This should be the sweetest time of the year. But, for some, the High Holidays produce only anxiety. What if I don’t know Hebrew? Can I say the prayers in English? What if I don’t have a proper kiddush cup? Can I use a wine glass? What if my family doesn’t observe? Should I celebrate without them? What if I hate the taste of apples and honey? Do I have to eat it?
The High Holidays kick off at sunset, Wednesday, September 28 this year (2011) with Rosh HaShanah, the Biblical Feast of Trumpets and Jewish New Year. During Rosh HaShanah, we send holiday greetings, blow shofars, sing, dance, and eat apples dipped in honey and round challah to remind us of the provision of the LORD, and to look for his sweetness in the year to come.
Almost as soon as the taste of honey leaves our mouths, a ten day period of introspection begins. These are the Days of Awe, during which we believe God will reveal himself to us in a mighty way. We pray, and seek to draw near in preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment.
Judgment. That’s the scary part. What if I don’t do everything right? Will God be displeased with me? Will he curse me? Would I be better off not observing the holidays at all, rather than doing it wrong? I say, NO!
During the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, the Bible records a large group of sincere believers who came together in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Many did not purify themselves before taking the sacrificial lamb, as commanded in the Book of the Law. Not only had these people violated tradition, they violated an actual command of God himself. Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” God did pardon them. He healed them, and “their prayer reached heaven.”
God regards the intentions of our hearts. When we set our hearts on seeking God, we do not need to fear him.
“For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:9)