HaShem's Rehearsals

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Introduction. 1

The Appointed Times. 2

Shabbat 2

Pesach / Hag HaMatza. 2

Chag Shavuot - Yom HaBikkurim.. 2

Yom Teruah. 3

Yom HaKippurim.. 3

Chag HaSuccoth and Shemini Atzeret 4

The Scripts. 5

The Actions and the Props. 6

The Costumes. 6

 

In this study I would like to examine the festivals of the Torah from a different perspective. In previous studies we have noted that the festivals are appointments with HaShem, in a study titled: Settimes. We also studied the festivals as they picture the courtship, wedding, and honeymoon of Israel and HaShem, in a study titled: Appointm. In this study we will be studying the festivals as rehearsals.

 

Introduction

 

HaShem's festivals are rehearsals. A rehearsal with HaShem is like a rehearsal for a play. This suggests that the festivals are a teaching tool to prepare us to celebrate the fulfillment of the festival, at some time in the future.

 

To rehearse properly we need to know:

 

1.     The correct words of the script.

2.     The correct actions and props.

3.     The correct costume.

4.     The correct date and time.

 

A rehearsal is practice for the real thing. By celebrating the festivals dictated by HaShem, on Mount Sinai, and as detailed by Chazal in the Oral Torah: We will be in the right place, at the right time, wearing the right clothes, saying the right words, and doing the right things. Thus even if we were not highly Torah educated, or were distracted by the task that HaShem gave us, even then we would be perfectly positioned to fulfill His will.

 

To begin to understand the rehearsals of HaShem will entail looking at the Hebrew word that means “rehearse”. The Hebrew word "miqra" is translated as "sacred assemblies" or “holy convocation” depending on which translation one uses.

 

Strong's defines the Hebrew word "miqra" as:

 

4744 miqra', mik-raw'; from 7121; something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal:-assembly, calling, convocation, reading.

 

Thus we see that mikra defines an assembly of people for the purposes of rehearsing. The first use of miqra is found in:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:16  And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.

 

In this pasuk, HaShem is speaking about the first festival that we celebrate in each year, the festival of Pesach.

 

The rehearsals, the festivals, of HaShem, are spelled out in Vayikra chapter 23. The first verse to speak of these rehearsals is:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of HaShem, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:4 "'These are HaShem’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times:

 

Vayikra chapter 23 describes the rehearsals, the festivals, of HaShem. Notice that these are HaShem’s appointments, which the Sanhedrin (those who sit in the seat of Moses) was to proclaim and sanctify. The Sanhedrin determined the date for these rehearsals based on their determination and sanctification of the new moons. Because they had the authority to determine when to sanctify a new moon, they had the ability to change the date for the festivals.

 

The Appointed Times

 

Each of the following festivals is a rehearsal. These festivals represent the times appointed by HaShem to rehearse. This also suggests that these are the times for the fulfillment of these rehearsals:

 

Shabbat

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:2-3 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of HaShem, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. "'There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to HaShem.

 

Pesach / Hag HaMatza

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:14-17 "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to HaShem--a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat--that is all you may do. "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:6-8 On the fifteenth day of that month HaShem's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to HaShem by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.'"

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 28:16-25 "'On the fourteenth day of the first month HaShem's Passover is to be held. On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Present to HaShem an offering made by fire, a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With each bull prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; And with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you. Prepare these in addition to the regular morning burnt offering. In this way prepare the food for the offering made by fire every day for seven days as an aroma pleasing to HaShem; it is to be prepared in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. On the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.

 

Chag Shavuot - Yom HaBikkurim

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:15-21 "'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to HaShem. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to HaShem. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to HaShem, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings--an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to HaShem. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before HaShem as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to HaShem for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 28:26-31 "'On the day of firstfruits, when you present to HaShem an offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Present a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old as an aroma pleasing to HaShem. With each bull there is to be a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; And with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat to make atonement for you. Prepare these together with their drink offerings, in addition to the regular burnt offering and its grain offering. Be sure the animals are without defect.

 

Yom Teruah

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23-25 HaShem said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to HaShem by fire.'"

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:1-6 "'On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets. As an aroma pleasing to HaShem, prepare a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; And with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you. These are in addition to the monthly and daily burnt offerings with their grain offerings and drink offerings as specified. They are offerings made to HaShem by fire--a pleasing aroma.

 

Yom HaKippurim

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:26-32 HaShem said to Moses, "The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to HaShem by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before HaShem your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath."

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:7-11 "'On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work. Present as an aroma pleasing to HaShem a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; And with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering for atonement and the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.

 

Chag HaSuccoth and Shemini Atzeret

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:33-36 HaShem said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month HaShem's Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to HaShem by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to HaShem by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:12-38 "'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to HaShem for seven days. Present an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to HaShem, a burnt offering of thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With each of the thirteen bulls prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with each of the two rams, two-tenths; And with each of the fourteen lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the second day prepare twelve young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings. "'On the third day prepare eleven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the fourth day prepare ten bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the fifth day prepare nine bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the sixth day prepare eight bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the seventh day prepare seven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering. "'On the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work. Present an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to HaShem, a burnt offering of one bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull, the ram and the lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:37 ("'These are HaShem's appointed feasts, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing offerings made to HaShem by fire--the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day.

 

Ezra-Nechemiah 8:2-8 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised HaShem, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped HaShem with their faces to the ground. The Levites--Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah--instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.

 

The Scripts

 

Now that we know the proper times to rehearse, we now need to understand what scripts we should use at each of these rehearsals.

 

The Torah never teaches us how to fulfill the Torah commands. The festivals are no different. The manner of the fulfillment of the festivals is described in the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah describes the rules that Chazal used to write the scripts for our rehearsals. These scripts are the prayer books, the siddur, and the festival prayer books, the machzorim, that we use to guide our prayers on the festivals.

 

The prayers we pray in the synagogue with the rest of the congregation are so much like a script that they even include the different parts that are used by the different participants. We have parts for the Hakham, for the Priests, for the Levites, for the other Jews. We also have special parts for the cantor (the Sheliach Tzibur). Each of these different parts is designed to bring out each of the various parts which make up the body called Israel.

 

In addition, each major group has its own siddurim and machzorim which are ever so slightly different from the others. The different customs represent the different missions and roles that the various groups are to exercise.

 

The last part of the scripts are the special Torah, Haftorah, and Psalms readings that are prescribed for the festivals.

 

Whether we are following the annual or the septennial / triennial Torah lectionary cycles, we all interrupt our readings for special festival readings. HaShem gave us these special readings. These readings are designed to bring to mind the requirements of the festivals and a bit of the background for these readings. To learn about the details of these readings, look at the following link: Festivals.

 

The Actions and the Props

 

The actions for each of the festivals are commanded in the Torah and detailed in the Oral Torah.

 

The weekly Shabbat and each of the festivals, in Vayikra chapter 23, are described as containing festival Shabbats. These festival Shabbats have the same actions and prohibitions as the weekly Shabbat. The only difference between the weekly Shabbat and the festival Shabbat is that we are allowed to cook on the festivals, if the fire is lit before the festival.

 

The Torah describes the following festival actions:

 

On Pesach we are commanded to avoid chametz and to eat matza. We are commanded to tell our children about the exodus from Egypt. In addition, we are commanded to offer the prescribed offerings, which included the unique Omer offering. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal to celebrate this festival.

 

On Shavuot we were commanded to wave two leavened loaves before HaShem and to offer the prescribed offerings. On this day, HaShem gave us the Torah, both the written and the oral. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal to celebrate this festival.

 

On Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) we are to sound the shofar a hundred times. In addition, we are commanded to offer the prescribed offerings. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal to celebrate this festival.

 

On Yom HaKippurim we are required to fast and to deny ourselves. This includes no sex, not washing or anointing the body, and no eating or drinking. In addition, we are commanded to offer the prescribed offerings. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal, on the ninth of Tishri, to celebrate this festival.

 

On Succoth we are commanded to dwell in a temporary dwelling called a succah. We are commanded to celebrate this festival with the four species: The palm branch, willow branches, myrtle branches (the lulav), and the etrog. We are commanded to celebrate this festival with great joy. In addition, we are commanded to offer the prescribed offerings. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal to celebrate this festival.

 

On Shemini Atzeret we are to spend one more day with HaShem after the Gentiles return to their homes. In addition, we are commanded to offer the prescribed offerings. Finally we are commanded to have a festival meal to celebrate this festival.

 

The Costumes

 

There are two pieces of clothing that constitute our costumes. We have the talit and the kittel.

 

* * *

 

So, the next time you celebrate HaShem's festivals, think of them as a rehearsal for the future. Remember that in the celebration of the festival and the performance of the various mitzvot associated with them, constitute a finely tuned rehearsal that will put us in the right place, at the right time, with the right costume and props, and doing the right things. Isn’t that the place where we all long to be?

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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