Controversies Involving Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer – February 2018 OIM News


February 2018

At the conclusion of this month on the 14th of Adar (February 28th), the worldwide Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities will be observing the Feast of Purim (Esther 9:26-32). The Book of Esther is typically read or reflected upon through plays or skits, and the reader of the megillah or scroll of Esther discovers how one wicked person, Haman, was almost able—except for the providential protection of the Almighty One—to annihilate the Jewish population of the Persian Empire. How could this near tragedy occur, you might ask? As I reflected upon that possibility, in light of what has been transpiring in the United States government in recent years, I saw some distinct parallels.

First, I was reminded of how the “evil tongue” or lashon hara (slander, lies, mistruths, etc.) was effectively used to incite the possible murder of untold thousands of Jewish souls, by one anti-Semitic individual placed high in Persian government circles. In the following passage, because Mordecai the Jew would not bow down to Haman, Haman cleverly convinced Persian King Ahasuerus that all of the Jews must be destroyed because they “did not observe the king’s laws.” Clearly in his lust for power, Haman twisted the truth, as he over-zealously concluded that everyone must pay homage and bow to him:

“Day after day, they spoke to him but he would not listen to them. Therefore they told Haman in order to see whether Mordecai’s resolve would prevail, for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him honor, Haman was filled with rage. But it was repugnant in his eyes to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him the identity of Mordecai’s people. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. In the first month (that is the month of Nisan), in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast the pur (that is, ‘the lot’) in the presence of Haman from day to day and month to month, up to the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Haman then said to King Ahasuerus: ‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose laws differ from those of every other people and who do not obey the king’s laws. It is not in the king’s interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let an edict be written to destroy them. I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who carry out this business, to put it into the king’s treasuries.’ The king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman—son of Hammedatha the Agagite—enemy of the Jews. The king said to Haman, ‘The silver and the people are yours—do with them as you please’” (Esther 3:4-11, TLV).

Secondly, I was reminded in the concluding words of the B’shalach Torah portion (Exodus 13:17-17:16) that Israel will continually struggle with the physical, and apparently also, spiritual descendants, of Amalek, from generation to generation:

“So Joshua overpowered the Amalekites and his army with the edge of the sword. ADONAI said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua, for I will utterly blot out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven.’ Then Moses built an altar, and called the name of it ADONAI-Nissi. Then he said, ‘By the hand upon the throne of ADONAI, ADONAI Adonai will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’” (Exodus 17:13-16, TLV).

This memory took me to 1 Samuel 15, where the graphic description of King Saul’s defeat of the Amalekites is chronicled. But lamentably, Saul does not immediately execute Agag, the king of the Amalekites, but spared him until the Prophet Samuel arrived on the scene. In the following selected passages, the consequences of disobedience are recorded:

“Then Saul struck down the Amalekites from Havilah until you come to Shur, which is close to Egypt. He captured King Agag of Amalek alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag as well as the best of the sheep, the cattle, even the fatlings and the lambs, and all that was good, since they were not willing to utterly destroy them; everything that was worthless and feeble, they destroyed completely” (1 Samuel 15:7-9, TLV).

“‘But I did obey the voice of ADONAI,’ Saul said to Samuel. ‘I went on the mission on which ADONAI sent me, and brought back Agag the king of Amalek—and utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen—the best of what was under the ban of destruction—to sacrifice to ADONAI your God in Gilgal.’ Samuel said: ‘Does ADONAI delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of ADONAI? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Since you have rejected ADONAI’s word, He has also rejected you as king’” (1 Samuel 15:20-23, TLV).

“Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag the king of Amalek.’ Agag approached him in chains, thinking, ‘Surely bitter death has turned back.’ Then Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.’ Then Samuel cut Agag into pieces before ADONAI in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:32-33, TLV).

The result of this encounter was not only Saul losing his kingship, but the Jewish Sages have widely concluded that during Agag’s brief reprieve from death, he had relations with a woman who was a direct ancestor of the aforementioned Haman. Hence, Saul’s lack of obedience perpetuated further physical, and I might add, spiritual troubles, upon the Jewish people down through the centuries.

In addition, by recalling God’s instructions to blot out the memory of the Amalekites, every time the name of Haman is mentioned during annual Purim plays, the audience hisses, boos, or uses noisemakers to derisively mock this wicked enemy of the Jews:

“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way as you came out from Egypt—how he happened upon you along the way and attacked those among you in the rear, all the stragglers behind you, when you were tired and weary—he did not fear God. Now when ADONAI your God grants you rest from all the enemies surrounding you in the land ADONAI your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you are to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19, TLV).

So how do the recollections, of these ancient words and the existence of the spirit of Amalek, apply to today’s challenges in the American government? Obviously, the Apostolic Writings give Believers more insight into the invisible spiritual warfare which has been persistent from the very Garden of Eden, as noted in these statements of the Apostle Paul:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12, TLV).

Here Paul describes the invisible, yet discernible schemes of the Devil, which are being orchestrated by “the angelic Rulers, the angelic Authorities, the potentates of the dark present, the spirit-forces of evil in the heavenly sphere” (Moffat New Testament). When one breaks down these four distinct entities, it is abundantly clear that Satan, the enemy of our souls—coupled with the world and the flesh—is a worthy adversary. But Paul earlier has also described the prince of the power of air, who is working through vessels of disobedience, to thwart God’s chosen with lies and distortions through the very airwaves used for communication:

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins. At that time, you walked in the way of this world, in conformity to the ruler of the domain of the air—the ruler of the spirit who is now operating in the sons of disobedience. We too all lived among them in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind. By nature we were children of wrath, just like the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3, TLV).

It is my contention that the Evil One is using willing accomplices in the various media outlets to spread lies, slander, and misinformation about certain people in leadership using the technological tools currently available. The distortions of character and the blatant lies are difficult to hear over and over. Certain media outlets are making false statements and claims, which are obviously coordinated, because they use the same phrases and words in what has been labeled a “mockingbird” pattern.

So brothers and sisters here is a warning! The same spirit of Amalek (an agent of HaSatan) which attempted to destroy the Jewish people in ancient times, is still seeking to rob, steal, and destroy whomever it can. It seeks to control through perverting the truth. It is alive and well on Planet Earth, circling in the airwaves, desiring to distort justice and create confusion and mistrust wherever it can. So with all this in mind, it is highly recommended that we all pray—like in the days of Esther—and ask for discernment regarding what we hear and see from the multitude of powers and forces that are working constantly to gain our attention, and if possible, our allegiance. We do indeed need to put on the armor of God in order to ward off the wiles of the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-20). May the Holy One of Israel have mercy on each of us, our families, friends, and most especially the Body of Messiah in these trying days!

Chag Samaech Purim!

Mark Huey

Controversies Involving Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer

by J.K. McKee

For people throughout the broad Messianic movement, the appointed times or moedim of the Torah, and the various traditional Jewish holidays and commemorations, are significant moments of celebration, enrichment, and enlightenment. Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah are often reconnecting with deeply significant traditions and customs, practiced not only by their ancestors, but by their immediate family which has yet to recognize Yeshua. Non-Jewish Believers called by God, into the Messianic movement, are embracing things which were practiced by Yeshua and His first followers. When the Biblical and Jewish holidays take place, these are supposed to be seasons of great personal, familial, and congregational unity and spiritual growth. As we reflect upon what the Lord has done in the past, we are to all embody the Psalmist’s grand word, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1, NRSV).

A majority of you who commemorate the Biblical and Jewish holidays experience precisely this: a sense of spiritual fulfillment and unity when they appear in the annual cycle. Yet, it would be entirely inappropriate to introduce you to the appointed times, without also letting you know that these can be periods of division and discord within the Messianic community. Many of you all already know this to be the case, if for any other reason because you have volunteered at your local Messianic congregation or fellowship to help, in some capacity, during the Fall high holidays or with the congregational Passover seder. You probably got a quick lesson in how it is one thing to remember the Biblical and Jewish holidays within the privacy of your own home; it is another thing to remember the Biblical and Jewish holidays in a much larger venue of people who have opinions about the “right way” things are to be done.

Unnecessary divisions and tensions are a part of human living, and whenever you have to help out, usually behind the scenes, with a large group of people remembering something important—it is inevitable that an incident of some kind will take place. This especially involves gatherings where large quantities of food have to be prepared and served, different people have been asked to cook the same item, but each has probably altered a recipe here or there to his or her liking. For a great number of you remembering the Biblical and Jewish holidays at a congregational level, the controversies you will encounter are likely to be involved with the logistical details of how a larger gathering of people can get the most out of them.

I wish all of the controversies involving the Biblical and Jewish holidays in today’s Messianic movement solely concerned “the menu” of traditional foods and recipes offered at congregational gatherings. Most of the controversies involving the holidays actually tend to concern individual people investigating particular aspects or components of a season, either on their own or usually via some Internet source, which challenges a traditional Jewish understanding. While the Messianic Jewish movement, because of its affirmation of Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah, has certainly challenged traditional views of the Synagogue—a wide array of traditional Jewish practices and customs are still observed. In our information age, though, it is very easy for those involved in a Messianic congregation to see the appointed times observed according to a philo-traditional model, but then have such a model either criticized or condemned, by encountering some online media. While not always offered by those within the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement—and sometimes even presented by evangelical Christians opposed to Messianic Judaism—those who tend to challenge Messianic Jewish employment of mainline Jewish traditions and approaches to the appointed times, are not too concerned with the Messianic movement’s original vision of Jewish outreach, evangelism, and Israel solidarity.

Titus 3:9 does astutely communicate, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about Torah, for they are unprofitable and useless” (TLV). Yet at the same time, whether it be the weekly Shabbat service, or seasons such as the Fall high holidays or the Passover—the appointed times tend to be the major periods when one’s local Messianic Jewish congregation is able to reach out to the Jewish community with the good news of Yeshua. You need to know what a number of the common controversies associated with the Biblical and Jewish holidays are, so when you encounter them, you can not only not be disturbed—but you can help stop potential problems before they start. Our list is by no means extensive, but will highlight some of the most common problems you are likely to witness.

The Sabbath Debate

Whether various leaders and teachers want to publicly admit it or not, the fact that today’s Messianic movement holds its main worship services on Saturday, in observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as prescribed in the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15), immediately places it in conflict with most of the worldwide Body of Messiah.

An honest reading of the Gospels and Book of Acts will reveal that Yeshua the Messiah and His first followers, observed the seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat—although Yeshua did come into conflict from time to time with how various Jewish religious leaders and Pharisees applied various Sabbath regulations. As Yeshua poignantly asked, “Is it permitted on Shabbat to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4, TLV). The Sabbath keeping of Yeshua of Nazareth was one where it was permitted to perform the good deeds of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Messiah is indeed witnessed performing significant acts of healing and restoration to people on Shabbat. Later, it is said of a figure like the Apostle Paul, “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2, 2011 NIV). Rather than abandon the institution of the Sabbath as a result of his Messiah faith, Paul used the weekly Shabbat service as a venue by which he could go to a Jewish synagogue, and declare Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah from the Tanach Scriptures.

While there are varied reasons given by modern evangelical Protestants, the most common claims issued for why the seventh-day Sabbath is not observed by most Christians any more are either: (1) The discovery of the empty tomb of Yeshua by Sunday morning necessitates a Divinely-approved transfer of the seventh-day Sabbath to the first day of the week, Sunday. Or, (2) the seventh-day Sabbath has been abolished for the post-resurrection era. Non-Jewish Believers in today’s Messianic movement, as well as many Messianic Jewish leaders trained in Protestant institutions, have been exposed enough to both of these points of view. More frequently than not, Christian people who are supportive of the Messianic movement as a means for Jewish evangelism, will come from a (dispensational) theological framework which approaches the seventh-day Sabbath as an institution which was only intended for Ancient Israel of the past, and not for the worldwide Body of Messiah in the present. Still, even though thinking that the seventh-day Sabbath was a thing of the past, such people will pragmatically recognize that Messianic congregations holding their services on Saturday is an appropriate way to attract Jewish non-Believers to the gospel—certainly in a way that a church which holds its services on Sunday will broadly be incapable of doing.

While it is doubtlessly true that Messianic congregations holding their services on Saturday should attract Jewish people who need to hear the good news of Israel’s Messiah—today’s Messianic community broadly does not think that the only reason why Shabbat is to be observed, is for matters of Jewish outreach. In the future Millennium, the seventh-day Sabbath is unambiguously to be enforced as a mandatory, worldwide observance (Isaiah 66:23), and today we are to largely represent such future realities in our present conduct, as we are able. Shabbat is a time to rest from our labors, commune with God and with one another, and to truly enter into a period of intimacy and union with our Creator. And for many Messianic people, Shabbat truly is a time of physical rest and spiritual refreshment. Attending one’s Shabbat service on Saturday becomes something that many Messianic people look forward to—not just because it is a significant time for worshipping the Lord and for studying the Scriptures—but often because it is the social highlight of the week, where we get to fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah.

Many Messianic people have learned how to carefully interact with Christian people who do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath. They recognize that the focus of our common faith is to be the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua of Nazareth, and rather than condemn those who disregard Shabbat or think it was changed to Sunday—they prefer to invite Christian friends and colleagues to their Messianic congregation on Shabbat, so they can see what makes the Shabbat experience much different than Sunday church. For many, the close community of a Messianic congregation, centered around its weekly service on Saturday, can do more to get people to see the value of Shabbat than any theological argument.

There are scores of Internet teachings out there which over-emphasize how the first day of the week was used in ancient paganism as a religious day—but most Protestants think that Sunday church originated much earlier, in the time of the Apostles (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Yet, few are informed enough from either study of the Scripture or contemporary examinations, that it has been challenged as to whether or not some sporadic references to the “first of the week” seen in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) are actually the beginnings of what would become “Sunday church.” What if various “first of the week” gatherings actually took place on Saturday evening, per ancient Jewish reckoning of time where the new day would begin in the evening—and such gatherings were more reminiscent of havdallah, the ceremony that closes out the Sabbath?

While it is true that by the early-to-mid Second Century C.E., with the death of the Jewish apostles and their major successors, that the ekklēsia largely abandoned the seventh-day Sabbath in favor of Sunday activities—pockets of Christians over many centuries are witnessed to have observed the seventh-day Sabbath as a Creation institution (cf. Genesis 2:2-3). As the shackles of Catholicism were being thrown off, the issue of Sabbatarianism arose in the Protestant Reformation, although most Protestants believing in the continuance of a Sabbath-principle from the Fourth Commandment were actually seen to practice semi-Sabbatarianism—with the Sabbath believed to be changed from Saturday to Sunday. Still, various groups ranging from the Seventh-Day Baptists to the Seventh-Day Adventists have kept the discussion of the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath alive and well in the world of theology. Various resources of note have been released over the past several decades, in favor of, and against, the continuance of the seventh-day Sabbath.[1]

In our external relations, today’s Messianic movement is going to have debates with others about the seventh-day Sabbath. And, there are certainly some significant discussions which have taken place in theological quarters about the ongoing importance of Shabbat. Yet for many of us, we see the Sabbath as a great gift given to people by our Creator, a gift that far too many have dismissed or rejected. So, in our keeping of Shabbat, let us be forever mindful of the famed admonition of Isaiah 58:13-14,

“‘If you turn back your foot from Shabbat, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call Shabbat a delight, the holy day of ADONAI honorable, if you honor it, not going your own ways, not seeking your own pleasure, nor speaking your usual speech, then You will delight yourself in ADONAI, and I will let you ride over the heights of the earth, I will feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob.’ For the mouth of ADONAI has spoken” (TLV).

The Calendar Debate

One of the biggest controversies—which always tends to erupt at the most inconvenient time for Messianic congregational leaders and teachers—involves the Biblical calendar. The appointed times of the Torah are obviously observed on a different calendrical cycle than the Gregorian calendar used by secular society today. In the Creation account it is specified, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14, TLV). The common Hebrew word for month, chodesh, also means “moon,” a sure testament to the Hebrew calendar being lunar based.

During Second Temple times, the Jewish religious council known as the Sanhedrin would have been able to determine and agree when a new month had started, by the visible sighting of the New Moon. When the New Moon was sighted in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and the Sanhedrin could agree, then signal fires were lit, and passed on over many hundreds of miles, signaling to the wider Jewish community that a new month had begun. This system was not exact, but it was what was employed until several centuries after the fall of Jerusalem. In 358 C.E., Rabbi Hillell II introduced a pre-calculated calendrical system for the worldwide Jewish community, now in a broad worldwide Diaspora. A pre-calculated calendar is what is employed by the mainstream Jewish community today.

For today’s Messianic Jewish movement, the issue of what calendar to use for the Biblical holidays is a simple one; the Messianic Jewish movement uses the same calendar as the mainstream Jewish community. When the Jewish community meets for Yom Kippur, so does the Messianic Jewish community. If the Messianic Jewish movement uses a completely different calendar for the Biblical and Jewish holidays, how is it going to best fulfill its mandate of reaching out to Jewish people with the good news of Israel’s Messiah? Attendance at Messianic Jewish congregations peaks during any of the holidays, after all!

While today’s Messianic Jewish movement follows the pre-calculated calendar of the wider Jewish community, it is widely observed that the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement does not tend to follow the mainstream Jewish calendar. A number of fellowships and groups within the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement may be seen to follow the mainstream Jewish calendar, for most of the dates of the Biblical holidays, with a number of exceptions like following the Saddusaical rather than Pharisaical determination of counting the omer to Shavuot. The Saddusaical method of counting the omer reckons “the day after the sabbath” (Leviticus 23:11, NASU) to be the weekly Sabbath during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, whereas the Pharisaical method interprets the Sabbath here as being the High Sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. It is historically documented though that the Pharisaical method was followed in Second Temple times (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 3.250-251; Philo Special Laws 2.162), and it is what is observed in the Jewish community today.[2]

Unlike Messianic Judaism, the independent and mostly non-Jewish Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement will widely follow various calendars of its own invention. Some of these calendars will follow the determination of the New Moon as offered by the Karaite movement in Israel, a Jewish sect which rejects all forms of Rabbinical authority and the commentary of the Oral Torah. At the same time, other fellowships and groups are witnessed to formulate their own calendar on the basis of their own sighting of the New Moon, at a place outside of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, which is usually where they meet. Further complications are witnessed when various groups’ presumed “restored Biblical calendar” interjects speculations on the actual year since the Creation of the universe, but most especially prognostications about the time of the Messiah’s return.

Ultimately, the issue involving the calendar followed by today’s Messianics does concern our approach to Jewish tradition and the authority of the Rabbis. Many people are of the opinion that Jewish religious authorities which have rejected Yeshua of Nazareth, are to be rejected as having any legitimate things to say about any Biblical matters. Others, per Yeshua’s words about the Pharisaical authorities sitting in the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2-3), would conclude that the Jewish religious authorities should be followed in major matters such as what calendar should be followed for the Biblical holidays. Spiritual hypocrisy is actually what is to be dismissed (Matthew 23:4-35), not the dates on which the religious community remembers the Passover. For Messianic Jews, and non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement, following the mainstream Jewish calendar for all of the dates of the appointed times, is as much about Jewish outreach and evangelism, as it is about recognizing that the Jewish religious leaders do have an authority to not be easily disregarded. What kind of testimony is it to Jewish non-Believers, to not stand in solidarity with them during the appointed times—because a completely different calendar may be followed?[3]

Traditional Jewish Liturgy

There is little doubting the fact that liturgy is an important part of traditional Jewish worship, which the Messianic Jewish community is significantly affected by. Any Messianic Jewish service, on Shabbat or otherwise, is going to employ traditional and customary Jewish prayers and hymns. The significant majority of the liturgical prayers found in the siddur are taken either directly from Tanach Scripture, or from the prayers and hymns offered up to God in the worship of the First and Second Temples.

While it might be said that in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, liturgy and traditional prayers make up the bulk of one’s worship activities—a moderate amount of mixed Hebrew and English liturgy is what one tends to find in the Messianic Jewish community, concurrent with what is seen in Conservative or Reform Judaism. For many Messianic Jews, employing liturgy in congregational worship services is not just a vital part of being connected to one’s Jewish heritage and the prayers issued to God from one’s ancestors; it is also a critical part of providing structure and reverence to corporate worship. Many non-Jewish Believers, from various Protestant backgrounds, greatly appreciate the value of liturgy, particularly in its ability to instill a sense of holiness.

Not everyone who comes into the Messianic movement likes liturgy. Some Messianic Jews, who were perhaps raised in Orthodox settings, would prefer that little or no traditional Hebrew liturgy be used by today’s Messianic movement. Those from Pentecostal or charismatic backgrounds, are those who especially frown or oppose any usage of liturgy, as it is believed that only spontaneous forms of prayer are acceptable to God. Statements by Yeshua the Messiah, are typically invoked to dismiss any place for liturgy. Did He not say, “And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7, TLV)? Did He not also criticize the Pharisees of His day, in how they “make long prayers as a show” (Luke 20:47, TLV)? Frequently, there are those who conclude that liturgy only facilitates dead, rigid religion.

Yeshua the Messiah certainly opposed prayers which were repeated over and over by the religious leaders of His day, for the sole purpose of others observing them and being seemingly impressed by false, outward piety. However, how many of us in our spontaneous prayers to God, have ever been led to open our Bibles and read the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or perhaps recite a Psalm? If you have ever done this, you have employed a liturgical style of worship.

Today’s Messianic congregations should not unnecessarily bore people with endless Hebrew liturgy, where one’s worship activities become stale and manufactured. At the same time, liturgical worship does have a place in one’s remembrance of Shabbat and the appointed times. When employed properly, it is something that can be edifying, spiritually enlightening, and above all cause each of us to stand in awe of the holiness of Israel’s God.

Extra-Torah and Extra-Biblical Jewish Remembrances

Within the annual cycle of the Messianic Jewish community, there are various holidays beyond those of the appointed times of Leviticus 23 which are observed. These holidays commemorate events which post-date the Exodus. Within Holy Scripture, Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the schemes of Haman to annihilate them. Mordechai saw to it that an annual remembrance be founded (Esther 9:20-22). Messianic Jewish Believers and most non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement recognize that without the deliverance of Purim, there would have been no Jewish people into which the Messiah Yeshua would be born. They recognize the value of Purim, although from time to time one will find people in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement who (significantly) frown on it. It is their opinion that commemorating historical events in the life of Israel, subsequent to the giving of the Torah, is “adding” to the commandments.

Chanukah, or the Feast of Dedication, is an extra-Biblical holiday commemorating the defeat of the Syrian Greeks and cleansing of the Temple (1 Maccabees 4:59). In the Jewish community today, Chanukah is remembered for eight days, where families and synagogues light the menorah, eat traditional foods such as potato latkes, and give gifts to one another. In Biblical Studies, the events surrounding the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis are imperative to understanding some of the complicated relations between Jews, Greeks, and Romans in the time of Yeshua and His early followers. The Jewish people faced forced assimilation into Hellenistic paganism, and rightly resisted. Today’s Messianic Jewish community appropriately celebrates Chanukah, as did Israel’s Messiah (John 10:22). People in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement will, at times, be found dismissive of Chanukah, thinking that its remembrance is in violation of the Torah—when the celebration of Chanukah is technically similar to American Independence Day or any holiday remembering an important victory over evil.

Your Further Education in the Appointed Times

Whether you are a Jewish Believer in Yeshua, who is reconnecting with his or her heritage as a result of your Messiah faith, or a non-Jewish Believer first connecting with his or her Hebrew and Jewish Roots—every year the appointed times are remembered, is going to be a year of learning something new and important. This might involve further Bible studies, a greater appreciation for ancient histories, or admiring various Jewish traditions and customs. The appointed times possess a significant Messianic substance to them (Colossians 2:17), and as such we should learn more about the salvation history work of Yeshua when we observe them. Given the fact that we are all limited human beings on a steady path toward greater spiritual maturity, we also have the responsibility to learn to act and behave more like Yeshua, and focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8, TLV).


[1] Two books that have widely framed the debate are Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977), defending the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath from a Seventh-Day Adventist perspective, and D.A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1999 [1982 actual publication]), cross-examining Bacchiocchi and defending Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” from a broadly evangelical viewpoint.

A more recent analysis from a Seventh-Day Adventist standpoint is Sigve K. Tonstad, The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009). More general is Christopher John Donato, ed., Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011).

[2] For a further evaluation of technical details, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Omer Count.”

[3] For a further discussion, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Biblical Calendar.”

Introducing the Biblical Appointments – January 2018 OIM News


January 2018

For a variety of reasons, the joyful anticipation for wonderful things to continue in the coming year is riding high! In fact, one way to view the year 2018, from an ancient perspective, is how the Hebrew word chai or life in gematria adds up to the number 18. And if the number two can represent a double blessing, then 2018 has the potential to be an awesome year for those pursuing the Holy One of Israel. Twenty Chai! Mazel Tov!

Later this year, the worldwide Jewish community and many Believers in Israel’s Messiah all over the world will celebrate and recognize the seventieth anniversary of the reconstitution and independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, which just happens to be the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew year of 5708. Now this year on April 19, Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) will be in the Hebrew year 5778. In addition, Independence Day immediately follows Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day in remembrance of Israelis lost to defend their country, commemorated on the 4th of Iyar or April 18th this year.

Biblically speaking, there has always been some special significance to the number seventy or ten times seven. In the Torah, it was the seventy elders who were allowed to approach the Holy One and witness His presence on pavement of sapphire, after the blood anointing of the covenant:

“Then Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins and the other half he poured out against the altar. He took the Scroll of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. Again they said, ‘All that ADONAI has spoken, we will do and obey.’ Then Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which ADONAI has cut with you, in agreement with all these words.’ Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up. They saw the God of Israel, and under His feet was something like a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the very heavens” (Exodus 24:6-10, TLV).

In addition, seventy elders received the same Spirit given to Moses, in order to minister through prophecy to the people of Israel:

“So Moses went out and told the people ADONAI’s words. He gathered 70 of the elders of the people and had them stand around the Tent. ADONAI descended in the cloud and spoke with him. He took some of the Ruach that was on him and placed it on each of the 70 elders. It so happened that when the Ruach first rested on them, they prophesied—but never again” (Numbers 11:24-25, TLV).

Frequently in Jewish and Rabbinical thought, it is concluded that the number of nations created by the Almighty correspond to the seventy people who migrated with Jacob down to Egypt. The sons of Jacob offered sacrifices atonement by the seventy shekels (Numbers 7):

“Your fathers went down to Egypt with 70 persons, and now ADONAI your God has made you like the stars of the heavens in number” (Deuteronomy 10:22, TLV).

Moving through time, one remembers Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy year punishment of the Southern Kingdom, for not observing the Sabbath rest after settling in the Promised Land. But Jeremiah also gives an excellent word that foreshadows the blessings which come with the restoration of Israel to the territory promised to Abraham and his descendants:

“For thus says ADONAI: ‘After 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will visit you, and fulfill My good word toward you—to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,’ declares ADONAI, ‘plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you will search for Me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13, TLV).

A parallel prophecy is found in Zechariah 1, which further describes the Holy One’s inherent love for Jerusalem and Zion, and that in His time, the restoration of Israel will be completed:

“Then the angel of ADONAI answered and said, ADONAI-Tzva’ot, how long will You withhold compassion on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah with whom You have been angry for 70 years?’ ADONAI answered the angel who was speaking to me with pleasant, comforting words. Then the angel speaking to me said, ‘Cry out saying, thus says ADONAI-Tzva’ot, ‘I am exceedingly zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion and I am infuriated with the haughty nations. I was a little angry with them, but they furthered their own calamity.’ ‘Therefore,’ thus says ADONAI, ‘I will return to Jerusalem with compassion. My House will be built there,’ declares ADONAI-Tzva’ot ‘and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.’ Again cry out, saying, thus says ADONAI-Tzva’ot, ‘My cities will again overflow with prosperity and ADONAI will again comfort Zion and will again choose Jerusalem’” (Zechariah 1:12-17, TLV).

Finally in Apostolic era, the Messiah Yeshua Himself chooses seventy people to go two by two to proclaim the good news. With the warnings about potential challenges, the good report was that as the laborers went forth via the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the power of the gospel of the Kingdom ruled over those who demonically opposed the declarations:

“Now after these things, the Lord assigned seventy others and sent them out by twos before Him into every town and place where He Himself was about to go. And He was telling them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Go forth! Look, I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves’…Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Master, even the demons submit to us in Your name!’” (Luke 10:1-3, 17, TLV).

Therefore in this seventieth anniversary year of the rebirth of Israel, it is my prayer that many laborers will be inspired to go forth and faithfully proclaim the good news of eternal life provided by the atoning death of Yeshua. In so doing, as the harvest of souls abounds, may a revival of youth break forth around the world this year of life (chai), as it did fifty years ago following the liberation and recapture of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 during Six Day War. In so doing, may we all witness the Lord’s power once again, as His love goes forth from Zion to the nations of the world:

ADONAI will extend your mighty rod from Zion: ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies.’ Your people will be a freewill offering in a day of your power. In holy splendors, from dawn’s womb, yours is the dew of your youth” (Psalm 110:2-3, TLV).

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years! We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at

Blessings in 2018,

Mark Huey


We are two years away from 2020, and with it the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. I can vividly recall just a mere nine years ago, as 2010 was approaching, how I believed that the second decade of the Twenty-First Century was going to be a substantial period of change and development for our emerging Messianic movement. What issues and topics which had seldom been discussed, were now going to come into the open? What things would take place, which would be positively used by the Lord to help us become a Messianic force for righteousness and good in the Earth?

Have some good things taken place in the 2010s? Absolutely. For myself, I have a more focused life of ministry service than I once did. The ease of technology has enabled me to work at a much faster pace, and reach a diverse number of people with important messages more efficiently. I get to multi-task with multiple computers in my office: one for writing and one for editing audio and video. I have a nice routine throughout the week that gives my life structure, and family and friends whom I love, and who lift me up when I have personal distresses and concerns.

I think for some of us, 2017 has closed with a mixture of feelings. For a number of you 2017 was a very good year. While the American political scene is starkly divided, the president you want is in the White House, the economy is turning around, and certainly the religious freedoms of Believers are in tact. For some of you, 2017 was a year you would like to forget. Traumas and hardships are a part of human life. We learn from them, but we always like to be as far away from them as possible. For me, 2017 was a mixture of good things, not so good things, unexpected things, and even a few surprises.

There were some ministry projects that I set out to complete in 2017, which were completed. The massive volume Salvation on the Line, Volume I was released, covering passages in the Gospels and Acts, addressing the Divinity of Yeshua. Salvation on the Line, Volume II, covering the rest of the Divinity passages in the Apostolic Scriptures, was completed at the end of the year, now in post-production. Originally unforeseen was the release of The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION, transplanting many things from our Practical Messianic commentary series. Planned, but doubtlessly accelerated, was the release of the Messianic Apologetics app for iPhone and Android.

The biggest thing which was completely unexpected for me, was the crash experienced on at the end of July, and the subsequent upgrade and reconstruction of the Messianic Apologetics website. This involved not only reintegration of critical material, but me making significant efforts of seeing that a number of Bible studies from the 2000s were re-recorded, that most of our articles and FAQ entries now have associated audio podcasts, and that we indeed take advantage of new podcast channels on iTunes and Google Play. As 2017 closed, Messianic Apologetics launched a new podcast routine, which each day touching on a particular theme:

Monday: the Nature of Yeshua
Tuesday: The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION
Wednesday: video podcast or blog or new FAQ entry
Thursday: Kosher
Friday: Sabbath or Biblical Holidays

2018 does bring with it a number of new writing projects, some of which have been on the table for a while. These include After the Afterlife which will deal with the future resurrection, the reflective commentary Bible Messages for the Practical Messianic, and progress needing to be made on the Messianic Circumcision Helper, among others. Since being given the primary responsibility for Outreach Israel News in 2017, I have been writing articles to later be used in a workbook called The Messianic Walk. Unlike our ministry’s original workbook Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study, which was mainly produced for small non-Jewish groups investigating the Messianic movement—The Messianic Walk is going to be a direct result of me teaching the New Foundations-New Members class at my local congregation. It will be dealing with the Messianic mission of Jewish outreach, evangelism, Israel solidarity, and the unique dimensions present when Jewish and non-Jewish Believers come together in congregational settings.

Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics have an important job to do in this hour! While we are very economical and do many things ourselves, we still have many legitimate expenses and financial needs. This 2018, we need many of you to step up and to join with us as regular, monthly contributors. Your modest, monthly donation of $50 or $100, is used very wisely and reasonably. It certainly equips us to continue the daily and weekly tasks of providing sound teaching to the people of today’s Messianic community!

J.K. McKee,
editor Messianic Apologetics

Introducing the Biblical Appointments

by J.K. McKee

Why are holidays important?[1] A holiday, as we call it in English, is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as “A day on which custom or the law dictates a halt to ordinary business to commemorate or celebrate a particular event.” Another definition is very simply, “A holy day,” meaning a day set aside to remember something religious.[2] The holidays that we find in the Holy Scriptures give us a great opportunity as Believers to commemorate Biblical history and the work of our Messiah.

In the opening verses of Leviticus 23, we are told, “The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “the LORD’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these”’” (vs. 1-2, NASU). The Hebrew word for “appointed time” or “appointed festival” (ATS) is moed, and its plural form is moedim. It has a variety of meanings, including: “appointed time, place, meeting,” and “sacred season,” “set feast,” or “appointed season” (BDB).[3] It is to be a special time between God’s people and Him. The ArtScroll Chumash tells us,

“…Moadim are the days which stand out from the other days of the year. They summon us from our everyday life to halt and to dedicate all our spiritual activities to them….The Moadim interrupt the ordinary activities of our life and give us the spirit, power, and consecration for the future by revivifying those ideals upon which our whole life is based, or they eradicate such evil consequences of past activity as are deadly to body and spirit and thus restore us to lost purity and the hope of blessing.”[4]

It is important that the “Tent of Meeting,” where Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel met the Lord in the wilderness, is called the ohel moed. It could be understood as the “Tent of Appointment.” Numbers 20:6 says, “Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them.” Using this as a frame of reference, if we truly want the glory of God to appear before us, then the importance of meeting Him when He wants cannot be overstated.

The term for “convocation” (Leviticus 23:1-2), also often used to describe the appointed times, is the Hebrew miqra. It specifically means “convocation, convoking, reading,” in reference to a “religious gathering on Sabbath and certain sacred days” (BDB).[5] It is derived from the verb qara, to “call, cry, utter a loud sound,” “make proclamation,” and “summon” (BDB).[6] The appointed times call us together to rejoice in the Lord, focusing on Him, and make mention to one another of the work that He has done for us.

Many Messianic Believers, especially those who place a high prophetic emphasis on the pattern of the Biblical appointments, define the festivals of the Lord as rehearsals. Certainly, when we celebrate the Biblical holidays we not only remember the historical events in the life of Ancient Israel such as the Passover and Exodus, or the giving of the Ten Commandments, but we also recognize the prophetic fulfillment, both past and future, of Messiah Yeshua in them (Colossians 2:17). We essentially “rehearse” what is to come, in preparation for the Messiah’s return, and we learn important lessons about God’s ongoing plan of salvation history.

Another Hebrew term that is often used in Scripture to describe the Biblical feasts is chag, which AMG defines as “a feast, a festival.”[7] It is derived from the verb chagag, “to hold a feast, a pilgrim feast, to celebrate a holy day…It is usually used in the context of rejoicing and describes festive attitudes and actions, often while on the way to worship or when celebrating a feast.”[8] One of the clear elements of the appointed times is celebration. The moedim are to be times of great rejoicing in the Lord.

The Biblical holidays as outlined in Leviticus 23 may be divided up into three general seasons: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Thus, when someone refers to Passover, he or she may not just be referring to Passover, but also the Festival of Unleavened Bread that occurs immediately thereafter. The listing below provides a brief reference of each of the Biblical holidays in Leviticus 23, and various extra-Torah and extra-Biblical celebrations that are beneficial and edifying to the Body of Messiah.

The Sabbath

Shabbat: Shabbat is the first appointed time given, although there are those who do not reckon it among the moedim, instead considering it to be its own unique institution.

Shabbat (or Shabbos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) is the seventh-day Sabbath. Remembering the Sabbath is considered to be a sign of holiness (Exodus 31:16), where no work is conducted. The institution of the Sabbath is inclusive to all strata of society, including animals (Exodus 20:8-11), and welcomes in strangers and foreigners from outside the community of Israel (Isaiah 56:6-7). Shabbat is regarded as a memorial of both the Creation (Genesis 2:3) as well as the Exodus (Deuteronomy 5:15). Shabbat is a time where there is to be no buying or selling (Nehemiah 13:15), kindling of a fire (Exodus 35:3)—but most especially be a time of delighting in the Lord (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Yeshua the Messiah said that “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NRSV), indicating how its rest is open for all people. However, as Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7-8), rather than Shabbat being legalistically burdensome through undue regulations, Yeshua emphasized that performing acts of goodness were permitted on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-5, 9-11; Luke 13:15).

The weekly Sabbath is a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3), and by Second Temple times was often focused around synagogue worship and study. Shabbat is to be a weekly outward sign that is to distinguish God’s people as they rest from all their work sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening. Messianic congregations usually hold their weekly worship and teaching services on either Friday evening or Saturday morning, often attended with either a fellowship meal (or oneg) and other activities. The Sabbath is often closed with a traditional service known as Havdalah, preparing those who kept it for the next working week. Shabbat will be observed by the entire world in the future Millennium (Isaiah 66:23).

The Spring Holidays

Pesach: Pesach or Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Ancient Israelites from slavery and His subsequent judgment on the Egyptians (Leviticus 23:5-8). The prime element of Passover is the lamb (Exodus 12:3, 6-7), and how the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:12-13, 29-33). The account of the Passover and Ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian servitude, is a theme which is carried on throughout the Holy Scriptures

Customary observance of the Passover in Jewish tradition extending back to Second Temple times focuses one’s attention on the seder meal, a time of retelling the Passover story in the home, by incorporating the elements of unleavened bread, green herbs, bitter herbs, and charoset. Those involved in the seder will follow an haggadah, a basic order of service, which incorporates four cups of wine. The seder plate will be the centerpiece of the Passover evening, where the different elements of the meal will be represented. Throughout the seder meal, green herbs will be dipped into saltwater, remembering the bitterness of Israel’s slavery, charoset represents the mortar used by the slaves to build for the Egyptians, and unleavened bread reminds one of the hasty departure the Israelites had to make from Egypt.

For Believers in Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua, He is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). Passover and the Exodus story are vital to the understanding of one’s salvation! Yeshua’s sacrifice at Golgotha (Calvary) as our Passover Lamb, delivers us from slavery to sin and into eternal life in Him. Yeshua’s Last Supper held with His Disciples (Matthew 26:17-35; Mark 14:1-31; Luke 22:1-23; John 13:1-20), was actually a Passover seder meal. The plagues issued by the God of Israel upon Egypt, not only serve as clear indicators of the judgments of the One True God over the false gods of Egypt—but also speak to the judgments of the Book of Revelation. The Pharaoh of Egypt, is certainly representative of the future antimessiah/antichrist.

Chag HaMatzah: Chag HaMatzah is the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-6). It occurs for one week following Passover, in remembrance of the Ancient Israelites leaving Egypt and having to eat matzah or unleavened bread, the bread of haste (Exodus 12:39). Items without leavening or yeast are to be eaten during this time. Since matzah is without leaven, for Believers in Yeshua it represents His sinless nature for us and how we must remove the sin from our lives (1 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 5:9). Since Unleavened Bread occurs in conjunction with Passover, it is often not distinguished as a separate holiday (see Scripture references for Pesach).

Shavuot: Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) or the Feast of Weeks is more commonly called Pentecost, a Greek-derived name meaning “fiftieth” (Grk. pentēkostē). The Feast of Weeks was originally established as an agricultural festival where the first of the wheat harvest would be presented to God as an offering (Leviticus 23:15-21). Shavuot is also the time when it is traditionally believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Following the giving of the Torah, the Ancient Israelites worshipped the golden calf and Moses destroyed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 19-33). Shavuot or Pentecost is the traditional time when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Believers at the Upper Room in Jerusalem following Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven (Acts 2:1-4). Messianic people can often associate Shavuot with the formal giving of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), concurrent with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 1,300 (or 1,500) years earlier.

The Fall Holidays

Yom Teruah: Yom Teruah is the Day of Blowing, as specified in the Torah (Leviticus 23:23-25). It is remembered as Rosh HaShanah or the Civil New Year in Judaism today, although it is hardly remembered as a January 1 new year. Yom Teruah or Rosh HaShanah was established to be a holy convocation celebrated by the blowing of trumpets, and involves special blowings of the shofar or ram’s horn. This convocation is intended to prepare the people for the ten Days of Awe before Yom Kippur, where unresolved conflicts between others in the community are repented of. Rosh HaShanah has special significance to us as Believers in the Messiah as we will be caught up in the air to meet Him at the blast of the trumpet at His Second Coming (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32). In the past, this was the only time when the high priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies and spread the sacrificial blood upon the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:2; cf. Hebrews 9:3-5). The releasing of the scapegoat is also featured prominently on Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:5-9, 10, 21-22). On the Day of Atonement we are commanded to afflict ourselves by fasting (cf. Acts 27:9), and reflect on our sin. Within the Messianic community, while the final atonement for sin has been offered by Yeshua the Messiah, Yom Kippur is still a time of prayer and intercession, resolving corporate conflicts and sins, and entreating for the salvation of the Jewish people and the world. Yom Kippur has special prophetic significance to us who know Yeshua, because it is likely that a future Yom Kippur will be when the Day of the Lord occurs, when His judgment is poured out upon humanity at the Battle of Armageddon.

Sukkot: Sukkot (or Succos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) is the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths. The Israelites were to dwell in a temporary house known as a sukkah, or a hut covered by leafy branches for seven days (Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12). The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the Ancient Israelites’ journey in the wilderness and how God wanted earnestly to tabernacle or dwell with them. It involves the waving of branches (Leviticus 23:40), and is to be a family affair (Deuteronomy 16). Many think that the American holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots in the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot is also a likely time when Yeshua the Messiah was born (John 1:14), and it will be celebrated by all after His return. Tabernacles will be a critical holiday for all the nations to celebrate during the Millennium (Zechariah 14:1-21).

Shemini Atzeret: Shemini Atzeret (or Shemini Atzeres in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) or the Eighth Day of Assembly is often overlooked as its own separate holiday, coming after the seven days of Sukkot (Leviticus 23:36b-37a). Shemini Atzeret represents the desire of our Heavenly Father to stay with us for one more day, as we reflect back on the tabernacling during Sukkot. It symbolizes how we will live with Him forever in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3-4).

Other Holidays In and Out of the Bible

Chanukah: Chanukah (or Channukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, etc.) or the Feast of Dedication is an eight day holiday commemorating the work of the Maccabees and their defeat over the Syrian Greeks in 165 B.C.E. The Syrian Greeks or Seluecids had conquered the Land of Israel and desecrated the Temple (cf. Daniel 8:21-25), sacrificing a pig and erecting an altar to the god Zeus in it. It was illegal on the threat of death for the Jewish people to circumcise their sons, observe the Sabbath, observe the Torah-prescribed festivals, and eat kosher food. The Syrian Greeks promoted forced assimilation of the Jewish people to Hellenistic paganism. Chanukah celebrates how the Maccabean resistance fought off the Seleucids, restoring Jewish independence, and how the Temple was rededicated (1&2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha). There was only enough consecrated oil to light the candelabra or menorah in the Temple for one day, but instead it lasted for eight days (b.Shabbat 12a in the Talmud). Yeshua the Messiah is witnessed to remember Chanukah, most often appearing in English Bibles as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22, NASU).

Purim: Purim or the Feast of Lots commemorates the story of Esther, the events of which occur after the Persian Empire conquers the Babylonian Empire, which has a large population of Jews dispersed from the Land of Israel. Purim celebrates the defeat of the evil Haman, who had planned to kill all the Jews, and how God’s sovereignty and protecting hand prevailed through the Jewess Esther, wife of the Persian emperor, and her cousin Mordechai. The name Purim comes from the pur or lot that was to be cast to determine when the mass executions were to take place (Esther 3:13). Frequently in the Jewish community, Purim is a time when a customary retelling of the story of Esther is delivered in dramatic form, a tradition which is carried out to various degrees in the Messianic movement as well.

Tishah b’Av: Tishah b’Av or the Ninth of Av is an extra-Biblical fast day when the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem is remembered. Historically, the Ninth of Av has also been a day when terrible, tragic events have occurred to the Jewish people, such as their eviction from Spain in 1492. It has been a time to remember the past and terrible events like the Crusades or the Holocaust.

Simchat Torah: Simchat Torah (or Simchas Torah) or Joy of the Torah occurs on the same day as Shemini Atzeret. It was added by the Jewish Rabbis to celebrate the ending of the reading of the yearly Torah cycle, and to rejoice in the forthcoming reading of the next Torah cycle.

Modern-Day Israeli Holidays

Yom HaShoah: Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Memorial Day is when the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust are formally remembered. It specifically commemorates the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Yom HaZikaron: Yom HaZikaron or Israel’s Remembrance Day commemorates the war heroes of the State of Israel, those who have fought and died for the preservation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

Yom HaAtzmaut: Yom HaAtzmaut is Israel Independence Day when the State of Israel was established as an independent country in 1948. The Zionist cause and early pioneers of the State of Israel are remembered, as are those who have fought and died to maintain Israel’s freedom and independence.

Yom Yerushalayim: Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day commemorates the recapturing of the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.


[1] This has been adapted from a previous edition, appearing in J.K. McKee, Introduction to Things Messianic (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2009).

[2] William Morris, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (New York: American Heritage Publishing, 1969), 628.

[3] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 417.

[4] Nosson Scherman, ed., et. al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 682.

[5] BDB, 896.

[6] Ibid., 895.

[7] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 312.

[8] Ibid., 313.

Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer – December 2017 OIM News


December 2017

As a student of world history, coupled with years of Bible study, significant fifty-year jubilee (Leviticus 25:10-13), seventy-year, and/or centennial anniversaries, regarding Israel and particular Jerusalem, can be a compelling reminder that the Holy One is ultimately orchestrating, or at the very least, allowing the affairs of humanity to proceed with His promises fulfilled. In a unique way, keen observers can detect the handiwork of the Almighty, as distinctive mileposts litter the dusty and bloodied trails of mankind’s steps and missteps down through the annals of time. Such is the case when one revisits the noteworthy actions that have taken place over the millennia regarding the place on Earth where God said He would place His name:

“But when you cross over the Jordan and settle in the land that ADONAI your God enables you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you, you will dwell in safety. Then the place ADONAI your God chooses to make His Name dwell, there you are to bring all that I command you—your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes, the offering of your hand, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to ADONAI” (Deuteronomy 12:10-11, TLV).

“Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a House that My Name might be there. Nor did I choose any man to be a leader over My people Israel. But I have chosen Jerusalem that My Name would abide there and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:5-6, TLV).

For centuries, many faithful followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have viewed world affairs through a prism that reflects the uniqueness of Israel’s prophesied destiny, and Jerusalem’s exclusive claim to be where the Creator God has placed His Name on the globe He created. Hence, it did not escape our attention this past Summer when we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 from the Jordanians, as the Six Day War was commemorated. In fact, because this day was so significant to the State of Israel, the Israelis have an annual state recognized holiday and celebration called Yom Yerushalayim on the 28th of Iyyar.

In addition, this past month, on November 2, the one-hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was also remembered. Shortly thereafter, a century ago, during the final year of World War I, British General Edmund Allenby began the assault against the Ottoman Turks to capture Jerusalem. The Battle for Jerusalem began on November 17, 1917 and ended with Allenby leading his troops into Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate on December 11, 1917. Thus this month it has been 100 years (or two jubilees) since these historic events took place. Might this be another one of the signposts regarding Israel and Jerusalem that God is making evident to Biblically astute observers?

Providentially, this month, the President of the United States has just recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, with plans to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the next few years. This action in and of itself is going to have untold consequences, perhaps negative and positive. However, there has been a recognizable pattern down through the centuries, when a country or people group blesses the Jewish people. Since 1948 (seventy years ago this coming May 12, 2018) when the State of Israel was reconstituted as a sovereign nation on the land promised to Abraham and his heirs, the U.S. has been its strongest and most outspoken supporter. As a result, God’s discernable blessings have flowed and ebbed, contingent upon how America responds to Israel’s needs, as noted in the following passage from Genesis:

“Then ADONAI said to Abram, ‘Get going out from your land, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you, to make your name great so that you may be a blessing. My desire is to bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3, TLV).

We are thankful that the current leaders of our country are making declarative statements to the other nations of the world that at the very least, they are cognizant of what the Holy Scriptures state and want to support the right of the Jewish people to maintain their existence in the Land promised to them millennia ago. As a result, I believe the promised blessings to our country will be obvious to all with the eyes to see and the ears to hear. May we all pray to that end!

This month continues our ongoing series of articles on The Messianic Walk. J.K. McKee has written an importance piece, entitled, “Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer.” It goes through the weekly and annual cycle of the appointed times, how they are often approached by Jewish Believers who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah, and by non-Jewish Believers called into the Messianic movement and embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots. You will be blessed, as we discuss both our family’s experience, from an evangelical Protestant background, in becoming Messianic—but also our experience in serving in congregational leadership, in common cause and unity with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Yeshua.

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years! We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at We thank you for your 2017 year-end giving!

Finally, as we approach Chanukah this month, we want you to take advantage of our ministry’s Messianic Winter Holiday Helper publication, giving copies of this book to family and friends and your home congregational libraries. Each of us needs a more complete understanding of Winter holiday commemorations—especially so we can alleviate unnecessary tensions with those who are doing some less-than-Biblical things. Chag Sameach Chanukah!

Blessings, Mark Huey

Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer

by J.K. McKee

Each of us tends to be a person of habit, and there are ongoing daily, weekly, and annual cycles which tend to give focus and meaning to our lives. Certain days appear on the calendar which have importance to us. We may look forward on a certain day each week, to eat at a particular restaurant having a special. We may look forward to the weekend, to simply relax and not work. We may look forward to a birthday, an anniversary, or a day when something extremely important took place in our individual or family’s lives.

People in today’s Messianic movement have a different life cycle, than those many others who claim faith in Israel’s Messiah. While we have our birthdays and anniversaries like other people—the Jewish and non-Jewish Believers who compose today’s Messianic community, follow a different cycle throughout the week and throughout the year. For many Jewish Believers in Yeshua, being a part of the Messianic movement has been a significant lifeline, especially given the past history of many Jewish Believers who had become part of Christianity. Only until the past century or so, it was normative for Jewish Believers to assimilate into non-Jewish Christianity, its religious holidays, its customs, and for the children of Jewish Believers to quickly forget about their Jewish heritage. After all, it was thought that being Jewish and receiving Jesus meant that one became a Christian and stopped being a Jew. Today, with the Messianic Jewish movement, this is thankfully no longer the case. Not only it is a very Jewish thing to believe in Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah—but it is entirely acceptable to do Jewish things like remembering Shabbat, the festivals of the Torah, and the historical commemorations of the Jewish people.

A significant number of the non-Jewish Believers, whom God has specially called into the Messianic movement at this point in time, have often been led by Him to remember Yeshua in the Biblical feasts. A passage like Colossians 2:17, which speaks of how the appointed times have shadows of the substance of the Messiah, and how various Torah instructions portray elements of His redemptive work, really speak to the hearts and minds of non-Jewish Believers. These are people who want to live more like Yeshua and His Disciples, recognizing themselves as “fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19, CJB/CJSB). As followers of Israel’s God and Israel’s Messiah, and as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), what God has specified for His people and what He has done in the history of Israel, bears supernatural importance.

What does it mean for today’s Messianic people to regularly remember the Biblical appointed times and holidays in Scripture, as well as various commemorations from Jewish history and tradition? Many Jewish Believers see a magnanimous fulfillment of these things, wondering how their ancestors and family members continue to miss the Messiah. Many non-Jewish Believers feel that they had been robbed from past spiritual experiences, which did not include the appointed times of Leviticus 23 and other remembrances, and they can run into significant conflicts with their family and friends over why they are not necessarily observing previous engagements any more.

The Weekly Shabbat

For many Jewish homes, especially more religiously observant ones, the work week culminates in the remembrance of the weekly Sabbath or Shabbat. The Erev Shabbat family dinner is a huge centerpiece in the Jewish community, so much so that many non-religious Jews still think it is important to light candles, break challah, recite blessings, sing songs, and gather around the table together. For those who are followers of Israel’s God, the Erev Shabbat meal is important for maintaining the relationship between not only family members, but also with the larger Jewish community and with its God. This of course is carried over into the actual Sabbath day, frequently with morning services held at one’s local synagogue or temple, including traditional liturgy, Hebrew canting from the Torah, and a message that is typically delivered from the weekly Torah portion.

The Messianic Jewish Shabbat experience, while varied, does rightly incorporate a great number of the edifying traditions witnessed in the Synagogue. It is important that families get together once a week, and share a meal. It is vital that we all come together corporately in worship. And as Messianic Jews remember traditional prayers and customs, sometimes from their own childhood—Yeshua the Messiah being the center of the Shabbat rest, and identifying a number of the Jewish Sabbath traditions originating during Second Temple times, brings great joy and elation to them.

Non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement, observing Shabbat, is frequently a sight to behold. Many eagerly embrace Shabbat and its theme of rest—because they know that all human beings need rest! Admittedly for some, attending Shabbat services is little more than going to “Saturday church.” Yet, for many others, their introduction to Shabbat may have begun when a Messianic Jewish friend invited them into their homes for an Erev Shabbat dinner, and then they got hooked. Others, per the theological traditions of their Protestant heritage, may have looked at Sunday as a proper Sabbath day, including a prohibition on conducting in commerce, but appreciate that they now have embraced Shabbat with the fullness and richness that is seen in Judaism.

The Fall High Holidays

Jewish people of generally all varieties, take some notice of the high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. For the observant, the time period leading up to and around these days is most vital, to make sure that any sins or errors of the previous year, and faults committed against others, are resolved. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are times, for religious Jews, where they believe that God is indeed looking at their hearts, and actively determining where they stand before Him. It is a very serious time for prayer, contemplation, and entreating the Lord for His mercy. Jewish people, who are nominally or non-religious, still tend to make an effort to attend some synagogue service for one or both holidays.

People in the Messianic community, because of affirming Yeshua of Nazareth as the prophesied Redeemer of Israel—while surely admiring customary Jewish approaches to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur—have a much different orientation toward these two high holidays, precisely because we believe that He has been sacrificed for our sins. While it is useful and appropriate that we all try to make amends for the errors we have committed toward our neighbors, and come in corporate confession and repentance as congregations and assemblies—we do not sit in a service, with some angst hanging over us about our sins not being fully taken care of. Instead, we come together in praise of what the Lord has done for us, and we entreat Him for the salvation of Israel and the world. This is especially appropriate, given how many conclude that on a future Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement will be significant events to take place in association with the return of the Messiah to Planet Earth, and the defeat of His enemies.

Following the high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Traditionally in the Diaspora Jewish community, a sukkah or tabernacle is constructed in one’s back yard or at one’s synagogue, where families will often spend time for meals, and invite their friends for socializing. This is also the frequent way Sukkot is observed in the Diaspora Messianic Jewish community, although congregations can make Sukkot a time where there are special teachings or special functions to attract a larger audience. In North America, at least, the Feast of Tabernacles does tend to take place within the Fall, corresponding to various harvest themed activities that one may encounter in the local community.

The Fall holidays of the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles tend to be a major season when Messianic Jewish congregations make a considerable effort to reach out to the larger Jewish community with the good news. Messianic Jewish congregations often advertise to the Jewish people in their city—especially those who may only tend to visit a synagogue once or twice a year—that their congregation not only has Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur services, but that they are free! In many Jewish synagogues, members have to actually pay for their seats—yet Messianic congregations have been especially set up for Jewish non-Believers to come, visit, and be presented with the good news of Israel’s Messiah.

Non-Jewish Believers, whom God has directed into the Messianic movement, tend to have different approaches, or even reactions, to the Fall holidays. Many simply appreciate the reverence, traditional prayers and liturgy, and overall seriousness of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Focusing on one’s individual and corporate standing before God and others is actually therapeutic. And certainly, praying that the Jewish people come to faith in Yeshua, and that the world can experience shalom, is also most vital. At the same time, just as Messianic congregations can have a “flood” of Jewish visitors for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, there can also be many Christian visitors. But, rather than focus on some of the holy themes and prayers of these high holidays, these people tend to rather be focused on being present for what they think might be the season for “the rapture.” Unfortunately, their interest is not so much on entreating the Lord for His mercy toward the unsaved, and His concern that His people be accomplishing His Kingdom purposes.

Most Messianic Jewish congregations holding Sukkot activities do something similar to what is witnessed in the mainstream Synagogue. They are likely to have a sukkah on the congregational property, and they may have some event or major gathering open to the public—which more than anything else gives the congregation significant exposure. A number of congregations and/or Messianic ministries will hold various week-long retreats at a rural campground. (More frequently than not, this is a feature of the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement.) It can be witnessed that attendance at one’s Messianic congregation might be down, because people are off attending some Sukkot function. Regardless of how Sukkot is remembered by your local assembly, make sure that it is a welcoming time, where people notice the presence of the sukkah, they can fellowship, worship the Lord, and truly experience community.

The Winter Holidays

The Winter holiday season is frequently a very tense time of the year, for people within the broad Messianic movement. A definite feature of the Jewish experience, during the month of December, is remembering the holiday of Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication. The events involving Chanukah are mainly recorded in the Apocryphal Books of 1-2 Maccabees, as it involved the resistance of the Jewish people against the Seleucid Greeks—who wanted to see them give up their Torah way of life and assimilate into Greek polytheism—and the subsequent rededication of the Temple after their defeat. In much of the Jewish tradition, the festival of Chanukah is a time when families gather to light the menorah, they eat special foods (often fried), and it is a time to demonstrate good will and happiness toward one another, often with the giving of gifts.

Messianic Jewish congregations observing Chanukah, often transfer over much of the Synagogue communal experience, although as the menorah is lit, Yeshua the Messiah will be emphasized to be the Light of the Word. Messianic teachings during Chanukah do appreciably tend to focus more on the historical record of the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis, the Books of Maccabees, various prophecies of Daniel, and actually what can be learned from the Maccabees’ resistance not only to apostasy from the God of Israel—but how there are vital connections to be made to the end-times, the future rise of the beast, and how Believers in Yeshua need to resist apostasy. And, for our overall Biblical Studies, it does tend to be discussed how the First Century Jewish Believers were affected by the social fallout of the Maccabean crisis, as it did play a role in some of the tensions that erupted between the Jewish, Greek, and Roman Believers, as the good news spread out into the Mediterranean. Overall, Messianic Believers tend to learn new things about how relevant the story of Chanukah actually is for our contemporary lives as Messiah followers today.

Huge controversies can and do erupt during the month of December, regarding how Messianic people are to approach the Christian holiday of Christmas, on December 25. Many Messianic Jews simply do not see Christmas as something Jewish, they do not see it as something for them, but if Christians observe it, they are not going to oppose them. Many Messianic people, particularly intermarried couples often keep both Chanukah and Christmas. Many other Messianic people, oppose Christmas, although for different reasons and with different levels of opposition. Some of this may simply come from December 25 not being a specified holiday in the Bible, or established by the Apostles. Others see Christmas on December 25 as a clear result of syncretism practiced by Christians of the Second-Fourth Centuries, where pagan holidays were reinterpreted and “Christianized” with Biblical themes. Many see Christmas on December 25 as outright paganism, Christmas trees directly prohibited in Scripture (i.e., Jeremiah 10:2-5), and most Christians serving the Kingdom of Darkness. And, a few others, noting some early opposition to Christmas by a number of the Protestant Reformers, see Christmas on December 25 as a symbol of corrupt Roman popery. Those who hold to all of these positions are likely to be found at your local Messianic congregation during the month of December.

All of us should be mature enough as adults to recognize that during the month of December, due to all of the nativity scenes and different Christmas carols, that more people are going to be presented with hearing about Jesus and some form of the gospel, than at any other time during the year. In spite of many of the questionable practices and origins surrounding Christmas, God has brought people to Himself during this time of year. Yet Messianic people should also be wise enough to recognize that the Savior declared today during the month of December, is broadly not the Messiah of Israel, who is returning to reign over Planet Earth from Jerusalem—but is instead a universal Christ of tolerance (for human sin). While many sincere Christian people have honored God in ignorance on December 25, Christmas on December 25 is not a God-honoring activity. Still, Messianic Believers who may observe Chanukah, do not need to be odious to Christian people during this time, creating unnecessary scenes. Wishing “Happy Holidays” when being told “Merry Christmas,” is entirely legitimate.

The Spring Holidays

Usually as the Winter is closing, or as early Spring begins, in North America, the Jewish community remembers Purim or the Feast of Lots. The main focus of Purim is to recall the events of the Book of Esther, and how God used individuals like Esther and Mordecai, to bring about His deliverance of the Jewish people from certain annihilation. The Messianic Jewish movement remembers Purim via many of the same customs and traditions as the Synagogue, and tends to rightfully use it as a time to focus on not only the necessary deliverance of the Jews—for without the Jews there would be no Messiah Yeshua—but also how we can stand against anti-Semitism in our own day.

Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, where the deliverance from Ancient Israel from Egypt, the ten plagues, and the centerpiece of the lamb are recalled—is one of the most important features of anyone’s reading of the Bible. The significance that the Exodus story has had, not just in controlling redemptive and salvation themes throughout Holy Scripture, the self-identity of the Jewish people throughout history, but also many political and reforming movements in history, is quite staggering. Without appreciating the Passover and the Exodus, one is very much likely to not understand salvation history.

Within the broad Jewish tradition, extending back to Second Temple times, the story of the Passover has been remembered via the Passover seder meal. This mainly involves a retelling of the Exodus, the ten plagues upon Egypt, and incorporates the elements of unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. The Passover seder has definitely been adapted throughout many centuries of Jewish history, often for the unique needs of diverse Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora. The Passover account alone should be compelling for all followers of the God of Israel. Yet, today’s Messianic Jewish movement has extended considerable efforts from its beginning, to make clear connections between the ancient Passover seder and the Last Supper meal held between Yeshua and His Disciples, before His sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The Last Supper was a Passover seder, although a very unique one, as the Disciples were being prepared to see their Lord executed in atonement for the sins of Israel, and indeed, all of humanity.

The Passover season is a significant time for the broad Messianic community, not only because of the critical need for us to rejoice in the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah—but because more people get exposed to the Messianic movement during Passover, than at any other time. While Messianic families, or groups of families, tend to often hold home Passover seder meals—inviting many guests—Messianic congregations tend to especially be keen on having a large communal Passover meal, sometime during the week of Unleavened Bread. This is often used as a dual-outreach, first to the Jewish community, as there are many non-religious Jewish people who can especially be reached with the good news during this time—knowing that Passover is, at least, a part of their cultural heritage. Secondly, evangelical Protestant interest in the Passover, has also been quite high over the past few decades. Wanting to understand the Last Supper as an actual Passover seder, as something that Yeshua did and should still be remembered (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), has drawn many evangelical people into the Messianic movement, embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots.

Some tension can erupt in the Spring, over the approach that the Messianic movement has regarding the Christian Easter Sunday. Messianic people absolutely must affirm the centrality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah to our faith! Yet, there is considerable discussion and debate, even among evangelical Protestants, regarding the origins of the term “Easter.” Some think it comes from the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, others from the Teutonic Eostre. This is why in some churches, the terminolgy Resurrection Sunday has been employed. And thankfully for many evangelical Believers, their Resurrection Sunday is precisely about the resurrection of Yeshua, and not about the Easter Bunny or Easter eggs. Some people in the Messianic community can cause a scene with various Christian people, over their observance of Easter. At the same time, other Messianic people properly integrate a remembrance of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection into their home and congregational Passover activities.

During the season of Unleavened Bread, a seven-week or fifty-day period called the Counting of the Omer begins, which leads up to Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost. For Ancient Israel in the Torah, the Feast of Weeks was originally an early harvest festival, but became quickly associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. It was a key pilgrimage festival, noted in the First Century as being the time when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2). There are varied customs and traditions regarding how Shavuot is remembered, which can involve all-night readings of the Book of Ruth, and special teachings from the Mishnah tractate Pirkei Avot or Sayings of the Fathers. In the Synagogue today, Shavuot is a relatively minor festival, but in Messianic settings, the equal giving of both God’s Torah and God’s Holy Spirit, tends to be the focus of one’s commemoration.

Indeed, when one factors in the storyline from Passover to Shavuot, today’s Messianic Believers are presented with all of the key components of a person’s salvation. (1) Men and women are saved from their bondage to slavery via the blood of Yeshua the Lamb, just as Ancient Israel was saved from its bondage to Egyptian servitude via the original Passover lambs. (2) Believers in Israel’s Messiah are immersed in water, reminiscent of the Israelites led through the parting of the Red Sea. (3) Believers in Israel’s Messiah are to receive His charge for living lives of holiness and obedience, just as Ancient Israel was brought to Mount Sinai to be formally given the Torah. And (4) followers of Israel’s Messiah are to enter into His purpose, accomplishing the tasks of the Kingdom of Heaven, similar to how the Israelites were being prepared to enter into the Promised Land.

Remembering Biblical and Jewish Holidays

To any Messianic Jewish family, it is essential and imperative that the Biblical and Jewish holidays be observed. History is replete with too many examples, that when Torah institutions such as Shabbat, Passover, or Yom Kippur are overlooked or not remembered, among others, that Jewish people have a tendency to quickly forget their identity. The Hebrew Christian movement of the early Twentieth Century did not do a good job at emphasizing both the cultural and Biblical responsibility that Jewish Believers have to remember the appointed times. Even today, when Messianic Believers, think that it is acceptable to keep both Chanukah and Christmas, two opposing messages are affirmed. The Festival of Dedication has a theme of resisting assimilation to the world and its ways, whereas the syncretistic holiday of Christmas communicates that it is acceptable to take the ways of the world and “reinvent” them with Biblical themes.

Non-Jewish Believers have been entering into the Messianic community, in substantial numbers, since the 1990s—with the Biblical and Jewish holidays a significant magnet for them doing so. They often conclude that a short Sunday Church service, Christmas on December 25, and Easter Sunday, are spiritually anemic and not able to fulfill all of their needs. A weekly Shabbat rest, the appointed times of Leviticus 23, and edifying extra-Biblical commemorations from Jewish history are found to be very inviting! While there might be some good memories which linger, at times, of past family experiences—the future is embraced as one which not only ministers to the human soul on many more levels, but where one can have the genuine assurance of knowing that you are doing something that Yeshua (Jesus) did!

People being who they are, it has to be recognized that there can be a tendency to think of oneself as being a bit superior, as a Messianic Believer, involved with more Biblical things on a weekly and annual basis—whereas most of the worldwide Body of Messiah, at present, could not care that much about them. Proverbs 16:18 does need to remind some of us, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (KJV). Many who should be considering the value of the Biblical and Jewish holidays—be it Jewish Believers who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah, perhaps rediscovering lost or forgotten parts of their family heritage, and non-Jewish Believers just now considering their spiritual heritage in the Tanach (Old Testament)—can find themselves turned off or even repelled, if we do not have the right attitude.

All of us can, for certain, have an edifying orientation when it comes to either the Sabbath, appointed times, or various extra-Biblical Jewish holidays. When Jewish people who need Yeshua, or evangelical Believers who need to grasp a hold of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, see us—are they attracted to us, because they want to be a part of a loving and Spirit-filled community of Messiah followers fulfilling God’s tasks in the Earth? Do they feel genuinely welcomed and accepted by us, as they are wooed by the Lord to join with us, experiencing great blessings, and being part of the great things that He has in store for the Messianic movement in the days ahead? Do we, in our remembrance of these various holidays, actually live forth their substance in our lives of faith in Israel’s Messiah?