Pray and wait and pray
Today is the Biblical holiday of Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year). This holiday begins the weeks of the High Holy Days. In ten days we will observe Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. Exactly two weeks from today we will celebrate Sukkot or Tabernacles. I pray each of you have the opportunity to participate in at least one of these three appointed times.
Today, however, I want to talk about Rosh Hashanah. In scripture this day is called Yom Hatruah or the day of blowing. This sound of the ram’s horn is to get our attention, to announce the coming of the King. It also calls each of us to prepare ourselves for the coming holidays. We see it described in Leviticus 23:24-25 and in Numbers 29:1-2.
I pray my thoughts on this day will speak to you. Literally, as I mentioned, this name of Rosh Hashanah, in English means head of the year. When we consider the word head, it brings us to think of our own personal head. What is going on in our head? What are our plans and thoughts we have each day? I would suggest on this day our thoughts should take us to consider how we spend each day. What is our plan for this day, for the next day? This is a time to consider our spiritual life and where our time is spent and what our thoughts focus on. What consumes our thoughts and accomplishments each day? Are we only working in a survival mode not considering where we are going? What are our plans for our future? What do we think G-d is calling us to accomplish before our lives are finished? Without thinking and planning we run the chance of our days being spent on things that have no spiritual value.
There is no specific Torah reading for this day. But there are two readings for Rosh Hashanah, one found in I Samuel 1:11 and one in Leviticus 23:24. They were chosen based on the use of the same Hebrew word in both places. In Leviticus 23:24 we read the word “zakar” used in “remember the blasts.” In I Samuel 1:11 the verse speaks of Hannah, the mother of Samuel and her plea to G-d for a child. In this verse she asks G-d to remember her and not forget His maidservant. What is interesting is the use of the Hebrew word, “zakar.” This word usually translates in English as remember. It is used again in verse 1:19. In this verse it reads, “Elkanah knew his wife Hannah and the L-rd remembered her.” So, in our English mind this gives us the impression that G-d remembers, or maybe He had forgotten and suddenly remembered Hannah’s request. We get the same impression when we read Genesis 8:1 where scripture says, “G-d remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him on the ark,” We see the same use of this word over and over in scripture. The most obvious verses are in Exodus 2:24-25 where “G-d heard their groanings and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov. G-d saw the people and G-d knew.”
So what is scripture actually saying in these verses? Did G-d forget? Did He suddenly remember what He had promised? It cannot be. I suggest it means something else entirely, something that should urge us to be diligent each day in our pursuit of the Father. Sometimes it feels as if G-d is distant and maybe even detached from us and what is going on. Maybe it is something we have been praying about and failed to see any answer to. We can become discouraged.
I suggest the use of zakar is meant to encourage us to never give up in our prayers. We are being urged to remember and continue to bring our requests before the Father, trusting Him to act when our concerns intersect with His plan for our lives. We sometimes have a very short sighted view of time. We want it now! Our society today is built on instant gratification. We pray until we see Him fulfill our request or until He instructs us to stop. The use of this key word in these verses is for us. G-d does not have to be reminded. He has not forgotten. He loves His children and in His time He will remember in His time.
As most of you know we have had a few days of no electricity because of hurricane Sally. We found most of our time was taken with praying for electricity and how to handle many problems, defrosting food, no ice, boiling water. As one day became two days and then to three days we reverted to taking matters in our own hands. We had given G-d time, surely He could have acted by now!
In every case within a short time of deciding on our own, G-d acted in His time and provided for us over and above what we were planning. One example, we waited in an hour long line to buy ice from a machine. The man in front of us in the line purchased 15 bags of ice. When it was our turn there was no more ice. We raced back at 6 am the next morning only to find the ice machine was broken. Then yesterday some wonderful people were giving out free ice in a parking lot near us. We spent hours trying to pay for ice and G-d provided free ice – just not when we were demanding it.
My point in this is, may our desire be to pray and then wait on Him to provide or tell us what to do next. A hard lesson and one I expect will come again. With G-d’s help we will have learned a little better how to wait on Him.