This is a lengthy one, but it is a question that was brought to us a while ago by an active member of the US military. We wanted to do all that we could to cover as much as possible to help make their journey with Yahweh as peaceful as possible while fulfilling their responsibilities and commitment to their job.
Becoming Torah observant and committing to following the Sabbaths and Feast days can be complicated in our modern age, especially for those who work outside of the home. Rearranging a job or business can be very complicated for some. One group who is particularly challenged are Yahweh’s followers who hold a military position. Certain schedules are required by regulation and immovable depending on rank or duty assignment. What can you do to make life easier for yourself, so that you can better follow Yahweh’s commandments, the Sabbaths, and especially the feast days?
To be honest, the first thing you should address is your personal belief on the subject of calendaring. Calendaring amongst Torah observant individuals is a seriously hot topic as many people have their own opinions and thoughts on the matter. Yet, what is right and just from the perspective of the Word?
Our first suggestion would be to have you read and study our free book on calendaring. No matter what calendar you are currently following, you may not know this perspective on the subject which addresses it from solely a biblical perspective. We cover exactly who has the right to decide which calendar to follow. This free e-book gives a different and clear scriptural perspective that others don’t often take into consideration.
At Shofar Productions (The main ministry) and Torah For Women we follow the Hebrew calendar. This decision was based on the information discovered during our studies before publishing our free ebook on calendars.
For those in the military, following the Hebrew calendar will likely have many blessings that you may not have thought of before. The dates for Holy Days will be the traditional ones used by most Torah Observant people, as well as businesses, and even school systems for the biblical holidays. The US Military uses this calendar as well to establish the Hebrew Holy Days which many of the Torah observant staff will follow.
For example, although your immediate supervisor and/or commander may not be willing or able to give you all the Feast days off, following the Hebrew calendar MAY make it easier for you to arrange for leave on at least SOME of the Feast days because they will coincide with the standard calendar dates used by your unit.
A plus is that since these will also likely be the same dates that other TO individuals on base will follow, you may find some common ground. You may find it easier to identify families with home assemblies or some on base religious services for Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah for Jews), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and for the beginning of Sukkot. You may also discover that with Sukkot, a space may be set up somewhere on base or at base housing where families are meeting in Sukkahs.
How difficult it is to actually get this time off, may depend upon whether your commander is willing to respect your individual religious views. It may also be dependent upon how many Torah observant people are in your unit, or in your job position. It may also be dependent upon how critical your job is. Security or law enforcment duties as well as medical may be critical positions which may not be easily replaced. Especially if you are new at your duty station. There may be others who will be given leave ahead of your request based on seniority. If leave is not an option, there may be a way to work some of your schedule around so that you have off on at least some of the Holy days.
What Do I Do If I HAVE To Be On Duty During High Holy Days?
You do the best you can to follow Yahweh’s commandments and the biblical teachings.
I have learned over the years that there are times when we make things more stressful for ourselves by believing that we have to make every Feast day and Shabbat absolutely perfect. It is still my dream (Or maybe my fantasy!!!) that we will one day enjoy just ONE YEAR where every single Feast Day goes HALF-perfect!!! There are times, though, when something like an ox in the mire just happens to pop up at the wrong time.
Our experiences have always been memorable, and many we look back on now and laugh. There was the year we put up the Sukkah only to receive a hurricane warning!!! Thank goodness it down graded to a tropical storm, but my poor husband was awake around 3 AM one night and heard strange sounds outside. He ended up chasing the Sukkah across the yard in horrible winds while trying to roll up the fabric sides, and trying to tie it back down again!!! There was the year it was stormy every night and bitter cold the whole week which prevented us from using the Sukkah at all. Then last year when we were in our new home, on the mountain, in the woods in a new state. When neighbors warned us of having seen a bear in the area, we just looked at each other asking, “Do we WANT to put up the Sukkah and eat every night with a bear????” We set up a make-shift Sukkah inside. . . .We have the same look on our faces this year as we learned that the copperheads come out in the evening and eat the cicadas and locusts between now and Sukkot!!!! If the two bugs are not gone by then, do we want to set up the Sukkah and run that risk of dining with venomous snakes???
Experiences like these have helped me to study deeper and become much more focused on the meaning of EACH Feast Day. And to also study what we can accomplish in the diaspora. You see, we can spend so much time trying to follow the Feast Days to perfection that we forget to understand the reasons for them, the meaning in them, and the lesson Yahweh would have us learn through them. We also run the risk of over-burdening ourselves to the point of not finding Shalom in these blessed times. Because of this, we might need to take a step back and relax for a bit. Then, to help with this, ask yourself, from the scriptures, “what exactly is required of me for EACH Feast, and what are those things that cannot be fulfilled because we do not have a Temple?”
Those things that are required that you CAN fulfill are the things that you should do your best to accomplish. Make your list and explore ways that you can accomplish these to the best of your ability while still working your duty position.
The biggest detail for Feast days is that there are times when we are commanded not to work. Then there are a couple where we are to do “no servile work". Examples of the differences would be that on the Day of Atonement, for example, we are not supposed to work at all. Yet the First and Eighth days of Sukkot are Sabbaths on which we are allowed to cook.
If you end up having to work/be on duty during High Holy Days, you will just do the best that you can to honor those dates.
The first thing to do would be to pray for those times to be quiet times at work. Next, here are some Ideas to remove as much work as possible from your Shabbat and Feast routines:
-- prepare for foods early for these blessed dates. If you have a place to keep canned or prepackaged meals, grab foods that you can keep easily for the 24 hour Holy Day. If you normally eat at a cafeteria, grab foods that you can store easily for the amount of time you will have for the Holy days. Remember, there may be a couple of them coming up that go right from Holy Day into weekly Shabbat - so for these you may need to stock up for two full days!
If you have a refrigerator that you can use, whether in your dorm or in the duty station, this is a BIG plus and will help with meals. You can easily put pre-made sandwiches into the refrigerator for you Sabbaths, or even “plates” for reheating throughout the holy times.
-- Shine boots, prep uniforms, wash laundry, do everything that you can in advance of Sundown on the Holy day. Weekly Shabbat is a great time to practice this and get yourself into the habit so that you don’t do unnecessary work during the Feast times. The more preparation done in advance, the more free time you have with Yahweh during that day. If you have to work, you may find an extra 30 minutes or more in the morning to read, study or pray before reporting for work.
-- Include as much prayer and study time as you can on those days. Do you have a small set of scriptures for your pocket? Or an APP on your phone that has the scriptures? How about a small pocket notebook and pen or pencil? Set aside a small section of this notebook, pick a subject that has to do with your becoming closer to Yahweh, something you have been meaning to study for a long time, or that is directly related to the particular Feast Day, study that and take notes in your notebook.
-- Prayer time doesn’t need to be in a closet, or on your knees if that is impossible. Have dead time while on duty? Close your eyes, focus on something prayerful, and spend that time with Yahweh. If someone asks, just explain to them you are doing the best, while on duty, to honor your religious Holy Day of (Whatever day it is). This might surprise you - they may ask for more information.
Remember that little notebook you brought with you? Before you leave your quarters, why not write down a list of people you know are in need of prayer that day? Social media, online groups, your home assembly all will have people who are in need of prayer warriors. This quiet time would be a great time to bring out your little book and pray for those on your list.
-- Try not to shop, or visit any businesses for personal things on those days. Make sure you did everything humanly possible prior to the Shabbat or Feast day by running errands, shopping, banking, etc before the day is upon you. You may run into that rare occasion where the officer in charge at work wants you to run to the store for something. Is it a real necessity? Is there a way they can ask someone else? For this one, you may find yourself in a personal dilemma - you don’t want someone else to break the Sabbath or Holy Day, but you know you don’t want to either. Weigh your options and do everything you can to avoid having anyone run the errand that day.
-- When working, do your job the best you can and think of it this way: preservation of life is key. Is your career field one that is required for the preservation of life? Security forces, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, EMTs, Fire, they aren’t exempt from honoring the High Holy Days, but often on a High Holy Day do have to fulfill the need of preservation of life. This tends to fall into the “ox in the mire” category. If you feel impressed after working, kneel before Yahweh and ask him to forgive you for anything that you may have done that He might find offensive, and ask him to guide you to ideas to make it better next Sabbath or Feast Day.
Some military personnel who have written to us and others we have read have stated that they tend to use some of the following as guidelines in their decision making as well:
Mission critical - you may not be able to have off or to honor the day because you and your unit may have a specific mission. Especially in cases of deployment. In this case, explore ways that you can do the best you can in that situation.
The Greater Good - remember that your responsibility is for the greater good. Think of times in the scriptures where Yahweh’s people needed to be protected. Were there soldiers positioned at key points to ensure that protection? Did they take “time off”? One example to study out would be 2 Kings 11:5-9.
You are protecting the nation AND family - part of the responsibility of the military forces is to be there to protect and defend against enemies foreign and domestic. You are honoring your contract and obligation to do this.
-- I often wonder if, while being in the military, eating clean may be one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish if you are required to eat at the (cafeteria) or other on-base facilities. You may be able to see that some items served are obviously unclean. Bacon, pork chops and such are clearly not clean, but what is hidden in the ingredients may not be as obvious. You will need to do your best to follow your biblical diet by avoiding those products.
In the end, are there some who decide that getting out of the military is their only option? Yes, some have chosen to do this. It is a personal decision based on your conviction and conscience. Something that you will need to weigh after careful study and prayer on the matter. If you choose to continue to serve, you at least have ideas and options to explore to help you keep your Holy days, while also fulfilling your duty.
From Torah For Women, we wish you well, and may Yahweh bless you with the safety and protection you need to continue to serve. Our prayers are with you. Blessings and shalom.
Do you have more ideas that you would add to these? Message us and let us know!
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Torah Observance in the Military
“You shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God seven days.”
Leviticus 23:40 WEB
As Sukkot approaches, it saddens me to see so many people who are on extremely tight budgets that would love to decorate yet haven’t the extra money to spend. Many of us are in the similar situations, where other things are higher on the priority list right now. Maybe this is the year that many may need to take a step back and ask themselves:
“What would Gramma do?”
In days of old, would Gramma or Great-gramma run to Target, Hobby Lobby or Wal-mart and grab things that were already made? How did they decorate before silk flowers and straw wreaths, potted mums and mini-hay bales? They used what they had.
Well, I thought I would share what happened to me the other night. It was another moment when Yahweh was so very good to us, even with the little things. Another lesson learned!
First let me say that I fully understand decorations do not make Sukkot one of Yahweh’s feast days. Yet it does bring us pleasure to have some beautiful harvest items to brighten the Sukkah and house, and it also creates an atmosphere of celebration. No matter how the weather has been, what decorations we have had up, or whether we have had visitors to feast with, Sukkot has been special, enjoyable, and a truly blessed time with my husband every single year. Yahweh has always provided for us, both physically and spiritually during this Feast as well as during all other Feast days.
That being said, I do truly enjoy decorating for fall and for Sukkot because autumn is one of the most colourful times of the year. Last year I loved the meme that said, “My favorite colour is October!" It fit so perfectly. As we go to the stores, I see all these lovely things for hanging or just setting around the house and Sukkah. So many bright colours - yellows, oranges, reds, burgundy, green!!! I enjoy looking at all the new creations and found myself wishing we could get just a few things this year. There just isn’t any extra for spending on new autumn decorations. Even our garden did not help with squash or pumpkins to set around. These just did not grow in our new garden this year.
Instead of the excitement I normally feel, this year I was feeling a bit surly because I just kept dwelling on the negatives - how we were going to have to just settle with what we already own. As I was getting ready for bed one night, I half hearted said in my mind, “I wish we could do some nice, new decorations like wreaths, sprays, and stuff.” Siiiiigh.
Suddenly I remembered all the acorns that are falling this year. I was wondering what I might be able to make from them. As I searched online, more and more ideas came to me using things that we have around our yard and woods! My mind flooded with ideas for grapevine wreaths, acorn wreaths, candle holders, and even sprays to hang up outside!
Suddenly I was excited again about autumn decorating. I was excited that we are going to have plenty of new things to put around the house, outside and in the Sukkah. I could hardly wait for morning to come so that I could run outside and find those grapevines I had cut in the spring, and get started. I wrote myself a note with all the cool ideas Yahweh inspired me to write, plus I saved photos from websites onto my tablet to use as reference for making our new decorations. I even wrote down that I was hoping to make four large wreaths and one small one from the grapevines.
I went outside and started gathering vines and whipped together the first wreath. It went together SO easily, much more than I recall doing it years ago. I gathered more and more vines from the wood pile, and sat down to drink my coffee and work some more. When I was done, I was truly blessed to have enough vines to make FIVE wreaths for our Sukkah. The funny part was that I had completely forgotten about what I had written the night before about wanting 4 large and one small wreath. Later, when I looked at my note to cross off finished tasks, I was astonished to read what I had written the night before was EXACTLY what I had been blessed with from our trimmings.
While outside, I also found some decorative grasses growing in a ditch. I am hoping to use those to add to at least one or two of the wreaths to decorate them nicely. I gathered goldenrod, rose hips, and branches from other bushes growing around the yard. I hung bunches of dried herbs, too, that will add a bit of texture and colour to the wreaths.
In addition, I have several sprays of silk autumn leaves and flowers that I can include to brighten them up, too. Next week I also will be trimming and drying more wildflowers I have found growing around the edges of the woods, around the street and in the field. Between all these ideas, we will be filling our Sukkah not only with beautiful decorations, but each will be a true testimony of how Yahweh is our provider, AND of how beautiful the harvest is all around us. Yahweh’s creations are so beautiful to look at and enjoy, if we just open our eyes and look.
Thank you, Yahweh, for even the LITTLE things in life.
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What Would Grandma Do?
I don’t normally do crafty items as a blog article, but this year so many we know are on tight budgets. I thought I would share some of my ideas to help you decorate for autumn and Sukkot.
For years I have been making fabric stuffed pumpkins to set around for decoration. Normally I run out to the store and buy fabric, bring it home to wash, dry, cut and sew. This year, I have been trying to do all that I can as inexpensively as possible.
I went through all of my old fabric scraps and found several pieces that are large enough to use to make pumpkins from. So many colours and patterns! And so very simple to make. For stems and tendrils I used an old brown paper bag and pipe cleaners. So far I have 18 pumpkins, with at least 3 more to finish before Sukkot! I may make more, depending on how much time I have to complete them AND how much stuffing I have to fill them all. To think, I just discovered an old curtain panel in autumn shades hidden in a box that would make two nice pumpkins if I cut it just right!
I thought I would share this idea with everyone along with a photograph of our “pumpkin patch,” to help encourage you to use items you may have laying around. You can easily create some great decorations that can be packed away and reused year after year.
A quick note about ours, though: although there may be ways that these can be created to be safe for outdoor use, ours are not. I will be watching the weather during Sukkot to make sure they are not damaged should bad weather creep in. I will need to bring them indoors at night, as well, because the dew has started collecting as the nighttime temperatures have gone down a bit.
It is nice to know that, with these little additions and our new grapevine wreaths and woodland sprays, the Sukkah will be all set for the feast. Yahweh has shown us once again that there is no need to spend a lot of money, and in fact, you may not have to spend ANY money to create a festive atmosphere for the Fall Feast days.
We would love to hear what fabulous ideas YOU came up with to decorate YOUR Tabernacle for the Feast?
Directions for The Stuffed Fabric Pumpkins
Skill level: Easy
All you will need is:
Fabric –you can buy remnants, or use scraps. Old shirts, jeans, sheets and even t-shirts can work
Stuffing – Polyester fiberfill, or if you want to recycle, use old shredded paper!
Brown paper – lunch bags, old grocery bags, or brown craft paper for stems
Pipe cleaners or paper ribbon for spirals
The common fabric sizes:
16 by 21 inches for tall, thin pumpkins
5 by 12 inches for TINY pumpkins
8 by 16 inches for small pumpkins
14 by 25 inches for a large pumpkins
14 by 32 inches for even larger pumpkins
Cut the fabric to size, leaving clean edges for sewing.
Step 1: For a short, plump pumpkin, match the short, cut edges together, with the RIGHT side of fabric on the inside, and pin. For the tall, thin pumpkin, match the long, cut edges, right side of fabric together, and pin. The wrong side, or inside of the fabric should be facing you.
Step 2: Stitch a 3/8 inch seam, along your pinned edge, forming a tube. Iron the seam flat and turn the tube right side out. There is no need to sew finished edges on the top and bottom unless the fabric frays easily.
Step 3: Gather the bottom edge with needle and thread, then pull closed and tie off tightly. Partially gather the top edge in the same way, but do not pull tightly. Loosely gather and leave a large enough hole to stuff the pumpkin.
Step 4: Stuff your pumpkin loosely, making sure that it is fully stuffed, but not over-stuffed.
Step 5: Pull the top threads tight to finish the gathering the same as the bottom then tie it shut.
Step 6: To create the pumpkin sections like a real pumpkin, you will need thick thread (embroidery or upholstery thread), or yarn. Thread a long needle with a long piece of thread, tie a knot in thread end. Run your needle through a small piece of the gathered fabric at the center of the bottom of the pumpkin, anchoring the knot. Wrapping the thread around the top of the pumpkin, go all the way around the pumpkin, meeting the thread again at the bottom, dividing it in half. Pull a little tight so that you have an impression in the pumpkin where the thread has sectioned it. Tie a quick knot around at the bottom to hold the thread in place. Turn the pumpkin ¼ to the right to create another section. Take the thread around the top, meeting again at the bottom, tie the thread again. This divides it into quarters. Turn the pumpkin to the right again about 1/8 of a turn, to the next section and repeat the process two more times, creating a total of eight sections when finished. Remember to tie at the bottom each time around to anchor the thread and help keep sections taut.
Step 7: For the stem, cut a small piece of brown paper - crumple it nicely to look rustic. Then roll it up to look like a stem, glue the edges together, and glue it to the top at the center. I use a warm glue gun for this. For added effect, pipe cleaners can be used to make spirals, which are glued where the stem meets the pumpkin.
A quick note: there may be ways that these can be created to be safe for leaving outdoors all the time, but we don’t. We bring ours in every night to avoid damage from dew or passing night-time showers. Treat your pumpkins accordingly. And ENJOY!
Another note about stuffing - Don’t have the extra money for a big bag or box of polyester fiber fill? How about a couple of old pillows that you were thinking of throwing out? Is the filling still good enough to use? OR - Remember your paper shredder - I discovered this wehn I ran out of stuffing and needed to finish filling some pumpkins and found that the shredder was packed full. It wasn’t as easy to shape as the polyester fiber fill but it worked!
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
Torah For Women
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