A House of Prayer for all Peoples
Deuteronomy 31:10-13 records a very special commandment: “Read this Torah before all of Israel in their ears. Gather the people together, men and women and children, and the stranger that is within your gates that they may hear and that they may learn.” At the end of the seven year cycle, at the close of the Sabbatical year, all of Israel are to gather during the Feast of Tabernacles and hear the Torah read aloud. It was customary for the King of Israel to read selected verses from the Torah. What an impressive gathering it must have been.
Many years ago, when I first came to Israel, we were present at the renewal of this custom. We had small children and we brought them all, so that we could fulfill the complete spirit of this message. Thousands gathered at the Western Wall, the closest we could get to where the Temple once stood, and the President of Israel, then Chaim Herzog, read aloud from the Torah. The Chief Rabbis and other dignitaries were present. It was indeed an awesome experience.
Every seven years since then the ceremony has taken place. The last time was several years ago, during the height of the Intifada. At that time, a few of us who were involved with Christian supporters of Israel, decided to hold a parallel event which would welcome Christians to this very special occasion. The Bible says that the stranger within our gates should be invited and we wanted to make sure our loving “strangers” were included. The event was in English and hundreds were there. Just as the prayers were closing, the Mosque began its call to prayer, blasting out its sounds as if to drown us out. But many had brought shofars and at that very moment, began blowing them with such gusto. It was indeed a memorable event.
Once again, I will close my comments with a prayer for the temple to be rebuilt and become, once again, a focus for prayer for the entire world. “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7)
Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,
Director, Israel Office