Joy in the Midst of Sadness
What it Feels Like Without a Set-Apart Place
Parsha Debarim & Tisha B'Av
(Debarim/Deuteronomy 1:1 -3:22)
The past couple of months have been a time of tremendous change at Family of Messiah. After 14 years in a storefront unit and a previous five years in a small warehouse/office, we no longer have an official set-apart place for Family of Messiah. We moved out of our place and are currently meeting in a temporary location.
After 19 years of having a set-apart place - a space set aside and dedicated solely to the worship of YAH - we now have none.
The “loss” is great and palpable every day when we have no set-apart place for prayer. The peace of His Presence that was so comforting, the power of His words and teachings, the rejuvenation of the spirit, and the joy that emanated from His nearness - all were present in the set-apart place and all are greatly missed.
For those who have never been to visit us, it may be difficult to imagine what we’re feeling. But for those who came, especially those who worshiped with us regularly, you know what we’re feeling for surely you feel it, too.
The Three Weeks
This is the first time that the Three Weeks have ever really hit home. The Three Weeks is a period of mourning observed annually by our Jewish brothers all over the world. It begins on the 17th of the fourth month and culminates on the Ninth of Av, the fifth month (Tisha B’Av).
It’s a period of mourning because all throughout history, from ancient times to modern times, the Jewish people have faced great tragedies within this three-week time frame: the sin of the spies, the destruction of the first and second Set-Apart Place, the destruction of Yerushalayim, the defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans, the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492, the outbreak of World War I, the mass deportation of Jews from Warsaw to Nazi concentration camps in 1942, and more.
Everything stemmed from the first tragedy, the sin of the spies. Because Yisrael did not trust and believe YAHUAH for the good that He promised them, they lost it. They spent 40 years in the wilderness because of this, and years later, on the exact same day, the 9th of Av, they lost both the first and the second Set-Apart Place in Yerushalayim.
The sadness from the destruction and the loss of His Presence was immense. It can be sensed in the words of the prophets, as in Eichah (Lamentations), and in psalms such as Tehillim 137. The people of those times mourned greatly because they knew the former and the latter - when His Presence was with them in the Set-Apart Place and when it was destroyed and His Presence left them.
As time passed and we got further and further away from the time of His Set-Apart Place, we mourned less. Those who never experienced the Set-Apart Place have a harder time sensing and understanding the fullness of what it means to not have a Set-Apart Place for the Dwelling of YAHUAH.
Previously, we didn’t really know either. Not only because we weren’t there in ancient times but also because we had a place where we worshiped YAH in set-apartness.
But now we do not.
We moved out of our place at a time that perfectly coincided with the Three Weeks, though completely unplanned by us. On the 17th of the fourth month, the beginning of the Three Weeks, we held our last Shabbat service in our set-apart place. The following week, we moved out, and for the past two weeks, we’ve been saddened by the “loss” of our set-apart place.
In a couple of days, we’ll observe Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av. This is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a time of heightened sadness and mourning, the day we remember the destruction of the Set-Apart Place in Yerushalayim.
Yet, out of sadness comes redemption. Out of darkness comes light. We fall, yet we arise. In the evening, weeping, but in the morning, rejoicing!
We write “loss” with quotation marks because our “loss” was not a true loss. Our place was not destroyed, nor were we forced to close. We made the decision to close our doors so we could focus on what’s ahead - closing the door to the past and opening the door to the future.
Our goal is to build a truly set-apart place for the Dwelling of the Most High Elohim. Not a storefront or office unit or any other building that’s connected to or associated with secular entities. We want our own building on our own land, completely set-apart and dedicated to the service of YAHUAH.
What we had was great, but what we are looking forward to is so much greater!
Sadness for the sake of sadness is useless. Sadness that stirs us into action is what YAH desires, and that’s what we feel at this time. Because we know what we “lost,” we work that much harder to restore it and to restore it in an even greater way. This produces great joy! It’s the joy of what can and will be.
A seed must decay before it sprouts new life. We may mourn the “loss,” but we rejoice over the newness to come!
We believe, and we trust YAHUAH. He will bring us into our promised land, and He will plant us and cause us to flourish.
So may it be speedily and soon. So be it.