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Remember the Sabbath

English: the 4th Commandment on Nash Papyrus &...
English: the 4th Commandment on Nash Papyrus “Remember the Sabbath”  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the L-RD your G-d. On if you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates, for in six days the L-RD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the L-RD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11


A few years ago a friend telephoned with an urgent request. “I’m calling to ask a favor. I need the most precious thing you have.” Can you guess what he needed? He was asking for my time, of course.

As the Rabbi of a Messianic Community, and the International Ministries Representative for a large mission board I need time. I need time to study, to work, to pray, to think, to worship, time to rest, time to play. I need time to spend with the L-rd. I need time to prepare messages and meet with people. I also need time to love my family. It all takes time, and there never seems to be quite enough.

Many people have the same frustration. We often feel rushed. We never seem to have time for work and leisure, for family and ministry. So we complain, “If only I had one extra day this week; then I could get all my work done.” Or we say, “You know, I could really use some time off.” Or,”If only I had more time to study the, and serve the L-rd.” Yes, we grumble about being overtired and overworked. It’s all part of the frustration of living as finite creatures in a fallen world.

Out of His great mercy, HaShem has provided a remedy: one whole day out of seven to rest in His grace. He has given us a rhythm of work and rest, with six days for labor and one day for leisure. And He grants us our leisure specifically for the purpose of His praise. The Sabbath is a day for worship, a day for mercy, and a day for rest.

Keeping the Sabbath holy may not seem very productive. In fact, sometimes it keeps people away from the Messiah. They would rather do something else – anything else – than go to congregation on Shabbat. When billionaire Bill Gates was asked why he didn’t believe in G-d, he said, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”

Devoting a whole day (that would be 24 hours) to G-d may not seem very efficient, but it must be important, because G-d has commanded it:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8

English: Shabbat Candles Deutsch: Schabbatkerzen
English: Shabbat Candles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the longest commandment, and it comes in three parts. Verse 8 tells us what to do, verses 9 and 10 specify how we are to do it, and verse 11 explains why. What HaShem wants us to do is to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

The word remember has a double meaning. For the Israelites, it was a reminder that they had heard about the Sabbath before. On their journey to Mount Sinai, G-d provided manna six days out of seven. The seventh day was meant to be “a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the L-RD” (Exodus 16:23). So when they reached Mount Sinai, G-d commanded them to “remember” the Sabbath.

This was something they needed to remember not just once, but every week. It is something we need to remember, too, so the fourth commandment calls us to a weekly remembrance of the Sabbath. We are prone to forget. We forget the great work of G-d in creation and redemption. And when we forget, we fail to praise Him for making us and saving us. But the fourth commandment is also a reminder. It is G-d’s memorandum to His people, reminding us to give Him glory for His grace.

Remembering involves more than our memories. It demands the total engagement of our whole person in the service of G-d. Remembering the Sabbath is like remembering your anniversary. It is not enough to say “Oh, yes, I remember: It’s our anniversary.” It takes dinner and flowers – maybe even a gift. In much the same way, remembering the Sabbath means using the day to show our love for G-d in a special way. It means “keeping it holy.” Literally, we are to “sanctify it,” to set it apart for sacred use.

How are we to do this? The fourth commandment gives explicit instructions for keeping the Sabbath holy. G-d begins by telling us what He wants us to do with the rest of our week: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). Although this part of the fourth commandment is often overlooked, it is our duty to work. This does not mean that we have to work all day, every day. But it does mean that G-d governs our work as well as our rest. He has given us six whole days to fulfill our earthly calling.

People generally have a negative attitude about work. Work is treated as a necessary evil. In fact, it is sometimes thought that work is the result of sin. In a column for Time magazine, Lance Morrow claimed that “When G-d foreclosed on Eden, he condemned Adam and Eve to go to work. From the beginning, the       L-rd’s word said that work was something bad: a punishment, the great stone of mortality and toil laid upon a human spirit that might otherwise soar in the infinite, weightless playfulness of grace.”

This is just not true. Work is a divine gift that goes back before the Fall, when “The L-RD G-d took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). We were made to work. The trouble is that our work has been cursed by our sin. It was only after Adam had sinned that G-d said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). But it was not that way from the beginning. The fourth commandment reminds us to honor G-d by doing an honest week’s worth of work. We find G-d’s blessing in doing what He has called us to do.

According to the Puritan historian Thomas Watson, having six days to work is a divine concession, and thus a sign of G-d’s favor. G-d would have been well within His rights to make every day a Sabbath. Instead, He has given us six days to do all our work. Watson thus imagined G-d saying, “I am not a hard master, I do not grudge you time to look after your calling, and to get an estate. I have given you six days, to do all your work in, and have taken only one day for Myself. I might have reserved six days for Myself, and allowed you just one; but I have given you six days for the work of your calling, and have taken only one day for my own service. It is just and rational, because of this; you should set this day apart for my worship.”

Watson was right: six days are for work, but the seventh day is for worship. How do we keep the fourth commandment? By worshiping the L-rd on His day. To “keep something holy” in the Biblical sense is to dedicate it exclusively for worship. Whereas the other six days of the week are for us and our work, the Sabbath is for G-d and His worship. This is the positive aspect of the fourth commandment, as emphasized in verse 10: “the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10). Elsewhere G-d refers to the seventh day as His Sabbath – the day that belongs to Him: “You must observe my Sabbaths. I am the L-RD your God” (Leviticus 19:3). The commandment was worded this way to remind the Believer that their relationship with G-d was special. No other people could claim that the L-rd was their G-d, so no other people kept the Sabbath. There were some other ancient civilizations that divided their time into periods of seven days. However, they generally associated the seventh day with misfortune.

Two braided Shabbat challahs placed under an e...
Two braided Shabbat challahs(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only the Believers in the G-d of Abraham, kept the Sabbath as a day for worshiping the one true G-d as their Redeemer and L-rd.

To keep a Sabbath “to the L-rd” is to give the day over to G-d, setting it apart for Him and His glory (which, remember, was the whole point of the exodus). The book of Leviticus calls the Sabbath “a day of sacred assembly” (Leviticus 23:3), meaning corporate worship. Yeshua endorsed this practice by attending weekly services at the synagogue (Luke 4:16). This focus on worship led the Puritans to refer to the Sabbath as “the market-day of the soul.”  Whereas the other six days of the week are for ordinary commerce, this is the day we transact our spiritual business, trading in the currency of heaven. “This day a Believer is in the altitudes,” wrote Thomas Watson. “He walks with G-d, and takes as it were a turn with Him in heaven.”

We meet with G-d by prayer and the ministry of the Word. We meet Him by proclaiming His praises and presenting Him our offerings. We meet Him by celebrating his grace and sharing fellowship with other Believers. The result, according to Watson, is that “The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word.”

The Sabbath is not only a day for worship, but also a day of rest. It is a day for ceasing from work, and especially from common labor. Here we need to notice that the fourth commandment is stated both positively and negatively. It is the only commandment to do this explicitly. The positive requirement comes first: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Then there is the absolute prohibition: “On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:10).

The English word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cease or to rest.” It is not a day for “business as usual.” It is a day for relaxation and recuperation. It is a day to step back from life’s ordinary routines in order to rediscover G-d’s goodness and grace. To quote again from Thomas Watson, “To do servile work on the Sabbath shows an irreligious heart, and greatly offends G-d. To do secular work on this day is to follow the devil’s plough; it is to debase the soul. G-d made this day on purpose to raise the heart to heaven, to converse with Him, to do angels’ work; and to be employed in earthly work is to degrade the soul of its honor.”

To see how strict this command was under the Law of Moses, consider the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36). He was stoned. Or to take a positive example, consider the women who wanted to prepare the body of Yeshua for burial. “They went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). Gathering wood was such a small thing to do. What was the harm in doing it on the Sabbath? Taking spices to the tomb of the Messiah was so noble. Why not go ahead and do it? The answer in both cases was because G-d has commanded a day of rest.

This rest was for everyone to enjoy: “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates” (Exodus 20:10).

Here we see that the fourth commandment has profound implications for the whole community. When it comes to work and leisure, parents are to set the agenda by teaching their children how to worship and rest. The Sabbath really is a day to spend with the family. By including servants, the commandment also teaches that employers have a responsibility to care for their workers. Some commentators have thus described the fourth commandment as the first worker’s bill of rights. In the ancient world there was a sharp division between masters and slaves. But here is a new social order, in which work and leisure are not divided along class lines. Everyone should work, and everyone should rest, because everyone should be free to worship G-d. This teaching extended right to the gates of the city, including everyone in the whole community. It even applied to beasts of burden. G-d wanted all His creatures to get some relief from their labor. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone kept this commandment in the biblical way.  Imagine the whole creation at rest. Once a week people all over the world would stop striving and turn back to G-d.

What are we commanded to do?  Keep the Sabbath holy. How do we do this? By working six days and then by dedicating a day to the L-rd for worship and rest. This is summarized in Leviticus:

“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:3).

Shabbat Triptych [125/366]
Shabbat Triptych [125/366] (Photo credit: timsackton)
The reason for this commandment is very simple. We are called to work and rest because we serve a working, resting G-d. Why should we remember the Sabbath? Because “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the      L-RD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

In a way, keeping the Sabbath is the oldest of the ten sayings, because it goes all the way back to the creation of the world. There are many additional reasons for keeping the Sabbath holy. It promotes the worship of G-d. It restores us, both spiritually and physically, so it is for our benefit. As Yeshua said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). It is good for children and workers; it can even be good for animals. But our fundamental reason for obeying the fourth commandment is not practical, but theological: G-d made the world in six days, and then He rested. His activity in creation thus sets the pattern for our own work and leisure.

We serve a working G-d, who has been at work from the beginning. The Scripture says that “By the seventh day G-d had finished the work He had been doing” (Genesis 2:2). Part of the dignity of our work comes from the fact that G-d is a worker. We work because we are made in the image of a working G-d.

We also serve a resting G-d. Once His creative work was done, G-d took His divine leisure. The Scripture says that “on the seventh day He rested from all His work” (Genesis 2:2). To mark the occasion, “G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:3). The first time that G-d blessed anything, He blessed a day for us to share in His rest. We keep the Sabbath because G-d made it holy. Like work, leisure is “something that G-d put into the very fabric of human well being in this world.”

There is one further reason for keeping the Sabbath. Although it is not mentioned here in Exodus, it is mentioned in Deuteronomy, where the ten sayings are repeated. There the first part of the commandment is virtually identical (Deuteronomy 5:12-14), but the reason is different: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the L-RD your G-d brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the L-RD your G-d has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

There is no contradiction here. The Sabbath looked back not only to creation, but also to the new creation. It reminded G-d’s people that they had been delivered from slavery in Egypt. One of the benefits of their rescue was that now they didn’t have to work all the time. Back in Egypt they had to work seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, without ever getting a break. But now they were set free.

The Sabbath was not a form of bondage to them, but a day of freedom. It was a day to celebrate their liberation by giving glory to G-d. Sadly, the L-rd’s often forgot to remember the Sabbath. And when they did, they inevitably fell back into spiritual bondage. There is a story about this in the book of Nehemiah – the story of the governor and the salesmen.

G-d’s people had returned from their captivity in Babylon to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the whole community was restored. They rebuilt the city walls. They reestablished their homes. They started gathering again for public worship, to read the Torah and keep the feasts. They repented of their sins and promised to keep covenant with G-d. They reestablished the priesthood. The Levites were serving, the choirs were singing, and G-d was blessing the city in every way. Then the governor went back to Babylon. When Nehemiah returned, he found that the people were failing to keep G-d’s covenant. In particular, they were breaking the Sabbath by using it as a day to conduct commerce. They had promised, “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day” (Nehemiah 10:31).

Yet here is what was happening:

“In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. Men from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah”.       Nehemiah 13:15-16

Shabbat Table
Shabbat Table (Photo credit: vidalia_11)

These businessmen were not residents of Jerusalem. They were traveling salesmen. To them, one day was no different from the next, so they assumed that the Sabbath was a day for business as usual. This proved to be a source of temptation for the people of G-d. Many of the people in Jerusalem were genuine believers. They attended public worship. They supported G-d’s work with their tithes and offerings. They knew G-d’s Torah, including all ten of the sayings (see Nehemiah 9:14-15). Yet they were breaking the Sabbath. Frankly, they were like many Believers today. They were basically committed to following G-d, but under pressure from the surrounding culture, they treated the Sabbath pretty much like the rest of the week.

Nehemiah needed to take strong action. First he spoke out against their sin:

“I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, ‘What is this wicked thing you are doing – desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our G-d brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.’”      Nehemiah 13:17-18

Nehemiah had a good point. When G-d explained why He sent His people into captivity, He often mentioned their failure to keep the Sabbath holy (see Jeremiah 17:19-27; Ezekiel 20:12-13). As the city’s governor, Nehemiah knew that keeping the fourth commandment was a matter of public safety.

Nehemiah did more than preach, however. The governor also enforced public laws for keeping the Sabbath special:

“When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day.” Nehemiah 13:19

It didn’t take long for the salesmen to take the hint:

 “Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, ‘Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you.’ From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.” Nehemiah 13:20-22

We need to be careful how we follow Nehemiah’s example. G-d is not calling us to establish the Sabbath by force. However, there is a principle here that we can apply. In order to preserve a day of worship and rest, we need to bar the gates against the clamor of our culture. Otherwise, we will end up mixing the business of this world with the pleasure of spending time with G-d. What does the fourth commandment mean for the Believer today? Like the Israelites, we are made in the image of a working, resting G-d. We still need to work, we still need our rest, and we can still receive the creation blessing of G-d’s Holy Day.

What has changed is that we have received a new and greater deliverance. We look to Yeshua the Messiah, who accomplished a greater exodus by dying for our sin and rising again. Yeshua is the reason for the fourth commandment, and the other nine.  He is of all the rest. The weekly Sabbath is but a taste the full and final Sabbath that can only be found with Him, both now and in the Kingdom.

Yeshua gives a whole new meaning to work, and a whole new meaning to rest. He came into the world to finish the work of His Father (John 4:34), and on the basis of that work, He is able to give rest to our souls (Matthew 11:29). There is no need to strive for our salvation. All we need to do is repose in the finished work of Yeshua the Messiah. David said, “My soul finds rest in G-d alone; my salvation comes from Him” (Psalms 62:1). The way for us to find that rest is by trusting in Messiah Yeshua alone for our salvation, depending on His work rather than our own. The Scripture assures us that in Messiah,

“There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of G-d; for anyone who enters     G-d’s rest also rests from his own work, just as G-d did from His.” Messianic Jews [Hebrews] 4:9-10

This is the primary purpose of the fourth commandment. Keeping the Sabbath holy preserves the Sabbath principle of resting one whole day out of seven. The commandment is perpetual. Like the rest of the ten sayings, it was written in stone.

The Sabbath was never and is not now a way to salvation but remembering it to keep it Holy is a result of G-d’s salvation. G-d is honored when Believers celebrate the Sabbath. However, we need to be on our guard against legalism in all its forms. We do not base our relationship with G-d on how we keep the Sabbath. However our fellowship with G-d is dependent on the effort we make to honor the Sabbath. We must also be careful about the man made fences (regulations) for guarding the Sabbath.  We must be very careful when developing our own Halakah (guidelines) to stay within the teachings of Scriptures. These fences can become so elaborate that the true purpose of the Sabbath may be lost entirely.

The call to freedom, like the one we are given in the fourth commandment, is never an excuse for seeking our own pleasure (see Isaiah 8:13). However, the freedom we have in Messiah does mean that for the Believer, the Sabbath is not a strait jacket.

Keeping the Sabbath holy begins with working hard the rest of the week. In America some say that we work at our play and play at our work, but G-d has given us six days for the ordinary business of life, and we are called to use them for His glory. Believers ought to be the most faithful and diligent workers. Our industry is an important part of our piety, while sloth is a very great sin. To waste our time is to squander one of the most precious resources that G-d has given us. The duty to work is for everyone, not just for people who get paid. It is for housewives, for retired people, for the disabled and the unemployed – all of us are called to do something useful with our time. Even if we don’t need to earn an income, we need to glorify G-d in whatever work we do. Today many Americans assume that they will work for the sixty years of their lives, and then take the rest of their lives off. They “retire” move to South Florida and “keep Shabbat” at

Dunkin Donuts. That’s not the biblical view of work and leisure, because the Bible calls all of us to maintain the rhythm of work and rest that is essential to our humanity.

The work week ends and also begins with the Sabbath. This is the day for worship, mercy, and rest to give us strength for the next six days.  A major purpose of the Sabbath is to refresh us in the joy of our Creator. It is a day to “catch our breath,” which can include G-d-centered activities.

The Sabbath is for worship. It is a day for attending corporate worship, for enjoying fellowship with the people of G-d, for catching up on our spiritual reading, and for spending the whole day in ways that really make it a day with the L-rd. In order to worship well, we need to be prepared. Therefore keeping the Sabbath holy means that you have a plan that leads up to Erev Shabbat every week. We also need to plan for Shabbat evening to be ready to enjoy Havdalah together. Evening preparation is like the tuning of an instrument, it will prepare your heart for the duties of the coming week.”

Yeshua (name)
Yeshua (name) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sabbath is for mercy. Yeshua said it was a day for mercy, which is why He performed so many miracles on the Sabbath. He was not violating the fourth commandment – as the leadership thought – but fulfilling its true purpose. We follow His example whenever we use the Sabbath to welcome the stranger, feed the poor, or visit the sick.

Finally, the Sabbath is for rest, for stopping from our labor. The fourth commandment teaches us to have a leisure ethic as well as a work ethic.” The businessman should rest from his business, the housewife from her housework, the student from his studies. Of course, Believers have always recognized that some work is necessary. Workers that provide medical care or preserve public safety need to do their jobs, as do Rabbi’s, Elders and other servants in the congregation.

There are basic daily responsibilities need to be done but this is a day to close the calendar, go off the clock, and put away the “to do” list. It is a day to step out of the frenzy, stop buying and selling, and quit worrying about the profit margin. Because we live in a culture that treats Sabbath like any other day of the week, thereby turning what is sacred into something secular; we need to resist the tendency to let our work enslave us. Keeping the Sabbath holy is the biblical answer to a workaholic lifestyle.

At this point many Believers still want to know what they can and cannot do on the Sabbath. They need a list of rules, they need to have righteousness legislated to them.

Can I watch TV? Can I play Frisbee? Can I go to a restaurant? Can I catch a flight back home? Can I play Monopoly, or do I have to stick to Bible trivia games? The danger in making universal applications is that we are prone to judgmental attitudes, it so is easy for us to slip back into “I’m doing it better than you” mindset. In keeping the fourth commandment there is room for the wise exercise of godly judgment.

However, when we start asking these kinds of questions, it is usually because we want to know what we can get away with. We want to know how far we can go without actually breaking the Sabbath; it’s a heart attitude. But if we are looking for a loophole in the Sabbath, then we are missing the whole point of the fourth commandment, G-d is calling us away from our own business to transact the most important business of all, which is to glorify Him. And when we try to make as much room as we can for our own pleasures, then we miss the greatest pleasure of all, which is fellowship with the living G-d.

Our problem is that we find it so hard to take genuine delight in the sanctified pleasures of G-d. Sometimes, in our “drive through” world G-d bores us. We are willing to spend some of our time worshiping Him, but then we feel like we need a break, and so we go right back to the world’s lesser pleasures. But the more we learn to delight in G-d, the more willing to keep His Sabbath. And then we discover that we are able to answer the questions that once seemed so vexing: Can I take a job that will require me to work on the Sabbath? Is it okay for me to catch up on my work? Should we let our kids play Little League on the Sabbath? Is it a good day for watching commercials? Most of the practical applications are easy when we want to honor the L-rd. The strain and struggle come when we want to use it to do our own thing. So what? What have I said? I said all this to say, “When you get Shabbat, you’ll get it all.”

Messiah in Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Pentecost)

Leviticus 23:16-22
Deuteronomy 16:9-12
Acts 2

The Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) is traditionally held as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah as well as the giving of the Holy Spirit. As part of the commemoration, the Ten Sayings (Commandments) are often read publicly in the Assembly on the Feast of Shavuot.

According to the traditional reckoning, the first commandment is simply: “I am the L-RD your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:1-2)

The first of the Ten Commandments is to believe in G-d and to accept His claim of ownership over us. Unless we accept the basic premise of G-d’s existence, no number of commandments will have any authority or meaning for us. The need for such a command demonstrates the incongruity of ascribing to morality without believing in a moral authority. If we accept the premise of objective morality, we must accept that there is a higher authority issuing that objective standard.

We also learn from this that redemption must precede commandments. Before we can receive the Torah, we must already be “redeemed.” Israel’s salvation from Egypt was not accorded to her on the basis of her obedience to the commandments. She was already redeemed (on no merit of her own) before the Torah at Sinai were given to her. Thus, the first declaration at Sinai is a reminder of her redeemed status. Only because she is already redeemed is she able to receive the commands of God.

True legalism continually attempts to reverse this process by claiming that one’s obedience to certain commandments (or all the commandments) is the mechanism by which salvation is earned. The first of the Ten Commandments directly contradicts this notion. Salvation and relationship with G-d precedes the Torah. We obey His Torah because Yeshua has first redeemed us, not the other way around.

Messiah in Passover

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the L-RD brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” Shemot / Exodus 13:3.

English: Passover plate with symbolic foods: m...
Passover plate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Passover is the story of a people – a people of destiny, called by G-d to be a blessing to the entire world, yet trapped as slaves in Egypt. G-d had promised to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they would become a great and blessed nation in their own land. But eventually they found themselves in a most impossible and oppressive situation. Finally G-d sent Moses to confront Pharaoh, King of Egypt, demanding the release of his people. Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal resulted in G-d’s demonstration of power through destructive signs and wonders. Yet Pharaoh still refused to let the people of Israel leave.

Even though the celebration of Passover recalls the various elements of this story, the name of the Holy Day focuses on one particular event. While every detail contributed to the eventual release of the people, it was the last plague that made the difference, and it is this that is most essential to remember.

Passover Fun: Death of the First Born Masks
Death of the First Born Masks (Photo credit: Scott Robbin)

When G-d told Moses how to prepare for the final plague, there was no doubt that it would be this that would ensure Israel’s freedom. G-d determined that every firstborn human and animal of Egypt would die. The act of judgment was going to be applied to all Egypt. The only way that Israel would be unaffected would be if they would follow G-d’s specific instructions. Every household was required to take a lamb, slaughter it, and apply its blood to the doorframes of their homes. If and when the L-rd would see the blood on a house, he would pass over it. Thus the name “Passover.”

So year after year we remember the Passover Lamb. During the days of the Temple, the people were to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Each family would offer a lamb and eat it along with bitter herbs and matzo (unleavened bread) in order to remember what G-d had done for us. In the modern celebration we have two things that are reminiscent of the annual Passover sacrifice. One is a lamb shank bone and the other is a special piece of matzo, called the afikomen, which is eaten following the meal.

Through all this we see that it is essential to not only remember what G-d did, but also how he did it. Even though G-d determined to rescue us from bondage, and even though he provided a way of escape from oppression, if our ancestors had not applied the blood of the lamb to the doorframes of their homes, we too would have experienced the same judgment as the rest of Egypt.

So year after year we were required to commemorate this great miracle of deliverance, but we also realized that our deliverance from physical slavery was not sufficient. While we were free in body, we remained bound in spirit. Called by G-d to be his special people, we were not up to the task. It became clear that we required another more profound deliverance. A deliverance from those things that prevented us from being the people G-d called us to be.

We read in the Hebrew Scriptures that through the centuries a new hope in Israel emerged – that there would be another deliverer – greater than Moses – who would rescue us from our spiritual bondage. That person became known as the Messiah.

365/106  Lamb
365/106 Lamb (Photo credit: justmakeit)

It should be no surprise therefore that when Yeshua came on the scene he would be called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). For there is another judgment coming, not only upon one nation, but upon the whole world. But just like the Passover of old, so today we too have the opportunity to see that judgment pass over us, if we apply the blood of G-d’s lamb to our lives.

The death (and subsequent resurrection) of Yeshua the Messiah, foreshadowed by Passover is our protection from G-d’s judgment and our guarantee of eternal life. But like Israel of old, we need to apply what He did to ourselves by trusting in Him, our Passover Lamb.

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Messiah in Purim


English: Esther and Mordechai writing the seco...
English: Esther and Mordechai writing the second letter of Purim. Oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Purim, the Feast of Lots, is observed on the fourteenth day of the Biblical month of Adar (usually February or March on the Gregorian calendar). This is a celebration of the deliverance of the Hebrew people in the Persian Empire over one of the most dastardly plots in history to exterminate them. The biblical book of Esther tells the story of how the beautiful Hebrew woman Esther (Hebrew: Hadassah) and her cousin Mordecai thwart the evil Haman, who plots to massacre the Hebrew people in a jealous rage.


The book of Esther has been referred to as “a monument in the history of anti-Semitism.” The anti-Semitism shown in the book of Esther is ethnically and religiously based, in contrast to the type that is shown in later Hellenistic-Roman literature through to today which is purely ethnic hatred. The Hebrew people have faced elimination as a group many times through ancient, medieval, and modern societies. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” (Psalm 83:4B)


English: "A symbol that Messianic Jews be...
A symbol that Messianic Jews believe was used to identify the first Messianic congregation, led by Yeshua’s brother Jacob in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people are unaware of this, but Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated the feast of Purim! In John 5, the Lord Yeshua is in Jerusalem for an unnamed feast. Scholars have debated whether the feast was Passover, Purim, Sukkot or even Pentecost. Some have objected to Purim because it is referred to as a “minor” feast and not one of the three “major” pilgrimage festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16). However this argument is irrelevant because Yeshua also celebrated another “minor” holiday, Hanukkah (English: Dedication), as referenced in John 10:22.


Chronologically, the only feast that makes sense is Purim in 28 CE. The feast of John 5 fell on a Sabbath (vs. 9). The only feast day to fall on a Sabbath between 25 and 35 CE was Purim of 28 CE. Some speculate that the Spirit of G-d intentionally left out the name of the feast because G-d’s Name was deliberately left out of the Book of Esther. In John 5, Yeshua healed a man who had an infirmity for 38 years near the Pools of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). It is also the first time in His public ministry that He declared, “G-d was His Father, making Himself equal with G-d” (5:18). He also said that He was the “Son of G-d” (5:25) and the “Son of Man” (5:27).


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.” to the Trash”>Trash


Messiah in Sukkot


The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long autumn harvest festival. The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of the Ingathering, Feast of Booths, Sukkoth, Succoth, or Sukkot (variations in spellings occur because these words are transliterations of the Hebrew word pronounced “Sue-COAT”). The two days following the festival are separate holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, but are commonly thought of as part of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles was the final and most important Appointed Time of the year. The importance of this festival is indicated by the statement, “This is to be a lasting ordinance.” The divine pronouncement, “I am the Lord your God,” concludes this section on the holy days of the seventh month. The Feast of Tabernacles begins five days after Yom Kippur, on the fifteenth of Tishri (September or October). It is a drastic change from one of the most solemn holy days in our year to one of the most joyous. The word Sukkot means “booths,” and refers to the temporary dwellings that followers of the Torah are commanded to live in during this holy day, just as the Jews did in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and ends on the twenty-first day (3×7) of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which is Israel’s seventh month.

This holy day has a dual significance: historical and agricultural (just as Pesach and Shavuot). Historically, it was to be kept in remembrance of the dwelling in tents in the wilderness for the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert. It is expounded in Leviticus 23:43, “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

What were they to remember?

1. The meaning of their beginning, and the low and desolate state out of which God advanced them.

2. The mercy of God to them, that, when they dwelt in tabernacles, God not only set up a tabernacle for Himself among them, but with the utmost care and tenderness imaginable, hung a canopy over them, even the cloud that sheltered them from the heat of the sun. God’s former mercies to us and our fathers ought to be kept in everlasting remembrance. The eighth day was the great day of this festival, because then they returned to their own houses again and remembered how, after they had long dwelt in tents in the wilderness, they came to a happy settlement in the land of promise, where they dwelt in goodly houses. And they would more sensibly value and be thankful for the comforts and conveniences of their houses when they had been seven days dwelling in booths. It is good for those that have ease and plenty sometimes to learn what it is to endure hardness.

They were to keep this holy day in thankfulness to God for all the increase of the year; however, the emphasis is that Israel’s life rested upon redemption which in its ultimate meaning is the forgiveness of sin. This fact separates this holy day from the harvest festivals of the neighboring nations whose roots lay in the mythological activity of the gods.

Was the first Thanksgiving a Feast of Tabernacles Celebration?

Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated Sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the Sukkah (and the festival generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. The American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, were deeply religious people. As they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, it is quite possible that they looked to the Bible (Leviticus 23:39) for an appropriate way of celebrating and based their holiday in part on the Feast of Tabernacles.
Note: celebrating Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of November was established by the American government and may not necessarily coincide with the pilgrim’s first observance.

Sukkot, The Festival of Booths

Four days after Yom Kippur, we join together to celebrate Sukkot. The holiday is celebrated from the 15th of Tishri through the 21st or 22nd of Tishri, depending if you live in Israel or in the Diaspora. Sukkot usually falls in late September or early October.

After the harvest from your threshing floor and your vineyards, you shall celebrate the Feast of Booths for seven days. (Deuteronomy 16:13)


You shall live in booths seven days in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:42-43)


Historically, Sukkot commemorates the wanderings of the Israelites, which began with the exodus from Egypt (Passover) and continues with the giving of the Torah at Sinai (Shavuot) and ends with the wandering in the desert for the full 40 years as punishment for the sin of the golden calf. A major agricultural festival, Sukkot is also the third of the shalosh regalim, or three pilgrimage holidays, when it was the custom of Jews everywhere to converge onto Jerusalem every Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Sukkot also marks the end of a long harvest, the time of year when farmers finish their work. Traditionally, this was the time for grapes to be gathered and made into raisins or wine; for olives to be picked and pressed into oil; and fruits to either ripen, or be eaten or stored.

To celebrate their hard work, the farmers and their families would go to the temple in Jerusalem to offer thanks. They built Sukkot, or booths, to remember how the children of Israel built booths in the desert. The pilgrims lived in them for seven days while they, and the families they brought to Jerusalem, celebrated.
This is also why Sukkot is known as hag-ha-asif, the festival of ingathering.

You shall celebrate the festival of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field. (Exodus 23:16)


In addition, because of its strong agricultural elements, some scholars believe that the current custom of building your own Sukkah stems from the harvest when workers would live in temporary huts in fields. They argue that our Sukkot with their open roofs bear more resemblance to the harvester’s huts than they do with the dwellings the Jews lived in the desert.

Sukkot is a happy festival. In biblical times, Sukkot was considered to be the most important festival. It was actually referred to as ha-chag, The Festival (Kings 12:32). King Solomon chose Sukkot as the holiday during which he consecrated the first temple. It was also the occasion every seven years for the ceremony hak’heil, the public reading of the Torah before the whole people (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). Sukkot is also said to be the festival of the future, when in the messianic period, all nations will come to Jerusalem and celebrate.

The only time celebrating Sukkot was suspended was during the Babylonian exile since the festival was so connected to rejoicing at the temple and harvesting the land. During the next century, when the Jews returned to Israel under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, they were ready to embrace the Torah’s commandments. The Jews, ecstatic to be reunited with the land, built Sukkot out of olive, pine, myrtle, and palm branches. The importance of Sukkot continued during the second temple era, with pilgrims coming to Jerusalem from Jewish communities all over. They participated in praying and singing and joining in the religious processions.

The etrog and the four species- palm, willow and myrtle, which are bundled together to make a lulav – became part of the ritual.

Arba Minim: The Four Species

On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the L-RD your G-d for seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)


Another observance during Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species (arba minim) or the lulav and etrog. We are to take these four plants and use them to “rejoice before the L-rd.” The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; in English it is called a citron), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav, because the palm branch is by far the largest part. The etrog is held separately. With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that G-d is everywhere. Detailed instructions for this ritual can be found under Sukkot Blessings.

The four species are also held and waved during the Hallel prayer in religious services, and are held during processions around the bema.

Why are these four plants used in this service? It can be said that they represent different parts (or Believers) within the body of Messiah. The etrog, which has both a pleasing taste and a pleasing scent, represents those who have achieved both knowledge of Torah and performance of mitzvot. The palm branch, which produces tasty fruit, but has no scent, represents those who have knowledge of Torah but are lacking in mitzvot. The myrtle leaf, which has a strong scent but no taste, represents those who perform mitzvot but have little knowledge of Torah. The willow, which has neither taste nor scent, represents those who have no knowledge of Torah and do not perform the mitvot. We bring all four of these species together on Sukkot to remind us that every one of these four kinds of Believer is important to G-d, and that we must all be united as we grow together in Him.

Sukkot changed little following the destruction of the second temple. However, in its memory, Rabbi Yokhanan ben Zakkai, a leading rabbinic authority at the time, instructed that ceremonies using the four species be performed every day of the week except on Shabbat, even though the Torah only commands to use them on the first day of the festival (Leviticus 23:40).

Sukkot Berachot (Blessings)

Stand facing the east (or whatever direction is toward Jerusalem from where you are). Take the etrog in your left hand with the stem (green tip) up and the pitam (brown tip) down. Take the lulav (including the palm, myrtle and willow branches bound together) in your right hand. Bring your hands together and recite the blessing.

Barukh atah Adonai, Elohaynu, melekh ha-olam
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe

asher keedishanu b’meetzvotav v’tzeevanu
who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us

al n’tilat lulav (Amein)
to take up the lulav (Amen)

After you recite the blessing, turn the etrog so the stem is down. With the lulav and etrog together, gently shake forward (East) three times, then pull the lulav and etrog back in front of your chest. Repeat this to the right (South), then over your right shoulder (West), then to the left (North), then up, then down.

Hoshanah Rabbah

“L-rd Save, with great (power)!”

The seventh (and last) day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah. Tradition records that the heavenly decrees made on Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah (and sealed on Yom Kippur) are actually sent out on Hoshana Rabbah. Our sages taught us that the nations of the world are judged on this day.

“Yes! I tell you that there are some people standing here who will not experience death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom!” Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. As they watched, he began to change form—his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light. Then they looked and saw Moshe and Eliyahu speaking with him. Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Lord. I’ll put up three shelters if you want—one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” he said, “Don’t be afraid.” So they opened their eyes, looked up and saw only Yeshua by himself. As they came down the mountain, Yeshua ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The talmidim asked him, “Then why do the Torah-teachers say that Eliyahu must come first?” He answered, “On the one hand, Eliyahu is coming and will restore all things; on the other hand, I tell you that Eliyahu has come already, and people did not recognize him but did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way, the Son of Man too is about to suffer at their hands.” Then the talmidim understood that he was talking to them about Yochanan the Immerser. (Matthew 16:28-17:13)


(See also Mark 9:1-13 and Luke 9:27-36)

For when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, we did not rely on cunningly contrived myths. On the contrary, we saw his majesty with our own eyes. For we were there when he received honor and glory from God the Father; and the voice came to him from the grandeur of the Shechinah, saying, “This is my son, whom I love; I am well Pleased with him!” We heard this voice come out of heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)


The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Yeshua was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”

Then Yeshua, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

“Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:12-19)


Shemini Atzeret

The day following the seventh day of Sukkot, called Shemini Atzeret (The Eighth Day of Assembly), was reserved for a special set of sacrifices for the benefit of Israel and for a special prayer for rainfall. Not completely understood, Shemini, meaning eight, and Atzeret, meaning solemn assembly; referred to an extra set of rituals performed at the close of the holiday. A midrash, or allegory, explains that as the children of Israel are about to take leave of G-d after having rejoiced with Him since the beginning of Rosh Ha Shanna. G-d, like the parent of a child about to end a cherished visit, says, “It is difficult to have you leave me. Stay another day.”

Simchat Torah

As life in the Diaspora continued, it became customary on the second day of Shemini Atzeret, to remove Torah scrolls from the ark and circle around the bimah, the traditional stage located in the center of the synagogue where the Torah is read. The timing of the celebration is significant in that the cycle of Torah study begins anew at the following Shabbat. The celebration marks the completion of a whole year of Torah study and the anticipation of what HaShem will teach is as we begin again.

Named Simkhat Torah, “rejoicing with the Torah”, the custom became its own holiday, especially for children, with dancing and singing in the synagogue and festive meals at home. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated together on theday after the seventh day of Sukkot.

In modern times, the custom of building Sukkot was reestablished in the early 1900s. Since then, Jews everywhere celebrate the seven or eight days of Sukkot, (depending where you live) including Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah from the Diaspora and from Israel.

Messiah in Yom Kippur

Purpose of the Sacrifices

Believers know that Yeshua has provided our atonement.

…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua. (Rom. 2:23-24)


God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. Yeshua’s death fills full our understanding of the atonement ritual of the Temple in Jerusalem. The book of Messianic Jews/Hebrews explains the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement as a pattern of the atoning work of Messiah. Yeshua is our high priest, and His blood on Mount Moriah is seen as symbolized in the blood of bulls and goats. As the high priest of the First Covenant entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of his sacrificial system, so Yeshua entered heaven itself to appear before Hashem on behalf of His people (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:11-12).

The Mishkan was designed, in part, to teach us that sin hindered access to the presence of God. Only the high priest, and he only once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies, and then not without taking blood offered to cover sins (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:7). Messianic Jews/Hebrews notes that the Levitical offerings could effect only the purification of the flesh. They ceremonially cleansed the sinner, but they could not bring about inward cleansing, the prerequisite for fellowship with God. Just as the high priest had to be sinless to enter the Holy of Holies and live, so Yeshua had to be sinless to live after He entered the grave.

A New High Priest

But Messiah having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify to the cleanness of the flesh: how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:11-14)


The high priest had to offer sin offerings each year for his own sins and the sins of the people. This annual repetition of the sacrifices served as a reminder that perfect atonement had not yet been provided. Yeshua, however, through His own blood effected eternal redemption for His people.

The First Covenant offerings served as a pattern and a prophecy of Yeshua, who, through His better sacrifice, cleanses the conscience from dead works (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:13-14). God always determined what was an acceptable offering and what was not. He finally provided His Son, the Lamb of God, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (John 1:19; 3:16).

The moment Yeshua died, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51). The earth quaked beneath men’s feet. This event is important because it established Yeshua as being the new High Priest and Lamb of God. Yeshua, through a new and living way has entered heaven itself, the true Holy of Holies, where He ever lives to make intercession for His people. The believer need not stand afar off, as did the Israelite of old, but may now through Messiah approach the very Throne of God. Yes, it is now possible for each of us to have direct access to God through the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach.

The Two Goats

After purifying the holy place and the altar of burnt offering with the mingled blood of the bullock, the High Priest went to the eastern side of the court in front of the Temple. Facing him were two identical goats. Nearby was a lottery box especially designed for this ceremony. In the box were two tablets (lots). One bore the name “For God,” the other “For azazel” (the scapegoat). The high priest shook the box and withdrew the tablets, putting one tablet in front of each goat. The goat labeled “for God” was sacrificed. The priest laid his hands upon the goat’s head labeled “for azazel” and confessed over it the sins of the people. The scapegoat symbolically bore the sins of the nation of Israel away from the people. This goat, commonly called the scapegoat, was then driven into the desert.

In the same way Yeshua was brought before Pilate and stood before the people just as He was about to be led forth, bearing the iniquities of the people. These two goats were required for one sacrifice (Leviticus 16:17, 21-22). Both sacrifices were fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. How can resurrection be portrayed in a sacrifice? By using two animals, one killed, the other set free, representing Yeshua’s death and resurrection.

And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:7-10)


And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:18, 22)


Tradition based on Isaiah 1:18 states that a cord of red wool was tied on the horn of the scapegoat, before it was let go in the wilderness. When the red wool turned white, it was a sign that God forgave the people’s sin.

Come now, and let us reason together, says 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. (Isa. 1:18)


The Priests used to bind a shining crimson strip of cloth on the outside door of the Temple. If the strip of cloth turned into the white color, they would rejoice; if it did not turn white they were full of sorrow and shame. (B.Tulmid Tractate Yoma 67a)


The great sages teach that the Shechinah glory of God left the Temple forty years prior to its destruction. Three signs occurred to show evidence of this:

1. The western candle of the menorah refused to burn continually.
2. The doors of the Temple would open of themselves.
3. The red wool no longer turned white supernaturally. This is especially significant because it indicated that God was no longer forgiving the sins of His people. The people were sorrowful because they began to realize more and more that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur did not have the power to cleanse their sinful hearts. That very year Yeshua started His ministry, the very year that the blood of bulls and goats was no longer accepted as a sacrifice for the atonement of sin.

Prophetic Significance

These days are most likely a picture of the Rapture (Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah, Feast of Trumpets), the Judgment of National Israel (the Tribulation, Yom Kippur), and the second coming and Kingdom (Sukkot). The Messiah made two promises before He returned to our Father. He would send the Comforter (Shavuot, Pentecost) and He would come again.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:3)


The Bible clearly states Yeshua will return immediately after the Great Tribulation.

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:24-26)


The apostle Kefa (Peter) wrote about this awesome Day of Judgment. He declared:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are in it shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. (2 Peter 3:10-13)


When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-34)


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)


In the coming judgment, there is forgiveness and mercy and grace to those who have already received Yeshua the Messiah our Lord and Savior, Who gave His life as a ransom for us! Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)


Messiah in Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah)


Feast of Trumpets

The blowing of trumpets is a sign of the return of Messiah and memorial of God’s grace to Abraham when He substituted a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac (Gen. 22). Isaac is a type of foreshadowing of Messiah Yeshua. Just as Abraham offered his son on the altar, God offered His son on Moriah’s altar. Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 11:17-19 says:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Both Isaac’s and Messiah’s births were miracles. Both were obedient to the point of sacrifice.
Trumpets were used in giving signals of war. Yeshua is the commander of the army of God. The Hebrew people were looking for a deliverer who would defeat the Roman army. Yeshua came, the first time, to defeat the work of Satan and the sin in men’s hearts. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:15).

In the same way this Holy Day speaks to the Believer about spiritual warfare.

Put on the whole amour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Because of this take unto you the whole amour of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Yeshua is our armor because He defeated Satan. When we put on Messiah we will triumph over evil forces. (Eph. 6:11-13)

The Feast of Trumpets can be a very special time for believers in Messiah. Our sins are not forgiven just when we “believe.” James 2:19 says:

“You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devil also believes, and trembles.”

To be forgiven, we must have a repentant heart. We must come in submission to our Heavenly father, asking for forgiveness, knowing that He will forgive us, as a father forgives his child. That forgiveness which we seek has been guaranteed–bought and paid for by Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice on the tree.

Prophetic Significance

The Feast of Trumpets is a major festival. The three major festivals are Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Trumpets. We know Passover represents the sacrifice of Messiah, and Pentecost represents the coming of the Holy Spirit, so it stands to reason that the Feast of Trumpets represents a very special time.
The trumpet was the signal for the field workers to come into the Temple. The high priest actually stood on the southwestern parapet of the Temple and blew the trumpet so it could be heard in the surrounding fields. At that instant the faithful would stop harvesting, even if there were more crops to bring in, and leave immediately for worship service. On Rosh Hashanah, a series of one hundred trumpet blasts is sounded to announce the setting up of the eternal court, with the trumpets heralding God as the all-seeing, all-knowing Judge of the Universe. Jewish tradition says that this court date is to find out who are righteous and have their names in the Book of Life through the Messiah. All other people are a mixture of good and bad, and God in His mercy will delay their court date for a period of time to allow them to try and prepare a proper defense. The second court date is on Yom Kippur.

The Wedding

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

It is possible that Rosh Hashanah will be fulfilled when the Messiah comes on the clouds, the dead in Messiah rise to meet the Lord in the air, and those who are alive are changed in an instant in the blinking of an eye to an eternal, immortal body. All of those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life have open and shut cases and are righteous, not by their own deeds, but by the blood of the Lamb.

Rabbis have taught that after being resurrected on the Feast of Trumpets, the righteous would enter the chupah (wedding canopy) to spend seven years while the “day of trouble” (tribulation), the seven years of judgment occurs on earth. By examining an ancient Jewish wedding, we can more clearly see the picture of the union of the Messianic Community (the bride) with the Messiah.

When a man in ancient Israel married, he went to the bride’s house with a “bride price” and made a contract (covenant) with the girl’s father. If the father accepted the man and his bride price, the man would pour a glass of wine. If the girl drank it, it would indicate that she accepted the man’s proposal and they were betrothed. The man would go away and prepare a wedding chamber for his bride. When the man’s father deemed that the wedding chamber was ready, usually one to two years later, the man would return to the bride’s house and “steal” her away “like a thief in the night” at an hour when no one would suspect. He would take her to the wedding chamber for seven days. During this time, the groom’s father would hold a party to announce the marriage. At the end of the seventh day, the married couple would emerge from the chamber and partake of the marriage supper.

The ancient Jewish wedding is a picture of Yeshua the Bridegroom and His bride, the body of Messiah. The contract (covenant) was sealed at the Last Passover when Yeshua shared the covenant cup with His disciples.

And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. (Mark 14:24)

Yeshua, in speaking to the Disciples after the last Passover said the same words that any Jewish man would tell his betrothed.

In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)

And, of course, Yeshua paid the “bride price” with His life. The marriage of the Believers to Yeshua is described in several Bible texts.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)

The Jewish wedding ceremony is another beautiful shadow of Messiah’s return.

Teshuvah and Days of Awe

The forty-day season called Teshuvah (return or repentance) starts thirty days before the Feast of Trumpets, and is a shadow of God’s prophetic plan. The entire ten days from the first day of the Feast of Trumpets through the Day of Atonement are known as the Days of Repentance or Days of Awe. The days between may be a picture of the tribulation. The days between the Feast of the Trumpets and Day of Atonement reflect the seven-year period of Jacob’s Trouble. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it (Jer. 30:7). One theory divides the days as follows:

  • The thirty days of the month of Elul —the body of Messiah
  • The Day of the Feast of Trumpets—the Rapture
  • The days between the Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement—Tribulation
  • The Day of Atonement—the Second Coming

For thirty days the shofar is blown every morning in the Synagogue to remind the people that the holy days are approaching, in order that they may prepare themselves. Their preparation consists of confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness along with a change in life, if needed. The Jews’ earnest prayer is that their names may be written in the Book of Life. This might represent the period before the rapture—calling people to repentance. One’s name is written in the Book of Life only when he or she has a repentant heart and comes in submission to our Heavenly Father, asking for forgiveness through Yeshua’s death and resurrection.

Coronation of Yeshua, Our King

Jewish eschatology teaches that on the Day of Atonement after six thousand years are complete, the Day of the Lord will come. On that day the shofar will sound, the righteous will be resurrected and will attend the coronation of the King. According to Jewish eschatology, the gates of heaven are opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed on Yom Kippur. This brings us to the book of Revelation, chapter 3:7-11. Note the two words here that relate to Rosh Hashanah: open door (as the gates of heaven are opened on Rosh Hashanah) and crown (as in a coronation).

And to the angel of the Congregation’s in Philadelphia write; These things say he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take thy crown. (Rev. 3:7-11)

Daniel 7:9-14 also speaks of the Messiah returning to reign as king.

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit… thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened [The Day of Judgment]. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [Jesus] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

In Revelation, chapters 8 through 10, the seven trumpets and the “Mystery of God” are revealed at the final blast:

And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And swear by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. (Rev.10:5-7)

Remember, whatever theory you believe, you should have joyful expectations (Titus 2:13) and be patiently waiting in obedience (1 Cor. 1:7, 1 Tim. 6:14). Celebrate Rosh Hashanah by teaching about repentance, renewing your heart toward God, and looking forward to the Second Coming of our Lord!