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The Jewish Holy Days

In the Messianic community there is a struggle as to which Holy Days to keep. The Jewish Holidays? The Christian Holidays? Or the Biblical Holy Days? But as students of the Bible we want to look at what Yeshua and the apostles said and did, we want to follow their example. When we look at Yeshua’s life, we can definitely say that He did not start a new religion; Peter and Paul did not start a new religion either. They celebrated the Biblical Holy Days maybe not as the rabbis wanted but in their fulfillment, because all the sacrifices and Holy Days are but a shadow of the redemptive work of Yeshua.

And because we say that we want to present the good news to the Jews I will compare the Biblical Holidays with what the Rabbinical Judaism does, but not with what the Church does. The Church is celebrating new Holidays today because of ignorance and because of boasting about this faith which they received from the Jews – Romans 11:17-18 “But if some of the branches have been broken off, and you, being a wild olive, have been grafted among them and have become partaker in the richness of the olive tree's root, do not boast over the branches. But if you do boast, remember that it is not you who sustain the branches, but the branches sustains you.” This boasting started with eliminating everything Jewish from the “church” practices as stated in the 4th century at the council of Nicea. Therefore I will not talk about Easter, Christmas, lent or Halloween.

However, if you have friends who celebrate the Christian Holidays there is a Biblical verse which says to you: “Preach the word, be ready in season (the Biblical Holy Days) and out of season (the other Holidays), reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” 2 Timothy 4:2.

So let’s look at these Biblical Holy Days and decide for ourselves how we should celebrate them.

The Biblical Holy Days are basically divided into two categories: The Spring Holy Days and The Fall Holy Days, and are based on Leviticus Chapter 23.

The Spring Holy days:

Leviticus 23:1-5 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy gatherings, these are My feasts (Note: these are God’s Holidays, not holidays invented by man, such as Christmas). Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the Shabbat of rest, a holy gathering; you shall do no work in it; it is the Shabbat of the Lord in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the Lord, holy gatherings, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at evening is the Lord’s Passover.”

This first month is Nisan, not Tishrei. Nisan is the month which begins the Biblical New Year, the New Year for Holidays. The detail of the Passover holy day was given back in Exodus 12: 1-8 “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house; And if the household is too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; according to every man’s eating shall you make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats; And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, in which they shall eat it. And they shall eat the meat in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.”  

From this Biblical account we deduce: Passover is to be celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, or Aviv, the first month in the spring, at night – that is already the 15th, can be a family festival or a communal, with your neighbor, must eat lamb with Matzah– unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs. Also, the Bible says that Passover is one of the three holidays of which it should be celebrated in Jerusalem. It is one of the Shalosh Regalim – the three pilgrimage festivals (the other ones are Shavuot and Sukkot). That is because the slaughtering of animals for sacrificial purposes had to be done at the Temple in Jerusalem.

That is all the Bible says about Passover, so let’s see what transpired to us in the Jewish community:

Anticipating the Passover - Preparations for Passover begin in the preceding month of Adar when select portions of the Bible are read in the synagogue calling attention to the coming holiday. The Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol– The Great Shabbat - because it is the Shabbat before Exodus and the Haftarah – Malachi 3 – speaks of God’s ultimate triumph.

Cleaning the Home - The Bible says that no leaven should be found in the home; therefore, every Jewish family undergoes a thorough home-cleaning prior to the festival. Not only is this done to remove all traces of CHOMETZ - LEAVEN, but also to add a spirit of freshness and festivity to the home. Special attention is given to the kitchen – all cupboards are clean thoroughly, the regular dishes are replaced with the ones especially for Passover, the utensils are koshered by boiling and the oven is cleaned with a blow torch.

The Selling of Leaven – All leaven is gathered and sold to a Gentile neighbor. The food could then be repurchased and used after the holiday. Today, in the spirit of the Talmud and for convenience sake, the rabbis devised a system called MECHIRAT CHOMETZ – which makes it possible to sell the leavened food to a Gentile neighbor, without removing it from the home, provided that it was all gathered and sealed into a special closet or cupboard. On this form one lists all leaven, the rabbi attest to it and signs it and then is given to a goy.

The Search for Leaven - Is called BEDIKAT CHOMETZ - and takes place on the night before Erev Pesach. To comply with the Torah command that no leaven should be found in the house, a search for crumbs is performed by candlelight with a feather and a little pan. A few crumbs are purposely scattered so that the commandment could be carried out, especially for children.

Burning of the Leaven – On the 14th of Nisan leaven can be eaten until about 11am. But, before noon, a ceremony is performed called BIUR CHOMETZ. In this ceremony the crumbs gathered the previous night are burned to indicate that there is no more leaven in the house.

Fast of the Firstborn - It is a reminder of the plague that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians and it is done by the firstborn except those under 13.

Passover Dishes and Utensils - All kitchen supplies used during the year were to be put away until the Passover festival was concluded. In their place, new dishes, or those kept exclusively for Passover purposes, were used. Silverware and other metal utensils used during the year could be used again provided they were properly cleaned or koshered, i.e., made correct for usage. This could be done by placing the silver in a container and allowing it to boil in hot water. Passover Food - Leavened food - CHOMETZ - is distinguished from unleavened food - MATZOTH - by its method of preparation, must be cooked for no more than 18 minutes. Food that is allowed to ferment is leavened and applies to bread and foodstuff made from the following species of grain: barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. No leavening may be used in baking - eggs. Foods marked KOSHER SHEL PESACH - PROPER FOR PASSOVER are permitted for Passover use, since they are prepared under the supervision and sanction of rabbis and comply with the laws of Kashruth. The official in charge of such supervision is called a MASHGIACH - OVERSEER.

Passover proper is only one night with a festive meal called the Seder – order — but the Orthodox Jews, by tradition, celebrate it for two nights with the Seder on both. Some do a family Seder on the first night and a Community Seder on the second, but not in Israel, or by the Conservative and the Reformed Jews. By the arrangement of the calendar the Passover Seder cannot fall on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday night.

Now, on the 15th of Nisan another Holiday starts, Hag HaMatzoth, the feast of Unleavened Bread:

Leviticus 23:6-8 “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. In the first day you shall have a holy gathering; you shall do no labor in it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord seven days; in the seventh day is a holy gathering; you shall do no labor in it.”

Because Passover is the night before and the Seder is eaten with Matzah the feast of Unleavened Bread is lumped with Passover and together is known as simply Passover. Exodus 12:18-19 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening (Passover), you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty first day of the month at evening. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats that which is leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel.” (Again we do not want to be cut off from our Jewish heritage, relatives and friends).

So, according to the Bible, Passover should last for seven days with a holy convocation on the first and the seventh day, but by tradition one day has been added – because the news of the New Moon did not arrive in some parts of the land until the next day. Accordingly, the eith day is celebrated only in Diaspora. No work is to be done on the first two and last two days; the intermediate days are called Chol HaMoed — half holidays, and they have no restriction as to work. Last day, the eight day, is Yizkor service – remembrance of the dead. Therefore, I suggest eating the bread of affliction – Matzah - for all eight days in the spirit of keeping with our Jewish friends.

Now, God gave the Jews the commandment, but He also gave them grace, because there were people who could not celebrate Passover because they were unclean or away; so, for the people that say that we leave now in the dispensation of grace, God says, not so fast - grace is synonymous to God, He showed grace from the beginning of time, Numbers 9: 10-12: “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean because of a dead body, or is in a journey far away, he shall still keep the Passover to the Lord. The fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it to the morning, nor break any bone of it; according to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.” So, if for one reason or another you did not keep the Passover on the first month God gives you another chance on the second month. It is called Pesach Sheni, but it is only the Passover and not the Hag HaMatzoth, therefore you don’t get to eat matzah for eight days. For the rest who kept the Passover on the first month, it is customary to eat some matzah on that day. This is the only Holiday that God made this provision, giving people a second chance, signaling the importance of Passover which we, the Messianic believers, can understand because it symbolizes the substitutionary sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross.

God gave us the commandment to keep the Passover on the 14 of Nisan, at nightfall. We now call this holiday, The Festival of Freedom, but if we think about it, the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt on that night and, even though they left the next day, they got only as far as the desert, not much freedom there. Therefore, Passover has to have a deeper meaning because from the human perspective it could only be called the Festival of "Expected" Freedom. God also commanded us to count 50 days from the day after Passover and then celebrate the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot, in which we were supposed to bring two loaves of hametz, leavened bread. This period of counting of days is interrupted by this extraordinary event, unique, and surprisingly overlooked commandment of God: The Second Passover, or Pesach Sheini. Our God is indeed an awesome God of grace. He will not break off a battered reed and He will not put out a smoldering wick, but he will give you a second chance to believe in the Lamb of God, who was sacrificed by an agonizing death on a roman cross for you and I to receive forgiveness from our sins. On Pesach Sheini God extends His grace and again invites you to believe and receive His gift of freedom from the condemnation of sin, His gift of life and everlasting shalom.

So, on the 16th of Nisan after the first day of the Hag HaMatzoth, another Holiday starts: Shavuot - The Feast of Weeks. This is a Holiday which is long anticipated because it is celebrated in 50 days.

Leviticus 23:9-11 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When you come to the land which I give to you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you; on the next day after the Shabbat the priest shall wave it; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

The question here is, which Shabbat is this? Is this Shabbat, the Shabbat of the Hag HaMatzoth Holiday, the Passover, or the regular weekly Shabbat? I guess you have to be a rabbi to conclude that it was the Passover Shabbat because it is called “the Shabbat,” with the definite article, but what do you do with seven Shabbats? Well they say that the word there is not just Shabbats but “complete Shabbats,” therefore, must be referring to weeks:

Leviticus 23:15. “And you shall count from the next day after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven complete Shabbats.”

Now, because I am not a rabbi nor a farmer, my question would be, is Shavuot tied down to a calendar time frame, to a specific Shabbat, or to an agricultural season, which the two may not coincide due to weather variations? Because it says, “When you shall reap its harvest.” Does this “when” not imply a variable time? But, probably because the rabbis were not farmers either, decided to bring the sheaf symbolically on the day after Passover. This tradition to start counting the Omer on the day after Hag HaMatzoth dates back to the Talmudic times. This period of 50 days is called Sefirat Ha Omer “Counting of the Omer.” It is interesting to note for now, which I will explain later, that on the first day of the Omer count one should bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest, but on the 50th day two loaves of baked bread (lehem) with leaven as the first fruits. So, starting with the day after Passover, at evening, after reciting a blessing the Omer is counted. Also, on the first Shabbat after Passover it is customary to start the reading of Pirke Avot, one chapter a week, repeating it until Rosh Hashanah.  

The Orthodox communities have a tradition called Behab, to fast on Monday, Thursday and Monday following the first Shabbat after the holiday. That is because the period of holiday rejoicing is more than a week one can easily slip from spiritual celebration to frivolity. Therefore, to atone for this lapse these days are set aside for repentance and soul searching with Selichot prayers. In my family, on the evening after the Hag HaMatzoth Holiday ends, we are developing a tradition to repent from our flat thoughts with puffed doughnuts.

Another non Biblical tradition started during this Omer count. In the Talmudic times 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva died from a mysterious plague. The Talmud says that this was because "they did not show proper respect to one another." Therefore this period of time became a time of semi-mourning, there are no celebrations, no weddings, not even haircuts – a more somber mood. But, on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, Lag B’Omer, (the 18th of Iyar) the plague stopped, therefore became a joyful day. On Lag Ba’omer the prohibitions of the Omer period are lifted. It is a time of dancing and singing. Families go on picnics and outings. Lag Ba'Omer in Israel is a school holiday. Hundreds of weddings are held adding a festive character of this holiday. Youngsters and their parents light bonfires in open spaces in cities and towns throughout the country. That is because some say that the disciples of Akiva were killed not by a plague, but in the Bar Kokhba's revolt (in which Rabbi Akiva was a major figure). They say that the plague was actually the Roman occupation. So, in this context, the lighting of bonfires on this evening signifies the bonfires used in ancient times as signals in wartime.

The day is also the Yartzeit - the anniversary of the death - of the famous Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, the Kabbalist, traditionally known as the author of the Zohar. During the Middle Ages, Lag Ba'Omer became a special holiday for rabbinical students and was even called the "Scholar's festival." It was customary to rejoice on this day through various kinds of merrymaking. The Yartzeit is celebrated with torches, songs and feasting, this being a specific request by Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai of his students. It is a custom at the celebrations in Meron - the burial place - dating from the time of Rabbi Isaac Luria, that three-year-old boys are given their first haircuts, while their parents distribute wine and sweets.

The Shabbat right before Shavuot is called, Shabbat Kallah.

So, the Omer count ends and it is Shavuot or Weeks, or if you speak Greek, Pentecost (fifty):

Leviticus 23:16-22 “To the next day after the seventh Shabbat shall you count fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering to the Lord. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits to the Lord… And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the Lord with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day, that it may be a holy gathering to you; you shall do no labor in it; it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Then again we see God’s mercy and grace in verse 22: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance up to the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest; you shall leave them to the poor, and to the stranger; I am the Lord your God.”

Maimonides writes: "And while one eats and drinks, it is his duty to feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow, and other unfortunate people, for he who locks the doors, eats and drinks with his wife and family without giving to the poor—his meal is not counted as a rejoicing in a divine command but a rejoicing in his own stomach... a disgrace to those who indulge in it."

This Holy day is the second of the Shalosh Regalim festivals with the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and, because the people were supposed to bring of the new meal offering from the first fruits it is also called Hag HaBikkurim – the Festival of the First Fruits. Shavuot is called Atzereth (Assembly) in the Talmud, in the sense that it serves as a concluding festival to Pesach. The Decalogue – Ten Commandments - is read in the synagogue on the first day, it is a Rabbinical commandment for everyone to hear it, including infants. Plants and flowers decorate the bimah and the aron ha-kodesh. The book of Ruth, for its description of a summer harvest in Israel, and the famous liturgical poem Akdamut are read before the reading of the Torah on the first day.

It took 50 days from exodus from Egypt for the people of Israel to arrive at Mount Sinai where God gave them the Torah, therefore Shavuot is also called Z’man Matan Toratenu, the Season of Giving our Torah. Milk dishes – Milichik- are the customary foods, symbolizing the Torah which is likened to milk, according to the allegorical interpretation of the book of Song of Songs ("Honey and milk are under your tongue"). The most popular is the Kreplach – three corner pocket of dough filled with cheese.

Today the Shavuot holiday reminds of the contribution of the Torah to the world. Torah was the first to recognize the worth of ordinary people, to establish human rights, public education, environmental responsibility, freedom of information, medical ethics, social action—the whole concept of progress and hope for the future. No other teaching has had a comparative impact on our way of thinking today. It reminds Israel of her obligation to be a "Kingdom of Priests" and a "Holy Nation."

But Jews received another gift on this day, the Ruach Hakodesh. Believers were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1: "And when the day of Shavuot is fulfilled, they were all together at the same place. And there was suddenly from Shomayim a sound like the rushing of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues appeared to them, being divided as fire, resting on each one of them, and all were filled with the Ruach Hakodesh, and they began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach Hakodesh was giving the ability to them to speak. Now there were in Yerushalayim frum (orthodox)Yehudim from all the nations under Shomayim. And at this sound, the multitude assembled and was bewildered, because they were hearing, each one in his own native language."

Therefore, Shavuot is a picture of a spiritual harvest, a harvest of the first fruits imbued with spiritual power. The first century of the common era's Shavuot was God's first harvest of those redeemed in the blood of Yeshua HaMashiah.

On Shavuot two loaves of fine ground flour baked with leaven were presented as offerings of first fruits. The symbolism of these two loaves is revealed by James (1:18) as representing the first fruits of believers. The two loaves are Jewish and Gentile believers. Even though the loaves contain leaven and leaven is a symbol of sin, it does not mean that after we become believers we still can sin but that we come to Him with our sins. God brought together the Jews and the Gentiles to form a new body, a new creation. God redeemed us from the world of sin, from the spiritual Egypt, through the shed blood of His Son, the lamb of Passover. And just as Yeshua, our Passover, was Holy and pictured as matzah, unleavened bread, without sin, so too this new creation in His body was meant to be Holy.

God destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem but He built something else to take its place — it is a spiritual Temple the Beth HaMikdash, it is the Ekklesia, where Jews and Gentiles are fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Moshiach Yeshua. Therefore, Shavuot is the fulfillment of Torah true Judaism, the hope of Jewish people and the blessing of the Gentiles so that they might come together in faith as one.

So thus the spring holidays are over and a long 3 months of summer are coming. This period is likened to the "Church" period, the period from the first coming and second coming of Messiah. Unfortunately the Jewish community even in the Church age did not have a rest from anti-Semitism. On the month of Av, the fifth month, many tragedies happened on the same day on Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av.

The 9th of Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is commemorated as a 25-hour fast beginning at sunset of the previous evening. It is mentioned in Zechariah 8:19 as the “fast of the fifth” month. In the synagogue the customary greeting is omitted, the curtains of the Ark are removed, the Books of Lamentations and of Job are read on the eve of the fast and throughout the day. The Morning service is recited without tallith or tefillin. Included among the lamenting elegies recited in the synagogue, called Kinoth, are poems by medieval liturgical poets, such as “Ode to Zion” by Yehuda Halevi.

Following are events in history that took place on the 9th of Av:

- 1312 B.C.E. - Spies return after 40 days in the Land of Israel with reports of obstacles. Jewish people cry in despair and give up hope of entering the Land of Israel. The sin of the spies caused Hashem to decree that the Children of Israel who left Egypt would not be permitted to enter the land of Israel.

- 586 B.C.E. - Destruction of the First Temple by Babylonians.

- 70 C.E. - Destruction of the Second Temple by Romans under Titus.

- 135 - Capture by Romans of Beitar, last Jewish fortress to hold out in Bar Kochba rebellion; Jerusalem was ploughed up and turned into a non-Jewish city—Aelia Capitolina.

- 1095 - First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. Ten thousand Jews killed in first month. Crusades bring death and destruction to thousands of Jews and totally obliterate many communities in Rhineland and France.

- 1290 - Expulsion of Jews from England, accompanied by pogroms and confiscation of books and property.

- 1492 - The last date by which all Jews who would not be baptized and converted to Catholicism had to leave Spain. Over 300,000 chose to leave; others succumbed and converted in order to remain. Most of those that remained secretly retained their Jewish identity for generations and they were known as Marranos; but many were caught by the Inquisition and burned at the stake.

- 1914 - World War I began, which gave rise to a renewed anti-Semitism and Nazism, and culminated with the Holocaust. Large Jewish populations were uprooted; ghettos and concentration camps were formed. 6,000,000 Jewish children, elderly, women and men were killed.

- 1942 - Deportations begin from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp. - 1994 - Bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires kills 86 people and wounds some 300 others.

The Fall Holidays:

After a long summer of hard work in the field, either agricultural or spiritual, God gave us some more holidays, the fall holidays. In the prophetic scheme the Spring Holidays are likened to the early rain, the first coming of the Messiah and the giving of the Holy Spirit which made possible the construction of the new spiritual Temple made of Jews and Gentiles. We all know how Yeshua celebrated the Passover and how the apostles celebrated Shavuot so it is not so difficult for us as believers to relate to these holidays, but how about the Fall Holidays? The Fall Holidays are likened to the later rain, the second coming of Messiah, the rapture, the redemption of all Israel and the Millennium. Let’s see what these holidays are.

Leviticus 23:23 "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, you shall have a Shabbat, a memorial of a joyful acclamation, a holy gathering. You shall do no labor in it."

The seventh month of the Biblical calendar is Tishrei, and God said to have a Shabbat, a memorial of a joyful acclamation, a holy gathering. We have established what Shabbat is a day when you stop your own vain pursuits and worship God and in this case, on the first day of the seventh month, even if it is not a weekly Shabbat, you are to have a holy gathering, to do no work in it and have a memorial of a joyful acclamation, that is with blowing of the Shofarim. So this holiday is also known as Yom HaZikaron (memorial), and Yom Teruah (blowing). But also as Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment based on the Biblical passage from Psalm 81:4 "Blow a Shofar at the new moon, at the full moon on our feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a judgment of the God of Jacob."

But why it is called Rosh HaShanah? This designation of the holiday as Rosh Hashanah (literally Head of the Year) is not Biblical but a Talmudic one. The name Rosh Hashanah appears only once in the Bible in Ezekiel 40:1 but it is not clear what is referred to. But in Mishnah the name is connected to the 1st of Tishrei. The rabbis have not only calculated that the world was created on Rosh Hashanah but that there are four New Years. Therefore, according to their interpretation Nisan is the New Year for Festivals, and Tishrei is New Year for Years.

Preparations for this holiday begin in the preceding month of Elul. Elul is, of course, the sixth month of the Biblical year. It is called the month of RACHAMIM — MERCY, in anticipation of God's Judgment, which takes place in the month of Tishrei. It is also called YEMAI HA-SELICHOT — DAYS OF REPENTANCE. The period of forty days, from the first of Elul until the tenth day of Tishrei. (Yom Kippur), commemorates the second stay of Moses on Mount Sinai, to invoke God’s abundant mercy for our complete atonement, and in which God inscribed the second set of stone tablets. These days are marked as a special period of Divine grace, during which, the tradition says, the sincere prayers are sure to find favor in the eyes of God. According to the Sephardic Minhag (custom), these prayers begin on the first of the month and continue until Rosh Hashanah. In the Ashkenazic Minhag these penitential prayers begin on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. The Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah is called Shabbat Selichot and the first Selichot are said early Sunday morning after midnight.

It is customary on the day before Rosh Hashanah to cut your hair, to give tzedakah and to visit a cemetery. Also, right before the holiday begins to have a Mikveh ceremony.

The traditional greeting is: “L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu” May you be inscribed for a good year. That is because the tradition says that the book of life is opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed on Yom Kippur. The rabbis concluded that every deed is inscribed in the book of life based on the Psalm 69:28 "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." This is a Messianic Psalm.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah a festive table is set. The lady of the house lights the holiday candles with the additional She-he-chi-yanu prayer (to reach this season), the Challah is round symbolizing the passing of the year, and after the father recites the Kiddush, each family member takes a piece of Challah and dips it not in salt, as on Shabbat, but in honey to symbolize the abundance of the blessings and a sweet new year, no pickles or anything sour are allowed. Also the head of a fish is eaten and the parents bless the children with: May you be the head and not the tail.

The Rosh Hashanah synagogue service is characterized by the blowing of the Shofar, the ram’s horn. Throughout the service the Shofar is blown in three sets of 100 blasts.

Tekiah, Shevorim, Tekiah

Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah Gadolah.

It is mandatory for one to blow or at least to hear the Shofar. Now, the Orthodox say that if Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, you do not blow the Shofar and they give an explanation why this activity will amount to work. But the Bible does not say that. So what are we to do, as Messianic believers? I say blow the Shofar, it is Biblical, unlike the lighting of the Shabbat candles, which are not Biblical and which we should not light on Shabbat but only on Friday as not to be a stumbling block to the Jews. If it is not Biblical and you are inclined to do it - following the Jewish custom, even it is rabbinical - do it the way they have established it. But if it is Biblical do it according to the Bible, so I say blow the Shofar even on Shabbat.

On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah the worshipers perform a ceremony called Tashlich. They go to a running body of water and symbolically throw their sins into water by emptying the pockets filled with bread crumbs. Tashlich means “you shall cast” based on Micah 7:19;18 "Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. He will again have compassion upon us; he will suppress our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." This custom is first mentioned in 14th century literature. That was the time of the Black Plague and the Jews were accused of poisoning the wells of the Gentiles, because fewer Jews died of the plague. The cause may have been the ritual hand washing that save them from the plague but not from the sword.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated two days in Diaspora by the Orthodox but not the Reform, and one day in Israel.

How about us, the Messianic believers? Rosh Hashanah is likened to the rapture of believers to meet the Lord coming down to fight for Israel. 1 Corinthians 15:51: "Hinei! I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep the sleep of the dead. But we will all be changed. In a moment, in the wink of an eye, at the last Shofar blast. For the Shofar will sound, the dead ones will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." So, I think it is a good Holy day to celebrate and rejoice in it and blow the Shofarim.

In the Jewish tradition Rosh Hashanah begin the Ten Days of Owe or the Yamim Noraim, in which the individual is given the opportunity to prepare for the Yom Kippur. The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah – the Shabbat of Return or repentance, that is because the Haftarah reading from Isaiah which contains this plea to return to the Lord.

Leviticus 23:26. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement; it shall be a holy gathering to you; and you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God (notice, an atonement will be made for you not by you). You shall do no kind of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a Shabbat of rest, and you shall afflict your souls; in the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, shall you celebrate your Shabbat."

YOM KIPPUR is the most holy day in the Jewish calendar. It is called SHABBAT SHABBATON, the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” and it puts worshipers in touch with their true selves as they contemplate the life they live and the purpose for which they are created. YOM KIPPUR reveals the essence of the soul when one resorts to a day-long fast to condition him to the meaning of repentance and forgiveness. The calendar has been so arranged that the holiday cannot fall on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Friday. Yom Kippur is observed only one day, because of the 25 hour fast.

Yom Kippur is called the Day of Atonement because on this day God was making atonement for the people of Israel Leviticus 16:8: "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for Azazel." It was a vicarious atonement – transfer the sins of the people to two goats on to be killed and one to be sent into the desert - Azazel, the scapegoat – that was a picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua. The Talmud has an interesting observation in Mass. Yoma 39b: "Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white." This was the sign that God accepted the sacrifice by turning the color of the crimson strap into white, but after Yeshua’s sacrifice, this animal sacrifice was not accepted any more, and then God allowed for the Temple to be destroyed.

So the Orthodox have a ceremony before the commencement of the holiday, the Ceremony of KAPPAROT – SACRIFICE, is performed. The custom of Kapparot was developed after the destruction of the Temple by the rabbinate in the need to still fulfill the commandment of God but rejecting the atonement that was already made in their behalf through the shed blood of Messiah. According to this custom the worshiper takes a fowl and swings it three times around the head with the following prayer: "This fowl is my substitute and my ransom and shall be killed that I may survive for a long and peaceful life." It is customary to use a chicken for women and a rooster for men. After the ceremony the fowl is given to a needy family.

A Mikveh ceremony is done before the starting of the holiday. It is customary not to wear leather shoes. Washing of any kind is forbidden except for priests. The veil before the Ark should be white, and worshipers wear white, a kittle, symbolizing sorrow and repentance and purity like angels. The last meal before the holiday commences should be eaten one hour before sunset. The candles kindled for Yom Kippur should be large enough to last for twenty-four hours. Walking to the synagogue in stocking feet or slippers is a symbol of humility. On Yom Kippur the synagogues are open all night for continuous worship. Fasting is incumbent upon all past the age of thirteen.

The entire twenty-five hours are devoted to fasting and praying. Fasting implies complete abstention from all foods and liquids. All work, pleasure and entertainment are forbidden. The day is observed with continuous worship in the synagogue.

Services start at sunset with the Kol Nidre prayer and continue until sunset of the next day. The prayers are phrased in the plural, for all Jews are considered one soul, responsible for each other. Pious observers have remained in the house of worship throughout the night. This is one night that the worshiper can wear the tallith. Greetings: “La Shanah tova tikatevu.” and “May you be well over the fast.”

Some of the prayers of Yom Kippur are:

KOL NIDRE - ALL OUR VOWS - This is really not a prayer, but a declaration voiding all vows made under stress or so hastily. The KOL NIDRE is sung before the open Ark with all the Torahs held in view of the congregation. Some scholars claim that its development is associated with the Marranos, Jews who, during the Spanish Inquisition, were compelled to adopt Catholicism but secretly observed Judaism.

The AVODAH Service - SACRIFICIAL Service - These prayers which come in the MUSAF - Additional Morning service, are a reminder of the ritual practice in the days of the Temple, when the High Priest alone entered the Holy of Holies to pray and atone for the people. During the Avodah service, representatives of priestly rank, the KOHANIM, remove their shoes, ascend the altar, stand before the open ark and face the congregation. Their heads are covered by their prayer shawls and their hands are raised to the congregation. The fingers are spread in symbolic manner corresponding to the three-fold division of the priestly order and pronounce the priestly blessing. During this service they kneel and prostrate themselves on the altar – Numbers 6:24 "The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you Shalom." Congregation is supposed not to look up.

PRAYERS - CONFESSION OF SINS - This includes an alphabetical list of sins coupled with prayers for pardon. It is part of the liturgy in which the entire congregation participates, since the confession is essentially collective - AL CHET - FOR THE SIN WHICH WE HAVE COMMITTED. Beat their chest with the fist.

U-NETANNEH TOKEF - These are the opening words that begin the prayer "We will observe the mighty holiness of this day." The essence of the prayer is the greatness of God and the littleness of man. There is a quotation from this prayer that underlies the liturgy of the worship service: "Repentance, prayer, and charity avert the severe decree."

REMEMBRANCE OF SOULS - YIZKOR - MEMORIAL service when special prayers are recited in the memory of the dead. Yizkor means "He shall remember" and the prayer service is a most solemn feature of Atonement day.

NE'ILAH (Closing the Gate) SERVICES - CONCLUDING PRAYERS - This service contains many beautiful selections from the Book of Job. The Ark remains open during this part of the service, which closes with a final sounding of the Shofar, at which the congregation cries out “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Breaking the Fast - After the synagogue services are concluded on Yom Kippur day the ceremony of HAVDALAH is performed. Before the fast is broken, however, the pious Jew will begin to gather some of the materials necessary for the building of the SUKKAH for the up-coming festival of SUKKOTH.

So, how about us, the Messianic believers? Yom Kippur is likened to Israel’s return to the Lord. Isaiah 1:18. "Come now, and let us reason together, said the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Because this promise of God which He fulfilled in the sacrifice of Yeshua, Yom Kippur is a good holiday to keep. Shall we keep it with fasting? Why not? It is good for body and soul. But if you fast remember Yeshua’s words: Matthew 6:16: "And whenever you fast, don't be like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to parade their fast. Omein, truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head with oil and wash your face so that your fast is concealed from Bnei Adam but not from your Father Who is in Secret. And your Father the One seeing in secret will reward you." Yeshua wants us to display mercy and compassion not a fast sacrifice.

Sukkot is the third pilgrimage festival.

Leviticus 23:33. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day shall be a holy gathering; you shall do no labor in it. Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord; on the eighth day shall be a holy gathering to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord; it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no labor in it. On the first day shall be a Shabbat, and on the eighth day shall be a Shabbat. And you shall take on the first day the branches of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the branches of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And you shall keep it a feast to the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths seven days; all who are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; That your generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God."

The construction of the Sukkah varies based on the opinion of various rabbis. The Talmud has a whole tractate called "Sukkah" for this. How small is small – your body must be in the Sukkah but the table can be in the house, but not taller than 20 cubits. It should have at least three walls and be covered with branches in such a way to have more shade than sunlight but to be able to see the stars at night. Some have hinged roofs to cover it in case of rain. The walls could be highly decorated but not engraved with Torah passages. Shulhan Aruch gives instruction as how to build it and even how to take it down. It is customary to invite guests on each night of Sukkot so we invite one of seven exalted men of Israel to take up residence in the sukkah with us. Also, any earthly guest, called Ushpizin - it was, and still is in some communities, an honor to be able to invite guests into your Sukkah.

If you cannot sleep inside, at least eat all meals inside the Sukkah; the Orthodox to not take even a sip of water outside.

Hoshana Rabbah – the Great Salvation. This is the name of the seventh day of Sukkot. It is so called because the word Hoshana is repeated a number of times in the prayer. The Hoshana service is symbolized by bunches of willow tied together with strips of willow bark or palm leaf carried by the worshipers as they walk around the synagogue seven times. They beat the floor with willows and recite the prayer "A voice proclaims good tidings..." This prayer expresses the messianic hope for Israel's redemption. In some communities it is customary to spend the entire night in reading the books of Deuteronomy and Psalms.

Shemini Atzeret the solemn assembly. This day, so designated in the Bible (Leviticus 23:36), is the last day of the Festival and is observed in the Shabbat spirit. It is also one of the four days of the year when Yizkor prayers are recited. The additional service, Musaf, includes a special prayer for the rain, looking forward to the coming days of rain and the water so essential for a fruitful year, hence another name for this day, "The day of drawing of water," Isaiah 12:3: “And you shall draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.” In the B’rit Chadashah we see Yeshua's response to this prayer: John 7:37-38: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast (Sukkot) Yeshua stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'"

Now, in the Messianic belief Sukkot is the birthday of Yeshua, so it is a very appropriate Holy days for us to keep, not only that but Sukkot will be celebrated by all nations in the Millennium, Zechariah 14: 16. "And it shall come to pass, that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths." So, learn now about Sukkot because you will teach all the Gentiles how to wave the lulav and not how to staff their stockings and decorate a pine tree.

Simchat Torah – it is not a Biblical holiday – it may have started in the 9th century but it was not celebrated widely until the 16th century. On this day the annual cycle of reading from the Torah is finished, with the reading of the end of the Book of Deuteronomy. Immediately, the Book of Genesis is started, to indicate that there is no end to the reading of God's word.

This day is celebrated in Israel together with Shemini Atzeret.

Night - At Ma’ariv (the evening service) on Simchat Torah eve, the congregation recites "Ata Horeita" - a series of verses praising God and the Torah. The ark is opened and all the Torah scrolls are removed. The service leader holds a Torah and recites a prayer, with the refrain "Hoshia Na" (Please Save Us). The other people holding the Sifrei Torah follow the leader as he circles the synagogue. It is customary for the rest of the congregation to kiss the Sifrei Torah as the procession passes by. The act of encircling the synagogue (or the bimah) is called Hakafot (singular - Hakafah). After the procession has completed an entire hakafah, the congregation bursts out in joyous song and dance, children on parent's shoulders and brightly colored flags! After a while, the first hakafah is completed, and the Torah scrolls are given to other people - the procession then starts all over again, with the recital of "Hoshia Na". This process is repeated until there have been seven hakafot (and can continue late into the night). After the final hakafah, all the Sifrei Torah except for one are returned to the ark. Sections of the closing portion of the Torah (VeZot HaBeracha) are read, except for the last few lines. The Torah is returned and the service is concluded.  

Morning - At the morning service, hakafot are repeated as the night before. After the hakafot, three Sifrei Torah are left out. From the first Torah Scroll, the last five Allyot (section) of VeZot HaBeracha are read. It is customary for all members of the congregation to read from the Torah. To this, these Allyot may be read a few times. After everyone has received an aliyah, all the children "Kol HaNearim" are called up. A Tallith is spread like a canopy over their heads, and they say the blessings for the Torah along with an adult. After that the "Chatan Torah" (Bridegroom of Torah), is called up. This is usually someone the congregation wishes to honor. The Torah is completed with this aliyah and the Chatan Bereishit (Bridegroom of Genesis) is called to read from the second Torah.  

Should we as Messianic believers celebrate Simchat Torah, even it is not a Biblical Holiday. Why not? We should give honor to the Torah just as much if not more that the pre-believing Jews.  

Many Jewish people think of Torah as a collection of 613 laws, instead of a collection of God's teachings for their benefit. Many Christians and many Messianic believers look upon the Torah also as a collection of dos and don'ts. But we need to understand that for Israel the Torah is not only that which leads individual people to salvation in Messiah, but that it is the only way through which God will allow Israel as a nation to come to His Son. This is what the prophets tell us, that it is going to be through the Torah that God brings His people Israel to know who Yeshua HaMashiah is. Therefore, without Torah there could be no salvation for Israel and consequently no kingdom on this earth.

Judaism is not a biblical religion today. It is based upon biblical foundations, but it does not have a biblical result, therefore the Jewish people as a whole have not come to the right conclusions. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Jewish people who did not believe in the sacrifice of Yeshua—who replaced the physical Temple with its required sacrifices—needed to redefine Judaism. And through the rabbinate at the Yavneh Academy (Second Century CE) they rebuilt Judaism without the corner or foundation stone. The prophecy given in Psalm 118 was that “the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief stone of the corner.” The builders of Judaism built up a religion and rejected the chief cornerstone. Yet, it shall became what it used to be, the chief of the corner, the Rosh Pinah. Torah-true Judaism is at odds with Rabbinical Judaism. Today Talmud—a collection of Rabbinical commentaries and commentaries on commentaries, known as the Mishnah and Gemara—is regarded as the only definer of Judaism. Torah is not allowed to speak for itself. So the only acceptable way for the entire nation of Israel to be saved would be through the acceptance of Torah in their hearts. There will be no acceptance of the Messiah until Torah is accepted. Much of Christianity has taught that the Jewish believers should abandon Torah observance. But, when the Jewish people will receive Yeshua as the chief cornerstone of Jewish faith, they will not be converting to Christianity. They will become Torah, or Bible, observant. There is going to be a very Biblical Messianic Judaism in Eretz Yisrael when Messiah comes back.

And so we have to understand that if we are ministering to the Jewish people we have to be able to share with them that they have to believe in the Torah. And if they do not believe in the Torah, they will not be coming to a saving faith in Yeshua, because you cannot separate Torah from Messiah; without Torah there is no reason to believe in Messiah. The Torah has within it the very desire of God's heart expressed toward Israel, and what Israel is expected to express toward God.

Yeshua said: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Chanukah comes next on Kislev 25- the 9th month. Some do not consider it as a Biblical holy day, but at a deeper analysis we may think otherwise.

The Chanukah holiday is celebrated as a national feast of thanksgiving for Israel's victory over her enemies. It serves as a reminder of the conflict and struggle between the culture of Israel and of Hellenism, or Greek paganism - man's eternal struggle for religious freedom.

In 175 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes became King of Syria and ruler over Israel. He caused the Temple to be defiled and sought to force the culture and pagan religion of Greece upon the Jews — he decreed the death penalty for those who refused to comply with his orders. After a time, a revolt began in the city of Modin (168 BCE) when the High Priest, Mattathias, aroused the people to action by destroying pagan idols and altars. His sons, led by Judah, surnamed Macabee, gathered a small fighting force and after three years succeeded in vanquishing the enemy. On the 25th day of Kislev (165 BCE) they entered Jerusalem, reclaimed the Temple, cleansed it, and rededicated it to the worship of the God of the Jewish people.

And what they did was to celebrate Sukkot. It was out of season, but nevertheless a Biblical celebration.

Chanukiah is the nine branch menorah that it is used during the eight days of the holiday. Even on this one there are two customs on how to light the candles. The school of Hillel says to light one candle on the first night and add one more each night until you have all eight candles lit on the last night, and the school of Shammai says to light all candles on the first night and then one less each day. The ninth candle is called the Shammash –the service candle, and it is used to light all other candles.  

Chanukah means DEDICATION: This name is given to the holiday because of the rededication of the Temple altar after its desecration by the Syrians. John 10:22 "Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Yerushalayim. It was winter. And Yeshua was walking around in the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) in the area called Solomon's Colonnade." So we can deduce that it was a holy day celebrated by Yeshua and the believers of the First Century.

This holiday is also called, CHAG HA-NEROTH - FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS: This name is to commemorate the miraculous burning of a small cruse of oil for eight days until an additional supply could be obtained. This oil was used exclusively for the lamps of the Menorah in the Temple.

Special HALLEL - Psalms of Praise (120-135) - are recited daily. Also, the hymn MAOZ TZUR - Rock of Ages is sung as an expression of praise to God.

The Dreidel Game - It is a "Put and Take" game employing a spinner with four sides, with the following letters on the sides. Nun - Gimel - Hey - Shin. These letters stand for the words: NAIS GADOL HAYAH SHOM - A GREAT MIRACLE WAS PERFORMED THERE. The legend says that the rabbis were teaching children the Torah and when the Romans came by the Torah were hidden and the children were playing with the dreidel.

Chanukah Gifts; The practice of giving and exchanging gifts started late in the Middle Ages. This may have been a response to the competing holiday of the same month. – Chanukah is for eight days theirs is just one day. Many religious schools collect gifts from the children and distribute them to needy children or send them to children’s institutions as a Chanukah present.

The special dish that characterizes the feast of Chanukah is the "latke" or "potato pancake." According to a legend, Judah Macabee, in his hasty pursuit of the Syrians, served pancakes to his famished forces. A more recent addition to the Chanukah dish is the sufganiot, the Israeli jelly doughnut, another food fried in oil in commemoration of the miracle of oil. The Jews miraculously survived this long eating them every year, so keep up the tradition,

Tu B’Shevat, sometimes called Jewish Arbor Day, is a minor holiday - not Biblical. It is an outdoor festival emphasizing the Jewish love for nature. The name of the holiday comes from the day on which it occurs on the Hebrew calendar, the 15th of Shevat – the 11th month. It is Talmudic:

“There are four New Years. On the first of Nisan is New Year for kings and for festivals. On the first of Elul is New Year for the tithe of cattle. On the first of Tishrei. is New Year for years, for release and jubilee years. On the first of Shevat is New Year for trees, according to the ruling of Beth Shammai; Beth Hillel, however, place it on the fifteenth of that month.” (Talmud - Mas. Rosh HaShana 2a)

In ancient times the Levites who ministered to the Temple were not paid for their services. In order that they might be maintained, the 15th day of Shevat was set aside for the giving of fruit tithes to the Levites and to the poor. On that same day the custom of planting trees was inaugurated probably following an earlier custom mentioned in the Talmud: “It was the custom when a boy was born to plant a cedar tree and when a girl was born to plant a pine tree, and when they married, the tree was cut down and a canopy made of the branches.” (Gittin 57a) In texts from the first centuries C.E., we learn that Tu B’Shevat was the day that separated one agricultural year from the next. Today we celebrate Tu B’Shevat to thank God for the gifts of creation, especially foods that grow on trees and the beauties of nature we enjoy. The holiday also reminds us of our responsibility to care for the earth that God created in order to preserve it for future generations.

In Israel, Tu B’Shevat signals the coming of spring, as flowers begin to appear and the earth reawakens. Throughout Israel’s modern history, school children have celebrated the holiday with planting of trees, hikes, picnics, and dances. Tu B’Shevat is also a day of national pride, when Israelis recall how the early pioneers worked the land and made the desert bloom. It is customary in Diaspora communities to make donations to have trees planted in Israel. – JNF.

Ashkenazic Customs: Ashkenazic communities of Europe developed the custom of eating 15 different fruits on this day, especially the ones that they have not eaten for a log time. Carob was particularly popular, because it could survive the long trip from Eretz Yisrael to Eastern Europe. In some communities, estrogim (citrons) were saved from Sukkot and prepared as preserves for Tu B'Shevat.

Sephardic Customs: The most intriguing Jewish tradition of Tu B'Shevat is the seder, modeled on the Pesach seder and developed by the Kabbalists of Tzfat in the 16th century. These mystics applied their unique spiritual interpretations to the day, calling upon the imagery of the tree to symbolize the human, and connecting the observance of the day with Tikkun Olam (the repair of the world). They claimed that eating fruits improves our spiritual qualities and even expiates the sin of disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The trees tithed on Tu B'Shevat symbolize the Tree of Life, which sends forth roots of divine goodness and blessing into our world.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar or Adar Sheni, the last month of the year, and commemorates Israel’s deliverance from her enemies in Persia. In Shushan, the capital city of Persia, the celebration continued for two days because on the 14th the Jews of that city were still fighting their enemies and thus had to wait until the 15th day before they could celebrate, therefore, this day of celebration is, appropriately called, Shushan Purim. Purim means Lots and is used in reference to the "casting of lots" by Haman, the Prime Minister of King Ahasuerus, in order to determine the day on which the Jews should be expelled from Persia. By the arrangement of the calendar the Purim holiday cannot fall on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.  

The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther, written between 480 and 460 BCE, by an unknown author, although some scholars ascribed it to Ezra. Esther is the Persian name for Hadassah and means Myrtle. The Purim festival is observed with special synagogue services on the eve and morning of the holiday. There is no Biblical command concerning prohibitions against work or the sanctity of the observance. The Reading of the Scroll Of Esther - Megillath Esther is the chief feature of the holiday. It is read at the synagogue services. In the traditional synagogue the reading is usually chanted and continually interrupted with noisemakers or clappers at every mention of Haman’s name.

Fast of Esther: A fast is held on the day preceding Purim, from morning till evening, because Esther commanded all her people to fast before she approached the king.

Mishloach Manoth - Sending of Gifts: A long-established custom is the sending of gifts to the poor and the exchanging of gifts between friends.

Hamantasch: A three-cornered shaped pastry filled with poppy seed or jelly. The word is from the German and means a "Haman Pocket." Gregger Or Haman Clapper: A noisemaker used during the reading of the Megillah at every mention of Haman’s name.

Adloyada Carnival - from the Hebrew Till He Does Not Know The Difference: A popular custom of the Purim holiday is the masquerading at parties, especially for children in various costumes and singing Purim songs. The name derives from an old custom in which one is to have enough to drink till he would not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai.

Rabbinical Laws Concerning Purim: Every adult and child is obligated to listen to the reading of the Megillath Esther on the evening and morning of the festival. On Purim one should give at least two gifts to a needy person. It is unlawful to fast on Purim day. Masquerading in male or female attire permitted only on the Purim holiday. Mourning for the dead must not take place on Purim. Shabbat or holiday clothes should be worn on Purim. Purim is not Halloween, the characters are real and we celebrate life not death. Purim represents God’s ultimate victory over Israel’s enemies.

And thus we come full circle and once again look forward to the festival of Passover.

Have a blessed year!

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