Minor Jewish Holidays

In addition to the major holidays commanded in Scripture, Jewish people observe several minor celebrations and fast days. The best known of these are Hanukkah (the winter Feast of Lights or Dedication) and Purim (the Feast of Esther). Most of the others, especially the fasts, are generally obscure to all but the most orthodox in the Jewish community. Below we have listed some minor Jewish holidays that will coincide chronologically with this issue of the Jews for Jesus Newsletter.

PRONUNCIATION Seh-FEE-rah Yohm Ha-ahtsmuh-OOT Lahg buh-OH-mer SHEEvah AhSAR Beh-TamOOZ
ENGLISH NAME The Counting of the Omer Israel ‘s Independence Day Scholar’s Festival the 17th of Tamuz
CALENDAR MONTH March/April-May/June May May June/July
JEWISH CALENDAR DATE 15th day of Nisan to 6th day of Sivan (49 days) 5th day of Iyar 18th day of Iyar, literally the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer (see Lev. 23:15) 17th day of Tamuz
DURATION 7 weeks (see Lev. 23:15) 1 day 1 day 1 day
PURPOSE Biblically mandated period of counting between Passover and the Feast of Weeks. Also a time of mourning for a plague that killed many of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples in the second century. Commemorates the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Commemorates the sudden end of an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples in the second century A.D. Commemorates traditional parallel dates of Jewish calamities-stone tablets broken by Moses; first breaks in wall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and 70 A.D.; cessation of daily offering in First Temple .
HOW OBSERVED IN JEWISH COMMUNITY State of semi-mourning. Except for Lag BaOmer and new moon celebrations, weddings and public festivities are not customary during this time. Kindling of torches on Mt. Herzl and parade of youth corps in Jerusalem ; international Bible contest for Jewish youth; Israeli song festival. By picnics, campfires and athletic programs and by lifting the Sefirah ban against weddings and other public festivities. A community-wide public fast day.
HOW OBSERVED IN SYNAGOGUE No musical instruments. Daily count while worshipers stand after evening service. Reading of Psalm 67 (49 Hebrew words); special emphasis on verse 5 (49 Hebrew characters); Prayer also contains 49 words. Special liturgy developed by Israeli Chief Rabbinate includes reading of Psalms 107, 97, 98; sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn) and the prayer that Israel be deemed worthy to hear the shofar announcing the Messiah. Air of celebration; official mourning of counting of the Omer relaxed. No reference in the prayer book to Lag BaOmer and no special blessings recited. Not generally observed outside Orthodox circles. Fasts are accompanied by prayer and confession of sins, prayers for mercy and reading of the Torah Pentateuch).
HOW OBSERVED IN JEWISH HOMES In order not to lose count some use an “Omer calendar” (with movable numbers) at home. Often these are art forms with intricate work and lettering. Some celebrate with house parties and dancing in the streets. Children go on outings, picnics and field days and play with bows and arrows. Abstention from food, drink and all personal pleasure. Among the most observant no haircuts, shaving, toothbrushing or even washing.
SPIRITUAL APPLICATION A time of spiritual preparation for Shavuot (Pentecost). Traditional anniversary of the revelation at Mt. Sinai . Kabbalists (a mystical sect) say the 49 days symbolize the 49 “gates” of impurity from the Egyptian bondage to the purity of the revelation at Sinai. Political rebirth looks forward to spiritual rebirth—beginning of the prophetic regathering and restoration of the Jewish people to the Land and rebuilding of the Temple before its desecration by Anti-Christ culminating in Messiah’s return (2 Thess. 2:1-4; Rev. 13:5, 6). God is always faithful to preserve his people according to his unconditional promise to Abraham. Fasts used as a supplement to serious prayer for God’s help. Traditionally associated with Zech. 8:19, where fasts in the Messianic era “shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts…”


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