The Meaning of Feasts In the Biblical Tradition

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The feasts of Israelite and Jewish worship, like those in other religious traditions, were occasions on which worshipers might transcend the shortcomings of ordinary life. These three entries explain how festivals served as "windows" into a higher order of hope and positive values. In Israel the agricultural feasts took on added meaning as celebrations of the Lord's historic acts of blessing and deliverance and as tokens of the covenant.

An Introduction to Jewish Feasts

A feast is a sign of the divine in history. Israel celebrated three kinds of feasts: pilgrimage feasts, solemn or repentance feasts, and lesser feasts not mandated by the Torah. All of these commemorated God's action in the life and history of the community.

The Purpose of Jewish Feasts

A feast celebrates the positive character of existence. In the face of evil and pain, feasts proclaim the goodness of creation and the freedom to enjoy the world because God made it.

The Character of Jewish Feasts

The three major Jewish feasts are associated with three annual harvests; historically each involved the return of a portion of the harvest to the Lord. These offerings symbolized the reasons for the feast itself: God is the source of the fruits of the earth; God's gifts of produce are for the sustenance and comfort of the people; and because God gives freely, the worshipers must do the same, sharing their benefits with the needy.