The Appointed Festivals

The book of Leviticus, a reproduction of which (from Chapter 23) will be offered here in near future by Biblical Reproductions, is the third book of the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses.  It is different from the book that precedes it, Exodus, and the book that follows it, Numbers. While the others tell the history of Israel and its wanderings in the Sinai, and give rules for conduct appropriate for that condition, Leviticus is a separate book detailing rules and codes for the Priests serving the Temple.  The rabbis of the Talmud called it /Torat Kohanim/, a Priests’ Manual, with good reason.

The major theme of the book is the idea of holiness, by which they meant the separateness of the people of Israel, in general, and the priestly class in particular, from the general customs and beliefs of the world around them. This idea is further refined by scholars who see two separate streams of thought in the book itself: the Priestly writer (whom they call P) and the writer of the Holiness code (H). The former concerns himself with the priests in the Temple. The latter emphasizes the holiness of the entire House of Israel.

One important expression of holiness was the observance of sacred festivals, unique to the people of Israel. Chapter 23, represented in the replica offered here by Biblical Reproductions, concerns itself with this matter of holy days. It begins with the most widely-known of the holy days, the Sabbath. Then it details the three major pilgrimage festivals: /Pesah/ (Passover), /Shavuot/ (Weeks or Pentecost), and /Sukkot/ the festival of Tabernacles, or Booths.

Between these are two other feast days, the Offering of First Fruits, which the Hebrew calendar has long-since incorporated into Feast of Weeks, and the Festival of Trumpets, which has disappeared from the calendar. /Yom Kippur/, the Day of Atonement. Nowadays it is  the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar and it  has been incorporated into this list in its proper chronological place, before the feast of Tabernacles.

A beautiful reproduction of  a part of Chapter 23, Leviticus, will soon be available at, which is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.   This scroll fragment was discovered on the shores of the Dead Sea, at Qumran Cave 11.

Author: Walter Zanger