Jewish Feasts and Holidays of God:Celebrating Jewish and Christian Traditions
As Christians we can be respectful of the Jewish feasts or holidays of Israel while knowing that Jesus came not to destroy the works of the law but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Many Christians do not realize that the seven Jewish feasts of Israel are still observed today by Jews. We should become familiar with the feasts in order to better understand the roots of our faith as well as God's redemptive plan throughout the ages. The feasts can be observed in Leviticus 23 in the order of their seasonal observance. Listed below are the Jewish feasts and their significance.
This is the first of the Jewish feasts which comes in the spring in the Jewish month of Nisan or Abib. This corresponds with Easter celebrations. The Passover feast celebrates the Jews being delivered out of Egyptian slavery. The name Passover is taken from the first Passover in which each Hebrew household sacrificed a yearling lamb without spot or blemish. The blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the crosspiece and side posts of the door. The Angel of Death passed over the homes sprinkled with blood, while those without the blood had the first born child slain. As Christians we see The Lamb as Jesus Christ, our Messiah, who offered himself up as our sacrifice and we cover ourselves in His blood. The Jews observe the Passover as having agricultural, historical and spiritual significance. Other than reminding them of their ancestors receiving freedom from their bondage to Egypt(historical and spiritual), it also reminds them of their dependence on God for rain which marks the end of their rainy season.
Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread
This feast occurs during Passover beginning the day after Passover eve and lasting for seven days. During this time the Jews removed all leaven from their households and eat matzah or unleavened bread. The unleavened bread reminded them of their ancestors who hurriedly left Egypt for the Promised Land and did not have time to wait for their dough to rise. As Christians, we see the unleavened bread as sin (leavening) in our lives that must be removed in order to walk in holiness with our Lord and Savior.
An interesting part of the Seder dinner revolves around children. After the father wraps a broken piece of matzah in a napkin and hides it, the children search for the afikomen. Many aspects of the Seder feast such as the afikomen ceremony consisting of a pierced, striped piece of broken matzah, demonstrate God's foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who took the sin of the world upon Himself. The Greek meaning of afikomen is translated as "I have come" which many Jews are not aware of. As Christians we are aware that our Savior has come and He will come again.
Jewish Feast of First Fruits
Also related to Passover and Unleavened Bread, this Jewish feasts is celebrated "the morrow after the Sabbath" or the day after the first day of Unleavened bread. The Jewish feast was a celebration of thanksgiving for the barley harvest during biblical times. The significance of the barley harvest was this was the first grain of the season and the Hebrews saw it as a promise of larger harvests in the future. As Christians, we see Jesus as our First Fruit, because just as the barley harvest was the promise of more to come, He is our promise of resurrection and eternal life since he conquered death and the grave for us.
Jewish Feast of Weeks or Pentecost
The Feast of Weeks comes exactly 50 days after the Passover Sabbath. The name Pentecost means '50'. The Jews refer to this feast as Shavuot which in Hebrew means 'Weeks'. This feast is also a feast of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest. Many believe that this is also the day that the Law was received from Moses on Mt. Sinai. The particular significance for this one of the Jewish feasts is that the priests offered two loaves of bread which were made with newly harvested grain and contained leaven or yeast. As Christians, we see the loaves as two groups of God's people, the Jews and the Gentiles, given eternal life and made one in the Messiah, Jesus, at the birth of the church on Pentecost.
Jewish Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah
This feast is several months after Pentecost. As Christians we see this long period of time as the time we wait until Jesus our Lord and Savior returns for us. The Feast of Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah, is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. God commanded the blowing of the trumpets in biblical times on the first day of the seventh month to call the congregation of Israel together for ten days of judgement before the Creator. The righteous are written into the Book of Life, the wicked are condemned and those who are not wholly righteous or wholly wicked are allowed ten days to repent and thus escape judgement. As Christians whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, we do not fear judgement but look forward to the day when the trumpet blows and the archangel calls out to us while we join together with other believers and ascend into the clouds with our Savior.
Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur
After the ten days of repentance and searching themselves, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, was observed by biblical Jews. This was a time of prayer and fasting. It also marked the only time when the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies inside the temple. He was covered with the blood of a sacrificed animal to beg forgiveness for the sins of the people. The current Jewish tradition does not include animal sacrifice at a temple. They rely on the repentance for forgiveness of sin. However they have no assurance God has heard or forgiven them because Leviticus 17:11 teaches that the atonement is in the blood. As Christians, we know Christ offered His own blood as our atonement or covering of sin. When this happened, the veil of the Temple was torn in two,from the top down, signifying that He opened the way into the Holy of Holies for us. Because of this all who believe have access to God and a covering for sin.
Jewish Feast of Booths or Tabernacle
The final feast is referred to as Sukkot which in Hebrew means Tabernacle or Booths. This marked a time for the biblical Jews to build open topped tent-like structures and live in them during this time as a reminder of the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in in the wilderness. Modern day Jews still build three sided huts with an open roof. They decorate them with tree boughs and autumn fruits to remind them of the harvest. During this festival, the Temple worship included the ritualistic pouring of water from the Pool of Siloam, which was symbolic of the prayers for the winter rains. As Christians, we are reminded of John 7:37-38 which Jesus states "If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink". The Feast of Booths is significant in Revelation 21:3 which states "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God". The feast of Tabernacles is a time of joy and celebration of spending time with God.
If you would like more information on Jewish feasts or holidays as they are related in the Jewish heritage a great resource is the organization "Jews for Jesus" which is made up of Modern day Jews who recognize Jesus Christ as their Savior. Below is a link.
Jews For Jesus- Jewish Feasts