This coming Sunday evening, September 29, 2019, begins the Holy Day of Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets. This holy day, meaning a day specified by God to be a festival to him, is also a holiday (meaning a man-made celebration) called Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. The first two days are to be a holy convocation, although this festival is not one of the three where we are required to go to where God placed his name, which was the Temple in Jerusalem.
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The traditional reading from the Torah on the first day is Genesis Chapter 21, and for the second day, Genesis 22; this chapter is known as the Akedah -the binding of Isaac. What is interesting is that these two chapters are more than just the story about Abraham’s sons; they also give us the reason for the continuing wars in the Middle East.
Chapter 21 tells us of that after Isaac is born, when Ishmael is 14 years of age, Ishmael makes fun of Isaac. Sarah, knowing that Ishmael is not her son and as Abraham’s firstborn would be the inheritor, tells Abraham to send Ishmael away. God confirms to Abraham that this is acceptable to him, as it is Isaac who is the son of the promise, and God also (knowing Abraham’s love for his son, Ishmael) promises Abraham that Ishmael will grow and become a great nation because he is a son of Abraham.
Hagar and Ishmael are given some provisions and ejected from the camp, left to live or die in the desert. When their provisions run out and Hagar is crying because she knows she and her son will die, an angel comes to her and shows her a well, where she gets water. The boy grows and does become a father to 12 tribes.
At the beginning of the next day’s reading, Chapter 22, we are told that after these things happened God called to Abraham and told him to take Isaac and offer him up to God. We don’t know how much time had elapsed from the ejection of Ishmael and this testing of Abraham, but most scholars believe that Isaac was a man by now, probably in his early 20’s or even older. We all know the story: Abraham faithfully takes Isaac the very next morning to where God leads him, Mount Moriah (the eventual site of Solomon’s Temple), ties him up and is about to kill him when an angel calls out to stop Abraham. Abraham is told that his faithful obedience will be rewarded with blessings and that his descendants will be a blessing to the entire world. Abraham sees a ram stuck in a bush, and sacrifices that to God.
For this reason, we use the horn of a ram for the Shofar, as a memorial to that ram which replaced Isaac on the altar.
Abraham is the patriarch of both the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 tribes of the Ishmaelim (descendants of Ishmael), who have been enemies from that time until now. The sons of Ishmael are today the majority of the Arab nations. I did a quickie Internet search and didn’t find anything that tells me exactly which current Arab nations are direct descendants, but it appears that the Assyrians, Babylonians, possibly the Philistines, and other tribes located throughout the Middle East all are descendants of Ishmael.
We also have to take into account what God told Hagar when she ran away from Sarah (Genesis, Chapter 16.) Hagar did this because Sarah was treating her poorly out of jealousy for Hagar having conceived by Abraham, even though Sarah gave her to him to bear a child Sarah could have for her own. God told Hagar to return to Sarah because the child she is carrying will become a great nation, but he will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him. (Gen. 16:12)
I said earlier these two chapters give us the origin of the reason for the continuing war in the Middle East, and now I will explain why.
Ishmael is the firstborn of Abraham, and according to the ancient rules of inheritance he would normally be entitled to inherit from Abraham all that Abraham had. However, God told Abraham that Isaac should be the one who inherits, rejecting the rule of the firstborn. This may be the first time we see this happening, i.e. the firstborn not receiving the proper inheritance according to tradition, but it won’t be the last. Jacob is second born but will end up with the blessing and rights of the firstborn, as well as Joseph, who was far from being firstborn but was given those rights. Also, we see this happen between Ephraim and Manasseh, and many years later Solomon is given the kingship over his older brothers.
The constant battles in the Middle East, not just between the Arabs and the Jews, but within the Arab nations, Arab against Arab, are still about inheritance. The desire for the property and wealth of the land is what is behind these battles, although we who see the spiritual side know that it is really a battle of powers, not of people. It may be that the rhetoric is all about rights to the land, but in truth the land represents wealth. People may think that the Arabs are well off because they have all the oil, but Israel has water, fruit, produce, technology, and the best land available outside of the fertile belt in Egypt.
Sarah did not want Ishmael to inherit from Abraham, and that is still the basis for the Middle East wars, today. This is why no matter what people try to do to make peace there, it cannot be. The descendants of Ishmael are, by God’s decree, never going to be at peace with anyone. And Israel, by God’s decree, will possess all of the land that God proclaimed they should own, sooner or later. They have never had the entire territory God gave them to possess to themselves, although they came closest during the time of King Solomon. That is not God’s fault- the Israelites did not destroy the people living there when they should have so these indigenous inhabitants never really left.
The children of Ishmael may lay claim to the land by reason of their constant habitation, but the truth is that even though they have lived in the area, they never worked the land, never cared for it, never settled permanently, and were supposed to have been totally ejected when Israel first entered the land under Joshua. They are not there because they have a right to the land, they are there because of the incompetence of the Israelites when they entered the land, which has been a thorn in the side of Israel for thousands of years.
Rosh HaShanah is usually celebrated as a joyous time, but it is to be a memorial and ushers in what is called the 10 Days of Awe, during which we reflect on the past year and how well (or how poorly) we have lived according to the instructions God gave us in the Torah. We are to take it as a serious time for inner reflection and humble contrition.
However, most Jews will celebrate it as a happy time and greet each other with “L’shanah Tovah” (to a good year) and share foods that are sweet, to signify the hope for a sweet year to come.
I hope that you will celebrate this festival as God intended, but if you prefer to have a happy time, enjoy! But don’t forget to reflect and prepare for Yom Kippur because even though our sins can be forgiven through the sacrificial death of Yeshua, we still need to come before God humbly and contritely to ask for his forgiveness.
I will end today’s message as I always do, thanking you for being here, and asking that you remember to subscribe to this website and to my YouTube channel, as well. So, until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!