What are the Jewish Fall Holidays?
In Leviticus 23, we read about three holidays, commonly referred to as the “fall feasts.” The underlying fact that we should always keep in mind is that Scripture clarifies that these special seasons are not merely “Jewish” holidays—they are the Lord’s! In the opening of that chapter, Adonai clearly states: “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and tell them: These are the appointed moadim of Adonai, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations—My moadim” (Lev 23:3/TLV).
The first holiday is Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of a new year (civil) by blowing the shofar (ram’s horn). And blow the shofar they do—one hundred times over the course of this special day! For this reason, it is also called the “Feast of Trumpets.” The ram’s horn is a “spiritual alarm clock,” calling on God’s people to awake from their spiritual slumber. Rosh Hashanah is a time to fix one’s attention on their soul’s state in preparation for the next feast (more on that in a minute). The main theme of Rosh Hashanah is RETURN, or in Hebrew, teshuva (repentance). The shofar is calling us back to the Lord and rousing us in preparation for a divine encounter.
Speaking of divine encounters, Rosh Hashanah prophetically points to Messiah’s return, an event we often call His “Second Coming.” In this sense, it’s not just about our return to God, but His return to us. I’m sure you’re familiar with these words from Paul the Apostle: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52/TLV). Incredible! This holiday of the shofar and returning points to that final shofar that will announce Yeshua’s return.
The next holiday is Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah. This is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. It was the only day of the year that the high priests could enter the Holy of Holies—the only day when they could speak the divine name (YHWH). The central ceremony of Yom Kippur features a “scapegoat” and the shedding of blood to make atonement for the sins of the nation. Hence, we also refer to Yom Kippur as the “Day of Atonement.”
The main theme of Yom Kippur is REDEMPTION. Sin produces separation from God and one another. On the Day of Atonement, we experience “at-one-ment.” Leviticus 17 repeatedly says that the “life is in the blood,” and life—connection—is renewed on this holiest of days. This is a moment to be restored vertically to God but also horizontally to our neighbors. We both seek to receive and extend forgiveness, for the good of others and ourselves. Forgiveness is not an elective—like Spanish or French in high school—it’s a requirement. Prophetically, it points to the day when all Israel will be saved, and all the nations will worship the one true God.
The third of the fall holidays is Sukkot, named after the portable outdoor dwellings used in its celebration. This a joyous holiday. Those dwellings commemorate the dwellings of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. While it’s not uncommon for folks to only see the bad or the hardship in those decades of wandering, this “Feast of Tabernacles” celebrates the faithfulness of God’s Protection, Provision, and Presence during that time. The heat and the elements did not consume them. They ate bread from heaven and drank water from a rock. The Lord was with them in the cloud and the pillar of fire, as well as the Tabernacle itself.
For this reason, the main theme of Sukkot is REJOICING. Some have even suggested the American holiday, Thanksgiving, is modeled after Sukkot! And indeed, following the redemption experienced during Yom Kippur, we have much to be thankful for on this holiday.
There is an incredible connection between Sukkot and the life of Yeshua. John’s Gospel tells us: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast [Sukkot], Yeshua stood up and cried out loudly, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’” (John 7:37/TLV). At a time when the Jews would’ve been commemorating the life-giving water their parents drank in the wilderness, this Prophet from Nazareth offered them “living water”! Not to mention that Paul would later identify that the source of that life-giving water in the wilderness: “they were drinking from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the Rock was Messiah” (1 Cor 10:4/TLV).
Returning. Redemption. Rejoicing. These themes are central to vibrant life in the Spirit. They are gifts from our Father in heaven (see James 1:17) for all of His children! To dismiss these moments as ethnic holidays is to miss out on the fullness of the inheritance that is ours
in Yeshua our Messiah. These holidays are not an obligation—they’re an invitation…come and join us!