Our family has always had an interest in experiencing the feasts of the Old Testament. We see it as another way to experience God and learn more about who He is. Since so much of the Old Testament was designed by God to foreshadow Christ and His coming, when we participate in Jewish feasts, celebrations, and traditions, we see Jesus in each one. Though we are not required to observe these things, we are blessed by doing so.
When reading the Gospels, we see that Jesus celebrated the feasts. Why not follow in His footsteps? Although traditions have certainly changed since His time on this earth, the principle and the theme of each holiday remains the same. And again, there is much to learn.
My husband and I have been celebrating Hanukkah each year since before we were married, and we began celebrating Passover early on in our married life. These have become very special times to share our spiritual heritage, not only with our children, but also with friends. We have learned so much over the years, and I believe that our children are blessed to have such a tangible understanding of Old Testament traditions and celebrations. Many of the feasts are design to celebrate and remember significant things that the Lord did in the Old Testament, so by celebrating the feasts, we are remembering the great things that God did.
This week, we celebrated The Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, for the second time. I have to admit that autumn is a busy time for us: school starts, schedules change, sports and activites gear up again, bible studies resume. It has always been a tough time to pull together a Rosh Hashanah celebration, especially since the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth) follow in almost immediate succession. It’s a bit daunting. I’m not particularly good at planning these things.
Yet God’s grace and wisdom are greater. The homeschool curriculum for our seventh grader includes Old Testament/Hebrew history this year, and we are including the feasts in our studies. That will provide the information, inspiration, accountability and means to make sure we celebrate all of the feasts this year.
I thought I’d share a little about the Feast of Trumpets since that is what we are currently in the midst of celebrating. Now, before I begin, please keep these factors in mind:
- The Bible does not give a lot of detail about how to celebrate the feasts.
- Jewish traditions have evolved between Old Testament times, the time of Jesus, and today.
- The feasts look significantly different when viewed through the lens of faith in Jesus as Messiah.
- The events and activities that I will describe are not necessarily traditional. I let the Lord lead as I study, plan, and carry out our celebrations. By no means am I an expert on the feasts, and by no means am I trying to change the feasts.
- It is not my intention to offend anyone, neither Jew nor Christian. I am simply sharing our experiences.
With that out of the way, I’ll share about our activities this week. Since the Feast of Trumpets began on Thursday this year, and the Jewish calendar marks the start of a day at sunset the night before, we began celebrating on Wednesday night. As I mentioned before, the Bible does not give many specifics for festivities:
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.’ ” Leviticus 23:23-25
On the first night, we set a lovely table for dinner. We started by having our son blow the shofar (a ram’s horn that often served as a trumpet in the Old Testament). We lit candles and then shared freshly baked (though terribly flat) challah bread and wine/juice, remembering Jesus, who fulfilled the offering requirement of Leviticus 23:25.
Since Rosh Hashanah literally translates to “head of the year” and signifies the Jewish New Year, we sampled apples with honey, showing our desire for a sweet new year. How interesting that we are beginning a new school year, setting new goals, and starting new ventures at this very season.
We then enjoyed a simple dinner. During the meal, we took turns reading Bible verses about trumpets and discussed the ways and reasons that God would sound the shofar. Here are some examples (we chose five and each person read one):
Exodus 19:10-19 ~ the call to meet with God
1 Chronicles 15:24-28 ~ preceded the Ark in procession
Joshua 6 & Judges 7 ~ symbol of God’s power and victory
1 Kings 1:34-39 ~ the anointing of kings
2 Samuel 2:28 ~ call to war/end war
Nehemiah 4:20 & Jeremiah 6:17 ~ enemy approach
Psalm 150:3 ~ call to worship & praise
Isaiah 58:1 ~ call to repentance
1 Corinthians 15:52 ~ at the Rapture
Matthew 24:31 ~ at the second coming of Christ
(Note: For many who do not have a shofar at home, you can listen to the various calls and types of shofars on YouTube. Children would enjoy blowing any other kind of horn available at home or at the store.)
On the second night of the Feast of Trumpets, we shared another dinner with shofar blowing, candles, challah bread, wine/juice, and apples with honey. Traditionally, Jewish families would participate in an outdoor Tashlich ceremony in the afternoon before dinner. However, because it was 106º that afternoon, we chose to have dinner first and experience the outdoor activity later when it was cooler.
Tashlich literally means “casting off”. It is a great illustration of how God treats our confessed sin and how we ought to regard our sins. This activity is fun for the kids and extremely meaningful! For Jewish families, this is one of the ways that they prepare for the next feast, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
We started by collecting rocks, which symbolize our sins. My older girls wanted to write some specific sins on the rocks before we left home.
We put the rocks in our pockets and drove to the Riverwalk area near our home.
We each read a scripture that illustrated what we were about to do.
“Lord, you will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea.” Micah 7:19
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.” Psalm 103:12
“So overflowing is His kindness toward us that He took away all our sins through the blood of His Son– by whom we are saved.” Ephesians 1:7
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us cast aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12
We let the kids cast the rocks into the water as they were ready. Our little guy went straight to it and commented that he didn’t have enough rocks. This momma was grateful for all the various meanings of that statement.
The girls were more contemplative, as was I.
Some of the rocks signified things that needed to be let go of and forgotten. The enemy is so able to bring our confessed sins to the forefront of our minds and breed condemnation. The casting of the rocks was very freeing as I made a decision to accept grace and forgiveness.
Other rocks symbolized sins that needed to be cast aside. Temptation looms and entices each day. The hurling of these rocks strengthened my resolve to heed the Spirit’s warnings and guidance when temptation comes.
I wish I could say we returned home to rest, but since it was a weeknight, there were dishes to do and homework to finish, showers and bedtimes to keep. However, the visual of our Tashlich time at the water’s edge stayed with us all evening.
One of the most valuable things I learned in the midst of our feasting and celebrating was that simple things can come together in such meaningful ways. How many years had I chosen not to celebrate this particular feast because I thought it took too much preparation? The hardest thing was making the challah bread, but I could have easily bought it from the Vons bakery. Two very memorable nights came together much easier than I anticipated, and it has fueled my courage to try more things in the future.
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