holy days, festivals
In Exodus 12, while still in the land of Egypt, God spoke to Moses and established the beginning of the Hebrew calendar year. He set the dates and traditions of the Holy Days of Passover and unleavened bread. These days were to be kept as a memorial to Yahweh, and celebrated as a festival throughout all their generations.
Later, while in the wilderness, Moses began receiving the Law from God including the establishment by statute of the days of Sabbath and the annual seasonal festivals known as Feasts to the Lord. All of these would (and will) figure largely in prophecy. Each has an historical meaning, as it relates to Israel, and a prophetic meaning as it relates to the Messiah. These are, by a long-shot, the oldest feasts, and festivals in continual observance among any peoples of the earth, being preserved and celebrated by the Jewish peoples for over 3500 years.
Pesach - Passover God assigned the new moon of Aviv as the beginning of months, the beginning of the Hebrew calendar. Later this same month would be renamed Nisan. Aviv is a word that refers to the stage of development found in the seed heads of grain, in particular of barley. It's when the seeds have reached full size, but are not yet matured or dried and aren't quite ready for harvest.
The first of Aviv is determined to be on the first sighting of the faint sliver of a crescent moon after the barely has reached this stage. This, of course, presented problems with the ancient Hebrew calendar, given that from year to year, the barely might ripen earlier or later in the season. It was changed later by the Rabbis that the first of Aviv, which they renamed Nisan, would be calculated as the first sighting of the new moon following the spring equinox. In other words, solar calculations were adopted into the equation. These changes were likely made during the time of the Babylonian exile.
Pesach would follow two weeks later on the first full moon of spring, ushering in the first of the annual festivals. Passover is a family celebration, observed at home. It commemorates the last of the ten plagues that God visited upon Egypt, which led to the release of the Hebrew nation from bondage. The Messiah is prophetically revealed in the tradition of this celebration in numerous conspicuous ways, particularly in the sacrificial lamb and the unleavened bread. He is also revealed in the day of First Fruits which prophetically looked forward to the day of His resurrection.
Passover kicks off a period of festivals comprising the Passover "season," which ends with Shavout, the Feast of Weeks. These are known as the spring festivals and they were all prophetically fulfilled by the Messiah. Later will come the fall festivals which are believed by many to find fulfillment when the Messiah returns.
The traditional Jewish Pesach seder is a study in symbolism, starting with the sacrifice of the lamb. From the removal of every crumb of leavened bread from the house, to the setting of the table, to the ceremonial food items on the seder plate and the wine that is served. The prayers, songs and blessings, and all other aspects of the dinner are scripted, performed and handed down from generation to generation. Many of these traditions were added to scriptural stipulations through Rabbinic tradition in the Talmud.
For Christians the last supper of the Lord, which was a ceremonial supper, but not necessarily a Passover supper, formed the basis for the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper. Passover coincides with the beginning of the feast of unleavened bread, whereby only unleavened bread was eaten on Passover and for the next six days.
Digressing, it should be noted that the scriptural Passover dinner consists only of the sacrificial lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. The rest is drawn from the Mishnah Torah, the Oral Torah. These are the oral traditions of Judaism as opposed to the written Torah, the first five books given through Moses. It is a fundamental article of faith among Orthodox Jews that the Oral Torah was given from God to Moses on Mount Sinai at the same time as the "Torah that is written." Jewish tradition believes the Oral Torah was then handed down from generation to generation until it was finally written down after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It was written down for fear it might be lost forever. The Oral Torah relates the full composition of the Jewish code of conduct, from Sabbath and festival observance to worship, ritual, dietary laws, agricultural laws and civil law.
After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the preponderance of the Oral Torah was textually compiled in the Mishnah (200-220 AD) and the Gemara, which consists of commentaries and Rabbinic debates concerning the Mishnah. Together they form the Talmud, the primary text used in Rabbinical Judaism. Two versions of the Talmud were produced. The Jerusalem Talmud (300-350 AD) and the larger and more comprehensive Babylonian Talmud (450-500 AD).
The question for Christians becomes, how much of the Oral Torah did Yeshua observe? The answer is "little to none." He was known to be very critical of how the Rabbis had allowed "the laws of men" to be elevated above the "Laws of God." Still, the last supper was a Passover meal of sorts. What the Lord focused on was the unleavened bread, representing His body, and the cup of wine, representing His blood of the new covenant, shed for many for remission of sins. He Himself was represented in the sacrificial lamb. He was the Passover, and He kept Passover as an observant Jew.
In Catholicism, the celebration of the Eucharist is the sharing of the bread and wine as a remembrance of the Lord's last supper. They teach, however, something called transubstantiation, whereby, with the priest's blessing, the bread and wine are transformed into the literal blood and flesh of Jeshua. The symbolism would be insufficient, to the Catholics, it must be literal. They teach this revolting doctrinal concept in spite of the Torah's strict admonition against eating blood. (see Deuteronomy 12:23-25) There is absolutely no scriptural support for this bizarre doctrine. They call it "a mystery," and it certainly is.
The Jewish religious calendar begins with the new moon in the month of Nisan. Two weeks later, on the 15th of Nisan, under the first full moon following the spring equinox, Passover is celebrated. It actually begins on Nisan 14 (by Gregorian reckoning) after sundown. However, the Jewish religious calendar, being what it is (a little quirky), sometimes the insertion of an intercalary month, (a leap month), can lead to a run-over past the equinox, and the Passover is moved to the second full moon following the equinox. This occurred, for example, in 2016.
Three of these festivals were given prominent significance, requiring that three times a year, all males should present themselves with offerings before God. This meant traveling to Jerusalem to attend at the Temple. The festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks (Shavuot - Pentecost), and the festival of tabernacles, or tents (Sukkot), all had this special obligation. (Deuteronomy 16)
Jewish calendar days always count from sunset to sunset. This is because according to the Torah, in the story of creation, Genesis says, “And it was evening, and it was morning day one,” “And it was evening, and it was morning; the second day,” thus night comes before day. So the Jewish calendar follows the same cycle, marking all days beginning at nightfall and ending the next day at nightfall, including holidays.
Shavuot - Feast of Weeks - Pentecost The date of Shavuot is directly linked to the date of Passover. It is one of the three Shalosh Regalim, the pilgrimage festivals ordained in scripture. It brings to a conclusion the Counting of the Omer which begins on the second day of Passover, Nisan 16. The Torah requires the counting of seven weeks, 49 days, ending with Shavuot. These days have a dual purpose. First, according to tradition, while Passover marked the freeing of the Hebrew nation from Egypt, Shavuot was when they received the Torah and became a nation dedicated to serving God. Shavuot marks the traditional birthday of the Torah, Judaism and the Mosaic Covenant. Secondly it is the harvest offerings of first fruits.
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings 'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. - Leviticus 23
the Spring Festivals
Counting of the Omer This a 49 day liturgical season, a harvest festival during which the days and weeks were counted. It followed Passover for a total of seven Sabbaths and Shavuot was celebrated on the 50th day. In ancient times it would begin on the day after the Sabbath that would fall during the Passover (Passover and the Festival of Unleavened bread being celebrated for seven days). Later it was changed formally to the second day of Passover running through to the day of Shavuot. Passover is celebrated as one of the seven High Sabbath days which do not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath, but on the full moon. Shavuot is likewise one of the High Sabbaths.
The day of First Fruits begins with the Wave Offering of barley which the Hebrew farmer would bring to the priests as First Fruits of the harvest. It would be a sampling of the first and best of the crop. Only one sheaf would be presented, representing all of Israel. The priest would then wave the sheaf (omer) of barley before God. After waving the sheaf, the priests would sacrifice an unblemished year-old male lamb as a burnt sin offering. Only after this ceremony of First Fruits, could the Israelite farmers begin to harvest their crops. In turn, over the next seven weeks, they would bring in the first fruits of grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, and wheat.
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Yeshua was the sacrificial lamb of Passover. Yeshua was the First Fruits of mankind. Pentecost or Shavuot was the birthday of Christianity, the outpouring of Holy Spirit, the launch of the Christian Way.
After the crucifixion of the Messiah, His disciples and apostles went into hiding. They feared being arrested and suffering the same fate merely for their association with the Lord. On Pentecost, some 49 days later, they were gathered together privately for a dinner, no doubt discussing how they should continue His ministry. The Holy Spirit descended upon them, filling them with a holy joy and something amazing, the ability to speak in foreign tongues. (see Acts 2)
To be sure, something happened that evening. They were transformed from a frightened little group, gone to hiding, to a group filled with boldness, joy and unafraid. They spilled out into the streets, sharing the good news with a newfound fearlessness and confidence. This was the night the Christian community came alive and the movement to spread the good news of the Gospel began.
Shavuot - Pentecost
giving of the Law, and giving of the Holy Spirit
spring and summer