My House: For All Peoples
“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)
By Dimitar V. Kosev
The story of Man is studied, analyzed, examined for patterns, etc., but there’s only one place where it’s presented comprehensively - fully - and intelligibly. That place is the (Hebrew) Bible, the so-called Old Testament: the Tanach. [Torah (the “Law,” the Five Books), Nevi’im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings) = TaNaKh.]
Every situation one can face in life is described in the Tanach. There one can find the universal, essential kernels of being, both individual and mankind's.
The Tanach focuses on a certain people: the Jews. This is a stumbling block for non-Jews. But the Jews’ history in the Tanach is the quintessence of human history.
Together with that, the Jews' holidays - Pesach, Shavuot, Tisha b'Av, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc. - have national and also, undeniably, universal significance. They are unique in their depth and wisdom. Worldwide, there are no holidays like them, just as there's no people like the Jews, no religion like Judaism, and no religious books like the Jews’.
Consider the magnificence of the Tanach’s call of God to Man: “Lech lecha” - “Go for yourself.” Man – a flesh-and-bone creature connected to an immaterial soul, a simian, sexual being who exists in the very “image” of God - has been planted in a rough and often hostile material environment. He suffers from physical limitations, weakness and pain in the material vehicle, the body. This spiritual, soulful being, who must struggle to stay alive, is commanded by this "Lech lecha” to remain free – in fact, like Abraham and Moses, to be “ivri” [that is, to be a Hebrew: an “Ivri”], meaning beyond, brave, searching, curious, unburdened, revolutionary, uncommon, unique, and creative.
The whole Tanach is an appeal to shrug off the fear, prejudices, vanity, and littleness of contrary lifestyles.
Pesach - "the Passover" - is the celebration of freedom. A tribe rises against the mightiest empire of the era, breaks the slave shackles, and journeys to the Promised Land. By the way, on the way there, in Horeb (Sinai), God grants them the Law - the Torah - which brings universal moral messages to the whole of mankind. The tribe becomes a nation with a special mission - to be light to the world, a teacher and good example to all others. The holiday of Shavuot - Revelation's anniversary - is dedicated to this.
Tisha b'Av, the saddest day of the year, is not a “holy” day exactly, but a reminder of evil and disaster as inevitable results of violations of the Law, including baseless hatred between people. What ruins us is not punishment but – naturally, in this, God’s world – just the natural consequences of ignorance, insanity and rejection of God's Way. Tisha b’Av recalls the destruction of Temple in Jerusalem - the God-chosen place for His presence on Earth. This Temple is no mere shrine of the Jewish tribal god, God forbid. The Temple is the “house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). So: Tisha b'Av teaches universal lessons and frames topics for reflection.
On Rosh HaShanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) one takes stock of current affairs, recalls that it's God who runs the world, and repents. Hopefully, one gets to repair – or, at least, mitigate, smooth over, or ameliorate - the wrongs one’s done. According to Tradition, in this time God judges everyone and decides his or her destiny for the next year. So the Jewish New Year is not a time for mere fireworks and revelry. It's a time for serious introspection and return (teshuva) to the truth and to freedom, a time for new beginnings based on one's own free-will decision to change for the better.
Sukkot is the holiday of “tents” or, literally, booths – basic shelters. Jews leave their homes and live in sukkot, which remind them of the way they lived after the Exodus from Egypt, on the way to the Promised Land. This holiday also brings home universal lessons. For example, the sukkah symbolizes the body one inhabits during one’s earthly life, up to the day that one’s spirit returns to its eternal Source - to God. Also, clearly, the practical lack of TV, Web or any such electronic extra in the tent, for much of the holiday, leaves one bare before God, for awhile; one can visualize oneself as a being before Being. This, in fact, is the real state of human soul.
(This is something that’s not so clearly visible when we’re plunged into our lives’ material solicitudes.)
Dimitar Kosev lives in Kazanlak, Bulgaria where, in his day job, he turns his share of Bulgaria’s remarkable bounty of fragrant rose petals into rose oil, for sale around the world. A great friend and devout First Covenant Noahide, he came to our religion much as our father Abraham did: through sober reasoning. This piece comes out of a conversation we had recently, shortly after he’d returned from a Rosh HaShanah trip to Jerusalem.
Editing: Michael Dallen
Michael Dallen authored The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws. Director, The First Covenant Foundation. Editor, “Covenant Connection,” our monthly newsletter.
"Rainbow Covenant is essential reading." “Truly and obviously a MOST wonderful work.”
Noahides’ remarkable connections to the Temple in Jerusalem – the once and future Temple of HaShem - are discussed in the hyperlinked piece below, from Articles:
“Temple Mount in Ruins”