The Fall Jewish Holidays for Dummies
The major Jewish holidays (or feasts) are typically separated into two categories: those in the fall and those in the spring. The first important thing to know is where these holidays originated in the Bible.
In Leviticus 23, God details what He calls the “appointed times” (Hebrew: moedim) during the annual Jewish calendar. God knew that it was (and is!) easy for humans to fall into a ritualistic pattern of life that might not make space for time with Him. So He appointed specific times during the year as moments of remembrance, reflection and dedication for His people. He even calls these holidays “permanent” and tells His people to observe them from “generation to generation.”
Before we go any further, please make sure you understand this very important point about these holidays/feasts: God gave them to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Jewish people. There is no Biblical command for Gentiles (non-Jews) to observe these holidays. (Read more in our paper on Torah Observance, if you’d like).
Here’s what we’re going to do. Let’s quickly look at the fall Jewish holidays by:
1. The name and date of the holiday
2. Mention of the holiday in the Bible
3. Modern Jewish observance
Yalla chaverim! (let’s go, friends!)
This is the holiday for the Jewish New Year. It literally means “head of the year.” In the Bible, it’s called the Feast of Trumpets, or “Yom Teruah.” It literally means “Day of Blasting” because God commanded His people on this day to blast or blow shofars (rams’ horns). Literally, that’s it – get together, take a day of rest, and blast you some shofars!
Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is usually in September. This year (2022), Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown on Sunday, September 25.
Where do you see Rosh Hashanah in the Bible?
- Leviticus 23:23-25
- Numbers 29:1-2
- Matthew 24:31 – referencing the blasting of a trumpet
- 1 Corinthians 15:52 – not specifically about the holiday, but about the blasting of trumpets
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – same as above
Modern Jewish Observance
Modern Jewish communities celebrate the holiday by blowing shofars, going to synagogue for special services, and – most popularly – eating apples and honey together. This is in connection with the hope for a “sweet new year” ahead. If you’re extra interested in modern Jewish observance of this holiday, check this out.
Fun Fact: Jewish tradition believes that God created the earth on Rosh Hashanah, and many Messianic Jewish scholars believe Jesus will return on Rosh Hashanah (see the three New Testament Scriptures above)!
There are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and the next fall holiday, Yom Kippur. These are called the “Days of Awe,” but that’s a deep-dive blog for another day. Yom Kippur literally means “Day of Atonement” or “Day of Covering.” This is the “Super Bowl” of the Jewish holidays. Even non-religious Jewish people will make sure to observe this one-day holiday each year in hopes of having their shortcomings and sins atoned for, even though there is no longer a Temple in which to sacrifice an atoning animal for sin.
Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of Tishrei each year, usually in late September or early October. This year (2022), Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Tuesday, October 4th, ending at sunset on Wednesday, October 5th.
Where is Yom Kippur in the Bible?
- Leviticus 16:29
- Leviticus 23:26-3
- Hebrews 9:7-15, 28
- Hebrews 10:3
- Acts 27:9 NIV (Demonstrates Paul’s faithfulness to observant Jewish life even after faith in Jesus)
Modern Jewish Observance
The biggest observance of Yom Kippur in the Jewish community around the world is fasting for the 25-hour period of the holiday. In Israel, it’s become somewhat famous to see how the entire country nearly shuts down completely on Yom Kippur. Many people go for walks on major interstate-like highways, enjoying the fact that everyone is either at home fasting or at synagogue praying. To learn more, check this out.
Fun Fact: The most popular greeting on Yom Kippur is Gmar chatim tova, which means “a good final sealing.” This is expressed in hopes that someone’s life is sealed in the Book of Life for eternity. Remind you of anything? (Hint: Revelation 20:12)
The last major fall holiday is called Sukkot (sue-coat). This is the Biblical “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Shelters.” Sukkot is the plural Hebrew word for “booths” or “shelters.” Contrary to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this holiday is to be celebrated for an entire week (seven days)!
Sukkot takes place each year on the 15th of Tishrei, just five days after Yom Kippur. Are you beginning to see how these are all connected as “appointed times” by God? This year (2022), Sukkot begins at sunset on Sunday, October 9th and ends at sunset on Sunday, October 16th.
Where is Sukkot in the Bible?
- Leviticus 23:33–36
- Deuteronomy 16:13-15
- 1 Kings 8:2, 65
- 1 Kings 12:32
- Zechariah 14:16 (points to the enduring distinction of Jew and Gentile, even in the Messianic kingdom)
- John 7:2-3 (Jesus celebrated Sukkot)
- John 7:37-38
Modern Jewish observance
The holiday of Sukkot is the only one in the Bible where God commands His people to REJOICE. Sukkot is a fun, joyful week on the Jewish calendar. Jewish people build little shelters in their backyards in which to eat their meals, and restaurants all over Israel create “shelter” outdoor dining spaces as well. To learn more about this, check this out.
Fun Facts: Many Messianic Jewish scholars believe Jesus was born during Sukkot, mainly due to the Gospel of John’s description of Jesus coming to “tabernacle” among us (also due to different Biblical references that would place His birth during this holiday).
I really hope this very quick overview of the fall holidays helps you! If you want to dive in even deeper, I suggest visiting the resources of our great ministry partner, Jewish Voice. Here you will find lots of great information for both Jews and Gentiles.
As they say in Israel and the Jewish world during the holidays: Chag Sameach! Happy Holidays!