“It was the first day of the seventh month” (Nehemiah 8:2).
After our family began celebrating the ‘appointed times’ found in the Leviticus 23, days, times and seasonal cycles stood out on the pages of the Scriptures. This specific verse in Nehemiah is no different. It sets the time for the events to follow as the ‘first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah – the Feast of Trumpets. This ‘appointed time’ of God begins His season of the fall feasts which are about repentance, atonement and a vision of the coming Millennial Kingdom.
The events in Nehemiah 8 are not some random occurrences in the history of Israel. They are a testimony to the restoration of the Feasts of Elohim to a people who had lived in exile for over 160 years. Though there was a first wave of Jewish return to Jerusalem 70 years after being taken captive, Ezra and Nehemiah were in the second wave 90 years later. It was during this time that the priests gathered the people together on the ‘first day of the seventh month’.
Yom Teruah 445 B.C.E.
A wooden platform was made on which Ezra, the priest, stood and could be seen and heard by all of the men and women who came to listen to the reading of the Torah. As he opened the Torah scroll, everyone stood. Then Ezra blessed Yahweh, the great God. As the people answered with “Amen”, they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads and fell prostrate before Elohim with their faces to the ground.
“Amen” has a very interesting root history. It comes from the Hebrew word aman meaning ‘to nourish, support, make sure and strong’. The word emunah or faithfulness also has its root in aman. The Jewish sages say that amen is an acronym for el melek ne’eman or “God is a faithful King’. According to Revelation 3:14, Yeshua is the “the amen, the faithful and true witness …; he is the faithful King.” Thus the people were saying as they were about to hear the Torah read, “God is a faithful King.”
Days of Awe and Repentance
The Levites, whose responsibility it was, explained the Torah to the people. After being in a foreign country for several generations, they needed to translate the Hebrew so that the returning ‘Persian’ Jews would understand what was being read. When they heard the teachings and instructions that God gave them through Moshe, the people began to weep.
Repentance or ‘turning back to God’ is central to the fall ‘appointed times.’ With the hearing of the Torah for the first time standing in Jerusalem, the people wept. They grieved. They understood they had lost the very essence of their national heritage from the LORD and had not lived accordingly.
Ezra, along with the rest of the Levites told them not to weep, not to be sad for this day was ‘set apart to Elohim their God.’ It was an ‘appointed time’ of Yahweh. They were told to go out, eat rich food, drink sweet drinks and give portions to those who couldn’t provide for themselves. Even today sweet foods are eaten on Feast of Trumpets with apples and honey being the traditional foods evolving from Psalm 119:103 “How sweet to my tongue is your promise, truly sweeter than honey in my mouth!”
Mouth of God
Yeshua said in Matthew 4:4 “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” What does the mouth or ‘voice of God’ sound like?
When John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he has a revelation of Messiah. He says, “I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of the LORD; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a shofar ….” The voice of the LORD sounded like the blowing of a shofar. A shofar, or the horn from a ram, is blown on the Feast of Trumpets. Obviously, it is only when breath goes through the shofar that it can make a sound. Being vessels of Elohim’s Spirit, it is taught that the ‘breath of God’ or ruach ha kodesh blows through a shofar when it sounds.
(Note: John heard the voice that sounded like a shofar on the Day of the LORD. This is in reference to the events surrounding the coming Millennial Kingdom and a time of judgment, not the first day of the week. The events for the Day of the LORD will begin on ‘the first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah.)
The Spring of Living Water
The original city of Jerusalem had very different boundaries than modern-day Jerusalem. In fact, remnants of the city are found in what is known today as the City of David. Within the ‘older’ city of Jerusalem, the Water Gate led down to the Gihon Spring which was located in the Kidron Valley. This spring was the main source of water for the Pool of Siloam. The priests would go to the Pool of Siloam collect the water for each day’s water libation ceremony. During this event, they would pour water over the altar in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. On the last and greatest day of this feast, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (John 7:37-39).
As the people gathered at the Water Gate, it is symbolic of the pathway to the living water of the Word of God. With the reading of the Torah by Ezra, the Jewish people had been ‘washed in the water of the Word’ and began preparing themselves as a pure and holy bride (Ephesians 5:25-26).
On the second day, the heads of the clans of the people joined the Levites and Ezra to study the words of the Torah again. They found that Elohim had ordered through Moshe that the people of Isra’el were to live in booths or sukkot during the ‘appointed time’ in the seventh month known as the Feast of Tabernacles. They were to announce the festival of Sukkot in all of their cities and in Jerusalem.
“Go out to the mountains, and collect branches of olives, wild olives, myrtles, palms, and other leafy trees to make sukkot, as prescribed” (Nehemiah 8:15).
According to Jeremiah 11:16, God calls Israel an olive tree. In Romans 11, Sha’ul speaks about branches of olives and wild olives that make up the Olive Tree of Israel. The natural branches represent the 12 Tribes of Israel and the wild branches of the nations that join with them. Both receive the same living water of the Word through the same Spiritual root. Though both branches will continue to produce either natural olives or wild olives, they both will continue to produce olives.
“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
Myrtle trees are considered an evergreen and are very hardy. They produce a purplish-black berry called the mursins. This fruit can be dried then ground and used as a flavoring. It is one of the four leafy trees bound together for sukkot that have over time has been given the symbolism of ‘good smell, but no taste’, like a person who has ‘good deeds, but does not study the Torah.’
The prophet Zechariah lived during the time between the first and second returning remnants. He has a vision of God, angels and horsemen standing in the midst of a myrtle tree. This vision was given to him to reinforce God’s promise that the exiles who would return to Jerusalem would be prosperous. In order for the Jewish people of Zechariah’s time to prosper, they would need to repent and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rebuild the Temple, and learn Torah. In the time of Nehemiah 8 and Yom Teruah, the repentance had begun.
“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 1:16).
Palms, or lulav in Hebrew, were also part of the branches collected to make a sukkah. It is known for its uprightness, fruit and its beauty. The Jewish sages say that the palm tree, which has taste but no smell, can be compared to a person who studies Torah, but has no fruit of good works.
The first mention of palm trees in Scripture is when the Israelites are camped at the oasis of Elim during their trek in the wilderness. It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that palm branches are waved signifying the coming Messianic kingdom. This is why palm branches were waved when Yeshua entered Jerusalem during the Passover season. The people believed that the kingdom of God had arrived; however, it was the wrong ‘appointed time’ and season. In Revelation 7:9, multitudes from every tribe and nation will be waving palm branches and giving glory to the King of Kings. Today, the lulav is a special binding of three species of branches along with an etrog (a type of citrus fruit). It is used to worship the LORD during Sukkot and to remind everyone that one day the nations of the world will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).
The people went out from the city, collected branches from specific trees and made sukkot for themselves on the roofs of their homes, in their courtyards, in the Temple courts and in the open spaces by the Water Gate and the Efrayim Gate. The entire community of those who had returned from the exile made sukkot and lived in them for the commanded time of eight days. They had not done this since the days of Joshua and they celebrated Sukkot with great joy. They also read the Torah every day from the first day until the last day of the ‘appointed time.’
In Our Day
The Feast of Trumpets begins on the first day of the seventh month and Sukkot begins on the fourteenth day. In our Gregorian calendar these fall festivals occur in our months of September/October. They are a vision of the coming Kingdom of God when Israel, the natural branches of the Olive Tree will gather in Jerusalem along with the nations, the wild branches of the Olive Tree, to worship the King of Kings. Everyone will wave olive, palm and myrtle branches for they will not just study Torah, they will bear righteous fruit of the etrog in the Kingdom of the Most High God.
The Jews in the days of Nehemiah prepared for this coming Kingdom by repenting and returning to the Torah of God and celebrated the ‘appointed times’ on their commanded days. As wild olives, we can also embrace the vision of the coming Kingdom millennia later through the same ways: repentance and turning back to God, learning Torah, and proclaiming the ‘appointed times’ to those who stand by the Water Gate desiring spiritual nourishment from the spring of living water. Amen. “Yah is the faithful King.”
©2016 Tentstake Ministries Book Nosh
From the Koren Siddur:
“How beloved is your rest, Sabbath Queen, we run to greet you: Come, royal bride, dressed in fine robes. We light the light with blessing. All labors end [as is said] “You shall do no work.” To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.
In advance all kinds of tasty food have been prepared, fattened chicken made ready while it was still day. Varied dishes set out, and fragrant wines to drink, and special delicacies all three times. To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.
They shall inherit Jacob’s heritage, a heritage unbounded, rich and poor will honor [the Sabbath] and be worthy of redemption. If you keep the Sabbath day you will be My special treasure, six days shall you labor – and on the seventh let us rejoice. To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.
Your secular concerns are forbidden; so too are calculations. Reflections are permitted, and arranging matches for girls, and teaching a child a book, and singing songs of praise, and meditating on fine words at every place and gathering. To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.
Your walk shall be unhurried; you shall call the Sabbath a delight. Sleep too is praiseworthy, for it refreshes the spirit. Therefore my soul yearns for you, to rest in you in love, as if within a fence of roses: on it son and daughter rest. To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.
A foretaste of the World to Come is the day of Sabbath rest. All who take delight in it will be worthy of great joy. They will be delivered with relief from the birthpangs of the Messiah. May our redemption spring forth, and sadness and sighing flee away. To savor the delights of fowl, quail and fish.”
©Koren Siddur, Jerusalem 2012
From the third section of the Amidah.
נְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בָּעוֹלָם, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמַּקְדִּישִׁים אוֹתוֹ בִּשְׁמֵי מָרוֹם, כַּכָּתוּב עַל יַד נְבִיאֶֽךָ, וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר:
Let us sanctify Your Name on earth, as it is sanctified in the heavens above. As it is written by Your prophet.
קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְיָ צְבָאוֹת, מְלֹא כָל הָאָֽרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ.
Holy, holy, holy is Adonai Tz’vaot! God’s presence fills the whole earth.
אַדִּיר אַדִּירֵנוּ יְיָ אַדֹנֵינוּ מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ!
Source of strength, Sovereign One, how majestic is Your presence in all the earth!
בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד יְיָ, מִמְּקוֹמוֹ.
Blessed is the presence of God, shining fourth from where God dwells.
אֶחָד הוּא אֱלֹהֵינוּ, הוּא אָבִינוּ, הוּא מַלכֵּנוּ, הוּא מוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ וְהוּא יַשְׁמִיעֵנוּ בְּרַחֲמָיו לְעֵינֵי כָּל חָי
God alone is our God and our Creator, our Ruler and our Helper; and in mercy, God is revealed in the sight of all the living:
אֲנִי יְיָ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם!
I am Elochim your God!
יִמְלֹךְ יְיָ לְעוֹלָם, אֱלֹהַֽיִךְ צִיּוֹן לְדֹר וָדֹר, הַלְלוּיָהּ.
Elocha shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation, Hallelujah!
לְדוֹר וָדוֹר נַגִּיד גָּדְלֶֽךָ וּלְנֵֽצַח נְצָחִים קְדֻשָּׁתְךָ נַקְדִּישׁ, וְשִׁבְחֲךָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מִפִּֽינוּ לֹא יָמוּשׁ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הָאֵל הַקָּדוֹשׁ.
To all generations we will declare Your greatness, and for all eternity proclaim Your holiness. Your praise, O God, shall never depart from our lips. Blessed are You, Adonai, the Holy God.
“Rest and joy, light for all Jews [and those who join with her], is the Sabbath day, day of delights; those who keep it and recall it bear witness that in six days all creation was made. The highest heavens, land and seas, the host of heaven, high and sublime; sea monsters, humans and all wild beasts, were created by YHVH God, He who formed worlds. It was He who spoke to His treasured people: ‘Keep it to make it holy from beginning to end.’ The holy Sabbath is His day of delight, for on it God rested from all His work. Through the Sabbath commandment God will give you strength, rise, pray to Him and He will invigorate you. Recite the Nishmat prayer, and the Kedusha, then eat with joy, for He is pleased with you. With twin loaves and wine for the Kiddush, with many delicacies and a wiling spirit; those who delight in it shall merit great reward: the coming of the Redeemer, and LIFE in the World to come.”