I believe it’s important to acknowledge the context and history of things as we study them out, regardless of whether we agree with or like the ideologies of the time or not, or whether things today mean the same as they once did. As I mentioned in my first post, the main issue many people have with many holidays celebrated today is their roots in pagan idolatry, mythologies, folklore, and witchcraft. We are told in the Bible how we’re not supposed to worship our God, YHVH, in the ways of “the nations,” “the Canaanites,” or “the pagans.”
“YHVH said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “I am YHVH your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am YHVH your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am YHVH”‘” (Leviticus 18:1-5).
Keeping this in mind, I’ll continue to do a quick breakdown of each holiday with resources for a more in-depth look, followed by if or how my family currently observes each one.
Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day began as a day to commemorate and honor Patrick, a Christian missionary and Catholic patron saint of Ireland. It was a religious day that Christians would celebrate by going to church in the morning, followed by parties with food and dancing. Over the years, this holiday was adopted by cultures worldwide, often taking on new traditions as new peoples joined in. So what are these traditions, and what are their origins?
The shamrock, or the however-many-leafed-clover, is said to be linked to this day due to Patrick’s alleged use of it in explaining the Holy Trinity to the Celtic Irish pagans. Seeing as 9,999 of every 10,000 clovers is said to have 3 leaves, it would make a ready and easy tool to use as a picture, with the 3 leaves all being one on the plant while remaining separate. However, according to Irish Central, “The facts are that there is no evidence at all that Saint Patrick used the delicate little plant as a conversion tool at Tara or anywhere else for that matter… [Patrick] never mentioned shamrock in his many writings about his conversion campaign at that time. The facts are that any link between the good saint and shamrock did not appear until English writers and botanists began mentioning the myth as hearsay about 1571.”
To add, Explore Blarney says, “The number three was believed to have magical properties long before the Saint’s arrival and it is a recurring theme throughout Celtic folklore. Consequently, the three petals of the shamrock were considered to be imbued with bring good luck.” What this means is that the shamrock is more likely to have leaked into the holiday later on with the Irish patriotism, rather than being of any religious significance, or even having any link to Patrick at all.
You may also find the occasional snake on decorations, shirts, costumes, etc. relating to Saint Patrick’s Day. This is due to the legend that Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland during his missions work, but in fact Ireland was never home to snakes. As Popular Science says, “Legend has it that, back in the fifth century A.D., St. Patrick exterminated Ireland’s snakes by driving them into the sea. He would appear to have done a thorough job, because Ireland is free of native snakes to this day… Except, Ireland never actually had snakes.” (They then link to National Geographic with more background on it should you be a member on their site.) Some will also say it actually symbolizes Patrick’s “banishment” and triumph over the Celtic paganism, thus banishing the snake.
Another tradition many take part in is to eat corned beef on or around the holiday as a symbol of Irish patriotism. While many enjoy it for dinner during this time of year, its history being linked to Saint Patrick’s Day — or Ireland, for that matter — is brief and recent. The traditional food for Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland has been bacon for centuries, only turning to corned beef after Irish immigrants switched to the cheaper alternative after learning of it through their Jewish friends at the turn of the century. Why bacon was used appears to be obscured with its being replaced, and sources are difficult to find, but as Leviticus 11:7-8 mentions, the pig is an unclean animal, and therefore its being replaced with beef (a clean animal) is for the better in this case.
Lastly, the leprechaun is likely to be linked with this day merely because of its link to Ireland and Irish culture, which many worldwide enjoy celebrating with Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s where the tradition to pinch those who don’t don green clothes for the holiday originates, as it’s said leprechauns can’t see you if you wear green, and therefore won’t pinch you.
While whether we should have anything to do with the leprechaun on any day is questionable due to their pagan and magical origins, celebrating them on a day that is meant to celebrate the victories the gospel and Christianity had in Ireland’s history is even more so. As History.com says, “One icon of the Irish holiday is the Leprechaun… Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil.
“In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure. Leprechauns have their own holiday on May 13, but are also celebrated on St. Patrick’s, with many dressing up as the wily fairies.”
With all these prominent traditions linking to Saint Patrick’s Day, it was rather fascinating to research and see how few of them were actually linked to Patrick himself, whom the holiday is meant to celebrate.
For my family, as someone with a bit of Irish in my lineage, Saint Patrick’s Day is mostly a fun day with thankfulness. We often take part with a couple of the festive traditions, listening to Irish jigs, dyeing our food green — like mashed potatoes or apple sauce — and eating corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes for dinner (not that that’s a rare meal to have in our house!).
We recognize that Patrick was a true missionary with a heart seeking God, Catholic saint or not. We celebrate his missions work (although we try to avoid calling him Saint Patrick, preferring “Remembering Patrick of Ireland Day” Lol), and recognize he was definitely a tool YHVH used to bring His Word to the Irish people.
- St. Patrick’s Day blog post by History.com
- Saint Patrick’s Day blog post by Britannica.com
- Saint Patrick’s Day by Wikipedia.com
- Everything You Know About the St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock is a Lie blog post by IrishCentral.com
- The Many Meanings Behind the Shamrock blog post by Explore.Blarney.com
- Why Do Your Get Pinched on St. Patrick’s Day? blog post by RealSimple.com
- Why Doesn’t Ireland Have Snakes? blog post by PopSci.com
- Leviticus 11 in the Bible
- Did St. Patrick Really Drive Snakes Out of Ireland? by NationalGeographic.com
Biblical New Year (and Calendar)
The Bible depicts and dictates a different calendar system from any almost anyone on earth is used to. While my family typically refers to it as “the biblical calendar’s new year” to lessen confusion, we would prefer to simply call it “the new year” and follow the calendar it starts as our sole calendar. This, of course, is very near impossible in the society we live in, especially due to its rarity in use. So we treat this calendar and new year much like people would the Chinese New Year and calendar, where we still tell our days, months, and years by the Gregorian calendar for daily planning, referencing the biblical calendar’s system primarily when it comes to new months, new seasons, or the holidays YHVH lists in His Word (such as the ones I’ll discuss in a moment, beginning in the first month, called Nisan).
In the Bible, this calendar’s beginning is mentioned in Exodus 13:3-5, “Then Moses said to the people, ‘Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month.'”
It’s mentioned again 10 chapters later, in Exodus 23:15: “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.”
…And again in Deuteronomy 16:1, saying, “Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night.”
For more clarification, here’s a quote of Nehemia’s Wall: “The Biblical year begins with the first New Moon after the barley in Israel reaches the stage in its ripeness called Aviv” — This is the same Hebrew word as you hear in Tel Aviv, the city in Israel — “The period between one year and the next is either 12 or 13 lunar months. Because of this, it is important to check the state of the Barley crops at the end of the 12th month. If the barley is Aviv at this time, then the following New Moon is Hodesh Ha-Aviv (‘New Moon of the Aviv’). If the barley is still immature, we must wait another month and then check the barley again at the end of the 13th month.
“By convention, a 12-month year is referred to as a Regular Year while a 13th month year is referred to as a Leap Year. This should not be confused with Leap Years in the Gregorian (Christian) Calendar, which involve the ‘intercalation’ (addition) of a single day (Feb. 29). In contrast, the Biblical Leap Year involves the intercalation of an entire lunar month (‘Thirteenth Month’, also called ‘Adar Bet’). In general, it can only be determined whether a year is a Leap Year a few days before the end of the 12th Month.”
Frankly, though, so few people know about this date, or the calendar system at all, that no traditions exist that are popular enough to have any mention online, which perhaps is the way YHVH intended considering He Himself never gives any mention of a new year’s celebration. Even using Google to search “biblical new year,” “Jewish new year,” or anything pertaining to the day won’t bring hardly anything up that isn’t for Rosh Hashanah, which is a separate holiday I’ll discuss later in this holiday series.
To give a quick rundown of how this calendar looks relating to the one the Jews follow (which begins with the aforementioned Rosh Hashanah) and the Gregorian calendar, check out the chart in this section of the Hebrew Calendar article by Wikipedia.
It’s so unknown that there is debate and often argument as to when and how the year should be kept track of. There are multiple calendar systems used that all claim to follow this set-up, and people’s opinions online are both confusing and distressing to both the people first learning about this calendar and the people who have known of it for years and years. I mention this as it’s my personal opinion that so much dissension and obscurity stems from Satan wanting to snuff it out as much as possible, keeping us from wanting to, or having the ability to, follow it — and with great success.
In my house, we celebrated the new year just recently on the Gregorian date of March 26 so, it being the afternoon of April 7 as I’m finishing this post, the “biblical calendar” date is currently Nisan 12, with Nisan 13 beginning at sundown tonight. We often attempt to have a small party with our church congregation to usher in the new year (although that fell through this year due to the coronavirus), have a nice meal, and occasionally blow a shofar.
It saddens me how few people even know about this day and calendar, considering our Father wished us to use this system, and I hope to someday have the chance and opportunity to be able to solely rely on this calendar for day-to-day life.
- Exodus 9:31-32 in the Bible
- Exodus 13:3-5 in the Bible
- Exodus 23:15 in the Bible
- Exodus 34:18 in the Bible
- Deuteronomy 16:1 in the Bible
- Aviv Barley in the Biblical Calendar blog post by NehemiasWall.com
- Hebrew Calendar by Wikipedia.com
Passover / Pesach
First described in Exodus 12 of the Bible and widely recognized by the world, Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew) has been celebrated by Israelites for thousands of years in largely the same ways, only bringing in a couple of new traditions as time passed. In the Bible the holiday’s purpose is to remember the Israelites’ leaving Egypt and their captivity as slaves, traveling to the land promised to their people from the time of Abraham. It’s a time of remembering and celebration.
In Exodus 12 we read, “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is YHVH’s Passover.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am YHVH. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to YHVH — a lasting ordinance.”
Perhaps the most prominent tradition of Passover, and the centerpiece of the holiday, is the seder. The Passover seder is the meal based on that described in the above passage.
“…That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs…”
The meal is eaten on Nisan 14 (or sometimes 15), consisting of many symbolic foods and the reading of Bible passages. Its purpose is to remind of and celebrate the miracles YHVH blessed Israel with during the plagues and exodus from Egypt. The foods are eaten in an order correlating to the Scriptures that are read, and usually a haggadah (a booklet with the passages and traditions written down) is used to keep from forgetting anything and to keep the meal organized. As the seder is the most prevalent tradition, I’d like to break down the most popular and prevalent versions of it and explain the origins and purpose of each piece it consists of, the first being a (usually small) glass of wine or grape juice.
The cup of wine/juice is the first part of a set of four spread out over the seder. According to Wikipedia, “The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God Exodus 6:6–7: ‘I will bring out,’ ‘I will deliver,’ ‘I will redeem,’ and ‘I will take.'” This tradition originated from the time of Rome, where drinking wine before, during, and after a meal was customary, and given meaning as reminders of the story. This tradition is not mentioned in the Bible, and depending on the haggadah you read from, the symbols can have subtle changes. The best link to the Bible for drinking wine (or juice) during the seder is with Yeshua in Matthew 26, which says, “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” As such, many haggadot (the plural of haggadah) will have this as the meaning for one of the cups they drink.
To quote Solel Sabbath Fellowship’s Haggadah, “[For the first cup:] With this first cup we remember YHVH pulling Israel out of the nations and setting them apart from the world. We remember how YHVH took a nation of slaves and called them to be distinct from the nation they were living in. He took people that were suffering, He listened to their cries for help, and He responded to their cries with, ‘I will take you out!’
“…[For the second cup:] Instead of a forgotten people dying in a desert, YHVH puts on a show of divine power, his right arm bared for everyone to see, miracles worked one after another, judgment brought on the captors, release and favor on the captives. This was the salvation of Israel that was to be remembered for generations to come, this was the deliverance of YHVH’s people that became etched throughout the Scriptures, ingrained even in the 10 commandments which begin, ‘I am YHVH your God who brought you out of Egypt, and delivered you from the land of slavery.’
“…[For the third cup:] This is the cup of redemption, symbolizing the Blood of the Passover lamb. It was the cup ‘after supper’ with which Yeshua identified Himself… Just as the blood of the lamb brought salvation in Egypt, so Yeshua’s redeeming death can bring salvation to all who believe. Blessed are You, YHVH our [God], King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Let’s all drink and remember Yeshua’s Blood flowed for us.
“…[For the fourth and final cup:] In this final cup of Passover, the cup of Restoration, we remember that YHVH kept his promise to restore Israel. It was seemingly impossible – the sons of Abraham to whom YHVH has promised a nation and a great people had been reduced to a lowly group of slaves subject to a harsh master, a disorganized and bickering people dying through forced labor in the desert. YHVH came through and restored the people to the glory he promised them… That nation and that people are still alive today as a testament to YHVH’s faithfulness.”
Traditionally, after the first cup is finished, the attendees would wash their hands in preparation for the seder and meal, followed by the next item of the ceremony, which is the vegetable. While hand-washing is customary in many Jewish rituals, it is done here to keep from tainting the water the vegetable will be dipped in with our sin. As Chabad says, “Since it is easy for liquids to contract impurity and conduct it to solid foods, the sages ordained that one should wash his hands before eating a food that has been dipped in liquid.” The vegetable is usually parsley, both leaves and stems, that is to signify the low status of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. It’s dipped in salt water to show their tears as they were worked, then shook off or dipped on the plate a certain number of times, depending on the haggadah being read. The sprig of parsley is then eaten.
A piece of matzah (“..and bread made without yeast..”) is broken and the smaller half is sandwiched between two other pieces. The larger half, however, is set aside for later as the “afikoman,” and the story begins. As Reform Judaism says, “A retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first [Passover]. This begins with the youngest person asking The Four Questions, a set of questions about the proceedings designed to encourage participation in the seder. The [story] is designed to satisfy the needs of four different types of people: the wise ones, who want to know the technical details; the wicked ones, who exclude themselves (and learn the penalty for doing so); the simple ones, who need to know the basics; and the ones who are unable to ask, who don’t even know enough to know what they need to know. At the end of the [story], a blessing is recited over the second cup of wine [or juice] and it is drunk.” Another blessing follows — this time over the matzah — before a piece of matzah is eaten.
The second cup mentioned is drunk here, and the “bitter herb” mentioned (“..along with bitter herbs…”) is next in the seder. The herb is usually either horseradish or the base of a romaine leaf, with the point of it being bitter and gross to those that eat it, and is eaten either alone or on a small piece of matzah. This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery.
This bitterness is soon paired with charoset (an apple compote with cinnamon, raisins, and sugar) as you then eat a touch more of the bitter herbs, with or without matzah, this time with the charoset. The charoset represents the mortar for the bricks the Israelites were made to make. The origins and history of the charoset are hazy at best, with Jewish rabbis disagreeing among themselves to its purpose and origin. As Reform Judaism says, “Scholars have noted that in ancient Palestine, and perhaps in the Hellenistic world, charoset was a popular appetizer, which may explain why it initially became part of the Passover ritual. Originally it may not have had a religious meaning, and served simply as a tasty part of any festive meal. This explanation, however, might have been more of a concern for the sages of Babylonia than those of Palestine because when the Passover customs outlined in the Mishnah traveled to Babylonia, the Babylonian sages did not have the cultural background to appreciate seder practices such as charoset that reflected Palestinian customs. Therefore, the practice of eating charoset had to be explained.”
Dinner follows, and to again quote Reform Judaism, “There is no particular requirement regarding what to eat at this meal (except, of course, that [food with yeast] cannot be eaten). Among Ashkenazi Jews, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are often eaten at the beginning of the meal. Roast chicken or turkey are common as traditional main courses, as is beef brisket. Jews with far-ranging palates can put their own unique, contemporary stamp on this meal.” Many people who are Torah Observant or Messianic will even eat lamb, however in my family, we have made the decision to no longer do that, believing it to be meant for when we have a temple to sacrifice at.
Remember the matzah “afikoman” from the beginning of the seder? It comes into play now as an adult member present hides it out of everyone else’s line of vision, then sends the kids to find it. The winner then recieves a small gift (which is often a yeast-free candy in my experience). The purpose is to keep the kids awake, alert, and having some fun during the traditionally long and late seder meal and process, especially now that they’ve had warm food to eat. The afikoman’s origins are another part of the seder that’s unclear in history. Chosen People says, “Surprisingly, afikomen is not Hebrew, but a Greek word, the precise meaning of which is difficult to determine. Some have proposed the derivation of this word from the Greek verb meaning “I have come.” The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 40 in the following passage: “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will…’ (Hebrews 10:7-9). Despite the Messianic emphasis of this reading, it does not seem likely this is the meaning of afikomen. Others suggest that the word afikomen originates from an ancient Greek tradition known as epikomion. In this tradition, the ancient Greeks participated in pagan after-dinner festivities by traveling from one party to another, so the rabbis named this piece of matzah afikomen to show how the Jewish community must not imitate the pagan parties in their celebrations. Rather than a continuous evening of festivities, the Jewish people must approach the Passover meal with reverence.”
Finally are the last two cups of wine or juice with their readings. Between the third and fourth cups, Jewish tradition is to check for Elijah on the front porch, symbolizing the heralding and anticipation of the promised Messiah. However, as someone who believes in Yeshua (also known as Jesus) as the Messiah, this step has been rewritten in our haggadah to be praise that He has come and died for us, rising again after 3 days.
The seder is finished with a traditional shouting of “Next year in Jerusalem!” with the hope and desire of being able to soon celebrate at the temple again, as YHVH had commanded.
There is also an egg added to the seder in some haggadot, but I was unable to find where in the seder it is placed. It is traditionally hard-boiled to be solid and fried in oil or colored with coffee grinds and other such earthy substances to give it a golden hue. To quote the Washington Post, “Symbolically, they represent mourning, rebirth and the continuity of life… It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when a hard-cooked or roasted egg first appeared on the Seder plate, but it was certainly after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The egg was added in memory of the special festival sacrifice brought, along with roasted lamb, to the Temple as the Passover offering.”
The reason it doesn’t show up in the seder my family and I take part in has to do with both the fact YHVH severely punishes those who alter his sacrifices or attempts to do it in their own way, and also due to its eerie similarity to the Easter egg. As Wikipedia says, “The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs… Although eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which Jesus resurrected.” While I will go further into Easter and its traditions in my next post (bear with me), for now I’ll leave you with this quote from an Easter section of Wikibooks (I’ll link it below): “[Semiramis, the mother of Nimrod] taught that the moon was a goddess… and that she had come down from the moon in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River at sunrise at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox, on a Sunday. Semiramis became known as ‘Ishtar,’ [whom was] referred to as Ashtoreth in scripture, and her moon egg became known as ‘Ishtar’s egg.’ One of her titles was the Queen of Heaven, and two of her fertility symbols were the rabbit and the egg.” Other sources say this story is nothing but a fable, preferring to link Easter and its egg to a German goddess of light and fertility, Ostara. While no one can prove the egg’s origins for certain, its origins are almost certain to be rooted in idolatry and, as such, we prefer to err on the side of caution, especially since the egg is not a commanded part of Passover. (I’ll touch on this topic again when discussing Easter.)
In our house, we prepare for the Passover by deep-cleaning our house during the two weeks preceding the holiday, getting as much yeast out of our home and vehicles as possible (and you would be surprised the weird locations yeast-containing-food has been found, such as under the air vent covers). We then use the day just before to cook and prepare our meal before the sedar begins, usually at or just after sundown (which is when a biblical day begins and ends).
We have booklets with a sedar haggadah outlined that we follow, and our meal consists of juice, matzah, horseradish, charoset, parsley dipped in salt water, and beef or chicken. When we first celebrated Passover (and we plan to again this year), we also dressed with our shoes on and staffs by our chairs, as described in Exodus 12. The rest of the (biblical) day is a special sabbath, and we meet with our congregation for a service and party.
- Exodus 12 in the Bible
- Leviticus 10 in the Bible
- Leviticus 23:4-8 in the Bible
- Number 9:1-14 in the Bible
- Number 28:16-25 in the Bible
- Numbers 33:3-4 in the Bible
- Deuteronomy 16:1-8 in the Bible
- Matthew 26:1-2, 17-30 in the Bible
- Mark 14:1, 12-16 in the Bible
- Luke 2:41 in the Bible
- Luke 22:1, 7-15 in the Bible
- Should We Eat Lamb for Passover? blog post by AnneElliott.com
- How to Prepare for Passover livestream sermon by Solel Sabbath Fellowship on YouTube.com
- Passover Seder Haggadah download page by SolelSabbathFellowship.com
- Why Drink Four Cups on Passover blog post by Haggadot.com
- Why Do We Wash Our Hands Twice at the Seder blog post by Chabad.org
- [What is a] Haggadah by Wikipedia.com
- [What is the] Afikoman by Wikipedia.com
- The Origin of the Afikomen blog post by ChosenPeople.com
- Traditional Charoset recipe by Epicurious.com
- The Origins of Charoset blog post by ReformJudaism.org
- Passover: Customs and Rituals blog post by ReformJudaism.org
- Why Do We Need Eggs at Passover blog post by WashingtonPost.com
- Hebrew Roots/Neglected Commandments/Idolatry/Easter section by Wikibooks.org (Note that it is graphic due to its pagan nature, thus why I didn’t link it above.)
Feast of Unleavened Bread / Chag HaMatzot
Being ushered in by Passover, we next have the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as described in Exodus 12:15-20, which reads: “For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
The only traditions for this holiday that I know of are exactly as is mentioned in the text, which may make this holiday’s breakdown the sole “quick” breakdown in this series of “quick breakdowns.” Lol
To start, YHVH mentions we clean our home, getting all the yeast out. “On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.” This is a serious offense, as to be cut off from Israel is to be cut off from YHVH’s blessings and promises forever, and therefore this passage is incredibly important. The yeast symbolizes our sin, and many take this period of time to reflect on their sins over the previous year, repenting of any that haven’t been addressed already. It’s also a period where you deep clean your home, removing the yeast-containing food and drink from every crevice.
It’s also mentioned how long we are to remain yeast-free: “For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast… Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast.” The fourteenth day is also known as Passover, or Pesach, which is mentioned above, so starting with Passover and continuing for a week, no yeast is to be eaten or found in your home under penalty of being cut off.
It mentions some get-togethers and services with fellow believers. “On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.” These days (the 14th day and the 21st day) are sabbaths of rest, no matter what day of the week they land on. This year (as well as the year Yeshua died), those sabbaths will be on a Gregorian Wednesday evening through Thursday evening, which is atypical to the Gregorian Friday evening through Saturday evening of a regular sabbath. We’re told to do no work on these days, which would be things such as your job most chores (although we are told to care for our animals should we have any), we’re told in other passages not to buy or sell on a sabbath, as it creates work for others, and we’re told to “hold a sacred assembly,” which essentially means a church service to YHVH. According to Hebrews 4:11, sabbaths are to be taken seriously: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
And lastly it finishes with this: “Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread,” therefore it’s customary to eat at least one bite of unleavened bread, whether it be matzah, crackers, or some other unleavened flatbread, every day from the 14th day to the 21st.
All-in-all, YHVH takes this feast time seriously, and in turn so should we, being careful to do all that he commanded us. As we read in Joshua 1:7-8, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Torah (Hebrew for “law”) always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
In the two weeks before Passover, my family will spend a bit of time deep spring cleaning our home and vehicles, aiming primarily to get anything containing yeast out. We then spend this week avoiding anything with yeast and eating at least one bite of matzah every day, as well as decorating the house for spring. On the first and last days, my congregation prefers to get together for a worship, sometimes a short service, and a party of spending time together afterward.
- Exodus 12 in the Bible
- Joshua 1 in the Bible
- Hebrews 4 in the Bible
- Sabbath, the Sign of the Covenant blog post by AnneElliott.com
- How We Do Sabbath blog post by AnneElliott.com
I look forward to writing and posting the next few holidays in this series, but in the meantime I hope you will consider reading this book that my wonderful mother wrote a few years back on the topic of the biblical feasts. It’s a free download for the ebook, or you can purchase it as a regular book. Either way, it goes further in-depth on the holidays in the Bible, some of which I mentioned in this post.
It’s incredibly fun and exciting to me that this year’s Passover dates line up with what they were the year Yeshua died and rose again, as the pictures of everything are that much easier to picture and consider, and I invite you all to join my congregation in our Passover service livestream on Nisan 14, or Thursday, April 9 (details can be found here on our site).
Until next time,