"Behold, bless the L-rd all you servants of the L-rd who stand by night in the house of the L-RD! Lift your hands in the sanctuary and bless the L-rd! May the L-rd who made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion! —Psalm 134
The history of Israel is marked with the examples of individuals and very small groups of dedicated workers upon whose selfless dedication and works the outcome of the history of Israel hinged. Moses stood in for Aaron and the rest of Israel, Deut 9: 20, 25-29). Aaron stood in with prayers between the living and the dying, (Num. 16:47-48). Pinchas, David, Daniel, and the Maccabees, stood in the breach, spoke up and appealed to G-d for mercy for the many. They acted alone in a decisive manner with far-reaching consequences on behalf of the Congregation of Israel. With their duty and devotion to Israel, they stood in the breach against the forces of destruction and evil. With their heroic "standing in the breach," they imitated the very attribute of G-d Himself toward His people: Ahavat (love of )Israel. These selfless, fervent and patriotic acts on behalf of our people are written down for us as examples for us to imitate in times of need for our countries and people. Yached Levavenu’s calling for Israelites to stand in for the interests of all Israel is patterned after these examples. Yached Levavenu’s calling for those who are to stand in for the many is also based on Yehudah’s custom of doing so during the Torah service. Before the Torah reading is finished, those with a burden of caring for their fellow Israelites come to the fore and bring before the G-d of Israel the names of those afflicted with illness and diverse calamities. As representatives, they stand in with intercessory prayer for those who cannot be there to plead for themselves.
For millennia the secrets of our identities and whereabouts as the people of the lost Ten Tribes have been hidden from ourselves and the world. We do not exactly know why G-d has chosen some of us now, to wake us up early before the great masses, and make us part of the "early contingent" to arise form the Valley of Dry Bones of the spiritually dead, (Ez. 37). However, we do know that our identities as part of the Ten Tribes are being revealed to us, that we may confess our sins and the sins of our fathers and return to the Covenant. Centuries ago, the sages of Yehudah have concluded from studying the prophets that those who are the farthest away from the Covenant will be called to come home first. As such, we who are awakened to our identities now, and are studying the Prophets' injunctions to us in the latter days, are to realize that we are part of the "early contingent" to arise from the Valley of Dry Bones. For sure we can know that therefore we have a responsibility to offer “offerings of thanks ” to the Holy One of Israel on behalf of ourselves as well as on behalf of the "whole House of Israel," for we are the first ones touched by the work of EliY-h who is doing the prophesied ingathering. We can also ask ourselves some serious questions as to what else are we to do. Could it be that we are to do this task of “standing in” for the rest of the congregation of Israel as they wake up? Are we to be the representatives and messengers of the rest of the congregation of Israel, whose identities are still hidden, even to themselves? Are we to be the reconnaissance men who go ahead into G-d's promises and bring back a good report for the masses who are to awaken later? Are we given the opportunity to speed up the Redemption with our work of "standing in" and other types of regathering efforts?
Psalm 80 seems to be the quintessential prayer to use for this early contingent, the firstfruits from the Valley of Dry Bones. It opens with the words that identify those who are to use it:
Give ear O shepherd of Israel, thou who leadest Joseph like a flock! Thou who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, and Benjamin and Manasseh! (Psalm 80:1-2)
Its words are custom-made by the very inspiration of God for the very first returnees to use at the "appointed time." Ezekiel's vision shows that the dry bones of the whole House of Israel, are to go through a process of resurrection, of "enlivening." We see a clue of this in the question Ezekiel is asked; "Son of man, can these bones live?" (Ez. 37:3). Initially, the bones are shown to "hear" the Word of G-d, that begins their process of resurrection as they begin to stand on their feet all over the world. Yet, the enigmatic key saying is recorded for us to observe in our day: "Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost,' we are clean cut off." (Ez. 37:11). After they stand on their feet, they are still not really "living." They are waiting for G-d's holy Spirit to truly and fully enliven them, so they can be fully alive as bona fide, "living" members of the House of Israel. It is for us, those who are standing on our feet and are conscious of our identity as members of the Ten Tribes of Israel, to cry out and intercede with our God to give us and the rest of us the prophesied "life" that we may all call on His name:
Turn again, O God of hosts: Look down from heaven, and see, and visit this vine,
And the stock which thy right hand planted,
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down: They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
But let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.
Then we will not turn back from thee: give us life, and we will call upon thy name.
Restore us again, O LORD God of hosts! Cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
In the work of EliY-h we are now allowed and told to come near, to see His work, to hear His instructions, to confess our sins, and to repent of having forsaken the Covenant. Subsequently, are we also called to be purified and come near to be reinstated as members of the “nation of priests?” As the prophesied returning generation to come, we are commanded to look to our father Abraham, and our mother Sarah, (Deut. 29:22, Isa. 51:1-2, Psalm 102:13-22). This is for a most important reason, for according to Kabbalah, the mystical literature of Judaism, Abraham initiated the return of the divine Presence into our world. As his children in the latter days, it behooves us to stand in likewise, and draw down the Divine Presence into our world and times. Abraham alone stood in for any righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham went to great lengths to get his probably undeserving nephew Lot back from captivity, simply because he was family. As Abraham's awakening progeny, are we not to do the same for our own brethren who are living with similar needs in similar moral times?
The prophets give us many clues about the service we are to do. The writings of the prophets about the return of Israel are replete with outpourings of supplications on behalf of Israel. The words of Jeremiah and Isaiah imply that others besides the prophets are saying these words:
"Thou art our father, though Avraham be ignorant of us, and Yisrael acknowledge us not: thou O L-rd art our father, our redeemer, thy name is from everlasting. O L-rd, why hast thou made us to stray from thy ways and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake the tribes of thy inheritance."
(Isa. 63: 16-17, 51: 9-10, 41:10)
Through the prophet Ezekiel, G-d recounts to us the time of severe need when Israel was mired in evil times not unlike our own. In the midst of national corruption the spiritual leaders gave no intercessory help but instead were leaders among the unclean; there was no one to stand in for the many:
“And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it but I found none."
The prophets also write about earthshaking calamities to befall Israel and the whole world; plagues, famines, and wars of extinction. G-d says that if we turn to Him with all our heart, rend our hearts with fasting, weeping, and with mourning, He will be merciful and change his mind about severe judgment on us, (Joel 2:12-13). Isaiah cites the causes for which prayerful fasts should be done by those who stand in for those who cannot do so for themselves. G-d continuously seeks those who stand in and plead for mercy for those about to be destroyed, (Isa.63:5). He promises that He will help his servants and answer those who lift up their voices to him to intercede for the sake of loosing the bands of wickedness, undoing the bindings of heavy yokes, letting the oppressed go free, to feed the [spiritually] hungry, (Isa. 41:8- 14, 58:6).
Jeremiah writes of his own time, and asks of his contemporary spiritual leaders, (not unlike those of Samaria earlier), "For who hath stood in the counsel of the L-rd and hath perceived and heard His word? Who hath marked His word and heard it?" (Jer. 23:18). He prophesies that the very same conditions of spiritual famine will prevail in the latter days, and that His word is like a fire and hammer that will destroy the false prophets/spiritual leaders [in the work of EliY-ah] who do not hear G-d's directives but cause our people to sin, (Jer. 23:25-40). Therefore it remains for us, the early contingent of returnees, to do what these prophets who supposedly stood in His Presence, (Jer. 23:39), have left undone: "But if they stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings." (Jer. 23:22). It remains for us to stand in His counsel as the Lechem Panim and hear, i.e. absorb His revealed word, and transmit those words of direction to our people. The Lechem Panim, representatives of the Twelve tribes, were constantly in the Presence, and took in, i.e. absorbed the radiating inspiration (Word) of the Shechinah, and offered their incense / prayers for all the tribes, were renewed on the Shabbat and were later consumed by the Cohanim / priests. In Hebrew, the word Cohanim means those who were to come near; to be the relayers of G-d's instruction to the rest of Israel. They were to transmit and teach the received knowledge (absorbed from G-d's face and pictured by the loaves), to all of Israel for "Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the L-rd does man live." (Deut. 8:3).
We were sent wandering into the wilderness of Sinai to prove whether we would live by the commandments, judgments and statutes, (Deut. 8:2, 11). Later we were sent into the wilderness of the nations for 2700 years for the same reason, to be purified of our dross, i.e. of our impurities, (Ez. 21:15-22). G-d relates to us how Jeremiah was readied for his commission and that G-d's words were for him and his remnant, those who would stand in with him, and because of their doings G-d would cause them to escape the calamities to come, (Jer. 15:11, Ez.14:22-23). Today, G-d's instruction, through the Prophets' writings, which are extensions of the Torah, thunders the same message also to us:
"Therefore thus saith the L-rd, if thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me, and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth..."
(J er.15; 19)
As Jeremiah and Ezekiel did in their times, it is time for us to "eat the precious words of G-d," digest them, make them part of our being in our time, (Ez. 2:9-3:3). God promises to us that if we commit our ways to his instruction, he shall bring to pass the desires of our heart, i.e. to be infused with His word, (Psalm 37:4-10, 40:8). He counsels the people of Joseph: "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10). Then we shall be standing in for the holy words of G-d's instruction to be given for all us. It is time for us to learn the quintessential lesson and return to the commandments, statutes and judgments, (Mal.3:22). It is time for us to study intensely, i.e. research these truths. G-d tells us that he will guide us to the truth about ourselves: "In the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly," (Jer. 23:20, 30:8, Ez. 30:24, 38:16, Psalm 78:16, Gen 49:1). It is time for us to come near, i.e. give thanks, to confess our sins, to ask for forgiveness to be purified, to reaccept the Covenant, and to reassume our status as members of the nation of priests.
Standing in does not just mean praying for others to be healed. The G-d of Abraham also wants us to come near so that we might be heard and that He may conduct a dialogue with us (Isa. 1:18, Micah 6:2-3). This was His original intent, that as the Father, He might talk to His children (Ex.19 & 20). For the very few pioneers of the Ten Tribes being called out of spiritual Babylon at this present time, (Isa. 48:20; 52:8-12), it is incumbent upon us to prepare our hearts, come near, and engage our hearts in dialogue on behalf of ourselves and the rest of Israel in the Galut [exile] (Jer. 30:21). This “coming near” now, and “standing in” now, by the pioneering few of the "early contingent" for the rest of Israel is necessary for her speedy deliverance and healing. Coming near and listening also means “prophetic listening” on behalf of all Israel for instructions, confirmations, and corrections G-d may give us. As we pray, repent and return to the G-d of Israel, our prayers will build the Mishkan of Prayers for G-d’s guiding Presence to indwell.
The major reason for the establishment of Yached Levavenu is to call all aware Israelites to draw down G-d’s guiding Shekhinah. We will need G-d’s guiding Presence to indwell our prayers and illuminate our individual and corporate ways through the wilderness of religions, and erroneous perceptions on our homeward trek to Torah-true faith and practice, to Yehudah and eventually to the Land. We are expected to turn to Him, when He begins to draw near to us (Isa. 54:7, 55:6-7). Coming near and standing in by the few who seek after righteousness, will not only speed up the process of our redemption, but will also mitigate Divine corrective judgments on the many (Isa. 41:1; Mal. 4:22-24).
G-d asks: “Who will hear in the time to come?” (Isa. 42: 22-23). Are you one of the “few,” the remnant” in whose heart is the Torah? (Isa.51: 7). Joel 2:32 shows that besides those who call upon His name from the general population, “the remnant” can be a group “whom G-d shall call.” The gates of repentance are always open, and our calling testifies to the fact that G-d is turning His face toward us. It is time for us to stand in and plead with G-d as David and the prophets have prophetically instructed the Northern House of Israel:
“Give ear O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the cheruvim, shine forth. Before Ephraim, Benjamin and Menashe stir up thy strength and come and save us. Turn us again O G-d, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. O L-rd G-d of hosts, how long will thou be angry against the prayers of thy people?”… “Visit this vine [Gen. 49:24] and quicken us and we will call on thy name”… Turn us again O L-rd G-d of Hosts, cause thy face to shine and we shall be saved.” “Turn us O G-d of our salvation, and cause thy anger toward us to cease.”
(Psalm 80:1-4, 14, 19, 85:4, 74: 1-2)
“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.”
“If my people upon whom my name is called, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(II Chron. 15: 15-16)
“Then shall you call upon me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will hearken to you. And you shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. And I will allow myself to be found by you, says the L-rd: and I will restore you from captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations...”
Suggestions for what to do:
Are you among the ones who hasten to respond to G-d’s call? Will you stand in for the rest of Israel? Take your words and the words G-d gives you with which to go near. Stand in for Am (the people of) Yosef, b'nei Rachel, He will swiftly answer.