Hatznei’a…, “Walk discreetly with your God”
One must take care not to be conspicuous or ostentatious in the slightest. It is said, “Man should always be artful in piety.” The artfulness lies in seeing that his piety not be noticed at all. We know that a number of the early Chassidim concealed their true selves, and when discovered were sincerely distressed. This is the avoda (jointly means work, worship, and service) of teshuva that comes from being discreet.
The 14-day dedication festivities, celebrating the completion of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon, commenced on the 8th of Tishrei of the year 2935 from creation (826 BCE). The First Temple served as the epicenter of Jewish national and spiritual life for 410 year, until its destruction by the Babylonians in 423 BCE.
On this day we begin the process of forgiveness and repentance. Try and see yourself through the eyes of a holy God and recognize the depth of your sin, your need for forgiveness, and your inability to merit God’s forgiveness through your own efforts. The beginning of finding God’s grace is to recognize your need for forgiveness and your unworthiness to be forgiven. As the prophet Isaiah recognized once he had a vision of the holiness of God, “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:5). It is only when we see ourselves as God sees us that we can begin to fathom the breadth of His love and mercy toward us.
Accept His forgiveness by receiving Jesus as your Messiah. The blowing of the shofar reminds us of the righteousness of Abraham, and the symbolic passing of our sins to another through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. This sacrifice of the ram in place of Isaac took place on Mount Moriah, where later in Jewish history David would purchase land and his son Solomon would build the Temple. It was on this holiest of sites that millions of animals shed blood as a type and in anticipation of the One true sacrifice to come, Who was offered on a tree located on this same mountain range!
As Moses wrote, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).
Our blood is required because the penalty for sin is death. But God, in His mercy, allows us to live as He provides the sacrifice. He did so for Abraham, He did so for the Jewish people worshipping at the Temple in Jerusalem, and He did so for each of us by sending His only Son, Yeshua, to die in our place. As Paul wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We must repent and recognize our inability to merit forgiveness. And then, by faith, we must accept the Messiah Yeshua as our personal atonement for sin.
A great prayer of repentance can be found in Daniel chapter 9 where he repents of his sins, and those of his fellow Jews, with heartfelt passion. Consider reading this chapter to inspire you to do the same. We need to be ruthlessly honest with God and ourselves if we are going to be able to accept God’s forgiveness fully. One of the greatest challenges we face during the ten days of awe is to be honest with ourselves and with God about our personal failings and sins. We might understand His forgiveness, but all too often it is hard to forgive ourselves. If we are this honest about our sin and recognize that we are without excuse, and simply accept the depth and magnitude of our transgressions, then and only then will we be able to appreciate His forgiveness. It is only when we are this honest that we can appreciate that the eternal love of God, revealed through the death of the Messiah, is powerful enough to wash us clean. We must be honest and not shade the truth as He knows it anyway. Let’s dig deep and confess our sins, knowing that His grace and mercy extend to each transgression. How wonderful to be honest, forgiven and free. We will never be able to accept His forgiveness if we minimize our own sin.
Spiritual honesty and transparency with God are where we must start. Daniel’s prayer will provide an excellent beginning for our own prayers of repentance.