Adah sat primly in the grass, right in the middle of the crowd. On top she was calm and composed, with her head scarf tucked neatly under her chin and her hands clasped in her lap, but way down where no one could see, she let her toes do a little dance of excitement. Adah thought this must be the best time in history to be alive. Here they were, the remnants of Israel, gathered in the rebuilt Jerusalem and she was a part of it all.
Adah twisted around and stared with pride at the newly-built wall she could glimpse through the people. Her own father and brothers had helped build that. And oh, weren’t the Israelites’ enemies mad when it was finished! Adah almost laughed out loud.
Her mother nudged her and Adah swirled back around to find that Ezra the Torah-teacher had climbed the large wooden platform. Adah quivered with excitement. For the first time in her life she would get to hear the Torah in her own language.
Ezra lifted up the scroll and unrolled it and the whole crowd stood. Then Ezra blessed Adonai. The people cried, “Amen! Amen!” and threw their hands in the air. Adah stretched toward the heavens and cried the words with all her might. Then the Israelites bowed down, prostrate on the ground before the holy Adonai. As the grass tickled Adah’s face, she felt the presence of God stronger than ever before.
Then a Levite named Yamin came near to Adah’s family and began to read from the scroll. He translated it and stopped often to explain parts. Adah was fascinated by the stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses.
Adah’s father wept. Adah thought she understood his tears. Not only was there the happiness of hearing the words of God, but also there was sadness. For so many years the nation had not followed Adonai. After all He had done for them, they had turned away. Adah felt her own eyes fill.
But suddenly Yamin had stopped reading and smiled. “Today is holy and consecrated to Adonai; do not be sad.”
For a minute Adah flushed and thought he was speaking directly to her, but then she saw that many of the people wiped away tears.
Yamin continued, “Go! Feast on wonderful foods! The joy of Adonai is your strength!”
Adah’s father rose early the next morning to join other men studying the Torah. Adah was glad to stay in her snug bed for a little longer. She was tired from the feasting the night before, and so many stories and thoughts filled her head.
But her father returned very soon, beaming. “The Torah says that we shall have a feast in the month of Tishri,” he told them. “We are to go into the mountains to gather branches to make booths to live in for seven days.”
Adah could hardly believe her ears, but her father continued. “It is to remind us of the times the Israelites spent dwelling in booths when God brought them out of Egypt.”
The whole family went then, to gather branches. Adah grabbed a palm branch and giggled to her sister, “Can you imagine? The whole town, all forty-two thousand of us, is going to camp out in little booths!”
Her family made their booth right in the middle of the courtyard of the tabernacle of God. Never had Adah had such fun. Even her father joked and laughed as they built the little booth, surrounded with the aroma of freshly cut wood, and always the presence of Adonai right behind them.
They had hardly finished when the people gathered for another reading. Adah could see leafy tents everywhere she looked; on rooftops, in courtyards, and in front of city gates. As Adah listened to the Torah she suddenly understood why they were camping out that week. Though Israel had rebelled, God had been faithful. And always Adonai had dwelt right among their booths.
The feast the night before was nothing compared to the party that night. All of Jerusalem danced and feasted and laughed. And, oh, the singing! The choirs sang so loudly that Adah had to shout to be heard. And suddenly she threw back her head and shouted as loudly as she could--just for the pure joy of it.
Adah grabbed her sister and danced all around the camp, singing at the top of her lungs. And she knew deep in her heart that Adonai was singing, too.
(This story is based on Nehemiah 6:15, 7:66, and 8:1-18 from the Complete Jewish Bible.)
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