The Lasting Impact of Biblical Holidays
You may have seen a meme going around on social media that said, “This is the first year we are not vacationing in Hawaii because of Covid-19… (usually, we don’t because we can’t afford it).” In similar fashion, residents of Israel could say:
“This is the first time Israel didn’t work or study for three weeks because of the Covid-19 lockdown… (usually, they don’t because of the holidays).”
Set Apart Not Just in 2020
The High Holidays and Sukkot are a unique season that changes the rhythm of life in all of Israel for almost a month. There is nothing like it. First, you hear blasts of the shofar on a regular basis. There is an atmosphere of awe in the air, even in 2020 when all the people of Israel were instructed to once again stay home.
And then, as soon as the sun sets on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, every garden, patio and balcony turns into a construction site. With palm branches, bamboo sticks and decorations galore, one by one the sukkot (booths) appear. The streets get illuminated with colorful lights coming from each ‘temporary dwelling’.
No one even thinks of the schools and universities, meanwhile shops and offices try to develop unique work schedules, to account for the holy days. Normally, families gather in dozens around the tables in their booths, and they sing, pray and enjoy delicious food until late hours of the night. This year, due to restrictions, each booth was to host only one household.
Hidden From The World
I’m very used to receiving emails – and sometimes I even send them myself – that request saving tasks, meetings and plans for “after the chagim” (holidays). Many of us continue to work in between the odd days off, but no meetings are scheduled, and grace is extended to everyone who doesn’t answer their emails in 2-3 business days.
Emerging from the most festive season of the year in Israel is like coming out of an underground shelter after a hurricane. You are not quite sure what you will find on the ground. Maybe everything is exactly how you left it and you can go back to ‘business as usual’. Or maybe your desk is about to collapse under the weight of responsibilities and communication from the outside world.
NEW YEAR, NEW SEASON
In Israel, this grand post-holiday comeback is also the time when people ambitiously tell themselves that they will start working out and eat healthy. After the carefree summer days and festive holiday meals comes the time to knock it out of the park at work, in school and yes, with personal goals. Let’s face it, it must be easier to take on new challenges in the golden season of fall as opposed to January. Who even has fresh motivation in the middle of winter?!
And yet, still not too many of these ‘resolutions’ last. If the healthy diet doesn’t stick with us past October, you may wonder, what about everything we did and learned over the Days of Awe and Feast of Tabernacles? There was repentance and rejoicing, prayer and singing. Does it have any impact on how we now live – after the holidays?
The year of 5781 has just begun in the Jewish Calendar, and on Simchat Torah we rolled back the scrolls to the beginning of Genesis. It is a fresh start and we pray this new season is a good one. But let’s consider what we can take out of Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) that will stay with us beyond the Fall Holidays.
Repentance is not just for one month of the year.
It is the main theme of Rosh HaShana and the 10 Days of Awe that follow, but one may get the wrong impression that this is the main if not the only time to humble ourselves before God. In the Book of Job, Elihu confronted Job that God is not going to reward him if Job chooses to repent on his own terms Job 34:33. Over and over all the prophets in the Bible instruct people to repent in order to find salvation, and this godly instruction is not specific to any day or month.
Atonement for our sins is available 365 days a year (plus a day in leap years).
In the letter to Hebrews, we read that Jesus the Messiah entered the Most Holy Place of the Temple “once for all time and secured our redemption forever” Hebrews 9:12. Because there is no Temple today, there is no way we could observe Yom Kippur in the traditional sense. It is a good thing then that we do not need to make sacrifices anymore! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, atonement was granted to us and is available at all times.
Our hope and safety are not in material possessions.
Dwelling in booths at Sukkot is a great reminder that every blessing in life comes from the Father, and our true home is in Heaven. This powerful truth is also valid all year around. We should not take the comforts of our lives for granted, but we should also not let our living standard determine our attitude. Whether we have a lot or very little, we are all sojourners and God is watching over us.
No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return.
The Feast of Trumpets is a prophetic holiday pointing our attention to the last trumpet blast foretold in the Book of Revelation. The Day of Atonement speaks clearly of Judgement Day. The Feast of Tabernacles is linked to Messiah’s coming to Earth, many believe both the first and the second. We may feel confident that Jesus will return during this special season, but if we are honest, the Bible asks us to be vigilant at all times. It would be foolish of us to focus on His promises only once a year!
In The Days Ahead
As we pick back up our daily routines and Israel returns to normal schedule with school and work, let’s pray we all reemerge transformed. The joy of the recent weeks should stay with us for months to come. Let’s uphold our awe of God and the longing for His affection. We approach the feasts with reverence and conclude them with thanksgiving. May that reverence and thanksgiving accompany us daily!
The Fall Holidays are not just an opportunity to decorate our homes and cook delectable meals. They were established by God to remind us of His eternal plan and His endless goodness. We don’t have to put our celebratory spirit into “storage”, until the next holiday. Every day we have a reason to celebrate, because the Messiah atoned for our sins, gave us Salvation, and promised a place in the Father’s home.
Did you know God talked about a holiday that someday ALL nations would celebrate together?
This article originally appeared on FIRM, October 15, 2020, and reposted with permission.