Daily Archives: March 3, 2013

Jewish holidays and harvests

I was confused by a couple of things I noticed in the Jewish holiday schedule. For example, Exodus 23:14-16 says, “Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me.” These are designated as the feasts of

(1) unleavened bread,

(2) the grain harvest, and

(3) the ingathering.

I already knew that the Feast of First Fruits falls during the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. Since First Fruits is a harvest grain offering, I was puzzled why the second festival is for “the grain harvest” and then why is there yet a third harvest festival for “when you collect your produce from the fields.”

Three harvest festivals? We only have the one at Thanksgiving. Not that I know diddly about farming. And of course, the climate is very different in the Middle East. But when I was young and asked Ma or Pa Hyphen a question, they always gave me the same answer. “Go. Look. It. Up.”  That used to mean, “Hit the dictionary and the World Books.” Now it means “Hit the internet.”

Harvest times in Israel

SPRING = GRAIN harvest

  • The most important food crops were BARLEY and WHEAT.
  • Barley matures faster, so is harvested first.

Pilgrim Holiday (1) The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the BARLEY harvest.

  • It begins at the start of Nisan 15, when the Passover (or Pesach) Feast is eaten and goes until sunset of the 21st. Nisan is the FIRST MONTH on the Jewish calendar.
  • This feast begins after sunset on the 14th day by our reckoning, because Jewish dates go from sunset to sunset, ours from midnight to midnight.
  • The Feast of First Fruits (of barley harvest) is celebrated on the day after the Sabbath during that week.
  • The Jews especially remember the Exodus event during this time.
  • Christians remember Christ’s death on Passover and His resurrection, because the first Easter landed on the Feast of First Fruits that year.

Pilgrim Holiday (2) The Feast of the Grain Harvest celebrated the WHEAT harvest.

  • It is celebrated 7 weeks after Passover, so is also called Shavuot – i.e., the Festival of Weeks.
  • At this time, the Jews celebrate when God gave them Torah in the desert.
  • Christians use the Greek word Pentecost (which means 50 days) for the holiday on which we celebrate the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the twelve Apostles of Christ.
  • It’s also called Whit Sunday, Whitsun, or Whit, especially in England, but I don’t know why.
  • The birthday of the Old Testament church is on the same day as the birthday of the New Testament church. 🙂

SUMMER = FRUIT harvest

  • Summer was for harvesting fruits and seeds.
  • Vegetables were of little importance in their diet.

Pilgrim Holiday (3) The Feast of Ingathering celebrated the FRUIT harvest.

  • It falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tishri).
  • Ingathering is also called Sukkot, Booths or Tabernacles.
  • Jews build walled structures out of plant materials as a reminder of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of in the desert.
  • Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people sleep there as well.
  • Sukkot is the third holy day in Tishri.
    • (a) Rosh Hashana (literally “head of the year”) is celebrated on Tishri 1. It is also called the Feast of Trumpets and Jewish New Year. Since the grape harvest starts about 3 months beforehand, there’s plenty of new wine for this celebration. 🙂
    • (b) Yom Kippur is celebrated on Tishri 10. Also known as the Feast of Atonement, it is the holiest day of the year for the Jews, a time for fasting, prayer and repentance.
    • (c) Sukkot marks the conclusion of the Jewish religious year.

AUTUMN = OLIVE harvest: Most of the olive harvest is after the autumn Holy Days.

I’m still puzzled about one thing. Does anyone know why they call Rosh Hashanah “New Year” when it is celebrated on the first day of the SEVENTH month?

Sources:

Harvest Seasons of Ancient Israel @ http://www.gci.org/law/festivals/harvest

Jewish holidays @ http://www.chabad.org/holidays/default_cdo/jewish/holidays.htm

Jewish holidays @ http://www.hebcal.com/holidays/

Jewish festivals @ http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/festivals_2/2.html

Pentecost @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecost

Sukkot @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot

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