The Feast of Weeks

440px-Illustration_Hordeum_vulgare0BThe Hebrew Bible designates three times each year in which all males are to appear before YHVH, in the place that he will choose.

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:16-17, ESV).
[Compare Exodus 23:14-17 and 34:23.]

Of these three festivals, perhaps the feast of weeks is the least understood. As VanderKam stated in his Anchor Bible entry on the subject, this “festival is unusual among the holidays in the Hebrew Bible in several respects: it is never assigned a precise date; it is never associated with one of the great events of Israel’s history; and it is never mentioned by name except in lists of cultic festivals.

The biblical feast of Weeks is not assigned a precise date, rather we are told that the timing for the observance of Weeks is to be determined by counting seven weeks “from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain” (Deuteronomy 16:9). The book of Leviticus provides additional clues in that it informs the one counting:

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:15-16a, ESV)

The difficulty in determining the precise date has presented an opportunity for disagreement among the various religious groups past and present. Which “Sabbath” is one to use? The book of Jubilees, as well as certain texts from Qumran suggests that they “interpreted the ‘morrow after the Sabbath,’ in Leviticus 23:11, 15 to mean the first Sunday after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The Pharisees, however, understood it to refer to the day after the after the first day of Unleavened Bread (i.e., 1/16) and hence Weeks would occur on 3/6. Still other groups (the Boethusians, Samaritans, and Karaites) took ‘Sabbath’ to mean a literal Sabbath and regarded it as the one that fell within the seven days of Unleavened Bread.” (VanderKam).

Regardless of when the count begins, the period of 50 days puts one into the third biblical month. While the Bible does not make a direct association with any specific event in Israel’s history, ancient writers, based upon their reading of the biblical stories, were able to draw certain parallels between the third month, covenants, and ultimately the meaning of Shavuoth. The covenant at Sinai, for instance, was made in the third month (Exodus 19:1). Could it be that the precise date of this covenant corresponds with the Festival of Weeks? Quite possibly since prior to Israel’s departure from Egypt, there are references to an un-named festival (Exodus 5:1; 10:9). What festival is meant in these verses? The Chronicler writes of a religious reform under the reign of King Asa that took place in the third month (II Chronicles 15). In that covenant the people join by oath, which in Hebrew suggests a possible connection with Shavuoth since the name of Weeks in Hebrew is based upon the same root word as oath.

VanderKam points out that other covenants were associated with the third month. The author of Jubilees, though unsupported by any direct scriptural reference claims that God’s covenants with Noah, Abraham, and the covenant between Jacob and Laban all took place at this time of year.

Perhaps the precise dating of weeks must remain a mystery. Perhaps, there is no historical event that can be shown to be the source of this ancient Hebrew festival. Given the uncertainties surrounding Shavuoth, those seeking to live a biblical life are left to sort through the arguments and count for themselves. From the available information that has come down to us in modern times we must admit the complexities involved in determining a precise date for Weeks. If the ancient Israelites debated over the date, one should not be surprised that we too will be forced to enter the fray if we hope to solve the old question of when to begin the count. Maybe it is enough for us to think of this season as a time of renewal to the covenants of old, or a time to reflect on the goodness of YHVH. According to Jeremiah, a people with a “revolting and rebellious heart,” refused to say, “Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks (Shavuoth) appointed for the harvest” (Jeremiah 5:24).

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For further reading:
Exodus 23:14-17; 34:23; Leviticus 23:9-16; Deuteronomy 16:9-17

The Truth About Shavuoth, Gordon, N. (2014). Nehemia’s Wall. Retrieved from http://www.nehemiaswall.com/truth-shavuot

Brining in the Sheaves, Tabor, J.D. (2014). TaborBlog. Retrieved from http://jamestabor.com/2013/05/15/bringing-in-the-sheaves-the-meaning-of-pentecostshavuot/

Feast of Weeks, VanderKam, J.C., Anchor Bible Dictionary

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The Leading of the Spirit in Torah Living

300px-Menora_TitusIn this class, Ross covers the third Torah reading from the book of Numbers. He begins by showing the importance of studying the 40 year journey of the wilderness generation as it was described by Moses, and recorded in the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy. The class shows the significance of the Spirit in living a Torah based life. Contrary to popular opinion, one seeking to live according to the Torah must be led by the Spirit. You will not want to miss this teaching.

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The Priestly Blessing

priestlyblessingIn this class, the second in his “In the Wilderness” series, Ross takes a close look at the words of the Priestly Blessing. This ancient blessing was to be spoken by the priests over the children of Israel, thus putting the Name of God upon the children of Israel. But what precisely does the blessing mean? The blessing consists of 15 words in Hebrew that are well known, or are they? By working through the Hebrew Bible, and looking at other occurrences of the words and phrases found within the blessing, Ross seeks to provide insight into the meaning of this ancient and cherished blessing of the children of Israel.

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Go Ahead – Judge a Book by Its Cover!

TanakhReaders of my blog will recall my excitement when I discovered that the Jewish Study Bible was available in a leather bound edition. I wrote about it on my blog at that time. I felt that I had finally found an English version of the Holy Scriptures that would be my one and only printed bible. I loved everything about the bible: everything that is, except the cover. The bible comes with a black bonded leather cover, and while I liked it better than my hard-cover edition, I wanted a softer, more supple leather. I decided to begin a search for a company that I could trust to rebind my favorite English bible. The search led me to Leonard’s Book Restoration Station in Borrows, Indiana.

I spent a few days looking at their website. The site contained photos of books and bibles that they had restored, and the work was beautiful. The choices seemed almost endless, offering all sorts of leather in a wide variety of colors. The testimonials from satisfied customers attested to the quality of work, and after several days I decided that I would have them rebind my Jewish Study Bible. I selected a glossy chocolate, genuine, soft-tanned, premium goatskin. On April 14th, I completed the online request for an estimate, and later that same day I received a phone call to discuss my request. On April 16th, I received an official estimate for the work.

They received my Tanakh on April 23rd and true to their word, delivered the finished product to me about 5 weeks later. I could not be more pleased with their work. I own many bibles, but this is by far my favorite. The quality of craftsmanship is unsurpassed by any bible that I have ever held in my hands.  I highly recommend Leonard’s Books for any of your bookbinding needs. Take the time to visit their website and look around. I promise that you will not be disappointed. The staff is professional and courteous and will take the time to answer any and all of your questions or concerns. Be prepared to be separated from your beloved book for 5 weeks, but also be prepared to be amazed at how beautiful the finished work will be.

I’ve often heard, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I say, if the inside of the book is worthy, then there is no better place to trust the outside to than Leonard’s Books.

For more photos of my Tanakh rebound by Leonard’s Books, click here.

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The Shema Song by John Carlson

john-carlsonThis is a song written by my friend John Carlson. It was inspired by, and based upon the Shema. I first posted this nearly seven years ago, but rediscovered the post this evening and decided to post it again. It is a great song and I think that many will enjoy it. Please feel free to share it far and wide.

John Carlson wrote the following about the song.

“Shema means “hear” or “listen” in Hebrew and it is traditionally the scripture read at the beginning of every Torah service. It consists of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:-21 and Numbers 15:37-41. The melody came to me one afternoon when I was messing around with my guitar and when I couldn’t make it work with any of the psalms I decided to try it with the Shema, it fit perfectly. It is obviously not a literal rendition of the full Shema but I believe it has captured it’s heart and substance and so I say it is based on these scriptures.”

Here are the lyrics:
Chorus

Shema Y’srael Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad
Y’srael Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad

Love the Lord your God with all your heart
Love the Lord your God with all your strength
These commands that I have given you
Shall be written on your hearts, Y’srael
(chorus)

Teach your children of my ways
Speak of them throughout your days
When you rest and when you rise
Seal them on your hearts, Y’srael
(chorus)

Bind them on your wrists and brow
On the frames of entry to your house
On the gates that lead into your lands
Let them deep into your hearts, Y’srael
(chorus)

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