Biblical Pilgrimage Festivals and Major Feast Days
of
Ancient Israel and Modern Judaism

by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.


Three Biblical Pilgrimage Festivals:

Other Feasts and Special Days in the Bible:

Jewish Feasts Introduced in the Rabbinic Period:

Summary Chart of the Main Feasts in Modern Judaism:

[Yellow highlighting indicates the "High Holy Days" or "Days of Awe"; green highlighting indicates the three traditional "Pilgrimage Festivals."]

Hebrew Name of Feast
Translation / Alternate Names
Hebrew Date
(Gregorian Equiv.)
Biblical Basis
(esp. Lev 23 & Deut 16)
Description / Historical Event Commemorated / How Celebrated
Shabbat
"Sabbath"
7th Day each Week
(Fri eve - Sat eve)
Gen 2:1-3; Exod 20:8-11;
Lev 23:3; Deut 5:12-15
Day God "rested" or "ceased work" after finishing the creation of the world.
Rosh Hashanah / Jewish New Year
"Head of the Year"; Trumpets
Tishri 1
(Sept/Oct)
Lev 23:23-25 Anniversary of the completion of creation. Blowing of the Shofar (Ram's horn).
Yom Kippur
"Day of Atonement"
Tishri 10
(Sept/Oct)
Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32 Tenth day after Rosh Hashanah;  day of fasting and praying; holiest day in the Jewish year.
Sukkot / Succoth / Booths
"Season of Rejoicing"; Tabernacles
Tishri 15
(Sept/Oct)
Lev 23:33-36; Deut 16:13-17 Eight-day fruit-harvest festival; commemorates the Israelites' 40 years wandering in the Sinai desert. Book of Qoheleth read.
Shemini Atzeret
"Assembly of the Eighth (Day)"
Tishri 22
(Oct)
Lev 23:36 The "last great day"; an eight day of celebration at the end of Sukkoth.
Simchat Torah
"Rejoicing (in) the Torah"
Tishri 23
(Oct)
[Ps 119] Ends the annual cycle of Torah readings in the synagogue, and immediately begins again.
Chanukkah / Hanukkah
"Feast of Dedication"; Feast of Lights
Kislev 25
(Dec)
[1Macc 4; 2 Macc 10] Eight-day festival; recalls the rededication of the Temple (164 BCE) after the Maccabean revolt. Book of read.
Tu B'Shevat / Tu Bishvat
"15th (day of the month) of Shevat"
Shevat 15
(Jan/Feb)
Lev 19:23-25 "New Year for Trees"
Purim
"Feast of Lots"
Adar 14
(Feb/March)
Esther Commemorates Queen Esther's defeat of a plan to slaughter all Persian Jews, ca. 400 BCE. Book of Esther read. Major party time, with noisemakers, costumes, etc.!
Pesach
"Passover" & "Unleavened Bread"
Nisan 15
(March/April)
Exod 12:1-51; 23:14-19;
Lev 23:4-14; Num 9:2-5;
Deut 16:1-8
Eight-day barley-harvest festival; recalls Israelites' Exodus out of Egypt, ca. 1300 BCE; Seder meal held at home. Song of Songs read.
Sefirat Ha'omer
"Counting of the Omer/Sheaves"
Nisan 16
(March/April)
Lev 23:15-16 Counting the 49 days between Pesach and Shavu'ot.
Lag Ba'Omer
"33rd (day) of (Counting) the Omer"
Iyar 18
(April/May)
none "Lag" is not really a word, but comes from the Hebrew letters L=30 and G=3.
Shavu'ot
"Festival of Weeks"; Pentecost
Sivan 6
(May/June)
Lev 23:16-21; Deut 16:9-12 Wheat-harvest festival; commemorates God's revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Book of Ruth read.
Tisha B'Av
"9th (day of the month) of Av"
Av 9
(July/Aug)
2 Kings 25:8-9; Jer Major fast day; commemorates the two destructions of the Jerusalem Temple (586 BCE & 70 CE). Book of Lamentations read.
Tu B'Av
"15th (day of the month) of Av"
Av 15
(July/Aug)
none Mildly festive day, esp. for unmarried girls; no clear historical background

Five Minor Fast Days:

Name Hebrew Date Biblical Basis Historical Event Commemorated / How Observed
Fast of Gedalia Tishri 3 2 Kings 25:25-26 Killing of Gedaliah, Jewish governor of Judah.
Fast of Tevet Tevet 10 2 Kings 25:4 Beginning of the siege of Jerusalem (68 CE)
Fast of Esther Adar 13 Esther 9:31 Queen Esther's three-day fast before approaching King Ahasuerus.
Fast of the Firstborn Nisan 14 Exod 12:29 Last plague in Egypt; observed only by first-born males.
Fast of Tammuz Tammuz 17 Zech 8:19 Two captures of Jerusalem; followed by 3 weeks of mourning.

National Holidays in the Modern State of Israel:

Name Hebrew Date Historical Event Commemorated
Yom HaShoah / "Day of the Shoah" Nisan 27 Six million Jews killed during the Holocaust and the heros of the resistance.
Yom HaZikaron / "Memorial Day" Iyar 4 or 3 Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism (the day before Yom HaAtzmaut).
Yom HaAtzmaut / "Independence Day" Iyar 5 or 4 Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948 (moved up if Ayar 5 is a shabbat).
Yom Yerushalayim / "Jerusalem Day" Iyar 28 Israel's capture/unification of all of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967.

See also these related pages and other websites:


Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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