The spring feasts of the Lord are coming quickly this year. I love the springtime. This is such a wonderful time to see the earth waking back up from the long frost of winter. Spring also signals the coming of the High Holidays.
The four spring High Holidays are all wonderful celebrations. These are days that hold special meanings for us Hebrews.
Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Shavuot
The first High Holiday that God commanded us to celebrate is Passover. We celebrate the Passover on Nisan 14 in the evening. Passover commemorates when the angel of death passed over our people in Egypt and spared our firstborn sons and cattle. We are to celebrate and remember this day by eating roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.
Shemoth (Exodus) 12: 5 – 9:
“5 It shall be to you a lamb unblemished, a male of a year old: ye shall take it of the lambs and the kids. 6 And it shall be kept by you till the fourteenth of this month, and all the multitude of the congregation of the children of Israel shall kill it toward evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and shall put it on the two door-posts, and on the lintel, in the houses in which soever they shall eat them. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in this night roast with fire, and they shall eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs. 9 Ye shall not eat of it raw nor sodden in water, but only roast with fire, the head with the feet and the appurtenances.”
Shemoth (Exodus) 12: 13 – 14:
“13 And the blood shall be for a sign to you on the houses in which ye are, and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and there shall not be on you the plague of destruction, when I smite in the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be to you a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord through all your generations; ye shall keep it a feast for a perpetual ordinance.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The day after Passover starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first and the seventh day of Unleavened Bread are Sabbath- rest days. These are rest days that are not on Shabbat but are treated as Sabbath no-work days occurring during the High Holidays. The feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates when we left Egypt, and it is celebrated on Nisan 15.
Leviticus 23: 6 – 7:
“6 And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. 7 And the first day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work. 8 And ye shall offer whole-burnt-offerings to the Lord seven days; and the seventh day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work.”
Shemoth (Exodus) 34:18: “And thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, as I have charged thee, at the season in the month of new; for in the month of new thou camest out from Egypt.”
Before Passover starts we clean and remove all the leavening from our homes. We eat matzah or unleavened bread from Passover until the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Nisan 21.
Exodus 13: 3: “And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which ye came forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for with a strong hand the Lord brought you forth thence; and leaven shall not be eaten.”
Leavening is a symbol of sin. We are reminded to be diligent at staying away from sin during this time and throughout our lives.
Leviticus 2: 11: “Ye shall not leaven any sacrifice which ye shall bring to the Lord; for any leaven, or any honey, ye shall not bring of it to offer a gift to the Lord. ”
The Feast of First Fruits
Usually, during Unleavened Bread another spring feast day occurs- the feast of First Fruits. This was a day to give to the Lord the first fruits of the barley harvest.
Leviticus 23: 10 – 11:
“10 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, When ye shall enter into the land which I give you, reap the harvest of it, then shall ye bring a sheaf, the first-fruits of your harvest, to the priest; 11 and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow of the first day the priest shall lift it up.”
The Feast of First Fruits occurs on Easter. Some people are a little uncomfortable about this, but don’t be! First Fruits doesn’t have celebration instructions and it is not a rest day, but my family and I like to have some sort of meal to celebrate this day.
The Feast of First Fruits also doesn’t have a set date, it is celebrated the day after the Sabbath. My family and I believe this means the weekly Sabbath day and not the day after the start of Unleavened Bread.
Leviticus 23: 15 – 16:
“15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full weeks: 16 until the morrow after the last week ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord.”
On First Fruits, we start counting to our next and last Spring High Holiday… Shavuot!
Shavuot / Pentecost
The last spring feast day is the Feast of Shavuot or Pentecost. Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Law or the Torah to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. The Torah is a gift given to us by God to be a guide for our lives.
Deuteronomy 5: 22 – 27:
“22 These words the Lord spoke to al the assembly of you in the mountain out of the midst of the fire – darkness, blackness, storm, a loud voice – and he added no more, and he wrote them on two tables of stone, and he gave them to me. 23 And it came to pass when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the fire, for the mountain burned with fire, that ye came to me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders: 24 and ye said, Behold, the Lord our God has shewn us his glory, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: this day we have seen that God shall speak to man, and he shall live.
25 And now let us not die, for this great fire will consume us, if we shall hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, and we shall die. 26 For what flesh which has heard the voice of the living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we, and shall live? 27 Do thou draw near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say, and thou shalt speak to us all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall speak to thee, and we will hear, and do.”
Psalms 119: 34 – 35: “34 Instruct me, and I will search out thy law, and will keep it with my whole heart. 35 Guide me in the path of thy commandments; for I have delighted in it.”
Psalms 119: 92 – 93: “92 Were it not that thy law is my meditation, then I should have perished in mine affliction. 93 I will never forget thine ordinances; for with them thou hast quickened me.”
The word Pentecost is a Greek word and it means fifty. This name is fitting because Shavuot occurs on the fiftieth day after First Fruits.
Leviticus 23: 15 – 17:
“15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full weeks: 16 until the morrow after the last week ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord. 17 Ye shall bring from your dwelling loaves, as a heave-offering, two loaves: they shall be of two tenth portions of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven of the first-fruits to the Lord.”
On the day of First Fruits, we start to count the omer, counting seven sabbaths plus a day. Depending on how “the day after the sabbath” is interpreted, the day of Shavuot can be off a few days. Like I said before, we believe this phrase refers to the regular sabbath, so First Fruits is always on Easter and Shavuot is always seven weeks later on a Sunday.
Shavuot was the day that we presented our bread offerings before the Lord, thanking him for the successful barley harvest. In contrast to the previous holidays where unleavened bread was required, during Shavuot, leavened bread is required for the sacrifice.
Shavuot is a holiday where we thank the Lord for providing for our needs both physically and spiritually. Without the physical provision, we wouldn’t be able to live. Without the spiritual provision, we wouldn’t have the power to do the will of the Lord. This is a wonderful time of celebration and thanksgiving.
The spring feast days are a way to connect with the Lord, and they are a wonderful time of celebration and joy. At Passover, we see the Hebrews being passed over by the angel of death because of the blood of the lamb. During Unleavened Bread we came out of Egypt. First Fruits is a celebration of the first fruits of the barley harvest dedicated to God. And lastly, see how the Torah is a helper and a guide to us.
May your Spring High Holidays bring joy, and peace with God. Shalom!