The Israel365 Guide
TO HEBREW MONTHS AND JEWISH HOLIDAYS
The Bible introduced a calendar with festivals and holidays occurring throughout the year, at God’s appointed times. This Hebrew or Jewish calendar is still in use in Israel today and operates according to the solar and lunar cycles, and is different from the secular, or Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory.
A new movement marking the growing ways many Christians are moving closer to their Biblical roots is calling for Christians to switch from the Gregorian calendar to the Hebrew calendar.
Every secular date has a corresponding Hebrew date, and each Hebrew month of the year has special, spiritual qualities. For example, Purim falls out in the month of “Adar” and since the Jews were rescued in the Scroll of Esther in Adar, it is known as a very joyous month. Passover falls out in the month of “Nissan” and since it is the month of the exodus from Egypt, it still contains elements of redemption to this very day.
Jews count years from the creation of the world, and so the year 2021 corresponds to the Hebrew year 5781, and there are many Jewish teachings that attach deep and mysterious meaning to the year 6,000 when we anticipate that the Messiah (Moshiach in Hebrew) will arrive by that time. However, there are some in Israel today, who believe that there is an error in the Hebrew calendar calculations.
Israel365 has prepared a guide to the Hebrew months and Jewish holidays for you to have a deeper understanding of God’s timing.
Shabbat is the day of rest established in the Bible, to acknowledge God as the creator of the heavens and the earth. Shabbat is celebrated weekly from Friday at sundown until Saturday at nightfall. Each week, a different Torah portion is read, ensuring its completion over the course of the year. The names of the weekly portions are marked on the calendar.
The Bible clearly tells us that Shabbat (the Sabbath) is an eternal covenant and a sign between God and the Children of Israel, but today, many Christians are embracing the Biblical Sabbath to discover the Jewish roots of their Christian faith.
Rosh Chodesh / New Moon
The beginning of each Hebrew month is considered a minor festival and marks the new moon. When the proceeding Hebrew month has 30 days, two days of Rosh Chodesh are observed: the 30th of the previous month and the 1st of the new month. However, when the preceding month has 29 days, only one day, the 1st of the new month, is observed as Rosh Chodesh.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz has explained how “Rosh Chodesh is a Holiday for Non Jews” according to Isaiah 66.
Tishrei contains many Jewish holidays and occurs in the autumn. Here is a cute video about Rosh Hashana that explains some of the Jewish customs. In a growing moment, many non-Jews who are interested in exploring the Jewish roots of their Christian faith are embracing the Jewish High Holy Days.
Rosh Hashana/New Year
In the Torah, Rosh Hashana is called Yom Teruah (The Day of the Shofar blast), as well as Yom HaZikaron (The Day of Remembrance). It is a day of judgment and the sound of the shofar is meant to arouse our souls to repent. The holiday is marked with prayer, shofar blasts, and festive meals, which often include symbolic foods such as pomegranates, whose many seeds are meant to symbolize the many good deeds we hope to have, as well as apples and honey, symbolizing the sweet year we pray for.
Fast of Gedaliah (Tishrei 3**) – Commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor of Judah in 582 BCE, as recounted in II Kings 25.
Yom Kippur/The Day of Atonement
During the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, there is a special focus on repenting and self-improvement in both relationships between man and God and relationships between man and man. Yom Kippur is marked with a 25 hour period of fasting. Most of the day is spent praying in the synagogue.
On the holiest day of the year, in 1973, Israel’s Arab neighbors invaded the Jewish State, but God protected His people in a miraculous victory known as the Yom Kippur War. In our generation, non-Jews are embracing the Day of Atonement and there are at least 15 reasons why Christians fast on Yom Kippur.
The seven day holiday is celebrated by eating meals in a sukkah (temporary shelter), and shaking the Four Species (a citron fruit, frond of a palm tree, boughs of a willow and branches of a myrtle tree). There is an extra obligation to rejoice on this holiday.
According to the prophet Zachariah, in the end times, on the Feast of Tabernacles non Jews will flock to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot with the Jewish people, a miracle that is occuring in our own generation! Rabbi Tuly Weisz explains the significance of the Sukkot holiday to non Jews in this video.
Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah/Eight day of Assembly and Rejoicing of the Torah (Tishrei 22*) – While the Torah only mentions celebrating the day with special sacrifices, this holiday has become a celebration of the Torah, as the yearly cycle of Torah reading concludes and begins again on Simchat Torah.
Cheshvan is sometimes known as “Mar Cheshvan” which means ‘bitter Cheshvan’ since its the only month with no holidays.
Falling in the winter, Kislev contains the holiday of Chanukah.
(Kislev 25 – Tevet 2)
The holiday of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) marks the rededication of the Second Temple in 164 CE, after it was desecrated by King Antiochus, as well as the victory of the Hasmonean dynasty in their fight against religious oppression. In Israel, there is fascinating archaeological evidence from the Hasmonean period that proves that Hanukkah took place.
The holiday is observed by lighting an eight-branched Chanukah menorah each night. On the first night one candle is lit. A candle is added each night, culminating in 8 candles being lit on the last night. It is customary to give gifts during Hanukkah.
Tevet contains a minor fast day that usually occurs in December.
Fast of Asara B’Tevet (Tevet 10) – Commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Occasionally, the fast of Tevet has fallen out on Christmas Day which Rabbi Tuly Weisz has explained the significance of in an article, “When Christians are celebrating, Jews are mourning and fasting.”
Known as the New Year of the Trees, the date is used to calculate the age of a tree for the purposes of tithing. Today, it is often celebrated by planting trees.
In many parts of the world, at this time of year, the trees look completely lifeless, barren of any leaves at all. The grass has also turned from a green shade into a light brown. In Israel, however, this time of year is cold but beautiful. During the winter season, the water level in Israel peaks and the grass and trees are green and full of life.
Adar is a particularly joyous month since it contains the holiday of Purim. According to Jewish tradition, Purim is the only holiday that will be celebrated in the “end of days” even after the Messiah arrives.
Fast of Esther (Adar 13) – This one-day fast immediately precedes the holiday of Purim and commemorates the three-day fast called by Esther in the Scroll of Esther. When the 13th of Adar falls on a Shabbat, the fast is moved to the previous Thursday.
(Adar 14 or Adar 15 in Jerusalem)
The Biblical holiday of Purim, which is established in the Book of Esther, celebrates a chain of events in which a decree issued to murder all Jews in ancient Persia was overturned and the Jews were miraculously saved. This very festive holiday with great significance is celebrated by publicly reading the Scroll of Esther, eating Festive Meals, giving monetary gifts to the poor and giving food packages to friends and family. During a leap year, when a second month of Adar is added to the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar.
Many non Jews are embracing the holiday of Purim and pastors are encouraging Christian Zionists to “joyfully celebrate the happiness of Purim” together with the Jews.
Nissan is known as the month of redemption and occurs in the springtime, usually March or April.
Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. The holiday begins with the Seder Night, when the story of Passover is retold over 4 cups of wine, matzah, a festive meal and songs. Leavened bread is prohibited throughout the entire holiday. There is great Biblical significance to the Passover symbols that lend great meaning to this important festival.
Holocaust Memorial Day
This day in Israel is marked with nation-wide memorials to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. The date chosen marks the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Iyyar contains modern Israeli holidays of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s memorial and independence day.
On the day before Israel’s Independence day, the nation remembers the more than 23,000 Israel Defense Forces soldiers and civilian victims of terror who sacrificed their lives for the State of Israel.
Celebrates the day David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel in May 1948. Religious Jews in Israel today observe Yom Haatzmaut by giving praise to Hashem.
On this day, a plague that affected thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students (2nd century CE), ended. It is often marked with celebrations and bonfires.
Marks the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War of June 1967.
Sivan takes place in early summer when the agricultural harvest season would take place.
This holiday is celebrated upon the culmination of counting the ‘omer’ from the second night of Passover. The Omer is the barley offering that is still harvested in Israel to this day, inspiring photos of the barley harvest can be seen here. Known as the Holiday of Bikkurim (First Fruits), during the times of the Temple, people would begin to bring the first of their harvests to the Temple on Shavuot. The holiday also commemorates the receiving of the Torah on Sinai. Customs include learning Torah through the night and eating dairy products.
The month of Tamuz commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Fast of Tammuz (Tammuz 17**) – Commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem on the 17th of Tammuz and begins a three-week mourning period over the fall of Jerusalem.
The month of Av takes place in the summer and also commemorates the destruction of the Temples.
The 9th of Av commemorates the destruction of both the first (587 BCE) and second (70 CE) Temples in Jerusalem, as well as the exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel. The Scroll of Lamentations, describing the horrors that accompanied the destruction of the first Temple, is read publicly.
According to Jewish tradition, Tisha B’av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar and a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, will be transformed into a joyous feast day in the Messianic era. Once again, in today’s generation, many Christians are embracing the day and fasting on the 9th of Av which according to Rabbi Tuly Weisz is a sign of prophecy unfolding.
Considered one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar, on this day unmarried women would dress in white and dance in the vineyards. In modern times, coming shortly after the three week period of mourning over the temple, 15 Av is considered an auspicious day for weddings.
The month of Elul takes place at the end of the summer and early fall. Jews start to blow the Shofar every day during the month of Elul in anticipation of the holiday of Rosh Hashana. Elul is known as a particularly auspicious time for prayer and reflection, for Jews believe that ‘the King is in the field’ and eager for a relationship with us during the month of Elul.
* Outside of Israel, these holidays are celebrated for an additional day.
** Because fasting on Shabbat is prohibited (with the exception of Yom Kippur) when this fast falls on a Saturday it is postponed to Sunday
*** In order to avoid desecration of Shabbat, these days are often commemorated a day before or after the official date
Note: The Jewish day begins at sundown the previous day. Thus, candle lighting for the start of Shabbat and Holidays takes place the evening before.