Most people suppose that Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year is the start of the religious calendar of observance among the Jewish people. Truth being told, Passover is actually the starting point of the annual observance of the Moedim, God’s Appointed Feasts. We read in Exodus 12:1 that, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Numbers 28:16 says, “On the fourteenth day of the first month the LORD’s Passover is to be held.”
So why is Passover the start of the New Year and not Rosh Hashanah? As the B’nai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, were departing Egypt, they were leaving behind the old slave nature and mentality and entering into a newly redeemed life. It was a very difficult transition, as they were used to bondage and having every aspect of their life being controlled and manipulated by a cruel oppressor. However, it was also the promise and hope of heading for a “golden” land, flowing with milk and honey, where they could live in freedom and enjoy the goodness of the Lord.
Their new life was to begin at Passover and this would be their reckoning of time from this point forward. Regrettably, they fell into sin and continued to look back to Egypt, even wanting to go back. We read in Numbers 11:5, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” It’s as Yeshua said in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Passover begins the annual cycle of observance and all the other Feasts of the Lord are counted forward from this date. Interestingly, you don’t even need a calendar to determine when Passover occurs. Judaism uses a Lunar Calendar, unlike the Egyptians and other nations, who worshiped the sun. All we need to know is that Passover takes place on the first full moon of the spring. So, wherever you are, when the first full moon of spring arrives, you know its Passover, the 14th Day of Nisan. Knowing this simple truth, it’s now easy to determine when the other Feasts of the Lord begin. Just as spring brings new life, Passover was to bring new life to the B’nai Yisrael (Children of Israel). For us Believers, John 20:31 is so true, “But these are written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.”
The traditional Counting of the Omer (Leviticus 23:15-16) begins on the second night of Passover. This period of time is rich with spiritual implications as we count the 50 days from our redemption from Egypt to the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai, the fulfillment of redemption. In the same way, we count the 50 days from the ultimate redemption of Messiah’s death and resurrection during Passover to its fulfillment with the outpouring of the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) on Shavuot (Pentecost), as recorded in Acts 2:4, “They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.”
Since we know that Passover began on the 14th Day of Nisan, we count forward past Shavuot to the 1st Day of the Month of Tishri, Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets. We read in Leviticus 23:24, “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with Shofar blasts.”
We then count forward ten more days and we reach Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 23:27 says, “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 the LORD by fire.”
Now we’re getting the hang of it. We count forward five more days and we reach the final Feast of the Lord. It’s now Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. We read in Leviticus 23:34, “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.” Not only is this the final feast, but it speaks of end times and our eternity with Yeshua, the Passover Lamb, as we celebrate the marriage supper with Him, knowing our names are written in the “Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give Him the glory! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb.” We can also use this formula to reach Chanukah, Purim, and other Feasts and holy days.
The Lord in His wisdom did not want to use the sun to determine the calendar because of sun worship in Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped Ra, who was known as the sun god. It was also believed that Pharaoh descended from Ra. The Lord wanted to make a clean break from the idol worship in Egypt and He did not want the Children of Israel to take the sin of Egypt with them. But just as they failed miserably, so do we at times fail the Lord. However, remembering the words of John, the beloved of Yeshua, we read in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
During Passover we are taught that “every person in every generation must look upon himself as if he personally had come forth out of Egypt….It was not only our forefathers that God redeemed, but He also redeemed us with them.” We must now participate in our own personal Passover. As Exodus 12:11 says, we need to stand upright before the Lord, “with our cloak tucked into our belt, our sandals on our feet, and our staffs in our hand…. it is the LORD’s Passover.” In other words, we need to get ready for what the Lord is about to do!
By doing so, we not only relate to the historical aspect of Passover, but we encompass spiritual redemption bought for us by the shed blood of Yeshua the Messiah. We read in 1 Peter 18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
This is the season to get rid of the sins of Egypt and bondage to Pharaoh and give it all to the Lord. We read from 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
May this Passover season bring new life and hope to all of us, as we experience our new found freedom in Messiah Yeshua, our Passover Lamb.
Rabbi Yossi Laster