One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his Temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Today begins Rosh Hashana, the start of a new year and the first of the holy days in the month Tishrei. This is a time set aside to come before the one who made and holds creation, understanding that His holiness makes His judgment uncompromisable. He knows our hearts and the past year intimately, and His desire for these lives of ours is much higher than the standards we set for ourselves. He formed the world in wisdom, and He wants us to be a central part of that process: He is close to the broken hearted, healing hurt and confusion, and calling our world to a knowledge of Himself. So there is forgiveness for the times when we’ve chosen to ignore or forget, and there is also trembling. Only when we are so deeply invested in the worth of His righteousness can we truly value the grace and help that are freely poured out. We wake to the reality that it is in our own hands to accept it, and that nothing else is more valuable in our hands.
The Hasidic reflection on Elul, the month that has just passed in preparation for this month, is that it is a time when the King is in the field. Rather than staying in His palace out of reach, God comes to us like a father gets down on the ground to play with and talk with his children. He wants to forgive and lead us further, He wants to draw us close and wipe away the misconceptions and distractions that tear at our hearts. Moses reminded the Israelites: what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. So as Rosh Hashana comes, God is enthroned in His world by His people, by choice. With all His help we are invited to journey back up to the city to that place. Whatever we feel, it’s about Him, and everyone stands equal in this place. We ask for His blessings for a sweet new year, where we can be close to Him and bless others even as our cup is overflowing. He is King, in His joy and His compassionate love.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.