The Rabbi Wore Tennis Shoes - Yom Kippur 2018

The ‘High Holy Days’ were always one of my favorite times of the year. My family religiously attended Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services at Heights Temple in Cleveland, Ohio, regardless of our poor attendance the rest of the year. As autumn approached and the leaves just started changing color —and the Cleveland Browns began what were, at that time, winning seasons—we looked forward to a ‘New Year’—and an opportunity to celebrate these holidays, commencing with Rosh HaShanah; literally, the ‘Head of the Year.’ (It also didn’t hurt that, in our predominantly Jewish suburb called Beachwood, school—if not cancelled altogether—was virtually empty and non-functional!) The synagogue services were long, but engaging. We had our own young people gatherings in a hall directly below where our parents were. (That was cool in itself.) In addition—once a year—the rabbi and cantor wore white robes and white tennis shoes! I assumed, even at that young age, it had something to do with purity—though I had no concept of what THAT was!

Enduring a lengthy, liturgy laden service was rewarded by the sounding of the shofar—the ram’s horn blown at the conclusion of the observances. Then there were apples and honey and other goodies, enjoyed with the sharing of wishes for a ‘good and sweet year!’

Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—also ended with a shofar blast. However, it was a fast day. (Strange description since it seemed to go so slow!) My brother and sister and our cousins were all in quiet and benign competition to see who could make it till sundown, when we broke the fast with food that NEVER tasted so good! (Confession: we would often sneak a few Cheerios ‘before the time.’)

Vivid in my memory is the recitation of sins against God and man, accompanied by a grasping of the tallit—a prayer shawl worn during services—and a light pounding of the chest over one’s heart. This was to signify remorse over transgression and repentance unto forgiveness, at least for a year until the holidays came around again. In those days, though I knew I wasn’t perfect—in spite of what my mother thought—I hardly understood what it was I was confessing. Now, many, many years and synagogue services later, I do!

This time of the year, in the midst of these High Holy Days, I am, more than ever, aware of how far I am from being even CLOSE to perfect. Truthfully, the chasm between the perfection of God and my own imperfection is painfully evident. That is why, as a ‘New Covenant’ believer in Yeshua—(Jesus)—I am more than ever GRATEFUL for the perfect Jewish man who showed up in Israel in the days of the ‘Old Covenant.’ He, as a religious Jew, observed these Holy days listed in Leviticus 23. But He wasn’t just an ‘observer’ of them. He IS the fulfillment of them! He had no need to beat his chest and confess His sins; He had none.

As the high priest of Israel went, once a year, into the ‘holy place’ with a blood offering—so our High Priest, Messiah Yeshua—offered His blood as atonement for our many sins; sins that would keep us out of the presence of a Holy G-d for eternity! Because of who He is and what He did—we, as believers in Him, are promised forgiveness of our transgressions.
The shofar sounds at Rosh HaShanah to awaken us to the awareness that our Messiah will one day come, at the blast of a heavenly trumpet, to bring us to Himself. Yom Kippur reminds us of what Yeshua gave—His own life—to provide new life for His people, Israel—and for all who will believe.

May these days be a reminder to you of how much you are loved by the Lord.
May your observance of these holy days—even if it’s simply in your heart—be a blessing to you.
May you and your loved ones—to paraphrase a common New Year greeting —‘be inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life!’
And may we all look forward to wearing—as did my rabbi—white shoes!
I have no idea if they’ll be Nikes or Adidas or Jack Purcells (Those were popular back then)!
I do know we will wear them along with the white garments, purchased by the blood of the Lamb of God, and promised to His ‘saints’ who faithfully follow Him.

My prayer for you and for me and mine is to be so clothed; finally pure and holy in the sight of G-d as is His beloved Son!
‘Hallelujah’ to Yeshua—and Chag Sameach—Happy Holy Days from my family and me!!!

Love and shalom,