GOD’S GOT RHYTHM! It is in evidence from the very beginning.
The Composer of the masterwork of Creation imbues the warp and woof of the cosmos with repeating rhythms, cycles, and seasons. Note for instance the rhythmic repetition of four words at the beginning of Genesis: Vay’hi erev, vay’hi voker… “And it was evening, and it was morning…” day one (two, three, etc.).
After six days of this creative syncopation God writes in a full stop: the Sabbath. The weekly cycle of six days of work punctuated by a seventh day of rest seems entirely natural to us. But in fact it exists because of Divine fiat, not as a natural by-product of the created order. Neither the monthly lunar cycle nor the annual solar cycle is divisible by 7. The seven-day rhythm is the Composer’s imprint upon the score of His creation.
In sanctifying the 7th day – the first thing in all creation to be hallowed (Genesis 2:3) – in effect God sanctified time, notes the great Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel. He set in motion divinely appointed times (moadim) for celebrating with His covenant people.
These moadei-Adonai, “set times of the Lord,” recur in seasonal cycles: spring (Passover), summer (Pentecost) and fall (Tabernacles). Each festival has its unique rhythm and character, corresponding on the one hand with agricultural harvests and on the other with key events in Israel’s redemptive history.
Now, in the autumn of the year, we are witnessing the climactic concert of the Divine Symphony: the High Holy days, consummated by the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a magnificent production with varied moods and intersecting melodies, repeatedly punctuated with the great trumpet of the Lord, the shofar.
To help you appreciate the rhythms and beauty of this divinely orchestrated fall concert, here are some “Program Notes”.
Reflection. The month preceding the High Holy Days is a time for reflection and preparation of the soul for the awesome days ahead. The name of the month Elul is read as an acronym for “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” (“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”) (Canticles 6:3). The love of God gives us confidence to approach Him for the approaching day of reckoning.
Recognition. The day on which the world was made is commemorated on Rosh HaShanah (New Year) and signaled by the loud sounds of a trumpeting ram’s horn. “Awake all you who slumber!” cautions Maimonides, and “know before Whom you stand.” The righteous Judge of the Universe is examining the records of our lives, for good or for ill.
Repentance. The shofar inaugurates Ten Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im) during which the appropriate response is taking responsibility for wrong doing, turning from it and resolving to walk in ways that befit the King’s name and character. We seek out anyone we have offended and ask for forgiveness.
Remission. The shofar gives us hope because it reminds us that God provided a ram in place of Isaac’s sacrifice. So on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) we fast to humble ourselves and then earnestly confess our sins, individually and corporately, beseeching Heaven to “forgive us, pardon us, atone for us.” The final extended and triumphant blast of the shofar concluding the Yom Kippur service reminds us that the Lord God does indeed make a way to remit our sins.
Rejoicing. The haunting refrains of the shofar quickly give way to the tapping of hammers as families begin constructing their sukkot (booths) for the Festival of Tabernacles, in which God commands that we be altogether joyous. We know now that our confidence is not in bricks and mortar and bank accounts but in the firm foundation of God’s steadfast love and covenant faithfulness. So for seven days we dwell in fragile booths and give extended thanks for the abundant final agricultural harvest of the year and the prosperity bestowed by a gracious God. And we look forward to the Great Day foreseen by Zechariah (14:9) when the Lord will be One in all the earth, and the nations shall acknowledge Him as King and come up to Zion for Tabernacles to rejoice with all the people of God.
The Symphony has begun. Let those with ears to hear, hear!
Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.
Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.