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Celebrating the 'Fall Feasts' in Israel

By C. Hart
CBN News Middle East Correspondent

CBN.comIn Israel today, there are set feasts - or appointed seasons of the Lord - that are proclaimed as holy convocations. The first of the Fall Feasts is the Feast of Trumpets, as recorded in Leviticus, Chapter 23. This particular feast is also called Rosh Hashanah. Jews all over the world consider this time to be the Jewish New Year, celebrated by eating apples and honey, and recalling sweet memories.

They greet one another by saying, "Shana Tovah!" This means "Happy New Year." But, the biblical New Year actually begins at Passover, in early spring.

Israelis see themselves as fitting into three categories, spiritually. They consider themselves to be either religious, traditional, or secular Jews. The majority of Israelis fit into the traditional category, and 50 percent are reported to keep a kosher home. Most Israelis seek some way of celebrating the major feasts in Israel, especially the Fall Feasts.

Leviticus 23:23-25:

And, the Lord said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, on the first day of the seventh month (roughly, October), you shall observe a day of solemn (sabbatical) rest, a memorial day announced by blowing of trumpets, a holy, called assembly. You shall do no servile work on it, but you shall present an offering made by fire to the Lord.

Messianic Jewish Bible teacher, Neil Cohen, says he celebrates this holiday by going to a Messianic congregation on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and then spending the next day at home. "It is a Shabbat; a biblical injunction; a day of no work. Leviticus 23:23 makes it quite clear. It's a solemn assembly."

Jewish people, today, see this feast as a new beginning. They hope, by their work and good deeds, their names will be written in the Book of Life. There are 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) that are holy days to most religious Jews, worldwide. They call these the "Days of Awe." It's a time of personal evaluation, and Cohen explains, it's also a time of repentance and turning from sin. "The 10 days of Awe are a reflection of the relationship with God and with family."

Today, many Israelis are not assured that their sins have been forgiven. They realize that, because the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., there is no place for the high priest to conduct the sacrificial offerings to God for the atonement of their sins. There is no blood sacrifice. So, when Yom Kippur comes, Jews often spend the holiday fasting and repenting, but without assurance of salvation. "The majority of Israelis don't believe in the Messiah. If they have any concept at all, it's in a Messianic age," says Cohen. "Yom Kippur has almost no meaning for the Jews today, because the whole principle of Yom Kippur was the blood sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. It's become a ritual day and a day of hope instead of expectation," he adds.

For Messianic Jews, their faith in Yeshua, Jesus, as the Messiah gives them hope. "For us, the blood has been shed. Although not shed on Yom Kippur, the death of Yeshua fulfills the requirement," claims Cohen.

The rabbinical leaders in Israel today teach that Rosh Hashanah was the day that God created Adam, and the day that God gave the gift of motherhood to Sarah and Hanna.

According to Cohen, the focus for Bible believers is that it is the day the trumpet is sounded, heralding the coming of the expected Messiah. "And, that's the connection," Cohen said, "because of 1st Thessalonians 4:14-18 – the great trumpet call and Messiah's return – that's the trumpet call that the Jews are waiting for."

When you talk to many religious Israelis today, they answer your questions by explaining what the rabbis say, and not by giving their own personal opinions, formed by their reading of the Holy Scriptures. In fact, they will often explain that the oral law (the Talmud) is just as inspired by God as is the written law (the Tenach, or the Old Testament). But, the oral law is the rabbinical interpretation of the written law, and Messianic Jews disagree that it holds the same weight as the God-inspired Bible.

One of the problems, according to Cohen, is that a basic portion of scripture relating to the suffering Messiah is never heard in synagogues. And the rabbis who read a section of the Holy Scriptures on a weekly basis, called the Haftorah Portion, actually leave out Isaiah Chapter 53.

"The Haftorah portions, five weeks before Rosh Hashanah begins, are from Isaiah Chapters 40 through 60; bits and pieces from there. But, they pass over Isaiah Chapter 53. These are the passages of comforting His people. And the most comforting thing is that the Messiah is coming, and He'll suffer on our behalf and release us from all the pain and suffering. Rabbis don't like that scripture. Messiah is hidden from the Jews by the rabbis, just as He is hidden from the Jews by God, Himself," explains Cohen who also admits that, in this case, the rabbis are actually helping God in fulfilling the prophetic scriptures.

Isaiah Chapter 53 (Amplified Bible):

"Who has believed – trusted in, relied upon and clung to – our message of that which was revealed to us? And, to whom has the arm of the Lord been disclosed?

For (the Servant of God) grew up before Him like a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; He has no (royal, kingly pomp) form or comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.

He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness; and, as One from whom men hide their faces.

He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him. Surely, He has born our griefs – sickness, weakness and distress – and carried our sorrows and pain (of punishment). Yes, we ignorantly considered Him stricken, smitten and afflicted by God. But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement needful to obtain peace and wellbeing for us was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him, we are healed and made whole.

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has made to light on Him the guilt and iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, yet when He was afflicted, He was submissive and opened not His mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

By oppression and judgment, He was taken away; and as for His generation, who among them considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due – stricken to His death?

And, they assigned Him a grace with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet, it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief and made Him sick. When You and He make Him an offering for sin (and He has risen from the dead, in time to come), He shall see His spiritual offspring. He shall prolong His days, and the will and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; by His knowledge of Himself (which He possesses and imparts to others), shall My (uncompromisingly) righteous One, My Servant, justify and make many righteous – upright and in right standing with God; for He shall bear their iniquities and their guilt (with the consequences, says the Lord).

Therefore, will I divide Him a portion with the great (kinds and rulers), and He shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors, yet He bore (and took away) the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors – the rebellious."

Watch CBN's Rosh Hashana Celebration with Pat and Gordon Robertson with Paul Wilbur.

Christianity's Jewish Roots

CBN News in Israel

Tour Israel with CBN.com

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