Pesach (or Passover) is a great time of remembrance for God’s people, as it commemorates the Jewish Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago and our own exodus from the “Egypt of sin and shame” through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice. These two themes, Yeshua’s sacrifice and the Exodus, are central to how we celebrate Pesach here at the Harvest. We recall Paul’s words that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34); so the retelling of the Passover story every year reminds us what an astounding price was paid for our own rescue from slavery to the bondage of sin. Yeshua is the Pesach Lamb. The focus of Pesach is not the resurrection of Yeshua but His death, as He has commanded us to partake of matzo and wine during the Passover Seder in remembrance of Him. Pesach also begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasts for seven days. During this time, everyone in the community is encouraged to rid their houses of anything containing yeast or leaven. This ceremonial cleansing reminds us that we need to cleanse our hearts of leaven, which is symbolically referred to in the Bible as sin. Only unleavened bread (matzo) may be eaten during these seven days. As a community, we celebrate Pesach in homes by sharing a Passover Seder together. It is a time of fellowship and getting to know one another in a more intimate way as we each can recall our own personal walk with Yeshua.
Shavuot (or the Feast of Weeks) is celebrated in commemoration of the giving of the Torah and the giving of the Holy Spirit after Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven. It is also known as Pentecost. It is celebrated during a period of 50 days (7 weeks) during which the Israelites in Moses’ day were making their way from the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai, where they were to be given the Torah. This time period also marks the time of the early apostles and believers sitting together in an upper room, fellowshipping and sharing as they waited for the Comforter, Whom Yeshua had promised before He left. During the 50 day count down, the wheat harvest in Israel is ripening, and by the end of this period it is fully ripe and ready to be brought into the temple as a first fruits offering. For this reason, we count the omer. Each day, a head of wheat is taken from a bundle and blessings are said as we purify ourselves and eagerly wait for Shavuot. The distance between the days of Pesach and Shavuot is no coincidence as it outlines our beginning as believers with the acceptance of our atonement and end with our being brought into a priestly calling by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a time of preparation it is! In our community, Shavuot is commemorated with an amazing time of worship, many songs centered around the fire of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Often, our worship service will last late into the night with everyone sharing in the expectancy and receiving from God a powerful touch.
Yom Teruah (or the Day of the Awakening Blast) calls God’s people to repentance. Other names for this day include Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Trumpets. We blow the shofars on this day which begins the Jewish New Year. More importantly, it begins the Ten Days of Awe, during which we cleanse ourselves and repent of sin in preparation for the most solemn day of the year – the Day of Atonement. Making teshuvah (repenting, returning to God) is the central theme of this feast day. Traditionally, the shofar blast was used to sound a warning, as of impending danger or war. For us as believers, it is meant to call us to wake up and get ourselves ready for the Day of Atonement. We are given ten days to search our hearts and examine ourselves with thoroughness. While this feast day is more solemn than some of the other feast days, it is with great joy that we remember the mercy of Yeshua in giving us time to repent. He warns us with the shofar blast that His judgment comes to those who have not repented; but to us who take seriously His warning trumpet blast, there is grace upon grace as we make teshuvah. If you join the Harvest during this feast day, you’ll hear the shofar being blown almost continually through the entire service. Yeshua commanded us to blow the shofar, and so we BLOW the SHOFAR! It’s hard not to be taken up into the theme of this feast day as everyone, young and old alike, is encouraged to bring their shofars and fulfill this mitzvoth.
Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement) is the most solemn assembly of the year. The Ten Days of Awe culminate in this feast day, which is actually a day of fasting and prayer. The Day of Atonement for us as believers is not as solemn as it is for those who have not received the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, but it is still important for us to search our hearts and humbly beseech God’s throne for forgiveness and mercy. We remember the price Yeshua paid for our atonement and this day is about honoring Him by making teshuvah. We prepare ourselves for the coming year by bringing to mind those areas that we need to work on as we grow in Him. For Israel, this day meant a sincere cleansing as they waited for the priest to take the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies to make atonement. Would their sacrifice be accepted? Would God forgive? The day is not only about personal repentance, but corporate repentance on a national level. During this feast day we pray for Israel because she has not yet accepted her Messiah Yeshua corporately. We look forward to the day when “they will look on Him Whom they have pierced” and “all Israel will be saved.” This prophetic passage speaks of the Day of Atonement when at last the olive branch receives the Messiah. As a community, we honor this day by fasting together from sundown on Erev Yom Kippur through sundown on Yom Kippur when often we will break the fast together. Some fast from food and water, but many fast only from food. We wear all white to commemorate being been washed white as snow and have a long service of worship, reflection, and prayer.
The feast of Sukkot (or the Feast of Tabernacles) is one of the greatest times of rejoicing all year long. The feast last for seven days, with the eighth day being another holy convocation. Sukkot commemorates the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness when God commanded them to live in booths. God’s tabernacle was among them during their 40 year wanderings. Even in their paying the consequences for disobedience, God did not abandon them but lived in a tent right along with His children. God as a good and loving Father is seen clearly in this feast day. Yeshua inaugurated this feast day when He was born during the feast of Sukkot. In an act of utter humility, He left heaven and became a man born of a woman. He took on the “tent” of human flesh in order to ultimately redeem mankind. This is the essence of Sukkot, God became man and dwelt among them. During this feast, we celebrate Him and look forward to that time when we can live with Him forever. At the Harvest we celebrate this feast day with great fervor. Everyone is encouraged to build their own sukkah. It is a booth with three sides and a roof that is only covered in vines and greenery. During the seven days of the festival, people are invited into one another’s homes to celebrate, praise, fellowship, and dance. Sitting in the sukkah and telling about the greatness of God is one of the best times of the year. Many people even sleep in their sukkahs in recalling the time when the Israelites lived in booths with no walls and no roofs. This feast day will be consummated after Yeshua returns for His bride and we celebrate with Him the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Shemini Atzaret (or the Eighth Day of Assembly) is the final day of Sukkot. There are many purposes for this feast day. It is almost as if God wanted just one more day fellowshipping with His children because He has enjoyed Himself so much. Shemini Atzaret gets us ready for the final festival of the year, Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights). It is a time of thanksgiving and invokes our anticipation of the Messianic Age, when we will not need to look forward to being with Yeshua but will be living and reigning with Him in the New Jerusalem. God invites us to stay behind for the purpose of enjoying some intimate time alone with him. This day can also be viewed as a private time between God and each one of us – a sort of spiritual honeymoon during which we celebrate His love for us and our love for Him. God has chosen us and desires for us to be intimate with Him. When the days of Sukkot are finished with all their feasting and celebrating, we can take this eighth day to sit back and relax in awe of our King. Our community celebrates this day with yet another holy convocation. We praise God in music and dance.