Friday, September 23, 2011

FFF - Fall Feasts Fever

For football fans, fall means FFF - Friday Football Fever. I have come down with a fever, but it is of a different sort. For me, fall ushers in a fever for the Lord's Feasts. The Fall Feasts, also known as High Holy Days, are something I love and are my most favorite biblical feasts of all.
It's like I am preparing to have the ultimate dinner party. When I plan a get-together, first there has to be an invitation. I have to decide who I am inviting and when I will have my party. Second, I clean house like mad (I do have two small children after all). I may even bring out the good dishes, and decorate a little more, like adding little touches here and there; put out the guest towels, add some candles, buy groceries, prepare a meal, make dessert and get the good coffee. And finally, I get to spend time with my guests. At the end of the dinner party, after the last guest has left, I reflect on the evening and hope that everyone had a great time because I did. The excitement for the party started when I was preparing the invitations. It's the anticipation of the party that gives me a kind of "fever" for the event and I just can't wait until the party day arrives.
Eating apples with honey on Rosh Hashanah 2010
For me, the Fall Feasts are exactly like that. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Fall Feasts. It is the one that ushers in the new year of the civic calendar. It is a time of rejoicing and blowing of trumpets or Yom Teruah.
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, `In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." -Leviticus 23:24
It's also an invitation. The sound of the trumpets was often an announcement of preparedness. (Ex. 19:9, Jos. 6:5, Jud. 7:18) When you hear the shofar being sounded, its an invitation to rejoice to the Lord. What a pleasure and what an honor to have been invited!
Then nine days later, is Yom Kippur. You deny yourself and repent for your sins. This doesn't take away from Yeshua's sacrifice. Actually it makes you more aware of how precious that sacrifice is. You have to humble yourself before the Lord and ask for forgiveness.
"On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God." Leviticus 23:27-28
For me it's like I'm asking forgiveness for my sins and my continuing to sin, thus making my Messiah spill His blood over and over for me. It's sobering. This is the "cleaning house" part. You have to get yourself ready, because the Lord is going to come over.
Medina's Sukkah 2007
Then comes Sukkot, my favorite feast. Evidence points to this time as being when Yeshua was born. When he came to dwell with us and was called "Emmanuel." Sukkot is all about making a temporary dwelling place outside of your home and dwelling there with the Lord.
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, `On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD." Leviticus 23:34
"`You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. `You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.' " Leviticus 23:41-43
Sukkot 2010
The point is, you focus on the Lord and spend time with Him. He is your guest of honor, the one you have been preparing for all these days since you received the invitation. I believe it to be the most enjoyable feast because it is a picture of the wedding banquet between our Messiah and His bride (believers). You don't spend those days watching television, or playing video games or surfing the net. You are outside in your Sukkah. You are spending time with your family, praising the Lord and talking about Him, learning about Him, just acknowledging that your home is not on this Earth, it is with Him. Baruch HaShem! Blessed is His Name!
There are a few family traditions that my husband and I started even before we had children. Now that we do have children, well all the Lord's Festivals have become even more enjoyable. For Rosh Hashanah, we like to eat dessert first, since one of the themes is to usher in a sweet new year. So the order of the meal is backwards and fun! I also make a brisket with fruit and wine that has a deliciously sweet taste. I have included the recipe below. I usually try to make some sort of shofar craft with the children out of paper mache. It's super easy and fun for the children. If they already have their own shofars, making a shofar bag with their name on it is also fun.
On Yom Kippur, the tradition is to right any wrongs in your personal relationships. You try to make amends and ask forgiveness not only from God, but from your friends and family as well. For children, a good practice would be for them to write a list, at least three things that they feel badly about and then they can go to the person and ask forgiveness. It's a good picture about grace and forgiveness that they can learn during Yom Kippur. Then they can understand that only by asking forgiveness can they receive grace from the Lord. (Ez. 18:32, Mr. 1:15)
During Sukkot, we build a Sukkah and invite people over to eat under it every year. Like I said, its the ultimate dinner party because you also have an honored guest; the Lord. So I do tend to go all out, preparing meals inviting guests and just enjoying those precious few days when our focus is on the Lord. We traditionally try to cook Gazpacho, a Puerto Rican dish, every year on at least one of the nights. It is a cod fish and avocado salad that goes great with Puerto Rican rice & beans. (My husband is Puerto Rican and he started that tradition.) On one of the nights while in the Sukkah we have everyone write a poem about Sukkot. It can be about that particular evening or the festival in general. It is so fun to hear all the poems and lyrics that people come up with. I have kept them over the years and it has been a very enjoyable tradition!
I encourage you to take some time to research these feasts for yourselves. Start this year, even if it is your first time, or if all you can do is learn about them, I am sure you will be blessed. Start your own family traditions for each festival so that they become special to you and your children. In a world where there are numerous "holidays" that are celebrated that are not biblically based and may even stem from pagan practices, it is important to instill the Biblical Feasts of the Lord where they belong; in our family traditions and in our hearts.
Yes, I definitely catch a fever this time of year. And you know what? I hope the fever spreads to everyone I know!

Rosh Hashanah Brisket:
8-10 lbs. brisket
1 pkg. dates
6 large oranges
1 c. Manischewitz grape wine
1 pkg. dried plums
1 pkg. dried apricots
Trim off excess fat from brisket. Slice brisket into 1 inch slices all along longest length of brisket, keeping its original shape. Place in roasting pan. Sprinkle dates, plums and apricots over brisket. Squeeze juice from oranges over brisket. Scoop out any pulp from oranges and sprinkle over brisket. Pour wine over brisket. Cover and cook at 350 degrees for 3 hours. Serve with your favorite rice. This recipe is great to usher in a sweet new year!