by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 16 October 2019 | The tradition is ancient, based on the instructions the Almighty gave to Moses in Numbers 6:22–27 to speak a very specific blessing over the Children of Israel. Today, thousands of years later, the holidays of Passover and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) see the children of Israel flock in masses to the Western Wall—the only tangible remnant of the Second Temple and the most sacred spot in Judaism—for a special recital of this age-old blessing.
This morning was no different, with tens of thousands of worshipers from Israel and around the world gathering at the Western Wall for the annual Sukkot Priestly Blessing, or Birkat Hakohanim. As a sea of worshipers stood below, wrapped in the white of their traditional prayer shawls (tallit), the biblical blessing, recited by a group of descendants of Aaron from an overlooking wall, echoed through the Old City of Jerusalem, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24–26).
The blessing was repeated twice yesterday morning and included prayers for the State of Israel and for the safety of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), police force and security services.
US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is of the priestly class, was one of the hundreds of kohanim (members of the priestly lineage) who recited the blessing. “I’m here at the Western Wall. It’s a great honor and privilege for me to be here as a kohen (priest) to give the blessings to the people of Israel. It’s an incredibly moving experience. I look forward to this [for] every one of the Jewish festivals and I’m very happy to be here,” Friedman said.
“It gets more and more exciting each time,” he told Israel National News. “This is my third Sukkot. It’s a great privilege as the ambassador to be treated to this lofty spot and to be able to see over the entire congregation of Israel, a 100,000 people. It is very exciting.
“We pray for peace,” Friedman concluded. “I hope that our prayers are accepted in heaven and that we are able to bring peace in a land that people yearn for it and deserve it.”
The modern version of the ancient blessing was instituted in 1971 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner. In the 46 years since, it has become a tradition that many look forward to over the holidays.
Sukkot is the last of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, the three feast days alongside Passover and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on which the Almighty instructed Israelite males to travel to Israel’s capital to appear before the Lord in the Temple. Today, thousands of Jews from around the world still travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot in the city where the two Temples stood. Yet the throngs of celebrating people filling the City of Gold are not all Jewish. In fact, this particular feast draws Christians from all over the world in fulfillment of God’s prophecy through the prophet Zechariah that the time will come that all nations “shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).
This year is no different, with thousands of Christians from America and Australia, Switzerland and South Africa, Japan, China, Indonesia, Russia and everywhere in between arriving in Israel’s capital to worship the King and keep the Feast of Tabernacles. As the streets of Jerusalem echo with the sound of a multitude of tongues, we are humbled to stand as witnesses of the partial fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.
One of the highlights of the weeklong Sukkot celebrations is the annual Jerusalem March, which sees thousands of Christians from more than 100 nations take to the streets of the Israeli capital to express their love and solidarity with Israel. The procession is a joyous affair, with many Israelis lining the sidewalks to witness the throngs of exuberant Christians—many decked out in special, colorful costumes and waving their national flags—handing out little gifts, singing and calling out messages of support and love.
Posted on October 16, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 16, 2019)
Photo Credit: Autumn Groat/bridgesforpeace.com
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