Posted in Torah

Learning from the Mo’edim

Each time around on any of the holidays I learn new things. As a family, we ask for understanding, and we go through them and incorporate what we have learned so far, and anything we are learning currently.

This is a weird challenge, and actually (for me) a difficult one. It would be so much easier if I had a big body of knowledge, and live among people who had been doing this for generations! But that also has a serious trap…

The process Ive been through follows a classic pattern I’m hearing from loads of people. At some point in my christian culture, I began to experience an interest in the Hebrew context for almost everything christianity has built itself on. As I began to investigate this the natural place to look was judaism. My previous experience had resulted in extricating myself from “institutional christianity”, for many years before this interest in the “hebraic roots”. I had experienced the constant process of divesting myself of traditions, and separating these from the scriptures. At times this is scary, as many of the positive feedback mechanisms that I used to feel ok had to be removed. But after a long time (much longer than anyone hopes or believes) you get used to uncovering these things, and letting them go.

Once I started learning more, I looked to what I thought was the culture that must have answers, namely judaism. This turned into easily as big of a quagmire as christianity. What I found out is the majority of the things being presented to me were as far removed from the scriptures as the previous traps I had been in! In fact, in some ways I felt it was worse.

So obviously christianity has no grid for the biblical holidays. But the more you learn about judaism, you realize that there is so much “noise in the system” that you cannot easily rely on their practices to help inform you about keeping the commandments of scripture. You really are simply on your own. You read the scriptures, you listen to others and their take, and you begin to learn as you go.

So for me, this is what I have learned in a general sense:

  1. No one actually “keeps” the appointed times. Many reasons, but not the least:
    1. There is no temple
    2. There is no high priest, and no functioning priesthood.
    3. We dont know what year it actually is
    4. Most of the common jewish practice follows a man made calendar, which sometimes fits, and sometimes does not with things scripture says. There are several other practical methods of understanding what day it even is in the calendar.
  2. By keeping the holidays, we are really talking about rehearsing and memorializing them.
  3. In a christian context, keeping the commandments of the Torah is not the earning of righteousness resulting in justification and salvation at the end of the age.

So with that in mind, Im going to try and record things Ive learned and journal them as the holidays come and go.

Here is our context:

  1. The 7th day of every week is a Sabbath. This is Saturday in modern western culture. It is YHVH’s Sabbath, so we align ourselves with this day, not decide which day works for us.
  2. The calendar is determined based on the sighting of the New Moon in Israel. This means when 2 or more people, with their naked eye, sight the return of the moon in Israel, that is the start of a month. You dont need a telescope, or a math chart of planets or sophisticated specialists. Anyone interested can know where they are at in the calendar with relative ease.
  3. The first month of the Year is in the Spring, when the New Moon is sighted after the Barley harvest is “Aviv”, or mature enough to harvest. If the barley is not ready, there is a 13th month.
  4. During the feast of Unleavened Bread, the day after the weekly Sabbath that occurs within the feast is the start of the “counting of the Omer” and begins counting the days for Shavuot.
  5. Yom Teruah is the first day of the 7th month, and when the New Moon is sighted in Israel, begins the Fall Feasts.

This has gotten fairly simple, but has taken almost 3 times going around the mountain to learn it. It requires patience to figure out our calendar, and when we have Sabbaths that are outside the weekly ones. We are forced to wait, and then things aside with only a few weeks notice. We arent very organized, but it does put some struggles in our modern, western mindset.


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