Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga captures the colourful re-enactment with a Jewish festival by a theatre outfit of a seminary school affiliated to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
The Temple Glamour Theatre (TGT) of the West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos, an affiliate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka recently staged an out-door drama to re-enact the Feast of Trumpets, an annual Jewish religious festival. The event, which held at the 25th Convocation of the Seminary (WATS), recently a fortnight ago was one of the best drama of its kind within the circle of evangelical orthodox Christianity in contemporary times.
The festival, which is also known as Rosh Hashanah in Hebrew, meaning ‘Head of the Year’ marks the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar, and it, was celebrated by Jews all over the world on Sunday 13 September, 2015 which falls in the same week with WATS convocation.
TGT troupe were seen dressed in splendid Old Testament priestly and high-priestly vestments, blowing animal horns and matching with a big ram and turtledove. The event, which originated from the Old Testament, showcased its aesthetic and spiritual significance to New Testament theology, contemporary life and apocalyptic exposition. For the graduating seminarians, it was a moment of preparation for their investiture as priest in the Church, just as God commanded Moses in Exodus 28:1 – 43 to make priestly vestments for Aaron and his four sons to add dignity to their vocation.
According to TGT Director, Rev’d Temple Okoronkwo, God commanded Moses to declare to the Israelites that “… it will be a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Leviticus 23: 23 – 24), and the ‘Ram’s Horn’ symbolized Jesus Christ whom the Psalmist and Saint Luke described as the ‘Horn of our Salvation’ (Psalm 18: 2, Luke 1: 68 – 69). The mystery of the horns can best be explained in terms of Joshua with the Israelites at Jericho. God specifically instructed them to carry ‘trumpets made of ram’s horns’ (Joshua 6: 4). Jesus was also depicted as the ‘Great High Priest’ (Hebrew 4: 14 – 16; 7: 15) as well as the ‘Lamb of God’ (John 1: 29, 36).
He went on to say that for contemporary Christianity, it is a time of introspection and repentance in preparation for its futuristic essence, the expected rapture, when the arch-angel will blast the trumpet for the judgment of all believers whether living or dead in Christ (Joel 2: 1 and Zephaniah 1: 14 & 16), adding that the ancient Israelites used animal horns for various purposes which included announcing the new moon, calling an assembly, calling for judgment, for war and for giving signal against foreign aggression or imminent danger amongst others.
The theatre director maintained that the Churches are the Israelites of this contemporary age.
Rev’d. Okoronkwo stated that the Feast of Horns (or Feast of Trumpets) reminds both contemporary Jews and Christians alike of the mighty acts of God in human history, the saving grace in Christ Jesus who is the Horn of our Salvation, the grave devastation that will come upon evil doers at the end of time, and the recompense of eternal life awaiting believers who are upright in heart and deeds.
However, according to archival records by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Jewish holidays are celebrated on fixed dates in the lunar Jewish calendar, but this calendar varies in relation to the solar calendar used in the west. This means that the holidays
move around with relation to western dates.
Although dates can be calculated accurately now, many non-Israeli Jews still follow this practice. The Jewish day begins at sunset, which means that all Jewish holidays begin the evening before their western date.
Jews eat apples dipped in honey to symbolise hope for a sweet new year. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, when Jews believe God decides what will happen in the year ahead. The synagogue services for this festival emphasise God’s kingship and include the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn trumpet.
This is also God’s time forjudgement. Jews believe God balances a person’s good deeds over the last year against their bad deeds and decides their fate accordingly.
The 10 days beginning with Rosh Ha- shanah are known as the Days of Awe, during which Jews are expected to find all the people they have hurt during the previous year and apologise to them. They have until Yom Kippur to do this.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is regarded as a sacred and solemn occasion, on which synagogue attendance is particularly important. On Yom Kippur Jews believe God makes the final decision on who will live, die, prosper and fail during the next year, and seals his
judgement in the Book of Life.
It is a day of fasting. Worship includes the confession of sins and asking for forgiveness, which is done aloud by the entire congregation.
For the duration of the festival, Jewish families live in temporary huts called sukkot (singular: sukkah) that they build out of branches and leaves.
Each day they hold celebrations with four types of plant: branches of palm, myrtle and willow and a citrus fruit called an etrog. Sukkot is intended to be a joyful festival that lets Jews live close to nature and know that God is taking care of them.
Jews spend some time in their suk- kah, but not as much, and without some of the rituals.
Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah”. Synagogues read from the Torah every week, completing one read-through each year. They reach the end on Simchat Torah and this holiday marks the completion of the cycle, to begin again the next week with Genesis.
They say prayers and eat fried foods to remind them of the oil. Some gifts are exchanged, including chocolate money and special spinning tops called dreidels.
Tu B’Shevat (15 Shevat) is the Jewish New Year for Trees. The Torah forbids Jews to eat the fruit of new trees for three years after they are planted. The fourth year’s fruit was to be tithed to the Temple.
Tu B’Shevat was counted as the birthday for all trees for tithing purposes, like the beginning of a fiscal year. On Tu B’Shevat Jews often eat fruits associated with the Holy Land, especially the seven plants mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Planting trees is another tradition.
Purim (14 Adar) celebrates the events told in the Book of Esther, in which a wicked Persian nobleman named Ha- man plotted to murder all the Jews in the land.
The Jewish heroine Esther, wife of the king Ahasuerus, persuaded her husband to prevent the massacre and execute Ha- man. Because Esther fasted before going to the king, Purim is preceded by a fast. On Purim itself, however, Jews are commanded to eat, drink a lot and celebrate.
Almsgiving is also a very important Purim tradition. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue and the congregation use rattles, cymbals and boos to drown out Haman’s name whenever it appears.
Passover, or Pesach (15-21 Nissan) is one of the most important Jewish festivals. During Passover, Jews remember
the story of the Israelites liberation from slavery in Egypt.
God unleashed ten plagues on the Egyptians, culminating in the death of every family’s eldest son. God told the Israelites to sacrifice lambs and mark their doors with the blood to escape this fate. They ate the lambs with bitter herbs and unleavened bread (unrisen bread without yeast).
These form three of the components of the family meal, called the seder, eaten by Jews on the first two nights of Passover.
There are blessings, songs and other ingredients to symbolise parts of the story. During the meal the adults explain the symbolism to the children.
Shavuot (6 Sivan) is the festival of Weeks, is a harvest festival. Historically, at this time of year the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the temples. It also marks the time that the Jews were given the Torah on Mount Sinai. Shavuot is marked by prayers of thanks for the Holy Book and study of its scriptures. Customs include decorating synagogues with flowers and eating dairy foods.
Tisha B’Av (9 Av) is a day of commemoration for a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, some of which coincidentally happened on this day, for example the destruction of the first and second temples in ancient Jerusalem.
Other tragedies are commemorated on this day, such as the beginning of World War I and the Holocaust. As Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning Jews observe a strict fast and avoid laughing, joking and chatting.
Synagogues are dimly lit and undecorated and the Torah draped in black cloth.