Scripture: Lectionary 449. Monday, Sept.23. Ezra 1:1-6. Psalm 126: 1-2,2-3,4-5, 6. Luke 8:16-18:
What a contrast between Pharaoh and Cyrus of Persia! The ruler of Egypt thwarted every attempt of the Israelites to leave Egypt until God intervened; Cyrus cooperated with what he divined as God’s will and encouraged the Israelites to return to their land and to rebuild the ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem. He seemed to be accomplishing the prophesy of Jeremiah (chapter 25) who predicted a return from the Exile for the Israelites. Isaiah and Jeremiah seem to have influenced this Persian leader and in some ways he was looked upon as a “messiah” for them. The story is told in Ezra which belongs alongside the Book of Chronicles in the Bible. There are also some personal memoirs of Ezra within this biblical scroll.
Ezra returns to the Land (Ha Aretz) in 458 B.C. and organizes the rebuilding of the Temple, the forming of the community and the Great Assembly, and promotes the observance and reading of the Torah. He is said to have created the present square alphabet of the Hebrew language and may have assembled the Psalms. Ezra is revered as a scribe, a priest, another Moses, and as a prophet who ushers in what we will later come to know as rabbinic Judaism. In the rabbinic treatise called Sanhedrin 4:4 this is said about Ezra: “Ezra was sufficiently worthy that the Torah could have been given to him if Moses had not preceded him.”
Psalm 26 captures the joy and spirit of freedom that the Israelites celebrated upon returning to the Land of Promise. It fits well with the present festival of Booths (Sukkot) in autumn which is a thanksgiving celebration for the goods and fruits of the harvest. We join in with this great hymn saying, “The Lord has done marvels for us.”
To capture the flavor of this feast I share with you this paragraph from the charming book of Lewis Glinert’sThe JOYS OF HEBREW:
“Five days after Yom Kippur, in mid-autumn, comes the festival of Sukkot, which has to be seen to be believed. The word literally means “booths.” For the week-long festival, Jews traditionally eat, drink, and sleep “under the sky”—in a little sukkah rooted roofed over with temporary vegetation, commemorating the wandering in the wilderness. This is also the harvest season and a time of judgment for rain, and there are a plethora of other customs and ceremonies to match. Provided it doesn’t pour with rain, Sukkot fully lives up to its nickname of zman simchatenu, “our season of joy.”
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.