Rabbenu Home


A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, October 27, 2006

"After the Holy Days are Over": A Message for Shemini Atzeret

This message is being posted late, but I trust it will still be nurturing to some of you.

Today’s Haftarah is taken from the end of Solomon’s prayer at the Dedication of the Temple. The context mentions that the dedication festivities took eight days. This is why this passage is used for the Haftarah of Shemini Atzeret, which comes on the eighth day, the end of the Sukkot season.

From this passage, I will draw some lessons for all of us as to how to proceed in our own lives at a time when a Holy Day season is at an end.

54 When Solomon finished offering to the Lord all this prayer and supplication, he rose from where he had been kneeling, in front of the altar of the Lord, his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood, and in a loud voice blessed the whole congregation of Israel:

56 "Praised be the Lord who has granted a haven to His people Israel, just as He promised; not a single word has failed of all the gracious promises that He made through His servant Moses.

Holy seasons are times for each of us to reflect on how God has provided us a homeland, not once, not twice, but three times---under Joshua, after the Babylonian Captivity, and again, in 1948, against incredible odds, and amidst fierce opposition. They are times to become more aware of and grateful for God’s provision.

57 May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He never abandon or forsake us.

Holy seasons are times for each of us to reflect on the ways of God in our history, to learn from them, and for each of us to recognize that God is the same now as then: if we disdain his authority we will face the same consequences as the people we study during the Holy Seasons. If we honor Him, we can expect to be rewarded like they were.

58 May He incline our hearts to Him, that we may walk in all His ways and keep the commandments, the laws, and the rules, which He enjoined upon our fathers.

Holy seasons are meant to be times of renewal—of intensification and improvement of our walk with God. So let me ask you this: have YOU improved, have you changed for the better as a result of the Rosh Hashan/Yom Kippur/Sukkot season? If you haven’t, then you didn’t get the point, perhaps because I didn’t make the point.

I work out in a gym, about five days a week. There are some people who come to the gym to work hard. They are focused and disciplined. There are others who spend most of their time talking. They wear flattering and expensive gym clothes, and hardly ever work up a sweat. . For them, the gym is a place to shoot the breeze, admire members of the opposite sex, hopefully, be admired by others, and just hang out. They will go home congratulating themselves for how they spent a couple of hours in the gym, nor realizing how little time they spent really working out.

Holy seasons are times for spiritual work-outs. Are you in better shape than you were three weeks ago? If not, you missed the point.

59 And may these words of mine, which I have offered in supplication before the Lord, be close to the Lord our God day and night, that He may provide for His servant and for His people Israel, according to each day’s needs — 60 to the end that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord alone is God, there is no other.

Holy seasons are times to reflect on how we shouldn’t live life as though it was all about us. This is why the confessions of sin in the Ten Days of Awe are all about our relationships with others. We should come out of this season equipped, motivated and committed to spreading the knowledge of God to other people. We should come out of holy seasons more keenly aware of how our good or bad example brings others closer to God or drives them away.

Maybe you realize that you wasted the holy season we have just come through. It is not too late to learn and apply some lessons—better late than never. It is like the person like me who starts working out in earnest when he is in his sixties. It’s no use bewailing a misspent youth—and lost opportunities to get in shape. Now is the time, and if you get started now, you can push back the clock. Similarly, there is still time to learn the spiritual lessons we should have learned during the recent holy days:

There is still time to reflect on how God has been good to Israel and given us a homeland against incredible odds, keeping us in life, establishing us, and enabling us to reach this season.

There is still time to seek renewal, repenting of things that need to be forsaken, seeking the strength and wisdom to make wrong things right and to make a new start.

There is still time to begin working out: to get into better physical shape or spiritual shape through cultivating the right habits.

There is still time for each of us to turn our attention to the needs of others around us, to fight against our normal tendency to be so very ingrown and self-protective.

In other words, there is always room for improvement, and the gates of repentance are always open. So do it now!

And Solomon concludes with a benediction which is perfect for us as well:

61 And may you be wholehearted with the Lord our God, to walk in His ways and keep His commandments, even as now."

"Be Younger Next Year" is a recent book by physician Harry Lodge and Chris Crowley. The book has the kind of common sense advice all of us should take. And if we do, we will feel younger as the years go by. I know it’s working for me! The book is a good investment for all couch potatoes, middle aged and older.

Here are their seven principles. After each, I have provided some applications to our spiritual health. I think we would all do well to put these principles into practice in our spiritual and physical lives.

1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life

And exercise spiritually every day. Are you stretching yourself spiritually, seeking to learn to carry more weight, to "run the race" faster? Or are you bogged down with self pity and inertia. Is your prayer life a matter of whim or a matter of principle? Do you have a program for growing spiritually? Or do you expect to be spoon fed? [Remember the final scenes of "Driving Miss Daisy"]

2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life

See the above for a spiritual application.

3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life

See #1 above for a spiritual application.

4. Quit eating crap!

What do you read, what do you see, what do you listen to? Is it good for your spiritual life? And in addition to cutting out the crap, what spiritually enriching things are you going to start "eating"—seeing, listening to, reading. What’s your plan of action?

Are you reading and watching spiritual fluff?

5. Spend less than you make

We need to learn to conserve our resources in order to invest them well. It means not only not wasting money—it also means not wasting time. Use your time and money wisely—for the glory of God and for the good of all.

6. Care
All of us are conscious of how others treat us. How do you treat others? How aware do you want to be of the lives of others you know? Care more.

7. Connect and commit.

Good ideas are worthless unless put into action. You need to begin connecting more with others whose influence is good for you, and whom you ought to influence for the better. And you need to start moving in a more positive direction starting today and continuing week in and week out.

I hope this helps all of you!

At 10/31/2006 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you have a program for growing spiritually?"

What would this look like? Do you have any recommendations?

At 10/31/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Although the shelves of bookstores abound in titles offering a one size fits all program for spiritual development, the wisdom of years teaches me that people are different, and that, once one gets beyond the most basic matters, spiritual growth programs need to be tailored to fit. This is one reason why people seek out spiritual directors.

To emphasize both the continuity of the basics, and the variableness of tailoring spiritual programs for different individuals, I developed a model called,"The Cube of Messianic Jewish Spirituality."

I will post that on this site within 48 hours as a new posting. It may help you. Meanwhile, I will give more thought to your excellent question.



Post a Comment

<< Home