As a family, studying Hebrew has deepened our understanding of Scripture and our faith in many ways. Several years ago, we began to celebrate Shabbat, which begins on Friday evening with a romantic candlelight dinner with God during which wine and special Challah Bread is blessed and enjoyed. The Christian “Communion” or “Lord’s Supper” originates from this. Saturday is a day of rest, spent enjoying God and each other. It’s really a delight to anticipate a day in which we can enjoy resting without guilt. Shabbat ends with a special little ceremony called “Havdalah.” It is a way to “separate” the beautiful Shabbat from the rest of the week.
Educators often say that the best way for a person to learn something is to engage as many of our five senses as possible: Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. Hah! God knew this before the educators did. He designed His feasts and Shabbat–His “appointed times”–to include all of our senses, making such celebrations truly special. For example, during the Passover meal, the story of the original Passover is retold. As slavery is described, everyone eats horseradish in order to “taste” the bitterness. When the sorrow of suffering is described, everyone dips parsley into salt water and shakes it to illustrate tears. At another point of the Passover meal, everyone dips their finger into their glass of wine and flicks droplets onto their plates each time they recite the ten plagues, symbolizing the loss of their joy as the Egyptians suffered from the plagues. The Jews do not rejoice when their enemies suffer. These are the things Jesus (in Hebrew “Yeshua”) was doing when He ate the Passover meal with His disciples before His crucifixion. The Passover meal is truly beautiful and meaningful.
In case a person thinks these are “mindless rituals,” the Jews teach that no blessing or ritual should ever be done mindlessly, but with intense focus and devotion to God. I love that above the cabinet holding the Torah scroll in every synagogue are the words, “Know Before Whom You Stand.” We must always keep in mind that we are standing in the very presence of God.
The Havdalah ceremony is quite beautiful. Fragrant spices are inhaled as a reminder of the fragrance of Shabbat. A beautiful braided candle is lit and our hands, which were created by God to work, are examined and appreciated in the light of the candle. Wine is blessed and a drop is spilled on a plate, signifying a lessening of joy as Shabbat leaves. We drink from our cups and the candle is snuffed out by dipping it into a special glass of wine as everyone shouts “Shavua Tov” or “Have a good week!” You can read about this ceremony in more detail here: Havdalah Ceremony. After this ceremony, the day of rest is over and normal work is resumed.
Because we participate in these Biblical feasts and ceremonies, I have sometimes been asked by my Christian friends if I am Jewish. I think I am becoming “too Jewish” for some of them. To be honest, ten years ago I probably would have felt the same. I am not Jewish, and I’m not forsaking my God, but I believe that the Messiah is/was Jewish, and He designed and participated in these Biblical traditions. Christians have ceremonies, traditions, and object lessons, and many of these Jewish ceremonies serve the same purpose: To remind us of truth and draw us closer to God. In fact, some of the Christian traditions originated from the Jewish traditions. However, the Christian traditions often seem to me to be a bit removed from the originals. I see deeper connection and truth in the way the Jews celebrate. I’ve learned so much about my Savior as I celebrate them. Everything points to HIM.
Anyway, usually wine is used during Biblical celebrations, because wine symbolizes joy, but it is acceptable to use grape juice, which is also a fruit of the vine. We have always used delicious kosher grape juice. However, several weeks ago, EJ and I found some real Kosher wine, and we decided to buy it to use during our Havdalah Ceremony. EJ has been working overtime lately, so Saturday night was the first opportunity we had to use the wine.
JJ and I have never, ever had wine, so this was a big moment for us. We felt a bit daring and dangerous to be drinking alcohol. JJ asked if we were going to get drunk. EJ explained that, no, we were only drinking a little glass of wine so it would not make us drunk. After EJ said the blessing, I told JJ, “This is a big moment. After we drink this cup, we will never again be good Baptists–because good little Baptists never drink alcohol. Once we drink this, we can never go back.” Solemnly, expectantly, we lifted our glasses and sipped our wine.
Gag! Ack! We gasped and choked like Gollum did when he ate elvish bread.
“YUCK!” JJ exclaimed. “This tastes awful! This tastes like VINEGAR!”
“This is HORRIBLE!” I agreed. “How can people enjoy drinking this swill?”
“I thought it would taste like really good grape juice,” JJ said. “But it tastes TERRIBLE.”
“I thought it would taste magical,” I said, thinking of all the descriptions I had read of wine at romantic dinners or picnics. “But it doesn’t taste magical at all.”
“You two are ridiculous,” scoffed EJ. “This is actually really good wine. It’s very tasty.”
“Really?” JJ and I questioned. “This is GOOD??? Bleagh!”
“I guess,” I declared sadly to JJ, “That we have failed the wine test. We are actually very good little Baptists after all.”
Maybe it’s an acquired taste, JJ and I speculated. Not ones to give up easily, we vowed to try again next week.