Jewish Roots – Where to Begin?
Jewish Roots – Where Do I Begin?
by Lonnie Lane
Q. I am a Christian and God has recently been leading me to research and read about Jewish traditions. I am so interested in understanding which traditions and practices we as Christians should be incorporating in our lives. Where do I begin?
A. As with anything we should follow the Spirit and not seek to do traditions for tradition sake. Keeping the feasts and other appointed times such as Yom Kippur which is not a feast day but a fast day, or the Sabbath, are things we believe God wants for all of us, Jew and the Gentiles alike. Scripture is clear that God always intended for those who wish to join themselves to the community of God, that is Israel, would be included as they followed God’s laws. (Ex. 12:48, 49) So you’re on the right track to deepening your relationship with the Lord through keeping any of the appointed times of God outlined in the Torah. You can look in our Catalog for books on the appointed times or feasts of the Lord to learn more about each holiday.
Sid likes to say, “Observe the feasts not because you have to, but because you want to. It has nothing to do with salvation or righteousness but contains blessings and favor.”
As you learn of Hebrew traditions, stay free in the Holy Spirit. God does want His people to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord and Shabbat, etc. as He leads them to do so. If you lose any freedom in the Lord in the way you are practicing them, drop it, and find out how He would like you to observe them. Keep in mind that many Jewish traditions are rabbinic and not necessarily biblical. That is to say, the rabbis added to what was written, setting up a strict way of observing the holidays. If doing things that way blesses you and you find His joy in doing them, then by all means do them that way as unto the Lord. But if it becomes rote and not alive in the Spirit, then find out how God would have you do them.
There is no set way to celebrate the feasts of the Lord or other occasions. Scripture gives very little in terms of specifics. Yom Kippur says to fast on the day that the high priest went into the holy of holies to make atonement for the sins of Israel as a nation. But we know that our sins have already been atoned for by Yeshua. Many people fast on Yom Kippur and pray for the salvation of Israel on that day. Where and with whom is up to you. Sukkuot or the feast of booths or tabernacles is a time to build little tabernacles to remind us of when we lived in impermanent homes on the desert for 40 years. This is a wonderful time for creativity as people construct elaborate or very simple sukkahs in which they have meals or times of singing and worship. It might even be a fun time to camp out in one, imagining what it might have been like to live in one after leaving Egypt.
The Sabbath also has room for much creativity. It is to be a day of rest, a time to enjoy one another, and to think God’s thoughts. Generally this is kept on Saturday, but not everyone’s schedule allows for that. Some invite friends over to eat and share what the Lord is doing in their lives that week. Some do a Torah study. People might meet on Friday nights or Saturday. Some use the Sabbath to take a long nap and rest which is what God wanted for us — to rest. Keeping the Sabbath tends to rejuvenate us for the rest of the week.
But be creative. Let God lead you to do them in ways that will bless you and those you do them with. For instance, each year we do a Passover Seder a little differently. God really only told us to be sure our children know the story of the Exodus and of God’s great deliverance of Israel. One year while eating lamb we let the children tell us the story, as we guided them along by asking them questions. As they’d done this all their lives, they were able to tell the story. This past year we did a rather traditional Seder written by my daughter and then played a game of “Who am I?” which we made up in which child up to the age of 18 got to tell about one character or thing in the Exodus story.
The important thing is in each tradition or practice that you keep Yeshua the focus and that God’s ways be central and not the tradition itself. Each celebration, including the Sabbath, was to bring us closer to Him, to learn more about God and to enjoy Him and each other in godly ways. Once again, I believe he would have us be creative. Pray and ask Him how He would have you observe the times based on what you see in the Bible about each one. Follow your creative ideas and enjoy it.
Learning the Hebrew roots of our faith is not all about traditions and celebrations. Some of the observing of our Hebrew roots is learning to see how God thinks in the instructions He gave to Israel as to how they should live and love Him and love others. It is a study in itself to note how many different ways he tells us to care for one another. Jesus said the Torah and the Prophets are all summed up in love. We gain a greater sense of God’s love and holiness when we read the O.T. and see it through N.T. eyes of Yeshua’s love. As we become familiar with the Torah in particular or the whole Tenach (entire O.T.) we come into more of an understanding of the grace of God was always there but became visible to us through Yeshua, as He enables us to see God as He truly is. God’s appointed times, as portrayed in the O.T., were prophetic celebrations of Yeshua who was yet to come but we can celebrate them in the fulfillment, knowing that He has already come and we have the privilege and joy of knowing Him.