We tend to mark our year based on holidays. We spend our time the rest of the year looking forward to them: the food, the family, the fun!
Judaism has its holidays as well; some have developed over time like ours, but some were actually put in place by God Himself. In Leviticus 23, God gives Israel their list of holidays. Half of the holidays are in the spring and half are in the fall with a summertime of harvest in between.
Over the following weeks, Jewish people around the world will be observing the Fall Feasts outlined there in Leviticus 23, but the holidays in some ways are very different from their Scriptural description!
In Leviticus 23:23, we are introduced to the first of the Fall Feasts, the Feast of Trumpets. It takes place on the first day of the seventh month. All we know from Scriptures is that there is a solemn assembly with the blowing of trumpets, and there were certain sacrifices that were required.
In Judaism the tradition has arisen that the blowing of the trumpet is in memorial of the creation of humanity, so in Judaism today this holiday carries the name Rosh Hashanah (literally the head of the year) and is celebrated as the Jewish civil New Year (even though it is the 7th month and the religious calendar starts in the spring).
Rabbis also say that the blowing of the trumpet is a call to repentance to prepare our hearts for the next holiday, the Day of Atonement. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah are called the Ten Days of Awe, a time of repentance and introspection.
Starting in Leviticus 23:26, we are introduced to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). According to the Scripture, it is a time where we are to “do no work” and “humble ourselves.” It was a day where the people were to stay home; all the work was done that day by the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem.
This Day of Atonement was the only day anyone was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies. It could only be the High Priest after he had purified himself and brought the blood of the sacrifice he had made for the people. He would enter the Holy of Holies with incense and sprinkle the blood over the Ark of the Covenant.
Today this holiday looks very different because there is no Temple and no sacrifices. Today many Jewish people will spend the day in the synagogue (it may be the only day of the year they attend), where they will pray and fast (the understood means of “humbling ourselves” or “afflicting our souls” from Leviticus 23). Many will focus on prayer, repentance and charity (or good works) in preparation for this holiday as the means of finding atonement or a right relationship with God.
What a strong contrast from the Scriptures! Where biblically we were to focus our attention on the work of the High Priest and do no work on our own, the emphasis is now on what we do.
The writer of the Epistle of Hebrews (9:11-14) tells us that Jesus is our perfect High Priest, who went into the perfect Holy of Holies (the presence of God) with the blood of the perfect sacrifice (His own blood), so He can make perfect atonement for our sins!
Feast of Tabernacles
The last of the Fall Feasts is the Feast of Tabernacles. As solemn as the Day of Atonement is, that is how joyful the Feast of Tabernacles is! It is a time where Jewish people rejoice in God’s Kingship and His provision. One way the Scriptures tell the Jewish people to celebrate is by the building of booths, or temporary shelters, to remember how they depended on God for their provision during the wilderness wanderings in Exodus.
The Fall Feasts focus on Repentance, Redemption and Rejoicing! This also reflects the truth of the Gospel. When we repent and find our redemption through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, we can rejoice!
To learn more about the Fall Feasts of Israel, the connections between the Old and New Testaments, or how to share Jesus as the Jewish Messiah visit www.chosenpeople.com or call 888-405-5874 to explore having a representative from Chosen People Ministries share at your church!
Jim Fox is a ministry representative of Chosen People Ministries, an international ministry reaching out to the Jewish community with the Gospel and teaching the Church to do the same. Jim has close to 30 years of ministry experience through his work with Chosen People Ministries and as a pastor.