This passage delineates the holidays God has designated for the Children of Israel. Beginning with the Sabbath, it lists the unique commands of each holiday and an overview of its sacrificial service. Passover, or Pesach, is next, with its unleavened bread, followed by the command to bring an Omer offering from the first of the harvest. From the second day of Passover, when the Omer is brought, 49 days must be counted until the next holiday, Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. Then we are told that on the first day of the seventh month, the new year, Rosh Hashana, is marked, and on the tenth of the month is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, during which the people must afflict themselves with fasting. The fifteenth is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Children of Israel are commanded to dwell in booths, and the eighth day of this seven-day holiday is called Shemini Atzeret, which is also consecrated.
The Israel Bible includes several fascinating insights into these holidays. Of the Omer, it says the offering is meant as a reminder of God’s role. Throughout their travels in the desert, God provided the Israelites with Manna. Tradition says the Manna stopped falling on the second day of Passover following their arrival to the Israel. The barley offering of the Omer reminds the people that despite all the effort they have put into planting and harvesting the grain, it is only through God’s blessing that it grew.
On Sukkot, God commands the Children of Israel to take four species together and wave them. The Sages liken the species to four types of people: the citron, which has both taste and smell, is like one who has both wisdom and good deeds. The myrtle, with its pleasant scent, is like one who has wisdom only. The date palm, with its sweet fruit, is like one who is not knowledgeable, but does good deeds. Finally, the willow, with neither smell nor taste, is like one who lacks both wisdom and action. By taking all four types together, we symbolize the importance of uniting everyone in the service of God.
Sukkot is also the time in which the Talmud says God judges the people for rain. Yet the Torah specifically commands the people to be happy at this time. How can a nation so dependent on rain (Israel’s primary water source) rejoice while they are under such scrutiny and uncertainty? By making the people dependent on rain, God strengthens their connection to Him. That connection is the source of the great joy.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think the new year is marked in the seventh month and not the first?