Biblical festivals


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high Holy Days

Adonai handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai the dates and instructions for the observnaces of seven feasts which are recorded in the Torah in Leviticus 23. Adonai first designates Shabbat (The Sabbath) as a Holy Day. Then the Feasts are set forth and include: Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread, First Fruits,  Shavout, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot,  We celebrate Purim as well.


The Shabbat or Sabbath is Saturday or the seventh day of the week. Technically it begins at sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday.  This is in reference to Adonai's creation as mentioned in Genesis 2: 1-3."The heavens and the earth were completed along with their entire array.  God completed—on the seventh day—His work that He made, and He ceased—on the seventh day—from all His work that He made.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He ceased from all His work that God created for the purpose of preparing."(TLV).  The importance of Shabbat is again mentioned in Exodus 20: 8-11 stressing the significance of this Holy Day.  “Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy.  You are to work six days, and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work—not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates.  11 For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy." (TLV) In  Leviticus 23: 3 Adonai once again emphasized the importance of Shabbat by incorporating it into the Ten Commandments. “Work may be done for six days, but the seventh day is a Shabbat of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You are to do no work—it is a Shabbat to Adonai in all your dwellings. (TLV)

Passover (Pesach)

Passover is a week long celebration that is in rememberance of Adonai delivering the Jewish people from thier bondage in Egypt.  The Passover Seder is an elaborate meal that recounts the story of the Exodus ritual foods. During the Passover all leavened bread is prohibited and only unleavened bread called matzo may be eaten.  Matzo is symbolic of the Hebrew's suffering under Egyptian bondage and how they fled Egypt in haste.  Passover is also referred to as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Exodus 12: 1-11  "Now Adonai spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,  “This month will mark the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you.  Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family one lamb for the household.  But if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor are to take one according to the number of the people. According to each person eating, you are to make your count for the lamb.  Your lamb is to be without blemish, a year old male.[a] You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.  You must watch over it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. [b] They are to take the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the crossbeam of the houses where they will eat it.  They are to eat the meat that night, roasted over a fire. With matzot and bitter herbs[c] they are to eat it.  Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but only roasted with fire—its head with its legs and its innards.  10 So let nothing of it remain until the morning. Whatever remains until the morning you are to burn with fire.  11 Also you are to eat it this way: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is Adonai’s Passover." (TLV)


Shavout is celebrated seven weeks after Passover and is also aptly known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Shavout literally means "weeks" in Hebrew. This event commorates the giving of the Torah to Moshe (Moses) on Mount Sinai. The event also has a dual meaning as it also marks the wheat harvest in Israel and the Israelites brought the first fruits of their harvest to Adonai.  It is referred to as Pentecost, which comes from the Greek word "fifty" as Shavout occurs fifty days following Passover. Exodus 23:14-17  “Three times in the year you are to celebrate a festival for Me.  15 You are to observe the Feast of Matzot.[a] For seven days you will eat matzot as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Aviv, for that is when you came out from Egypt. No one is to appear before Me empty-handed.  16 Also you are to observe the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors that you sow in the field, as well as the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather your crops from the field.  17 Three times in the year all your men are to appear before Adonai Elohim." (TLV) Exodus 34:22-24  “You are to observe the Feast of Shavuot, which is the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, as well as the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.  23 Three times during the year all your males are to appear before Adonai Elohim, God of Israel.  24 For I am going to cast out nations before you, then enlarge your territory. So no one will covet your land when you go up to appear before Adonai your God three times in the year." (TLV) Numbers 28:26-31  “On the Day of Firstfruits, when you offer to Adonai a new grain offering during the Feast of Weeks, you are to have a sacred assembly. You are to do no laborious work.  27 You are to offer as a pleasing aroma a burnt offering to Adonai, two young bulls from the herd, one ram and seven male lambs a year old.  28 With each bull there is to be a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, with the ram two tenths,  29 and with each lamb, one tenth,  30 plus one male goat to make atonement for you.  31 In addition, you are to prepare the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and its drink offering. They are to be without defect." (TLV)

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, in Hebrew means “head of the year” as it is the Jewish New Year. It is a time of renewal, atonement, and inner reflection. Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Hebrew Calendar and falls in September or October on the Gregorian calendar.  The event celebrates the creation of the world by Adonai. Leviticus 23: 23-25 "Adonai spoke to Moses saying:  24 “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you are to have a Shabbat rest, a memorial of blowing (shofarot), a holy convocation.  25 You are to do no regular work, and you are to present an offering made by fire to Adonai.” (TLV)

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, is the Holiest of the High Holidays as it is the "Day of Atonement". Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of Tishrei, ten days after Rosh Hashanah. The Torah refers to Yom Kippur as "Shabbat Shabbaton" (“Sabbath of Solemn Rest,” or the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”). Leviticus 16:4-34. Even if Yom Kippur may fall on a weekday, it is still celebrated as a Shabbat and no work is to be done. Leviticus 23: 26-32 "Adonai spoke to Moses, saying:  27 “However, the tenth day of this seventh month is Yom Kippur,[f] a holy convocation to you, so you are to afflict yourselves. You are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai.  28 You are not to do any kind of work on that set day, for it is Yom Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God.  29 For anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people.  30 Anyone who does any kind of work on that day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  31 You should do no kind of work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.  32 It is to be a Shabbat of solemn rest for you, and you are to humble your souls. On the ninth day of the month in the evening—from evening until evening—you are to keep your Shabbat.” (TLV)  The purpose of Yom Kippur is to effect individual and collective purification by the practice of forgiveness of the sins of others and by sincere repentance for one’s own sins against God. Yom Kippur is marked by abstention from food, drink, and sex. Before the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the high priest performed an elaborate sacrificial ceremony in the Temple, successively confessing his own sins, the sins of priests, and the sins of all Israel. The High Priest enetered the Holy of Holies only one day each year on Yom Kippur.  The High Priest clothed in white linen, entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice and to offer incense. The ceremony concluded when a goat (the scapegoat), symbolically carrying the sins of Israel, was released into the wilderness. Leviticus 16; 29-34 “It is to be a statute to you forever, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you are to afflict your souls, and do no kind of work—both the native-born and the outsider dwelling among you.  30 For on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. From all your sins you will be clean before Adonai.  31 It is a Shabbat of solemn rest to you, and you are to afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.  32 The kohen who is anointed and who is consecrated to be kohen in his father’s place will make the atonement, and put on the linen garments, the holy garments.  33 He is to make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, for the Tent of Meeting, for the altar, for the kohanim, and for all the people of the assembly.34 “This will be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for Bnei-Yisrael once in the year because of all their sins.” It was done as Adonai commanded Moses." (TLV)


Sukkot is also known as the "Fesitval of Booths" or the "Festival of Tabernacles". The Torah refers to it by two names: Chag HaAsif (“the Festival of Ingathering,” or “Harvest Festival”) and Chag HaSukkot (“Festival of Booths”), each expressing a reason for the holiday. It is a week long celebration that begins on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei - Five days after Yom Kippur.. (September -October on the Gregorian Calendar)  Sukkot is one of the three religious holidays along with Passover and Shavout that Jewish males were to complete a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Sukkot is a very rich traditional Jewish Holiday.  It is the only holiday that does not seem to commemroate a historic event, however the holiday does coincide with the Exodus as God provided shelter and protection from bnei-Israel in the wilderness and also is a celebration of the fall harvest.  Leviticus 23; 33-44  "Adonai spoke to Moses saying:  34 “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and say, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Feast of Sukkot, for seven days to Adonai. [a] 35 On the first day there is to be a holy convocation—you are to do no laborious work.  36 For seven days you are to bring an offering by fire to Adonai. The eighth day will be a holy convocation to you, and you are to bring an offering by fire to Adonai. It is a solemn assembly—you should do no laborious work.37 “These are the moadim of Adonai, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations, to present an offering by fire to Adonai—a burnt offering, a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, each on its own day,  38 besides those of the Shabbatot of Adonai and besides your gifts, all your vows and all your freewill offerings which you give to Adonai. 39 “So on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you are to keep the Feast of Adonai for seven days. The first day is to be a Shabbat rest, and the eighth day will also be a Shabbat rest.  40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit of trees, branches of palm trees,[b] boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before Adonai your God for seven days.  41 You are to celebrate it as a festival to Adonai for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations—you are to celebrate it in the seventh month.  42 You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot,  43 so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your God.” 44 So Moses declared to Bnei-Yisrael the moadim of Adonai." (TLV)


Hanukkah is an eight day festival also known as the festival of lights.  Hanukkah begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev which is the day that the fighting ceased during the Maccabean revolt, The holiday commemorates the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Secludian Empire under Anitochus IV Epiphinaies and rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The event is recorded in the Books of the Maccabees. (not included in the cannon), Hanukkah is NOT the Jewish equivalent of Christmas!! In fact, it is a minor Jewish holiday, which unlike most other Jewish holidays, has no restrictions whatsoever—although many Jewish families and communities get together to celebrate this festive holiday. It is customary to eat fried foods such as potato latkes or jelly doughnuts. The most important of all Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the menorah each evening. The menorah recalls the Temple lampstand and is candelabra with eight branches plus a holder for the shammash (“servant”) candle that is used to light the other eight candles. One candle is lit on the first evening, and an additional candle is lit on each subsequent evening until eight candles are burning on the last evening. This practice is detailed in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b), which describes the miracle of the oil in the Temple. According to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found only a small jar of oil that had not been defiled by Antiochus. The jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found.  This established the precedent that the festival should last eight days and is symolic of the lighting of the candles in the menorah. Hanukkah is also observed by the daily reading of Scripture, recitation of some of the Psalms, music and giving.

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