The Jewish High Holy Days

Phillip Lester


Jews all over the world are about to enter a three week period called the
High Holy Days.   They involve special Jewish celebrations for the fall season.
Although they are found in the Scriptures, their position in the Jewish
calendar is often overlooked by disciples.  They are described in Leviticus
23 and
Numbers 29.  Beginning this weekend with Rosh HaShanah, they continue ten days
later with Yom Kippur and conclude with the Feast of Tabernacles, also known
Sukkot, for seven days. Although gentile believers (non Jews) are not bound
to observe these feasts, there remains, however, a richness in understanding
their meaning. God appointed them for the Israelites long ago and they have
continued to be observed for thousands of years.

As disciples there are several benefits in understanding their significance. 
First of all, the festivals are beautiful shadows of the Messiah (Colossians
2:16-17).  They foreshadow Gods plan of salvation in several ways. Once we
understand how they correspond with the Messiah and his kingdom( I Corinthians
5:7) they can build our faith as we see how the scriptures (both OT and NT)
so wondrously inter woven. Another benefit of knowing about the festivals
involves our ability to show consideration to Jewish neighbors and coworkers.
those reaching out to Jewish friends it is extremely helpful in our efforts
lovingly relate to them (I Corinthians 9:20-22) and let them know we
appreciate the true Jewish heritage of Christianity. They also make for great
conversation starters with Jewish coworkers.  Another benefit is the lessons
that are
contained in these feasts.  Although our Messiah fulfilled the law and the
prophets (Matthew 5:17)  their lessons still have great relevance to our lives. 
In addition, Paul’s said those things that were written down in the Hebrew
Scriptures ages ago were intended to encourage us today(Romans 15:4). With this
in mind let us consider how understanding the feasts can be so enriching.

These are the key dates for this years Jewish high holy days:

September 23: This was originally called the Feast of Trumpets or ?The day of
the sounding of the trumpets? (see Num 29:1-6). Blowing the ram’s horn or
"Shofar" is essentially what this feast is about. The Shofar is used throughout
the Old Testament as a means for alarming and announcing something important. 
Over time, however, the Rabbi?s traditionally came to view the day as the
beginning of the Jewish year and called it ?Rosh Hashanah? (Head of the year)
the new year. This is why its very thoughtful and appropriate to give your
Jewish friends a new years card on this day. 

From a spiritual perspective, Rosh HaShanah represents a wake-up call, a time
to stop and reexamine ones life.  As the medieval Jewish rabbi Moses
Maimonides wrote, explaining that the trumpet blast signified, "Wake up from
sleep, you sleepers! Arise from your slumber, you slumberers! Examine your deeds!
Return to God! Remember your Creator! Those of you who forget the truth in the
futilities of the times and spend all year in vanity and emptiness, look into
your soul, improve your ways and your deeds. Let each of you abandon his evil
ways and his immoral thoughts." Throughout the New Testament writings, the
trumpet blast is also associated with judgment and Jesus? return (1 Cor 15:52;
Thes 4:16; Rev 11:15). Because of the themes of judgment and repentance, Rosh
HaShanah is an ideal time to take stock of our life and Pray for awakening
both in ourselves, and for the Jewish people. Rosh Hashanah actually begins
Friday evening Sept 22 and goes thru Sat evening. It begins a ten day period
of self examination culminating in Yom Kippur with a focus on repenting and
seeking forgiveness from those we have wronged.

October 2: Ten days after Rosh Hashanah comes the Day of Atonement or Yom
Kippur (see Num 29:7-11;Leviticus 16; 23:26). This is considered to be the most
solemn and sacred day of the year for religious Jews. Back in the time of the
Old Testament it was the one day of the year in which the high priest, as a
representative of the Israelite nation, nervously entered into the most sacred
chamber in the tabernacle ( the Holy of Holies) in order to meet before God
sprinkle blood over the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.  Kippur means
"to cover" and it is used in relation to the idea of covering ones crimes so
that forgiveness can be offered.  An elaborate ceremony involving many
sacrifices was implemented in hopes of securing atonement of sins for that year.
It was
the most sacred day of the year with everything ( the nations acceptance
before God) resting solely on the shoulders of the high priest and how well
carried out his priestly responsibilities.  No one dared enter into the Holy
Holies except him and only on that day.  It was commanded to be a day of self
denial. On this day they abstained from work, eating, and any pleasurable
activities.  For this reason most Jews on that day take the day off from work.
Today it is observed with a 24 hour period spent in fasting, prayer and attending
services with the theme of repentance and confession. Jewish tradition calls
the ten days from Trumpets to Atonement "the days of awe," representing a time
when even non-religious Jews tend to be more conscious of their actions before
God.  During this period one is encouraged to, acknowledge one’s shortfalls
and to lead a better life.

Unfortunately the deeper Biblical meaning of Yom Kippur and its fulfillment
is missed by most Jews today.  The reality behind that day, its messianic
fulfillment, is described in Hebrews 9 -10. These chapters go into detail on
Jesus is both our High Priest and the Offering who has gone into the true
tabernacle in heaven as our representative. It elaborates on the grandeur of
forgiveness from God for sinners made possible by his atoning death.  The
biblical yom kippur service with its offerings is no longer observed by the
people. It has not taken place since the temple was destroyed and blood
sacrifices ceased after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. 
modern Judaism there is a noticeable absence of any reference to blood sacrifices. 
This is in distinct contrast to the tremendous emphasis on the necessity of
blood sacrifices in order to make atonement. This is found in the Jewish law
(Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22).  Believers understand that Jesus is the
complete fulfillment of Yom Kippur.  Daniel 9:24-27 foretold the Messiah would
accomplish redemption and then be cut off.  In the process there will be an
end to
sin and atonement for wickedness, an end to sacrifice and offering. Daniel 9
seems to point to an ultimate Day of Atonement ushered in by the Anointed One.  
Christians may choose to fast on this day as well as reflect on the deeper
meaning of the cross of our Lord who secured our atonement with his blood
(Romans 3:24-25). It is also a good time to examine our lives before God, pray
for a
deeper conviction of sin and appreciation of the power of Messiah’s blood, 
On that day it is highly recommended to study out Leviticus 16, Isaiah 53 and
Hebrews 9-10 with
a view towards repentance and renewed commitment of our lives
to Him.

October 7-14/15: Five days after Yom Kippur brings us to the Feast of 
Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33, Num 29:12-37). This is a joyful time of celebration
and of dwelling in "sukkahs" (booths, or tabernacles). This festival is a
reminder of the time when God dwelt among His people in the wilderness and provided
for them during the 40 year wilderness wandering, an extended ?camping trip?
enroute to the promised land. Traditionally Jews celebrate this joyful holiday
by building small temporary shelters or booths, in which they spend time
living in. This is actually one of the most joyful of all the Jewish holidays
is oftentimes called the Jewish Thanksgiving.

Tabernacle means ?a tent? or ?a dwelling. Based on the memory of Gods
dwelling with the Israelites, it also points to the coming of Messiah, the time
the Creator would come to dwell with us in the person of Jesus Christ. As
John wrote, ?And the Word was God? and the Word became flesh and dwelt among
(John 1:14). In other words He tabernacled with us. 

John 7 records how Jesus observed that feast.  Two thousand years ago, on the
last day of Sukkot, a festival that was marked at that time by a
water-drawing procession from the pool of Siloam to the Temple altar, Yeshua
cried out,
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as
Scripture has said, ?out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John
7:37-38). In the wilderness He provided over a two million Israelites with
water in the desert. In our wilderness today Jesus offers to provide us with
living water and the bread of life.  Let us pray that the Jewish people would
these rivers of living water for themselves!.

As this season is intended to focus on soul-searching and repentance among
many Jews, let us pray for the Spirit of God to draw His ancient people to
Himself, showing them the reality of their sin, their need for forgiveness,
revealing to them that true atonement is only found in Jesus the Messiah.

During this season, we as believers can benefit from seeing these feasts as
an opportunity for great spiritual renewal.  Let us seize the moment and let
draw us nearer to God. May the hope and sweetness contained in of these fall
feasts overtake you with thanksgiving and awe.

L’Shana Tova (Happy New Year).

Phillip Lester     Bloomfield , NJ     pplester@aol.com

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