The fall is a time of several major feasts in the Jewish calendar. On September 9-11 of this year (2018), the Jewish Civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah (also known as the Feast of Trumpets), will be celebrated. It is the first of the “High Holy Days” and celebrates God making the world! A shofar is blown during the service. Giving to the needy so that one may be included in the Book of Life and have a happy year is a tradition practiced by Jewish people all over the world.
Sweet food is eaten, such a challah bread with raisins and apples dipped in honey. The head of the fish is often served so you remember to be “the head and not the tail”– a leader instead of a follower! If you want to wish someone a happy new year you say, “L’shanah Tovah” which means “a good year” in Hebrew.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is scheduled ten days after Rosh Hashanah. On that day, people repent of their sins, and ask God to forgive their sins. It is called the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths.” People fast and do not work that day so they can repent. It is called the “Day of Atonement.” September 19th is the date this year.
On September 24th and 25th is the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) or Sukkot. It is a time to remember God’s provision in the wilderness but also to look forward to the time when the Messiah comes and all the nations come to Jerusalem to worship God. People construct and live in hut like structures on their porches, balconies, back yards, to remember the fragility of life and to be thankful for their homes and God’s provision. It is a time of great celebration! People gather in the sukkot structure and eat and rejoice together. This feast also has great prophetic meaning for us as believers.. Zechariah tells us that a day will come when we will go up to Jerusalem year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14: 16).
At the end of Sukkot, the Jews celebrate Shemini Atzeret where people spend an additional day with God! While Sukkot is for everyone to celebrate, only the Jews celebrate Shemini Atzeret as they celebrate the special relationship they have with God. This is celebrated on October 1st this year.
On October 2nd is Simchat Torah. It celebrates the conclusion of the public Torah readings for the year. People often dance with the Torah scrolls around the table where the Torah is read! In Israel Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are condensed into one day.
As Christians, we can appreciate these holy day celebrations as they often are very symbolic in nature and point to Jesus in some way. Jesus did celebrate the Feasts and learning about them can be very enriching.
These holidays have three parts to them: Israel was to observe the holiday each year to remember and celebrate something God did in the past, while looking forward to some prophetic purpose hidden within each festival that is still to come!
There is often confusion as to whether Christians should or even must celebrate these festivals. Paul addresses this in the book of Colossians : “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16,17)
Judaizers, even modern day ones, say that we must celebrate these festivals but we have liberty to honor them or to no partake in them. They have beautiful imagery, but all things find their completeness in Christ so we are not compelled to as far as religious duty. We can easily enjoy the symbolism and history of the festivals and contemplate their prophetic meaning. Thank God that we have a once and for all atonement of our sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All things have been provided by God in Christ and this is nothing that we can earn of ourselves. However, we can take this good advice from Paul as he writes to the Corinthians : “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. “ (I Corinthians 5:7-8).
Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.
Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel. Consider joining us on the next Amazing Israel Adventure March 31 – April 11, 2019. Trips to Israel are open to men and women.