Hebrew Scriptures Traditionally Read During Pentecost
Even before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, Pentecost was already a celebration of abundance and blessing
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
What a wonderful blessing! It appears in this week’s Torah portion, read in synagogues around the world at the time of Pentecost (Shavuot/Feast of Weeks).
The priests as sons of Aaron, are commanded to bless all the Israelites in these verses (verse 23).
But actually, the blessing is written in singular language in the original Hebrew. (In Hebrew you-plural is a different word from you-singular). In other words, we can apply the blessing to each and every one of us individually!
The name of God appears here three times to emphasize that the blessing is from God and not from man. The priests are just a pipeline, or spark plug for the blessing.
Every person’s relationship with God needs to be direct and not mainly dependent on this or that clergy member or encouraging friend.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you”
If we are blessed why do we need for God to “keep” us? This word can also be translated as protect, watch over or guard.
So that I might not lose my way? To be true to myself? To maintain what God has intended me to be? To keep abundance and success from puffing up my heart?
Preserving and maintaining the blessing and letting it grow in our lives is also a choice.
“May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.”
The light that God shines on me will illuminate my life. I will become aware of the goodness and abundance I have received. Then my inner light can reflect God’s light to others around me, and I will not be busy hiding in dark places.
“May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace.”
The word countenance means face, and it is plural in Hebrew, indicating God has many aspects to him. The same goes for every person, we all have a variety of faces we “make.” We make a “happy face,” a sad, angry, or curious face. We can make a nervous, kind or loving face.
Through the face of God looming over me I can see my face. Through what I see reflected in my life, I realize things about myself. I can decide what to change and what to leave.
As God puts his peace within me, I can make peace with my enemies and be at peace with myself. Being at peace means I will learn to give up perfectionism and settle for wholeness.
The Book of Ruth
This week is Pentecost. This week in Jewish tradition, we read the scroll of Ruth from Moab, a Gentile woman who connected herself to Israel.
Ruth to me was the epitome of abundance. Although she was a widow with no home, no livelihood and no land; yet she lived with a generous love. Her heart was attentive to her mother-in-law Naomi. She discerned crisis moments and turned them into moments of success and prosperity.
This amazing woman, Ruth, was also the epitome of coming to wholeness while facing the many challenging aspects and contradictions of her life.
She became the beloved wife of a distinguished man, Boaz. She knew how to remain true to who God created her to be, even if it meant going against custom. She knew how to walk through huge reversals in life. She walked into the unknown confidently with a heart full of faith.
Ruth walked in the blessing and protection of God (Numbers 6:24-26). Her face reflected God’s light onto others, and she experienced peace.
Wishing us all a holiday of peace,