Ash Wednesday

On February 14, 2024 (Valentine’s Day), just after 10 a.m., God brought the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to mind, and I was led to October 9–13, 2024 as the dates to stay. This was just under eight months, or precisely 34 weeks away.

October 9 happened to be the 7th of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar – the 7th day of the 7th month in the religious calendar, or the 7th day of the 1st month in the civil calendar. It makes up part of the ‘10 Days of Awe’ that run from Rosh Hashanah / Feast of Trumpets on the 1st of the month, through to Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the month. This period is also known as the ‘10 Days of Repentance’, during which Jews reflect on any wrongdoings they may have made, and seek forgiveness for them.

It wasn’t until two days later on Friday after sunset, that I discovered that February 14 was also the first day of Lent, also known as Ash Wednesday – the 40-day fasting period leading up until the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, not including the Sundays in the count.

The 40 days commemorates the time of Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness just after His baptism (Matthew 4:1–2), and prior to beginning His public ministry.

Ash Wednesday, just like the 10 days of repentance for the Jews, is a time of seeking forgiveness and expressing grief for sin. The ashes symbolise the ancient Jewish practice of wearing sackcloth and ashes, in order to express grief, sorrow and repentance before God. The entire 40-day period of Lent is a time of fasting, prayer and reflection, just like the 10 Days of Awe for the Jews.

Interestingly, there was one other trip that was also inspired on the first day of Lent, or Ash Wednesday – my “Elijah’s Cup” trip on February 26, 2020 (1 Adar, 5780) – exactly four years earlier in the liturgical calendar. Both years were leap years in the Gregorian calendar.

Furthermore, the visits to Jerusalem and Israel in my Elijah’s Cup trip and this one were inspired exactly 40 visits apart, continuing the theme of the 40 days of Lent! (11th and 51st visits).

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