Jewish High Holidays

Jewish High Holidays


Shema Yisrael


Susan LeDoux


Most Christians know that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are Jewish holidays. However, those celebrations, along with Kol Nidre and Sukkot, constitute an entire season designed by God to bring his people through a period of cleansing and joy.

Rosh Hashanah

Blowing of the shofar

Sound the shofar!

On Thursday, September 9th, Scott Cassity lifted the hollow ram’s horn and blew the four shofar calls. The tekiah was one blare, a call to awaken. The shevarim, with three short blasts, a petition for relief. The teruah served as a battle cry. Finally, the tekiah gedolah represented the last trumpet call and was held for an amazing length of time. With the calls of the Shofar, the Messianic congregation of Shema Yisrael began the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on the first day of Tishri, the 7th month in the Jewish calendar. For centuries, these blasts have served as God’s alarm clock, awakening his people from spiritual slumber to ask: am I right with God?  What do I need to change so my name will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year?

The “ten days of awe” that begin with Rosh Hashana and end with Yom Kippur are a special time for people to search for those human iniquities that lie hidden because of ignorance of God’s word, denial, or deception by Satan.

The Rosh Hashanah celebration continued with Davidic dancing; every step a prayer as the dancers floated in and out of their circle. The Torah was brought forth and carried joyfully around the congregation. Rabbi Jim Appel opened the Torah scroll, penned with vowel less script on lambskin parchment, and proclaimed the Word of God in Hebrew and English.

He reflected that education was imperative to ancient Jews because they had to memorize the entire scroll. Scripture in book form did not exist. This explains how the Apostles and disciples could preach scripture without written texts, so profoundly throughout the known world.

Donita Painter shared the story of Hannah when “her desperation (for a child) caused her to commit herself and her family in such a deep way that it aligned with God’s purposes.” Referring to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have in mind for you…” Donita reflected that God is working in the background for His people and His people need to trust him in faith, obedience and patience. “Always be ready to give a reasoned answer to explain our hope in Christ and what He does in our individual lives,” she declared.

A reception followed the service and preceded the Tashlich, the ceremony of throwing bread, representing sins, into a stream to be carried away “as far as the east is from the west.”

Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur

Kol Nidre is observed on the eve of Yom Kippur. On that evening, people ask God for forgiveness for any vows to him that they made and broke, including vows made under persecution.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement for the sins of the past year. Man can never meet God’s perfect standards. With justice and mercy, God established the sacrificial system through Moses, whereby sins are covered with sacrificial blood.  In the days of the temple, the high priest sacrificed two goats. He poured the blood of one goat on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and he sent the other goat into the wilderness, carrying all the sins of the people. The word “kippur” means “covering” of sins; hence the Day of Atonement is called Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Jim explained that the required bloody animal sacrifice has not been possible since the temple was destroyed.   Instead, non-Messianic Jews hope that prayer, fasting, good works, and seeking forgiveness will lead to atonement. Messianic Jews realize that the blood atonement has been achieved by Jesus’ death on the Cross. Hence, while confessing sins and asking for forgiveness, there is joy in their Yom Kippur observance.

He made distinctions between the words that mean breaking God’s law. Iniquities are not actual sins, but rather, a state of being, a carnal nature. A sin is missing the mark, falling short of God’s standard. A transgression is an intentional, unlawful, offensive act. Rabbi Jim explained that iniquities hamper one’s walk with God, keep one from bearing fruit and even reap corruption in the flesh with diseases like hypertension and ulcers. The iniquity of bitterness, especially, carries harmful spirits such as un-forgiveness, resentment, anger, hatred, violence, even murder. Additionally, the spirit of not forgiving God or self breeds a sense of shame. Therefore, “Today is a day of freedom. Receive the power of Jesus’ sacrifice to cleanse consciences of shame and remorse,” he declared.


Sukkot, following Yom Kippur, is a seven day period celebrating the harvest as well as God’s forgiveness. Also called Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, it is a reminder of the time of wandering in the dessert, living in tents and following God in a cloud or a pillar of fire. In anticipation of a second harvest, the temple priest would pour water on the altar as he circled it 7 times in supplication for rain. A lulav of freshly cut branches and palm fronds would be fashioned together and joyfully waved about.

Shema Yisrael congregation built a sukkah(tent dwelling) on their lawn. It stood, a three sided, decorated lean-to made with lattice panels… a lovely invitation to stop and rest. After the service inside, the entire congregation followed the Torah as a member carried it around the sukkah while people joyfully waved palm fronds and the lulav.

Sukkah decorated for Sukkot

Rabbi Jim reflected that the four feasts, Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, complete a cycle from sorrow to joy. For those who believe in Jeshua, the joy is greater because of the certainty that he has separated his people from their sins as “far and the east is from the west.”

Carrying the Torah around the sukkah

With permission from The Good News


This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply