Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Please place your hand under my thigh, Genesis 24:1-2
Can you imagine telling someone to put their hand under your thigh today? I’ve often wondered just what that custom could possibly mean. Of all the customs or traditions I’ve heard of, a man placing his hand under another mans’ thigh to swear and oath has got to be the strangest.
The USA just celebrated it’s most important holiday. The 4th of July marks the day when our forefathers threw off the bonds of the English rule. It started a very long war and the beginning of the process that created this unique experiment in governance. The holiday is marked by blowing stuff up. Here in the midwest of the US, we can buy incredibly powerful fireworks that launch hundreds of feet in the air before exploding. It may seem odd to mark the remembrance of the Declaration with explosions, the sounds of war, but it is meant to say “we are here, we are free, and you cannot ignore us any more!” The explosions are an expression of happiness and of defiance. These traditions are good for Americans to remember the price paid for the freedoms we enjoy.
I spend a lot of time blogging about traditions that believers in Messiah must avoid. Christmas, Easter, and Sunday are chief among these. Once I started unraveling the truth about most of the traditions of western society, it was pretty easy to just tune out any traditions at all. That tends to create a pretty dull worship environment. As it turns out, traditions are almost inevitable in one’s church life. The trick is to make sure the traditions compliment the faith and to insure they do not take on a life of their own.
At the recent conference on the Temple we attended, we were flooded with a bunch of new traditions. That venue was rich with the traditions of Judaism while is was clearly an assembly of believers in Messiah. We have been spending much time researching the traditions we witnessed to see what they mean and, perhaps, even if we are missing something in our own service. Two that caught my attention were Erev Shabbat and Havdalah.
I’ve been keeping the Sabbath for quite a while now and we have never done anything special to mark the beginning or the end of the Sabbath. Erev Shabbath means “Sabbath evening” and it marks the beginning of the Sabbath. It is a ceremony that identifies a specific time to start the setting-apart from the world and a communion with Yahweh. Havdalah marks the end of the Sabbath and a return to the world for another six days. In both cases, the believers we fellowshiped with gathered together and sang songs in a very nice moment of unity.
How much of these ceremonies we adopt at our house is still up in the air. But the tradition to mark the beginning and end of the time Yahweh set-apart for us to worship with Him seems like a good one to me!