Making Pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Three Annual Feasts

Understanding the Requirements of the Commandment to "Go Up"

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Published: September 2010

Table of Contents

Shemot 23:15-17 - The 3 Annual Pilgrimage Feasts

The Seven Festivals of the Messiah - NOT!

Devarim 16 - Who is Commanded to Go Up?

Why Are We Commanded to Go Up?

In These Days Should We Be Going Up to Yerushalayim For the Feasts?


The prophet Yeshayahu [Isaiah] speaks of the Messianic Age when people will be making pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see and hear Messiah teach the Torah (the instructions of the Law) to the nations.

Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahuwah, to the house of the Elohim of Ya'acov. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of Yahuwah from Yerushalayim. (Yeshayahu 2:4)

Likewise, the prophet Zecharyah speaks of the Messianic Age when all the people around the world will go up to Yerushalayim to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles:

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Yerushalayim will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahuwah Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16)

There is no doubt that when Messiah comes to rule and reign in Jerusalem, the inhabitants of the earth will pay tribute to him when they go up to make pilgrimage for the annual feasts of Yahuwah.

So, we see in our time that many Jews fly into the holy land to celebrate the feasts.  And many who are attached to Yahuwah and to his Messiah are going up to Yerushalayim to observe these same three feasts.  Several questions, then, stand before us.  Why are these people going up for the annual feasts? and are all who seek to obey Yahuwah's Torah required in our day to go up to Jerusalem for the feasts?  Who is required to go up? only the men?  Are all those who are observing these feasts at home and at camping facilities being disobedient of the commandment to go up?  Those who are serious about fidelity to Yahuwah want to know these things.

Shemot 23:15-17 - The 3 Annual Pilgrimage Feasts

Let's begin our investigation of the Scriptures by studying the commandment to go up.  The instruction is first presented in Shemot 23 as Mosheh was given the extended commandments from Sinai.

Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of the Aviv, for in that month you came out of Mitzrayim. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.  Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.  Three times a year all the men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah. (Shemot [Exodus] 23:15-17)

The Hebrew word gx; (pronounced hăg with a guttural h, usually transliterated as chag) means to make pilgrimage, keep a pilgrim-feast.  This is the word normally translated Feast.  And this word is used of the three annual pilgrimages which Yisrael was to make to Yerushalayim to appear before Yahuwah and bring their tithes.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the first Feast on the Hebrew calendar.  Instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread are given in Vayiqra [Leviticus] 23:6-8:

On the fifteenth day of that month Yahuwah's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.  On the first day hold a set apart assembly and do no regular work.  For seven days present an offering made to Yahuwah by fire. And on the seventh day hold a set apart assembly and do no regular work.'"

The Second Feast on the Hebrew calendar is the Feast of Shavuot, or Weeks, also sometimes called Pentecost.  Instructions for it follow in Vayiqra 23:15-21:

From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to Yahuwah.  From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to Yahuwah.   Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to Yahuwah, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings-- an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to Yahuwah.  Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering.  The priest is to wave the two lambs before Yahuwah as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a set apart offering to Yahuwah for the priest.  On that same day you are to proclaim a set apart assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

Notice that the instruction tells us that "from wherever you live, bring... to Yahuwah."  This clearly implies the need to "go up" to Jerusalem, since that is where Yahuwah dwells in the tabernacle.

Next, the Third and final Feast on the Hebrew calendar is the Feast of Sukkot, or Tabernacles.  It's instructions are in Vayiqra 23:

Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "Say to the sons of Yisrael: 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month Yahuwah's Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.  The first day is a set apart assembly; do no regular work.  For seven days present offerings made to Yahuwah by fire, and on the eighth day hold a set apart assembly and present an offering made to Yahuwah by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work." (vs. 33-36)

This Feast lasts for seven days and is celebrated after the crops have been gathered.

So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to Yahuwah for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest.  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim for seven days.  Celebrate this as a festival to Yahuwah for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.  Live in booths for seven days: All native-born sons of Yisrael are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the sons of Yisrael live in booths when I brought them out of Mitzrayim. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. (vs. 39-43)

Here, all the native-born sons of Yisrael are to participate by living in booths.

Again, in Shemot 34, Scripture summarizes the need for all men to "go up" to celebrate these three annual Feasts to Yahuwah:

Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of the Aviv, for in the month of the Aviv you came out of Mitzrayim... Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.   Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah, the Elohim of Yisrael. (Shemot [Exodus] 34:18, 22-23)

There is nothing ambiguous about the call of Yahuwah to "go up" three times a year to Yerushalayim, the place where his presence dwells, to celebrate the 3 seasonal harvest festivals to Yahuwah.  The commandment and the instructions are clear.

The Seven Festivals of the Messiah - NOT!

There is a very popular teaching around the Messianic world that teaches about the seven festivals of the Messiah.  Begun by one of the early Hebraic Roots teachers of our time, the teaching of the seven festivals of the Messiah has made a significant impact in bringing about an awareness of the Jewishness and the biblical roots of Messiah as well as the correct walk of faith in Torah obedience.  These so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah are still presented in most Messianic congregations as depicting the true teaching of the Torah.  They are summarized in the chart below:

 

The So-Called "7 Festivals of Messiah" Work of Elohim for Ancient Israel Messiah Fulfills
1. Pesach (Passover) Elohim delivering His people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt  Messiah's death on the tree provided atonement and redemption
2. Chag HaMatzah (Feast of Unleavened Bread) Elohim purified his people Messiah was without sin (unleavened)
3. Bikkurim (First Fruits) Elohim provided food (a barley harvest) for his people Messiah's resurrection and presentation to the father as firstfruits from the dead
4. Chag Shavuot (Feast of Pentecost) Elohim gave the Law (Ten Commandments) to Israel. Messiah sent the Ruach HaKodesh to enable believers to obey the Torah
5. Yom Teruah (Blowing of Trumpets) Trumpets blown to begin the countdown to the day of atonement. Announcement of Messiah's return in esteem as Messiah ben David
6. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) The cleansing of the sanctuary and purging of sin from the camp. Messiah atones for his people and judges and destroys sin
7. Chag Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) A remembering of Elohim dwelling in a tent with his people Israel in the wilderness and their entering the Promised land  Elohim tabernacles with his people in the person of Messiah Yahusha

While this is a clever summary of the work of Messiah, and while he has and will fulfill each of these items as described, nevertheless, I take exception to this teaching of the seven festivals of the Messiah.  The reason I take exception to it is that it misrepresents the Scriptures.  The Torah does not teach anywhere that there were 7 Jewish festivals which the Messiah was to fulfill.

Let the record be set straight.  Pesach is not a Feast.  The commandment is to take a lamb on the 14th day of the first month - the month of the Aviv.  And they were to slaughter that lamb at the end of the day.  The 14th of Aviv was not a feast day, nor was it ever described as a set apart day.  Although Pesach is sometimes used as a synonym for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, technically Pesach is not a Feast day.  And though it leads directly into the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is not a part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Bikkurim is not a feast.  And it is not even a set-apart appointment day.  That day was on the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Bikkurim is merely a presenting of the offering of firstfruits of the grain harvest to Yahuwah. 

Yom Teruah is not a festival.  It is a single day of observance on the first day of the seventh new moon.  It is a set apart day, but it is not a Feast.  And no one was required to observe it in the presence of Yahuwah in Yerushalayim.

Yom HaKippurim (day of Atonements) is not a feast day.  In fact, it is just the opposite - it is a day of fasting.  No eating or celebrating at all was allowed on this day of mourning.  Occurring on the 10th day of the seventh month, the instructions for Yom HaKippurim do not require anyone to observe it in Yerushalayim.

The Hebrew word gx; (pronounced hăg with a guttural h) means to make pilgrimage, keep a pilgrim-feastThis word is never used of the above four days of observance.  Chag is only and exclusively used of the Feast (chag) of Unleavened Bread, the Feast (chag) of Shavuot and the Feast (chag) of Sukkot.  So, 4 of these so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah are not even Festivals in their own right, at least if the Bible has anything to say about it.  The four days of observance are important days on the calendar which require specific actions, but they are not Feasts.  The teaching of the "Seven Festivals of the Messiah" are not biblical (as such) and are a false way of representing the real biblical Feasts and the appointed days of the Torah.

The truth of the matter is that there are 7 set-apart appointment days, which do not correlate exactly with the so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah.  These 7 set-apart days are days on which no work is allowed.  They are named in Vayiqra 23.  And it is also clear in the Torah that there were 3 (three) annual Festivals, not seven, as we pointed out above.  The three biblical festivals are those in which all are required to travel to Yerushalayim to bring the tithes of the seasonal harvests to present before Yahuwah:

It is important that we who cling to Elohim and want to proclaim truth accurately represent the proclamation of Scripture.  With this teaching of the so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah, the reputation of the Messianic movement is damaged because those who simply read the Scriptures know that there are NOT 7 biblical Festivals.  Thus, the rest of the teachings and proclamations of the Messianic movement are rightfully looked at with skepticism because of this misrepresentation of this Torah Instruction.

I would like to see those who are inspired by the moving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), in these last days, to guard that which has been entrusted to them.  And we must, thereby, protect the correct interpretation of the Scriptures.  I call on all those involved in the Messianic Movement to abandon and repent of the false teaching of the 7 Festivals of the Messiah, and begin to accurately teach what the Torah teaches regarding the set-apart appointments and our Messiah Yahusha.

Devarim 16 - Who is Commanded to Go Up?

There are some clear instructions about who is required to go up to Yerushalayim for the 3 annual Festivals.  Devarim 16:16-17  tells us plainly:

Three times a year all your men must appear before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before Yahuwah empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way Yahuwah your Elohim has blessed you.

The Hebrew text is unambiguous.  All males is in Hebrew, ^Ýr>Wkz>-lk' .from rWkz" , male, referring to men of all ages.  And the place he will choose is, of course, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).

The texts of Shemot [Exodus] 23:17 and Shemot 34:23 also explicitly command the men to appear before Yahuwah at the 3 annual Festivals:

Three times a year all the men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah. (Shemot [Exodus] 23:17)

Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah, the Elohim of Yisrael. (Shemot [Exodus] 34:23)

It is on the basis of these 3 clear and plain instructions of the Torah that many in the Messianic world believe that only the men have to attend the annual pilgrimages to Yerushalayim.  And so, without further investigation, the matter seems to be quite settled.  The men must go up, while the women and children may stay behind.

But wait!  Let's not stop searching and seeking for more light.  Because there is yet a further word about who must go up to Yerushalayim for the Feasts.  Devarim 16 has a lot more to say about this subject.  It starts out giving instructions for Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

Observe the month of the Aviv and celebrate the Pesach of Yahuwah your Elohim, because in the month of the Aviv he brought you out of Mitzrayim by night.  Sacrifice as the Pesach to Yahuwah your Elohim an animal from your flock or herd at the place Yahuwah will choose as a dwelling for his Name.  Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Mitzrayim in haste-- so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Mitzrayim.  Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning.  You must not sacrifice the Pesach in any town Yahuwah your Elohim gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Pesach in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Mitzrayim.  Roast it and eat it at the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents.  For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to Yahuwah your Elohim and do no work. (Devarim 16:1-8)

Nothing yet is said about who is to go up, but twice, it tells us to do the Pesach sacrifice in "the place Yahuwah will choose as a dwelling for his Name."  This, as we well know, is Yerushalayim.

Next, Devarim 16 speaks of the second Festival of the Hebrew calendar year - the Feast of Weeks:

Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain.  Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to Yahuwah your Elohim by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings Yahuwah your Elohim has given you.  And rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name-- you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you.  Remember that you were slaves in Mitzrayim, and follow carefully these decrees. (Devarim 16:9-12)

The Feast of Weeks occurs in the beginning of the summer, seven weeks following the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The command is given here to celebrate this Feast "by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings Yahuwah your Elohim has given you."  This is hinting at the tithe.

Then we're told to rejoice at this Feast in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name.  And this, as we mentioned earlier, is in Yerushalayim, where Yahuwah had his Tabernacle set up.  But its not just the men of Yisrael who are commanded to rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim.  It explicitly details those who are to rejoice: "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you."

Thus, not just the men are to appear before Yahuwah and rejoice before him in Yerushalayim for the three annual festivals, but the children - your sons and daughters, and also all who work for you - your menservants and maidservants, those who minister the Word - the Levites.  And he doesn't stop there.  Not just your family is to rejoice, but the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your midst.  Why, that's just about everybody!

Yet, someone may note that it doesn't mention your wife!  There you go.  The wives may stay back at the house.  They are not explicitly commanded to go up, are they?  Come on!  That just doesn't even make sense, does it?  If the sons and daughters are commanded to rejoice at these feasts, what does the wife who stays home do about the infant who is still nursing?  It should be pretty obvious that just because it doesn't mention you wives, that they are included in the list of those who must go up.

And as we might expect, the Torah does indeed mention the women as needing to go up, too.  Speaking of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Law says,

Then Mosheh commanded them: "At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Yisrael comes to appear before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose, you shall read this Torah before them in their hearing.  Assemble the people-- men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns-- so they can listen and learn to fear Yahuwah your Elohim and follow carefully all the words of this lawTheir children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear Yahuwah your Elohim as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Yarden to possess." (Devarim 31:10-13)

Here, the women along with all the others in your family and in your neighborhood, are commanded to be present in the assembly before Yahuwah in Yerushalayim for the Feast.  We surmise, then, that where Devarim 16 mentions "you, your sons and daughters...", that the you means you (the adult male) and you (the adult female).  It would not make any sense any other way.

The Devarim 16 passage then goes on the speak of the Feast of Tabernacles.  And it repeats the command to rejoice at this Feast, just as you rejoiced at the Feast of Weeks:

Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.  Be joyful at your Feast-- you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.  For seven days celebrate the Feast to Yahuwah your Elohim at the place Yahuwah will choose. For Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Devarim 16:13-15)

And again, the list is given of those who are to go up and rejoice at this Feast: "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns."  This means everybody!

"Are you telling me that everybody is to go up to each of these 3 annual festivals to Yerushalayim?"  Yes, that's what the Torah teaches.  Then you might object, "But who is going to watch over the farm while we are all away?  Shouldn't we leave somebody behind - a man, a servant, or someone - to protect our home and property?  Well, the short answer to this is: NO.  Elohim will take care of this.

Shemot 34 suggests to us that if we are obedient in this matter of having everyone go up for the feasts, that he will take care of the farm:

Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah, the Elohim of Yisrael.  I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before Yahuwah your Elohim. (Shemot 34:23-24)

Thus, if we all go up in obedience to the commandment, Yahuwah will be faithful to us, too, in the matter of watching over our homes.

Upon further reflection, where it is commanded three times in the Torah that "all your men are to appear before Yahuwah," the meaning here is not that the women and children don't have to go up, but that not a single man is to be left behind to watch over the property - all the men are to go up.  The emphasis is on the all.  And Yahuwah will take care of the rest.

But the Torah does not then go silent about this matter of who is to go up.  Devarim 12 also explicitly details the list of those who are required to go up.  Devarim 12 talks about the tithes and offerings which are to be brought before Yahuwah at the time of the three annual festival pilgrimages.

But you are to seek the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.  There, in the presence of Yahuwah your Elohim, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because Yahuwah your Elohim has blessed you. (Devarim 12:5-7)

So, this teaches us that the tithe which we bring to Jerusalem to the presence of Yahuwah, is to be eaten by "you and your families."  This, of course, would include the man and his wife, and the children, just as Devarim 16 explicitly details.

Next, the same commandment is reiterated in Devarim 12:

Then to the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose as a dwelling for his Name-- there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to Yahuwah.  And there rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. (Devarim 12:11-12)

Again, as in Devarim 16, the list of those who are required to go up include more than just the men of Yisrael.  They include "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns."

And finally, just one more time, we are told who is to go up for the pilgrimage festivals to eat the tithe of your grain and crops and herds:

You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts.  Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of Yahuwah your Elohim at the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose-- you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns-- and you are to rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim in everything you put your hand to. (Devarim 12:17-18)

Everyone is to eat and rejoice in the presence of Yahuwah at the Feasts.

Forgive me for pressing home this point almost to the point of redundancy.  But it was necessary to list each of these references so that we might see how very clear is the teaching that everyone, not just the men, are to participate in the pilgrimages to Yerushalayim to worship and celebrate the goodness of Elohim.

Why Are We Commanded to Go Up?

Though we have already alluded to the reasons for going up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals, we need to list them here and summarize.  It is important to understand the reasons for making the pilgrimages in order to properly access the application of the commandment for us today.

The first and most important reason for the 3 annual feasts is for all Yahuwah's people to come into his presence and present themselves before him.  This was pointed out to us in Shemot 34:

Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of the Aviv, for in the month of the Aviv you came out of Mitzrayim... Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.   Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah, the Elohim of Yisrael. (Shemot [Exodus] 34:18, 22-23)

Likewise, here:

Three times a year all the men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah. (Shemot [Exodus] 23:17)

Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah, the Elohim of Yisrael. (Shemot [Exodus] 34:23)

Of course, early on in the life of Yisrael in the land, Shiloh was the place where Yahuwah's tabernacle was set up.  And that was where all Yisrael made pilgrimage for the feasts.  Later, David had the ark of the covenant brought to Yerushalayim.  And some years later, Shlomoh, David's son, had the temple built for Elohim, and Yahuwah's presence filled the Most Holy Place of the building.  Yerushalayim became the permanent place of Yahuwah's residence, and it is there that commandment instructs the people to appear before him.

The second reason is related to the need to appear before Yahuwah.  And that is the requirement to bring as an offering the tithe - the firstfruits of the harvest.  Concerning the tithe of your fields, Scripture tells us

Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of Yahuwah your Elohim at the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose-- you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns-- and you are to rejoice before Yahuwah your Elohim in everything you put your hand to. (Devarim 12:18)

The tithe of the harvest is to be eaten by those who bring it.  And they are instructed to share that food with the Levites, the widows and orphans, and the poor.  And all are to rejoice in the copious goodness of Yahuwah as evidenced by the abundance of the harvest which Elohim provides.

The Torah also informs us that the tithe is to be brought at each of the three annual pilgrimage feasts to Yahuwah's presence.  The firstfruits of the spring harvest are presented at the Tabernacle on the day after Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The Feast of Shavuot is also called Bikkurim, or the Firstfruits.  And there are several Scriptures which speak of coming to the annual pilgrimage feasts not empty handed:

Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of the Aviv, for in that month you came out of Mitzrayim. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.  Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.  Three times a year all the men are to appear before Adonai Yahuwah. (Shemot [Exodus] 23:15-17)

The suggestion is clear that each one must bring their tithe or firstfruits to Jerusalem for the feasts after each of these harvests and "no one is to appear before me empty-handed."

Another reason for the assembly of all Yisrael at the three annual feasts is the reading and instruction of the Torah:

Then Mosheh commanded them: "At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Yisrael comes to appear before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose, you shall read this Torah before them in their hearing.  Assemble the people-- men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns-- so they can listen and learn to fear Yahuwah your Elohim and follow carefully all the words of this lawTheir children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear Yahuwah your Elohim as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Yarden to possess." (Devarim 31:10-13)

The instruction for the worship of Elohim and for the life of the community was to be passed on to the children so that each generation might properly respect and honor the Elohim of Yisrael.

In These Days Should We Be Going Up to Yerushalayim For the Feasts?

Finally, we might consider the question of whether or not we should be making these annual treks to Yerushalayim for the Feasts in our days.  We know that the Torah is eternal.  And we know that in the Messianic Age, all inhabitants of the earth will be going up for these pilgrimage festivals.  But we have a few problems now in the between times.  For each of the reasons for going up to Yerushalayim for the feasts, the conditions currently don't exist.  If we "go up" to Yerushalayim for the Feasts we still can't do the three things listed above - which are the reasons for going up! 

The primary reason for making pilgrimage to Jerusalem for these harvest festivals is to appear before Yahuwah at the place where his presence dwells.  The commandment said

Three times a year all your men must appear before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose (Devarim 16:16)

The commandment never mentions Jerusalem by name as that place of his dwelling.  But we know that Yerushalayim was that place that Yahuwah chose to make his dwelling place from David's time until 70 CE.  And we know that during the Messianic Age, Yerushalayim will once again be the place of Yahuwah's dwelling place.  But he isn't dwelling there now.  Furthermore, we all know that Yahuwah's presence left that place long ago when the temple was destroyed in 70 CE.  Even if we wanted to go up to present ourselves before the Almighty, he is not there for us to appear before him.

And as if to make an exclamation point about Elohim NOT being there, the Almighty allowed the Muslims to place their shrine to Allah, the moon god, at the very place where Yahuwah's presence once dwelt.  In 684 C.E. the Dome of the Rock - that insidious Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet - was erected at the site of the holy temple of Yahuwah, to prevent those who are faithful and loyal to the Elohim of Yisrael from going up to Yerushalayim according to the instructions and commandments of the Torah to worship the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'acov.

Although millions of Muslims from all around the world make their annual pilgrimage to Mecca to honor the pagan moon god Allah and bow low before him and prostrate themselves before this imaginary deity, the followers of the true Creator of heaven and earth - the Elohim of Yisrael - are unable to make their commanded pilgrimage at the prescribed place to worship Yahuwah in the manner which he commands.  He isn't there anymore, and the shrine to the moon god now stands in that place.

Now the second reason for making pilgrimage is to present our tithes and firstfruits to Yahuwah and eat and rejoice before him there.  Again, this is impossible to do.  There is no temple of Yahuwah in Yerushalayim, and there are no consecrated Levites to present the tithes and offerings to.  So, we can't bring our tithes to the prescribed place, either.

And the same is so for the third reason for going up.  There is no assembly of Yahuwah's people in Yahuwah's presence to have the Torah read to, according to the commandment.  The instruction is clear: we are to go up.  But we cannot accomplish the purposes for the command even if we wanted to.  The door has been closed for a long time for fulfilling these pilgrimage festivals.  And Yahuwah himself is the one who has closed the door.

So, we have a profound dilemma, here.  We want to honor our great Elohim with obedience to his commandments.  So, should we be going up to a place that is thoroughly pagan and is defiled and dishonors our Elohim?  a place where Yahuwah isn't present, anyway?  After all, we can't appear before him, even if we go up.

There is an important Torah principle we need to discuss and understand in light of the present problem with going up.  And that is the instruction given many times in the Torah that these things are to be done "when you are in the land."  Over and over again, Mosheh gives instructions to the people to be carried out when they are living in the land.

Concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Mosheh tells us:

When Yahuwah brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Yebusites-- the land he swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey-- you are to observe this ceremony in this month: (Shemot [Exodus] 13:5)

Then also,

When you enter the land Yahuwah your Elohim is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," be sure to appoint over you the king Yahuwah your Elohim chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother son of Yisrael. (Devarim [Deuteronomy 17:14-15)

These and other particulars are commanded for the people to do when they are in the land.

Now, with regard to the firstfruits of the harvest, Mosheh commands,

When you have entered the land Yahuwah your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land Yahuwah your Elohim is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, "I declare today to Yahuwah your Elohim that I have come to the land Yahuwah swore to our forefathers to give us." (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 26:1-3)

Here, quite explicitly, the bringing of tithe of the harvest to the place of Yahuwah's presence is to be done "when you have entered the land."  But in the present exile, we are not living in the land, nor have we entered into our inheritance in the land.  So, its rather evident that we cannot fulfill the commandments which are given to those who have entered into the land.

The exile was hoisted upon our ancestors on account of their disobedience to Elohim.  Yahuwah spewed them out of the land because they began to practice all the abominations of the nations whom Yahuwah destroyed from the land to make room for Yisrael.  And this was the righteous right ruling of the Almighty because of the transgressions of the people.

But Yahuwah has promised to bring back a people to the land of inheritance:

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever Yahuwah your Elohim disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to Yahuwah your Elohim and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then Yahuwah your Elohim will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.  Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there Yahuwah your Elohim will gather you and bring you back.  He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 30:1-5)

While in the exile, his end days people will repent of their transgressions of the Torah of Elohim and return to Yahuwah with all their heart, mind and strength.  And to these people, the promise to bring them back into the land of inheritance is given:

Therefore say: 'This is what Adonai Yahuwah says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Yisrael again.'  They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.  I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.  Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their Elohim. (Yechezqel 11:17-20)

When his people are brought back into the land of promise, then they will be careful to obey all the laws and commandments of the Torah.  It is at this time when all of us will be able to make pilgrimage to appear before Yahuwah for the three annual feasts and honor Yahuwah with our tithes and gifts and offerings.

In the meantime, what shall we do?  Messiah Yahusha was alluding to our days when he spoke of Jerusalem as not being the place of worship:

"Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Yehudim claim that the place where we must worship is in Yerushalayim."  Yahusha declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Yerushalayim.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Yehudim.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  Elohim is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (4th Gospel [John] 4:20-24)

So, now is the time when the true worshipers are not worshiping him in Jerusalem.  And therefore, it doesn't seem appropriate under the present circumstances to honor Yahuwah by going up.  They are worshiping him in the manner that the Messiah spoke of when he said,

"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:18-20)

The "binding and loosing" have to do with the execution of righteous right ruling as taught in the Torah (for more details, see my article entitled, I Will Build My Church) .  And those worshiping him - those gathered together in his name - are those who come together for that purpose.  And he promised to be there with them in their midst.

So, my advise on the question of where and how we should honor our Elohim during the annual Feasts of Yahuwah is this: Do what you are led by the Spirit to do, without condemning others who do differently.  Some people are led in their hearts to go up to Jerusalem to as many of the Feasts as they are able.  These are demonstrating by faith the desire to obey Yahuwah in every detail of his Torah.  These people who go up now will be blessed for their strong love and attachment to Yahuwah and for their obedience to his commandments.  But, those who are "going up" are no closer to Yahuwah's presence at the Feasts than those who gather elsewhere around the world.

And those who are unable to go up, or are not compelled by the Spirit to go up, at the present time, should gather together with others of like precious faith for the festivals to worship and honor the Elohim of our ancestors Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'acov.  Wherever people gather in his name for the annual Festivals of Yahuwah, there Messiah is in their midst.  Let each be convinced in his own mind and be at peace with their decision.  Yahuwah will bless all those who earnestly seek him and are committed to obey him.

The day is coming soon, when that Abomination of Desolation will be destroyed by the power of Elohim, and Messiah will appear and re-establish Yerushalayim as the place of his dwelling.  It is then that all of us will be brought back to our inheritance in the land.  And then we will all gather together in Yerushalayim for each of the three annual pilgrimage festivals to honor and worship the only one and true Elohim.  I'll see you there - then!

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