This week’s Torah Portion is Parashat Emor (Say) Leviticus 21:1-24:23.
This week’s Torah portion contains a foundational part of Jewish observance— the festivals. I am frequently asked by individuals who are not Jewish, “Should I keep the Biblical festivals?” My answer is the same whether one is a Jewish believer or a Gentile believer. First, it must be acknowledged that it is physically impossible to keep these festivals. Even if one travels to Jerusalem with the intention of keeping the festival, he will not find an altar there (or a Temple) upon which to make his sacrifice.
Perhaps this one will respond, “Yeshua is my sacrifice, I just wanted to worship Him on this Holy day and acknowledge it and Him in a special way; should I not recognize this date and set it apart in some way?” This latter statement is most different than the former. It is very different for one to acknowledge that this is the date of a Biblical festival and to want to study the message and practices of this festival and set it apart for worship than attempting to keep it.
It is certainly permissible for one to acknowledge the significance of a date and the festival that was observed on this date and to study about the festival and to worship G-d in a way that is related to the message of the festival. This is good and I believe can be very beneficial spiritually. The problem is when one begins to feel it is sinful for a believer not to mark the festival or to believe that he is indeed keeping it.
Romans 14 offers clear teaching that if one does wish to set apart a day to worship G-d in a unique way this is acceptable. However, if one does not and uses each to worship G-d and give thanks to Him, this one has not sinned. In fact, both are behaving in a manner that is rooted in a desire to acknowledge Yeshua and give thanks to Him. The festivals do reveal truth concerning the Person and Work of Messiah Yeshua and should be studied. Personally, I find it enjoyable and it assists me spiritually to follow the Biblical calendar and mark the festivals and set these days apart. But, it is required? Does HaShem require it? Is it sin not to do so? The answer to all these questions is no He does not.
I will say that it is odd to me why a believer would place no significance on a date in which a Biblical festival was observed, but then acknowledge another day that has no Scriptural significance and often times is pagan in origin and go all out to celebrate it.
In America there is a day which is called Thanksgiving Day. It is certainly not pagan; in fact its origins are rooted in its name, simply a desire to thank G-d for the blessings He provides. I remember being invited to a local Christian assembly on the evening before Thanksgiving Day for the purpose of teaching on the Biblical concept of giving thanks to HaShem. I gladly accepted. As I was leaving, one of the members invited me to teach at another event the congregation was having in a few weeks. I could not accept this invitation because it was during Chanukah and there was a previous commitment that I had made. I shared this with this gentleman and he not only became confused, but very condemning that I would take part in anything having to do with Chanukah. I explained to him that Yeshua went up to Jerusalem in order to take part in the celebration there (See John 10:22).
This is the judgment that Paul in Romans chapter 14 warns strongly against. A very important verse from this chapter is verse 5,
“…Let each one in his own mind be fully convinced.”
Good advice for good behavior.