” from before the foundation of the world, and it is still available to everyone – over the counter. And for free!

 “From altar to throne”
By SigneSandelin, DevianArt

I choose to lift my eyes off the numbers that the media broadcasts. I lift it higher and even higher, and look at Your head. It does not display spikes that must be eliminated. Just the opposite! Your head is adorned at times with a crown of thorns, and at times with a royal diadem. I am lifting my eyes to what the crown of thorns has achieved, and to the Kingdom You are establishing here on earth. And I am asking on behalf of all Your Body members worldwide: help us set our gaze on these two crowns – on what You have begun, and what You have already finished.