S’firat Haomer

Feast of First Fruits & Shavuot

Leviticus chapter 23 provides a listing of all seven festivals that God gave to the children of Israel to observe.  Verses one and two introduce these holidays by calling them the feasts of Hashem[1]:

1 And Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:  ‘The feasts of Hashem, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are my feasts.’”

Two key terms emerge from these verses – feasts and holy convocations.  The first word comes from the Hebrew, moed, which means “appointed time.”  The second term comes from the Hebrew, mikra kodesh, which means “a set apart gathering” of people.  Mikra derives from the Hebrew root, kara, meaning, “to meet.”  Putting these two concepts together, we learn that each festival is an appointed time when God gathers His people in order to meet with them.

The Counting of the Omer begins a 50-day period culminating in the festival of Shavuot.  This season begins on the day when an omer of barley was waved[2] in the Temple as a “firstfruits” offering.  The biblical command comes from Leviticus 23:9-15:

9Hashem said to Moses, 10“Tell the people of Israel, ‘After you enter the land I am giving you and harvest its ripe crops, you are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.  11He is to wave the sheaf before Hashem, so that you will be accepted; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.  12On the day that you wave the sheaf, you are to offer a male lamb without defect, in its first year, as a burnt offering for Hashem.  13Its grain offering is to be one gallon of fine flour mixed with olive oil, an offering made by fire to Hashem as a fragrant aroma; its drink offering is to be of wine, one quart.  14You are not to eat bread, dried grain or fresh grain until the day you bring the offering for your God; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.  15From the day after the day of rest – that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving – you are to count seven full weeks….’”

From this passage in Leviticus, we can draw a number of conclusions.  Verse 10 states, “after you enter the land…and harvest its ripe crops.”  This indicates that this festival occurs at a specific harvest time.  The Land of Israel produces at least three harvest seasons.  The early Spring harvest of barley, the late spring / early summer harvest of wheat, and the fall harvest of fruit.  Since the context of this passage occurs in early Spring during Passover, we know that it refers to the barley harvest. The “sheaf”, therefore, would be a sheaf of barley.

Verse 11 declares, “the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.”  By using the term, “Sabbath”, we learn that the event of waving the sheaf must occur following a specific Sabbath day during the barley harvest season.  Furthermore, as the passage is tied in with the festival of Unleavened Bread, it teaches us that this Sabbath falls during the week of Unleavened Bread.

In the first century, a controversy arose between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the interpretation of “the Sabbath” in this passage.  The Sadducees, composed mostly of priests, taught that “the Sabbath” meant the regular Sabbath falling during the week of Unleavened Bread.  According to their interpretation, the waving of the omer would always occur on a Sunday.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, interpreted “the Sabbath” to mean the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15), since this day was also counted as a Sabbath.  We know this from verse seven which says, “On the first day [Nisan 15] you are to have a holy convocation; don’t do any kind of ordinary work.”  According to their interpretation, the waving of the omer would always occur on the 16th day of the month of Nisan.

The controversy was not a small matter.  This day begins a period of counting off 50 days, ending on Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.  Shavuot is one of the three festivals in which all males are required to appear before God in Jerusalem (Exodus 23:14-17). Starting the count on the wrong day means that Shavuot would be observed on the wrong day as well, thus causing one to violate the command to appear before God at the appointed time.

The Sadducees based their interpretation on verse fifteen, “you are to count seven full weeks.”  The verse literally says, “count seven Sabbaths.”  The Sadducees interpreted “Sabbaths” to mean seven regular Sabbaths.  The only way to count 50 days and include seven weekly Sabbaths is to begin the count on Sunday.  The Pharisees maintained that “Sabbaths” meant weeks in this case and not Sabbath days.

Since Yeshua fulfilled the waving of the omer when he rose from the dead, a logical solution for messianic believers might lie in discerning what day of the week Yeshua was actually resurrected.  However, even this approach does not provide a clear-cut answer.  According to the gospel accounts (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-7; John 20:1-9), Yeshua rose from the grave on Sunday during the week of Unleavened Bread.  This seems to give weight to the conclusions of the Sadducees. Scripture clearly informs us that he was placed in the tomb at the close of Nisan 14, just as the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread was approaching (John 19:31[3]).  Many believe that in the year these events took place, the weekly Sabbath and the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread occurred on the same day.[4]  Accordingly, Yeshua would have been placed in the tomb late Friday afternoon. [5]  Assuming that this view is correct, the waving of the omer would have occurred on Sunday, fulfilling the interpretation of the Sadducees, yet also on Nisan 16, fulfilling the requirement of the Pharisees.  To state the obvious, both interpretations seemed to be fulfilled.

Nevertheless, this author is of the persuasion that we should observe the waving of the omer on Nisan 16 for several reasons.  First century historians Josephus and Philo both state that the “day after the Sabbath” of Leviticus 23:11 means the day after the holiday Sabbath, meaning that the omer would always be waved on Nisan 16.

In addition, the book of Acts also gives testimony to this view through its silence on the issue.  Most of the first century Jewish believers appear to have come from a Pharisaic background or at least from a doctrinal position closely kin to that of the Pharisees.  Had the first-century leadership understood Yeshua’s resurrection on the first day of the week to be sanctioning the opinion of the Sadducees, surely the book of Acts would have recorded it.  However, it provides no such evidence.  The book does record that Rav Sha’ul made haste to get to Jerusalem in time for the feast of Shavuot (20:16).  Since the date of the waving of the omer also determines the date of Shavuot, this would have been a logical place to introduce a change from the Pharisee view to that of the Sadducees.  This seems especially true given that Sha’ul was himself a Pharisee (23:6).  Yet, no introduction is given.

The Commandment to Count the Omer

Scripture commands us to actually count the days and weeks from the waving of the omer to Shavuot.  The text of Leviticus 23:15-16 states,   

15“From the day after the day of rest – that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving – you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; youare to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Hashem.”   

Notice that verse 15 says to count the weeks while verse 16 says to count the days. From this passage we learn that we are to count both days and weeks until Shavuot.

How does one count? Any time after sundown, the father of the house should say, “Today is 1 day of the omer; today is two days of the omer; … ; today is 2 weeks and 2 days of the omer; and so on.”  As Messianic believers, some may want to also include the traditional Jewish blessing prior to counting.  The blessing in English says, “Blessed are you O LORD our God, King of the Universe, who has set us apart by your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.”   

How the Omer Points to Yeshua

As previously discussed, the omer is a firstfruits offering of barley (Leviticus 23:10-11).  On this day, Yeshua rose from the grave as a type of firstfruits – a guarantee of the future full harvest of resurrected souls. 

Shavuot – An Agricultural Holiday

Shavuot is an agricultural holiday set during the time of the wheat harvest.  It marks the day when a new year’s wheat harvest may be eaten (Leviticus 23:14,16).  Prior to that day, only the previous year’s crop may be consumed.  The reason is that the entire crop must be consecrated to God first.  This requirement is fulfilled by the firstfruits offering.   

Names for Shavuot

The Feast of Shavuot is known by a number of different names, each reflecting a different aspect of the festival.  These include:

·        Shavuot.  Shavuot is the biblical name of the holiday and is the plural form of the Hebrew, shavua, meaning weeks.  Thus, the name Shavuot emphasizes the counting of the weeks.

·        Pentecost.  Pentecost is the Greek form of the biblical name and means fiftieth. Thus, the name Pentecost emphasizes the counting of the days.

·        Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:10).

·        Feast of Firstfruits [of the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22)].

·        Bikkurim[6].  Bikkurim is Hebrew for firstfruits.

·        Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16).

·        The Atzeret or conclusion to Passover[7].

·        Season of the giving of the Torah[8] (Romans 9:4).

·        Day of the Revelation of God at Mt. Sinai.

·        Yom Kahal, or Day of the Assembly (Deuteronomy 18:16).   

The Temple Ceremony

·        According to Leviticus 23:17, the children of Israel were to wave two loaves of bread made from the flour produced by the new crop of wheat.  These were in addition to the animal sacrifices of verses 18 through 20 and the sacrifices listed in Numbers 28:26-31.  The commandment of waving the two loaves required that they be made with leaven.   

·        These loaves were made of wheat, whereas the sheaf waved before Hashem at the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest during the week of Unleavened Bread was of barley. Like the barley, the wheat had to pass through thirteen sieves (or whatever number was necessary to make the flour fine enough) before being used to make the two loaves.  The flour was said to be so fine that a man could shove his arm into a barrel of it and none would supposedly stick to his skin[9].   

Fine flour is made from ground and crushed wheat.  This process speaks of the refinement that our faith goes through as we are conformed to the image of Messiah. We can also see the Messiah in that, as wheat is planted in the ground, so Messiah Yeshua was planted in the womb of the young virgin Miriam.  And as wheat, when it becomes grown and ready for harvest, is beaten and refined, so was Messiah Yeshua beaten and refined for our sins.  We might also look upon the fine flour as an indication of the purity of Messiah or perhaps the refinement of his followers.

What is the significance of the leaven in the loaves and why two of them?

–         The loaves appear to represent two groups of people: Jews and non-Jews brought together as one in Messiah Yeshua.  The leaven indicates that neither group is without sin, even though they are new creations in Messiah.  In Leviticus 23:19 and Numbers 28:30, we see that a sin offering accompanied both loaves.  The sin offering demonstrates that both groups are imperfect and sinful; hence, both loaves are leavened.  

 –         At the Feast of Unleavened Bread, no leaven could be eaten.  That festival speaks of the sacrificial offering of the sinless one, Messiah Yeshua.  Shavuot, on the other hand, speaks of the birth of the congregation of believers, both Jewish and Gentile.  Neither group is without sin, symbolized by the leaven in the two loaves.   

–         Samuele Bacchiocchi in his book, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History – Part 1, sees the two loaves as representing “Israel’s response to the blessing of salvation.  Though Israel was called by God to be holy unto Him, sin still existed in the lives of the people.  This explains why at Pentecost the loaf offerings were accompanied by sin offerings[10].”   

–         Boaz and Ruth form a picture of this bringing together of Jew and Gentile as one people.  The setting of the latter half of the book of Ruth is the spring harvest (Ruth 3:2).  Boaz represents Israel while Ruth represents the Gentile nations who would later be grafted into the true olive tree of Israel (Romans 11:16-24).  The Bookof Ruth is traditionally read at Shavuot.  In the book of Ruth, we find a valuable lesson: if Gentiles want to join themselves to the God of the Jews, they must also embrace the Jewish people as their own – Ruth 1:16.   

·        Shavuot marks the beginning of the period of time when farmers could bring their firstfruits offerings to the Temple[11].  Deuteronomy 26:1-15 describes the ceremony that surrounds the firstfruits offerings brought by individuals.  Farmers from all over the Land would bring their wheat to the Temple in baskets decorated with leaves and flowers.   

Farmers would identify firstfruits by going out into the fields and tying reed-grass around an early ripening fruit and declare it as firstfruits[12].  At harvest time, these fruits would be set apart to be taken to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Bands of pilgrims would make the trek up to the holy city, led by an ox with its horns overlaid with gold and a crown of olive leaves on its head[13].  Flutists played before them until they arrived at the Temple Mount[14].  At this point, the owner of the fruit carried it on his shoulder into the Temple courtyard.  While the basket was still on his shoulder, he would recite Deuteronomy 26:3, “I declare today to Hashem your God that I have come to the country which Hashem swore to our fathers to give us.”  Afterwards, he would take the basket down from his shoulder and together with the priest would wave it while the priest recited Deuteronomy 26:5-10.  When finished, the owner would set the basket by the altar, prostrate himself toward the Holy of Holies, then make his exit[15].  The ox would later be sacrificed.   

A number of messianic typologies can be observed here.

–         By declaring his early ripening crops as firstfruits before any of the other fruits had ripened, the farmer was making a declaration that God would be faithful and provide the rest of the harvest.  In the same way, Yeshua became the firstfruits of those to be resurrected, declaring that his followers would also share in that glory.

–         The ox symbolizes Yeshua, who as a lamb led to the slaughter, became the supreme sacrifice.  At the same time, he is our leader, leading the way to the New Jerusalem.

–         The horns on the ox remind us of the authority Yeshua has over our lives, as horns are a symbol of authority.

–         The crown of olive leaves on the head of the ox reminds us of Yeshua’s kingship.  It also reminds us of the crown of thorns he endured on our behalf (Matthew 27:29).

–         The word for flute in Hebrew is khalil and was so-called because it was pierced. Interestingly, the flutist also led the procession.  He too points to Messiah, because he is the pierced one – the one who suffered a torturous death of crucifixion yet now is alive and leading us to everlasting joy.  

Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai

According to the account given in Exodus 19, the children of Israel came to Mt. Sinai on the third day of the third month, or Sivan 3.  That same day, Moses went up to meet with God on top of the mountain. God instructed Moses to have the people ready three days later on Sivan 6.  The text of the relevant verses from Exodus 19 reads as follows:   

1In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.  2For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Desert of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness.  So Israel camped there before the mountain.  3And Moses went up to God, and Hashem called to him from the mountain….9And Hashem said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.”  So Moses told the words of the people to Hashem.  10Then Hashem said toMoses, “Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.  11And let them be ready for the third day.  For on the third day Hashem will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”   

Exodus chapter 20 records the events which occurred on that particular Sivan 6. This chapter is where we find the Ten Commandments.  If we are correct in beginning the count on Nisan 16, we can then conclude that these famous words were given at Shavuot, since Shavuot would then fall on Sivan 6[16].   

What happened on this day at Mt. Sinai?  The rabbis said that God spoke the Ten Commandments in the seventy languages of the world[17] at that time.  They derive this position from Exodus 20:18 which says, “the people witnessed the thunderings” (Heb., kolot).  Notice the word is in plural form.  Scripture tells us that God’s voice sounds very much like thunder (John 12:29).  In fact, the Hebrew word “kolot” can also mean voices.  To state the obvious conclusion then, “the people witnessed the voices [of God].”   

In recounting the events at Mount Sinai, Moses stated in Deuteronomy 4:12, “Hashem spoke to you out of the midst of the fire.  You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; only a voice[18].”  Commenting on this verse, the rabbis said the people actually saw God’s voice in the form a fiery substance[19].   

Outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh in  Jerusalem

An event similar to that at Mount Sinai occurred on Shavuot 1500 years later in Jerusalem.  The book of Acts tells us that 120 of Yeshua’s disciples were gathered together in the Temple[20] on this festival day when tongues of fire rested upon each of them and they began to speak in other languages as a result of being filled with the Ruach HaKodesh[21] (Acts 2:1-4).   

Just as the Torah was given in the form of a covenant on Mount Sinai at Shavuot, so  he Renewed Covenant was also inaugurated at Shavuot.  One major difference is that the Torah is written on the hearts of Renewed Covenant participants.  Previously, it had been written on tablets of stone.   

Parallels Between Shavuot at Sinai and Zion   

·        Shavuot marks the day when God entered into covenant relationship with His people. At the first Shavuot, He instituted the Mosaic covenant from Mount Sinai wherein He gave the Torah in written form. At the  Shavuot in Jerusalem, He established the Renewed Covenant from Mount Zion in which He wrote the Torah on the hearts of Yeshua’s followers.   

·        At Mt. Sinai the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone by the “finger of God” (Exodus  31:18).  At Mt. Zion, the Torah is written on tables of the heart by the Spirit of God (2Corinthians 3:3;  Hebrews 8:10).

·        Both were accompanied by many languages (tongues) and by fire (Exodus 19:16-18; 20:18; Acts 2:1-4).   

·        Shavuot at Mt. Sinai is sometimes considered the day on which Judaism was born.  Shavuot in Jerusalem    can  also be viewed as the beginning of the Messianic Community.   

A Wedding Bethrothal

At the original Shavuot at Sinai Israel became betrothed to God, in a sense (Jeremiah 2:2).  The prophet Ezekiel (chapter 16) also compares the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai to the wedding vows between a husband and wife.  In verses eight and nine he states,   

“8Again I passed by you, looked at you and saw that your time had come, the time for love.  So I spread my cloak over you to cover your private parts and entered into a covenant with you,” says Hashem Elohim, “and you became Mine.  9Then I bathed you in water, washed the blood off you, and anointed you with oil.”   

In rabbinical thought, this verse speaks of God taking Israel as a wife.  The bathing in water refers to Israel being immersed in a mikvah prior to their marriage to God at Sinai[22] (Exodus 19:10-11).  In fact, the Torah can be viewed as a ketubah, “a formal written document which spells out the terms of a Jewish wedding contract[23].”   

In Judaism, a biblical wedding consists of two stages:  betrothal, Hebrew erusin, and consummation, Hebrew nesu’in.  This idea comes from Deuteronomy 24:1, “when a man takes a wife and marries her.”  The betrothal is initiated with the ketubah, the marriage contract.  The ketubah is so legally binding that one cannot get out of it without a divorce.  Seen in this light, the Torah given at Sinai is the ketubah.   

In Exodus 19:5-7, God made a marriage proposal to Israel:   

5“’Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine.  6And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’  These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”  7So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which Hashem commanded him.  

Scripture records Israel’s response in verse eight:  “All that Hashem has spoken we will do.”  Their reply showed that the nation accepted God’s marriage proposal.   

The betrothal at Sinai foreshadowed the coming betrothal of Renewed Covenant participants with Messiah.  Those who follow him have entered into the betrothal stage of marriage to Him.  In Hebrews 8:6, we find that the Renewed Covenant, like the covenant at Sinai, was established as Torah[24].  In this New Covenant, God writes his ketubah on our hearts and gives us His Ruach HaKodesh as a guarantee of His coming for us (2Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14) and of His taking us to Himself to be his special treasure.  Revelation 19:7-9 provides a picture of the eventual consummation of the marriage between Messiah and his bride, the kahal[25].  There we find the great “marriage supper of the lamb,” and everyone who follows Yeshua is invited to participate.   

Jewish Traditions

A number of Jewish traditions arose to help give meaning and purpose to the festival of Shavuot.

·        In many Orthodox communities, men stay up all night on Shavuot to study the Torah.

·        Since the setting for the book of Ruth takes place during the spring harvest season, the book of Ruth is usually read at this time.

·        Many Jewish communities eat dairy products on this day.  In several places, scripture likens itself to milk (Job 21:24; Song of Solomon 4:11; Hebrews 5:12-13; 1Peter 2:2).

·        As a reminder of the harvest aspect of the holiday, some Jewish communities spread grass on the floor of the synagogue and on the windowsills in their homes. They also decorate their homes and synagogues with baskets of fruit, plants, flowers, and other greenery.

·        For the first night of Shavuot, the family table is typically set with the finest dishes and linens.  In such a home, the woman of the house would light the holiday sabbath candles, reciting the Yom Tov[26] and Shehekianu[27] blessings. Afterwards, the father would recite the Kiddush (the blessing over the wine) followed by the hamotzi (the blessing over the challah).  Finally, the family would enjoy a traditional holiday dinner containing a number of dairy dishes such as cheese blintzes and cheesecake.

Second Century Christian Traditions

A number of early Christian traditions are known today.  Even though they come to us from a culture that was in the very early stages of separating itself from its Jewish roots, we can nevertheless gain much insight through them.  Much of their practice probably came from the teachings of the Jewish apostles in the previous century.  In fact, a surviving fragment from a bishop dated around 170 CE appeals to an apostolic origin for several Shavuot customs[28].   

·        Shavuot was viewed as a season rather than a single day, lasting the entire 50 days beginning with the counting of the omer and concluding on the feast day itself.  In other words, when one spoke of Shavuot or Pentecost, he really meant the entire 50 days.   

·        During the season of Shavuot, weeping, fasting, and kneeling were discouraged.  The Apocryphal Acts of Paul (180 CE) states, “While Paul was in prison, the brethren, since it was Pentecost, wept not, neither did they bow the knee, but they stood and prayed rejoicing[29].”  Put another way, the season of Shavuot was to be a period of great joy.

Tertullian (190 CE) spoke of the joy of this season resulting from the resurrection of Yeshua being proven over and over among his followers and from the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh being poured out on the disciples.[30]

·        A major theme of Shavuot for second century believers was one of forgiveness. The reason is that the number 50 was viewed symbolically as representing forgiveness.  Every fifty years on the Jubilee, all debts were canceled and slaves were set free.  Also, fifty days after leaving Egypt, God showed that He forgave the Israelites for their sins of idolatry and rebellion by giving them the Torah.

·        Another custom surrounding Shavuot among second century believers was that of immersion.  The 50-day season of Shavuot was viewed as the ideal time to be immersed.  A likely reason for favoring this time of year is that it reminded the immersion candidates of the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh during this season.

Bacchiocchi points out that immersions were an annual event in early Christianity, “because it took at least a year to prepare for baptism candidates coming from a pagan background.”  He further reports that “pagan converts could be baptized only after months or even years of instruction into the…faith.”[31]                

Other Insights

·        Shavuot represents the giving of the Torah of God, written not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart, with the Spirit of the living God (2Corinthians 3:2-3).

·        The event in Jerusalem on Shavuot amounts to a reversal of Babel (Genesis 11:9).  At Babel, God confused the language of the people as a result of their misusing their unity for wicked purposes.  At Jerusalem, God caused people whose different languages separated them to now understand each other as they praised God, which is the proper use of unity.

·        In a similar vein, we can say that a major theme of Shavuot is revival.  Certainly we could say that when God poured out his Ruach HaKodesh on Yeshua’s followers, they were revived.  As believers, we need to seek God daily for the reality of Shavuot to be present in our lives.

·        Shavuot is a picture of the Jubilee.  The Jubilee cycle consists of seven weeks of seven years each.  Every seventh year is a Sabbatical year in which the land lies fallow and debts are canceled (Leviticus 25:3-4; Deuteronomy 15:1-2).  Thus the Jubilee serves to liberate the oppressed.  As in the Jubilee year the land was to lie fallow in order to provide produce free of charge to the poor, so at the Feast of Shavuot the poor and strangers are to be invited to partake of the festivities.  “Thus, the feast served not only to honor the God of Israel, but also to recognize the bond of unity that existed among the members of the covenant community[32].”

·        The sanctification of the firstfruits consecrates the entire harvest.  Therefore, the firstfruits serve as a stand-in for the whole.  Rav Sha’ul seemed to be saying this when he wrote, “Now if the challah offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole loaf” (Romans 11:16).  In this same fashion, Yeshua and those who were resurrected with him (Matthew 27:52-53), became the stand-ins for the whole harvest of righteous souls to be resurrected upon his return (1Corinthians 15:20-23, 51-53; 1Thessalonians 4:14-16).  Thus, they became the guarantee and the assurance for the rest of us who have yet to experience that glorious destiny which awaits us.

·        “The meaning of the Feast of Pentecost is lived out every day in our life as our inward being is renewed daily by God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16).  As we receive the fruits of the Spirit, we bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in our life, namely, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians 5:22).  These in turn enable us to become the firstfruits of God.”[33]

[See Notes below Bibliography]—————————————————————————–Bibliography:·

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  • The ArtScroll Mesorah Series Pesach, 1995·        
  • Walton, John H. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament, 1978·        
  • Weissman, Rabbi Moshe The Midrash Says on Shemot,1980·        
  • Zimmerman, Martha Celebrate the Feasts, 1981·      
  • Zlotowitz, Rabbi Meir The Book of Megillos, 1986


[1] Hashem is a substitute for the sacred name of God, Yod-Hay-Vav-Hay.  In American Christianity, it is usually translated as LORD (all upper case letters).  Occasionally, it is erroneously transliterated as Jehovah.  Judaism will translate it a number of ways, including Lord, Adonai, the Eternal, and Hashem.  This paper consistently uses Hashem.  In English, it simply means “the name.”

[2] We do not wave the omer in modern times because one only does so at the Temple in Jerusalem, which does not exist at the time of this writing.

[3] John calls this Sabbath a “high day,” indicating that this was no ordinary Sabbath.  From his use of the term, we can discern that it must be the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread that was approaching.

[4] See, for instance, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 1, by Samuele Bacchiocchi, p. 170.  Other works holding this view include The Temple, by Alfred Edersheim, p. 257, and God’s Appointed Times, by Barney Kasdan, pp. 44-45.

[5] Not everyone in Messianic Judaism is in agreement on what days of the week to place the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua.  Some argue for a Wednesday crucifixion, a Thursday (Wednesday night) burial, and a Saturday night resurrection.  Others contend for a Thursday crucifixion, a Friday (Thursday night) burial, and a Sunday morning resurrection.  Those who hold these two views also agree with the Sadducees in the timing of both the waving of the omer and the festival of Shavuot.

[6] Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times, p. 52.

[7] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, p. 262.

[8] Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times, p. 53.

[9] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, pp. 259, 264.

[10] Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 1, pp. 175-176.

[11] Encyclopedia Judaica, Shavuot article.

[12] Mishnah Tractate Bikkurim.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Mishnah Tractate Bikkurim.

[16] This of course, assumes that the calendar in that year corresponded to the modern Jewish calendar.  In other words, the month of Nisan would have been 30 days long while the month of Iyar would have been 29 days long, or vice-versa.  If both were 30 days long, Shavuot would have fallen on Sivan 5.

[17] Rabbi Joseph Hertz, The Authorized Daily Prayer Book, p. 791.

[18] Most translations interpret the verse to mean that the people saw no form but only heard a voice.  However, the verse literally says, “you saw no form; only a voice,” implying that the people actually saw God’s voice.

[19] Rabbi Moshe Weissman, The Midrash Says on Shemot, p. 182, Benei Yakov Publications (1980).

[20] Acts 2:2 states that they were gathered together in “the house.”  Ariel and D’vorah Berkowitz rightly point out in their book, Take Hold (p. 165), that the term “house” is a euphemism for the Temple.

[21] Ruach HaKodesh is the Hebrew equivalent of Holy Spirit.

[22] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Made in Heaven, pp. 78-79.

[23] Ariel and D’vorah Berkowitz, Torah Rediscovered, p. 11.

[24] The text of Hebrews 8:6 reads, “But now [Yeshua] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established AS TORAH on better promises” (emphasis mine).  With the exception of the Complete Jewish Bible and the New English Bible, practically every single translation omits the words, “as Torah”.   This is more than an oversight.  The compound Greek word in this verse, nenomothetêtai, appears in identical form in one other place – Hebrews 7:11.  The word in that verse is usually translated as “received the law [Torah]”.  The implication of Hebrews 8:6 is that the Renewed Covenant was given as Torah from Mount Zion in the same way as the Mosaic Covenant was given as Torah from Mount Sinai.

[25] The word “congregation” (often translated as church) in the New Covenant scriptures translates from the Greek word, ecclesia, meaning “called-out ones.”  The Dictionary of New Testament Theology says that the term “represents exclusively the Hebrew kahal…which is probably related to kol (voice) and means a summons to an assembly and the act of assembling.”  Hence kahal is the Hebrew term which we can use to identify the community of Yeshua’s followers.

[26] The Yom Tov blessing takes the form, “Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu Melekh ha’olam asher k’dshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov.”  Translated into English it says, “Blessed are You O LORD our God King of the Universe who has set us apart by your commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of this festival day.”

[27] The Shehekianu blessing takes the form, “Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu Melekh ha’olam shehekianu v’kimanu v’higianu lazman hazeh.” Translated into English it says, “Blessed are You O LORD our God King of the Universe who has kept us in life and has preserved us and enabled us to reach this season.”

[28] Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 1, p. 213.

[29] Ibid., p. 205.

[30] Ibid., p. 206.

[31] Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 1, p. 215.

[32] Ibid., p. 176.

[33] Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 1, p. 196.