The Fall Holy Days
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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?

 

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