Ecclesiastes – Days of Joy

Moshe Kempinski – from Shorashim Shop (in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem

“Introspection on the High Holydays reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy on Sukkot enables the healing and the growth.

We have entered into and experienced the month of Tishrei as a period of great soul searching and introspection. We have hopefully sensed how the purifying fire of the Day of Atonement has cleansed the very vessels of our souls.

The vessels are pure but nevertheless are broken from the experience. Only spiritual joy can rejuvenate and repair the broken in spirit.

Introspection reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy enables the healing and the growth.

“Seven days shall you keep a feast unto HaShem your God in the place which HaShem shall choose; because HaShem your G-d shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful [VeHayitem Ach Sameach].”

How can one be commanded to be joyful? How can one walk out from under the burden of a renewed awareness of our limitations and be joyful? How can one attain joy when, as a people, our history is so replete with events that are the antitheses of joy?

 Clearly being given the opportunity to fulfill the will of our Divine beloved is a source of great joy. We are not being commanded to be joyful as much as we are being told a fact. We will be joyful.

 That is clear as one wanders through the streets and watch the people of this land buying the four species of the holiday. They are joyful because they have been given the opportunity to bring a gift to their beloved Creator.

 Yet it is during this holiday we will read the cynical book of Kohelet or Ecclesiastes. What must we learn from that.

 Each of the Jewish festivals is characterized by the reading of one of the Biblical scrolls. On Pesach(Passover), we read Shir Hashirim/Song Of Songs. During Shavuot, the book of Ruth is read. On Sukkot, we read Kohelet/Ecclesiastes.

 The latter is clearly a book characterized by great sobriety and skepticism. The first words of Kohelet, “havel havelim ha-kol hevel, futility of futilities, everything is futile,” imply that no matter what Man does, his efforts will always prove to be in vain.

 The word hevel/futile appears 37 times throughout the book.

 There are those who teach that since this period of Sukkot falls during the time of the great harvest, a time of great joy, the book of Kohelet is seen as a tool for tempering and moderation.

There are others who see the book of Kohelet as a work infused with optimism and happiness. In the Yalkut Shimoni we read: “R. Yonathan said, first Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) was composed, followed by Mishlei (Proverbs) and then Kohelet. Shir Hashirim represents youthful optimism and rejoicing. Mishlei, written later in King Solomon’s life, represents the acquired experience of middle age. The book of Kohelet expresses the acquired wisdom of old age.”

This helps to understand a verse which seems to epitomize cynical futility:

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of joy.” ( Ecclesiastes 7:4

Both the medieval commentators, Rashi and Ibn-Ezra, explain the verse is teaching us that the truly wise are always aware of the fact that they are mortal and that their time is finite.

Fools dance through life as if they have been gifted with immortality. The wise understand, even in the midst of joy, there is finiteness to life.This makes their joy more profound than fools.

In his book, Mei HaShiloach, the Izhbitzer Rebbe (1800-1854) relates that, in his wiser years, King Solomon, speaks of the futility of some of life’s pursuits and mortality as a tool to help individuals find the true source of joy in this world.

“The end of the matter, when all has been heard, is fear G-d and keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of man.”

When all is said and done, we are bidden to connect to the infinite purpose of creation and rise above the trivial. Therein lies the true joy of this festival and of life in its entirety.

The sukkah itself is built for a mere seven days, yet no effort is neglected in order to decorate it and beautify it. Life is similar to the sukkah.

Our time is limited, so spare no effort to fill it with beauty and holiness.”

( excerpted from Moshe Kempinski’s new book “ Accessing Inner Joy, the biblical Festivals)

or see at 

Material comfort can be dangerous

When we know where our blessings come from, it can help give us a proper and sober perspective that helps us remained grounded.

Nothing can turn the heart of man from loving his Father and maintaining his awesome and reverent relationship with Him more than luxury and physical indulgence.

Material comfort can be dangerous. It can make us believe that we are legends in our own lunch-boxes, that we all the bee’s–knees, the best thing since sliced bread, and that it is all because of our own brilliance! It then becomes far too easy to forget that everything in life is a present.

Sukkot is a time of joy, of rejoicing where we can acknowledge where our blessings came from, Who is really responsible for giving us our talent and blessing the work of our hands. Sukkot while a great party, can at the same time help keep us grounded and appreciative of the ‘present’ and the Giver of the present!

If you haven’t listened to our Podcast on Sukkot yet, now might be a good time.

The Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot

In this podcast we finish our series on the ‘fall’ (autumn in Israel) festivals; that is Yom Teruah; Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

We look at the significance of this festival; how it is celebrated; and how it will be in the future.

Some references in the Podcast are:

‘A Crash Course in Jewish History’ by Rabbi Ken Spiro

The Miracles of the Land – see short blog post:

Hope you enjoy this look at a time of rejoicing!

The Day of Atonement and the bottom line

If you would like the background material for our Podcast on Yom Kippur, it is now available as a PDF here  at

Here’s a great quote to close off Yom Kippur and look forward to another great year.

”The bottom line (for Yom Kippur)?

The spiritual rewards reaped from a spiritual perspective far outweigh the benefits seductively paraded before us in the advertisements that daily bombard us with their false and alluring promises.

That is why we so desperately need Yom Kippur to help us rearrange our priorities. It is a day when we demonstrate that we can master our physical needs. We choose prayer over food. We choose communion with God over making more money. We do not wear our jewelry and our adornments so that no one need envy the possessions of others. We concentrate not on the things we covet that don’t belong to us but on the blessings God has already granted to us that could give us so much joy if we only fully appreciated them.

And that’s why Yom Kippur, with all of its deprivations, helps to teach us the real meaning of happiness and contentment.”  –        from

I pray that you experienced a Yom Kippur where you were able to in some ways ‘afflict your soul’ and gain a greater spiritual perspective. I hope and pray that your ‘spiritual heart’ was given priority over your ‘fleshly heart’ (Yetzer HaTov vs Yetser HaRa), so that you could more fully experience the holiness of this day.

I reflected with both deep thanks and some sense of sadness that last year in 2011 I had spent Yom Kippur at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. What an awesome day of prayer it had been! Today, a year later I was back in Brisbane and missing standing on the Temple Mount. If you have not experienced that blessing of being in Israel and Jersusalem, especially at one of the ‘appointed times’; for one of the Feasts of Adonai, I pray that it may be fulfilled for you ‘next year in Jerusalem’!

Shalom! Paul

Podcast on the Day of Atonement

Pastor Aubrey Burt and I (Paul Herring) have now completed and published our Podcast on Yom Kippur (- click here).

In this session we look at the significance of this very special Festival of God, and why, and how, followers of Yeshua might consider embracing it.

Some articles referred to such as ‘Col 2:16 and the Sabbath’ and ‘Yeshua THE High Priest’ are at

Other relevant links are:

Some Scriptures mentioned regarding finding atonement are:

Leviticus 4:1-35, Deuteronomy 4:26-31; I Kings 8:46-50; Isaiah 55:6-9; Jeremiah 7:3-23; Ezekiel 18:1-23; Hosea 6:6; 14:2-3; Micah 6:6; Psalm 40:7-9; 51:16-19; Proverbs 10:2; 11:4; 16:6; II Chronicles 6:36-39


Super Heroes: It’s not about special powers

What is it that makes for super-heroes? What attributes do they need? What special skills like x-ray vision or special human strength do they need?

Perhaps the truth is that they need none of these; that is a more about their character and their sense of their place in the scheme of things?

Consider Moses.

What a super-hero he was! Yet, he had no super-powers, he couldn’t even speak well! He had just spent 40 years farming in the desert before he began his great mission.

But think back to the event that changed his life. He was a prince; he lived in the most absolute luxury of his day as a Prince in the household of the Pharaoh. But he saw an injustice and decided it was his responsibility to intervene!

Moses took responsibility; Moses became, in a sense, in that instance, a leader, one of the greatest leaders of all time! Taking responsibility is the Jewish definition of leadership.

Taking responsibility is seeing that the world  was in some sense made just for you – for you to have an impact to change it for the better – when you recognize this and repent of your failure to actualize your responsibility, then you too are on the path to becoming a great leader and super-hero!

Every Yom Kippur (through the great 10 Days of Awe) you again have a chance to reflect and to turn back to HaShem and to take responsibility for YOUR world, to repair or improve it – this is Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.

Become a super-hero today; take hold of the awesome and unique responsibility that the Almighty has given you to change the world, your world, for the better.

It is a sin to fail to use your God-given gifts for the betterment of your world. You are ‘missing the mark’ when you are NOT being the super-hero you were designed to be!

I hope you can come back early next week and catch our upcoming Podcast on Yom Kippur and being a super-hero; a man or woman with a future in the world to come!

Our podcasts are at

From Awe to Atonement

From Unity (through Yom Teruah) comes strength of mind;

from Strength, peace of mind;

from Peace, deep introspection,

from Introspection comes recognition of wrongs committed;

from  Recognition comes repentance (turning back to HaShem).

Repentance seeks forgiveness and,

Forgiveness brings Atonement and,

stays Judgement (Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement)!

You have 10 Days – choose Life!

“We shall ascribe holiness to this day. For it is awesome and terrible.

Your kingship is exalted upon it. Your throne is established in mercy.

You are enthroned upon it in truth. In truth You are the judge,

The exhorter, the allknowing, the witness, He who inscribes and seals,

Remembering all that is forgotten. You open the book of remembrance

Which proclaims itself, And the seal of each person is there.

The great shofar is sounded, A still small voice is heard.

The angels are dismayed, They are seized by fear and trembling

As they proclaim: Behold the Day of Judgment!

For all the hosts of heaven are brought for judgment.

They shall not be guiltless in Your eyes

And all creatures shall parade before You as a troop.

As a shepherd herds his flock, Causing his sheep to pass beneath his staff,

So do You cause to pass, count, and record, Visiting the souls of all living,

Decreeing the length of their days, Inscribing their judgment…”

  • From the great  Unetanah Tokef prayer

King David wrote:

1. O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than God
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,

7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,

8  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9  O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8)

In these Days of Awe, we should reflect not only on the awesome majesty of the Creator and King of the Universe, but also on the amazing role that he gave to us, to human beings made in His image. He is a personal God; He is always in our Presence; He is always communicating with us!

In fact, as we learn from Ps 19, He is speaking to us through His Creation every day and night!

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,  and night to night reveals knowledge.

Ps 19 also tells us that:

8  The Torah of Adonai is perfect, 
restoring the inner person.
The instruction of Adonai is sure,
making wise the thoughtless.

9  The precepts of Adonai are right, 
rejoicing the heart.
The mitzvah of Adonai is pure,
enlightening the eyes.

10 The fear of Adonai is clean,
enduring forever.
The rulings of Adonai are true,
they are righteous altogether,

11  more desirable than gold,
than much fine gold,
also sweeter than honey
or drippings from the honeycomb. …

15  May the words of my mouth 
and the thoughts of my heart
be acceptable in your presence,
Adonai, my Rock and Redeemer!

Let us seek the Almighty in these days leading to the great Day of Judgment and Atonement. May we fully turn back to our King and may we be given life so that we can also enter in the Appointed Time of Sukkot, the Marriage Supper of Heaven!

Aubrey and I will be speaking on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in our next Podcast. If you haven’t listened to Parts 1 and 2 on Yom Teruah (the Day of Trumpets), you can hear it here.

Yom Teruah – The Day of Trumpets – Part 2 of 2

In this second Podcast on Yom Teruah, Pastor Aubrey Burt and Paul Herring answer the second five questions about this special Festival of God.

We further discuss it’s biblical mandate; its place in Jewish life today and it’s relevance to followers of Yeshua.

Most of the Scriptures used are either read out or clearly referenced – you can pause the Podcast and rewind if you miss one.

Along with the follow-up articles  ‘Our Passover Lamb’; Colossians 2:16 and the Sabbath’ and ‘Yom Teruah’, from Podcast Part 1, the article ‘Siblings of the King: Living in the Will of the Father’ also discusses the challenge of Matt 5:17 – these are all available from

The Podcast ‘The Times of Yeshua’ that is also mentioned can be downloaded here –

Click here for Podcast Part 2

Yom Teruah – the Day of Trumpets – Part 1 of 2

In these two Podcasts Pastor Aubrey Burt and Paul Herring answer 10 questions about this special Festival of God.

We discuss it’s biblical mandate; its place in Jewish life today and it’s relevance to followers of Yeshua. Most of the Scriptures used are either read out or clearly referenced – you can pause the Podcast and rewind if you miss one.

Reference was also made to some great information and understanding from Moshe Avraham Kempinski, but not acknowledged at the time as I had forgotten where I got it from – thanks Moshe for the info on ‘this day‘. Moshe is an author of some great books; he has a FaceBook page where he gives a weekly Torah Portion Podcast and he also writes for the ArutzSheva newspaper (

Some follow-up articles are mentioned such as Colossians 2:16 and the Sabbath’ and ‘Yom Teruah’ – these are all available from

May you be blessed by these Podcasts! Click Here or download here

Here’s a great songs/video for Rosh Hashanah: