Let me begin by saying that I have learned over the years that discussing Easter or Christmas during the weeks before and shortly after those times – it’s never fruitful. It tends to cause contention and anger. It also sometimes makes those who believe in celebrating those days dig their heels in deep and become defensive about even the kindest of words. No matter how hard we try to explain the Biblical truth with kindness and love, it is not often taken very well. My prayer now is that people will just hear our explanation with an open heart and mind, and then test it for themselves in scripture.
That is why I am talking to you now – off-season, so to speak. First let me say, I am not trying to “convert” you or change your mind. If you personally choose to continue celebrating Easter or Christmas, that is your choice. I am just here to explain why we choose not to – for this conversation I am going to focus mostly on Easter, and yet Christmas is easily interchangeable with Easter.
A lot of family and friends ask (or wonder but don’t want to ask): why don’t you celebrate Easter any longer? Especially since we profess to be followers of the Bible and believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah. We often get the question, “Are you Jewish now?” The real question I know people are asking is: are we practicing JUDAISM.
The answer to that question is: No. We have not converted to either Judaism or Messianic Judaism. Both of those religions are filled with many beautiful traditions, as are many Christian denominations. And yet, all forms of Judaism and all forms of Christianity are filled with false, man-made traditions that contradict the Bible. Many of these man-made traditions are just invented from nothing, while others are copied from pagan traditions.
Our reasons for not celebrating Easter can be summed up with a simple comparison because it boils down to the difference between:
A man-made holiday - Easter, Including Maundy Thursday and Lent
The God-made HOLY days - Spring Feasts - These include Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, then after counting 49 weeks, Shavuot (AKA Pentecost).
If you have run into others who believe similar to us, then you may have heard about all the pagan traditions tied to Easter. I could go into great detail on all of those, too, but I would rather show you from a biblical perspective as to why we choose to celebrate the Biblical Feast Days. So, for this conversation, let’s talk about what the Bible says bout Yahweh's Feasts.
Passover and Unleavened Bread are foreshadows of Christ. Yeshua celebrated Passover, he WAS the Passover Lamb. He was not the Easter Bunny. This may sound silly, and yet there are those who try to liken Yeshua to the Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny was brought to the United States from, most likely, Germany sometime during the 1700’s. It is nothing more than a tradition to entertain children. Sadly, both the rabbit, an ancient sign of fertility, and the coloured eggs can be traced to deep pagan origins. They are not biblical symbols or scriptural “celebrations” in any way. In these modern times, people try to justify both as pretty and cute, even claiming they continue these traditions “for the children.” My question would be, what are you then teaching the children about pagan tradition versus biblical tradition?
Some believers and even churches have tried to rationalize Easter bunnies and eggs by likening them to Yeshua. Taking the characteristics of Yeshua and trying to correlate them with those of the bunny or the egg. For example, making the egg symbolize the empty tomb on resurrection day, or claiming it symbolizes the new life of Resurrection. The bunny is soft and gentle, just as Yeshua’s character is loving, kind and gentle. This is merely taking something unbiblical and applying attributes to it in an effort to justify using it for celebration and tradition.
The bunny, eggs and chocolate have become well-known symbols of Easter through commercialization over the last 60 years or so in the U.S. These have all but replaced Jesus in the Passover, crucifixion and resurrection celebration. All of the focus has been taken from Christ and placed on pagan symbols, then turned to allegedly symbolize Christ again. I would have to ask, are people trying to “make themselves feel better” by bringing the objects full circle to be “types of Christ” when they truly are not?
I am not fault finding here, I am merely asking you to think about it for a time and examine it from a biblical perspective, just as we have done for ourselves. We have been there and done that, too: We raised our children to participate in all those annual traditions, bought baskets and stuffed rabbits, even ate the Easter Ham. Something changed in us, though, when we started to study the scriptures more in depth together, and we recognized there were things that we had not seen before in scripture.
~~ Yahweh says in the Old Testament that we are to celebrate the feast days “forever” – believers claim that he does not change; He is the same yesterday today and forever. Yet then will claim He changed by saying He did not mean “forever”, and we are no longer obliged to follow the commandments of His Feast Days. Some proclaim, “the law is dead” and those commandments no longer apply. Yet, while loudly stating we no longer need to follow those commandments, they will declare we MUST follow others such as tithe, or the list of the Ten Commandments.
~~ We are taught that we should be following worldly, man-made traditions of Easter, instead of the biblical truths of Passover (Exodus 12 ), Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23; Numbers 28; Deuteronomy 16), and First Fruits. These Holy Days happen in the Spring and are what ought to be honored in His name, as He tells us to do – NOT man-made traditions. Especially those which contain blatant pagan elements. We should even be counting the Omer for 49 days, finally finishing out with Shavuot (Pentecost – Leviticus 23) shortly before the summer season starts.
These are beautiful times of celebration, feasts, prayer, gatherings, and honoring Yahweh. Imagine taking His Word and implementing family events which include celebration, a HUGE dinner, socializing and even prayer while honoring Yahweh. You could attend “church,” also called assembly. The funny thing about all of this is that there are families doing these same activities on Easter Sunday – they go to church, then have a big feast together with family and sometimes friends. Many have prayer before they eat, and dedicate their meal to God, thanking Yeshua for His sacrifices for us. Sounds a lot like what we are commanded to do with His Feast Days.
Of course, Yeshua (Jesus) would NOT have been eating HAM – just to clarify that little detail. You see, Yeshua ate only clean meats (Leviticus 11) because he was Torah observant. And THAT is a topic for another day!
How we know what to do during the Holy days is simple - Scripture tells us how to celebrate each one. Now, I will say that many of the details we cannot do because they are to be done where Yahweh places His name, which in ancient times was the Temple. There are also things that are commanded to be done by Levite priests, which we do not currently have available to serve because there is no Temple, and there are details such as sacrifices which are no longer necessary because of Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice. Yet scripture still tells us to honor the Feast Days in memorial.
What does it mean to honor them in memorial? It means we can do the best as we can to follow the commandments for the Feast Days and share those teachings with our families and friends. For example, the Passover and Unleavened Bread of the Exodus as commanded in chapter 12, verse 14 “This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” (WEB) Do you see now why we choose to celebrate this time in honor of the sacrifices of Yeshua? We follow as many of the directions found in scripture as we can.
Here I would like to mention that for the Biblical Feast Days we follow the Hillel II calendar (The Hebrew Calendar). We have studied this topic of calendaring in depth and have published a free e-book on the topic that explains our reasons why. Yahweh has an order for things and a line of authority, and that includes the calendar. He has appointed people in the past to set those things in place, and the last calendar which His appointed authorities sanctioned is the Hillel II.
As the Feast Days fall on the calendar, we can incorporate these details in memorial celebrations:
For the Day of Passover:
- Clean out all the leaven from you home before sundown. (Exodus 12:15) There is a lot of tradition and confusion about what leaven is. It is yeast, yeast bread, or any foods that contain yeast. This would include sourdough. For more on this you can read our blog on TorahForWomen.com, titled “Pesach Panic!” It is actually very simple – just don’t bake or buy any yeast or products that use yeast shortly before and during Passover and Unleavened Bread.
There are a lot of man-made traditions wrapped around Passover, such as the Seder and Seder Plate, reading the Haggadah which contains the story of the Exodus, to give a few examples. This is merely tradition establish by the rabbis and Judaism. Most of these are not required or commanded, and most are not even in the bible.
In our home, we have an opening prayer which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, talk of the Exodus, and have a wonderful feast. Often the meal includes lamb, and always includes unleavened breads, and bitter herbs. Sometimes this unleavened bread IS manufactured matzah, other times we make traditional mid-East unleavened breads like lefse or naan, which go wonderfully with roasted lamb!
For Unleavened Bread:
- The first and seventh days are Sabbaths – holy convocations, where you should try to gather together with others and worship. This might be difficult if the days fall on weekdays and the rest of family and friends do not follow the Feast Days. You may need to find like minded people to celebrate with, and yet that too, can be difficult at times depending on where you live. We do the best we can and often find it is just the two of us. There are some congregations which broadcast online, and we have been known to participate with their assembly during the broadcasts.
- We are to do NO servile work – this means your job, and other work that your normally do. This would include yard work, house cleaning, laundry, and heavy work like this. You are allowed to cook on these two days, that which needs to be prepared so that feasts may be served.
- We are to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. Many believe you have to buy certified matzah from a certified Kosher manufacturer. Yet, honestly, there are so many wonderful recipes for different ethnic breads that are completely unleavened: naan, lefse breads, tortillas (the ones without yeast added!), as well as other varieties. You do not need to look for 1001 ways to serve matzah crackers for Passover – although you will find at least that many out there!
- Begin counting the omer: each day you simply call out how many days have passed as you approach day 50 and the Feast of Shavuot.
For First Fruits:
- There really are not any actions that we can do for this Feast because the act of waving the omer of harvest before Yahweh is to be done at the Temple. It is nice to remember this day, though, in honor of the time that His people entered the promised land. (Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23) If you have a garden and are harvesting foods already from your garden by this time, it is especially nice to share the first fruits with others in your family or neighborhood, and to praise Yahweh for that blessing of fruits from your own soil and the literal fruits of your labors.
We simply acknowledge that it has taken place, and praise Yahweh for these blessings. First Fruits memorializes the time when Joshua entered the promised land with the Israelites and they were commanded to honor Yahweh with the first fruits of the land.
Shavuot is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-12, KJV Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
The Bible does say that for three feasts a year the men are to travel to Jerusalem for these special times – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This is not always feasible for every family – the financial burden can be overwhelming for someone who lives in the U.S. or another nation. The greatest blessing that we have been given is the gift of Yahweh’s grace upon us through Yeshua. We are not under the curse of the law (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), so in a case where we can not accomplish the commandments, we can ask for forgiveness and know that Yahweh is kind and loving. We are saved through Yeshua and through him alone – our works (following the commandments) do not grant us salvation. But, because we have been saved, we seek after holiness and want to follow his word which leads us to follow His commandments as a part of our journey.
This is usually about the time someone may ask, “Well, you say you won’t celebrate ‘man-made holidays,’ but do you still celebrate Memorial Day? Fourth of July? Mother’s and Father’s Days? Those are man-made celebrations too.” They are not wrong, Yes, these are man-made traditions and celebrations. The key difference between those man-made celebrations and the celebrations of Easter and even Christmas is that these two holidays are man-made traditions which contain pagan elements and are done in the name of Jesus, in honor of God. Those other holidays are NOT done in Yahweh’s name. For this we turn to the scriptures where Yahweh (God) Warned his people against doing what the pagans did and using it to honor HIS NAME.
Leviticus 18:1-5 Yahweh spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I am Yahweh your God. Do not follow the practices of the land of Egypt, where you used to live, or follow the practices of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. You must not follow their customs. You are to practice My ordinances and you are to keep My statutes by following them; I am Yahweh your God. Keep My statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am Yahweh.
Deuteronomy 12:4 shows us an example as well, “"Do not worship the LORD your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods.” (NLT)
You see, we are told to not worship Yahweh in the way the pagans did in ancient times, and the same applies to our own practices. We clearly should not be worshipping pagan items and doing it in His name. In addition, a sad example is how Easter has elements which have taken over the worship in so many families – they have become a form of idol. Many do not bother to go to church any more, and instead have egg hunts, ham dinners, and so many more activities riddled with traditions that are not of Yahweh. The Scriptures against idols are even more clear:
Romans 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
This is another big reason why we opt for Yahweh’s Holy Days rather than man-made holidays. We have been led to make this choice for ourselves for three reasons: Feast Days are commandments; we are told to honor them “forever” or for all our generations because Yahweh does not change; and because we are not to do pagan traditions in His name.
As far as the issue of idol worship, many will say that they don’t “worship” the bunny or the eggs, yet these have become the centerpiece of celebration for many years. I will just ask you at this time, please, take a close look at what is prominent in stores, businesses, your home and family during your Spring celebrations? Is it TRULY Yeshua, or is it eggs, baskets, ham, chocolate and rabbits?
It hasn’t always been an easy change for us, truthfully. It is difficult as others in family and many friends continue to follow their traditions, we do often feel left out and “abnormal.” It hurts, sometimes, too – what people say and do, and yet it all boils down to where our faith lies, where our devotion stands.
Joshua 24:15 "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Shalom. . .
History of the Easter bunny
Justifying Pagan Easter traditions
The short answer to this is: No and no. Dying your hair is not against the scriptures, and dying hair is not a sin. We find nothing in scripture forbidding coloring hair for men or for women. Although there are a number of scriptures we can point to which discuss a woman’s appearance, nothing is specifically mentioned about dying the hair.
During ancient times, dying the hair did become popular in certain circles. In fact, there is evidence which shows that at one point it was a law in Rome that the prostitutes were to dye their hair blonde to set them apart from the rest of society. Interestingly enough, during that same period, blond hair became popular amongst both men and women as they tried to look more like those who were from what is now France and Germany. Black dyes became popular also, which included one method that involved fermenting leeches for several weeks in vinegar. This concoction was then applied to the hair and allowed to bake in by sitting in the sun for hours. Thankfully, modern dyes are more palatable.
Although many will say that because dying hair was known to have been done by the Romans and by the prostitutes, as Believers in Yahweh we should not colour our hair, there is nothing in scripture that directly forbids it. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded “Thou shalt not dye thy hair.” Our conclusion from scripture is that if someone chooses to colour their hair, it is their personal choice to do so.
I do want to say that there are some words of caution I would place here: take a bit of time and examine your reasons for wishing to do dye your hair. The reason I ask you to do this is simply because you will likely, at some point, be told that it is “vanity,” or that you are altering Yahweh’s creation. You may also be told that you need to “be happy with what Yahweh gave you.” All of these are valid points for you to explore, and they will give you a good opportunity to do a spiritual check-up. Yet we stand firm on the fact that dying your hair is your personal decision.
The simple answer to this question is: No. Preparation day, Day of Preparation, or Prep Day is NOT a commanded day that needs to be honored, memorialized, or dedicated to Yahweh according to scripture. Scripture does not say, “Thou shalt prepare on Preparation Day.”
But, the Sabbath is a commandment from Yahweh on which scripture says we are not to work. Yahweh commands that you should not do any servile work on the Sabbath which means none of your normal daily work or employment. The question is, though, what of someone who is not employed outside the home? What of those who are stay-at-home moms or dads? Should they put aside their daily “work” just as those who work outside the home do, or is their daily “work” not truly work?
Much of what needs to be done to get ready for a day of rest is laborious - there is the cooking, cleaning, lawn care, organizing, laundry, and more, especially for a larger family. Clearly, staying at home can be just as much work during your day and week as that of someone who is employed outside the home. Because of this, the daily tasks of a wife, mother, or father who is a home-keeper can be considered their daily WORK. Wouldn’t it truly be a blessing for the stay at home person to be able to not do any of that on Shabbat, to be able to truly rest? For that to happen, a home would need to be prepared for Shabbat in every way humanly possible. Thus the term “Preparation Day” is used for that day before Shabbat when all the work is done that will allow everyone in the family to rest on Shabbat (husband, wife, and children).
Now, although there is no specific commandment for a “Prep Day” in scripture, there are scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that show there is a need to be prepared for Sabbath, and, there are days of preparation that are mentioned in the bible. There are also specific preparations which are commanded at certain times.
Where? Well, let’s start with the Exodus.
1. Moses was told to have the people prepare for the Passover. Exodus 12 has many instructions that Moses was given by Yahweh for the Israelites so they would be ready for what was to come.
2. Moses was told to teach the people to prepare for the Sabbath by gathering enough manna on the sixth day to feed their household for two days. And we can see this in Exodus 16:22-23. It happened that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one, and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. He said to them, "This is that which Yahweh has spoken, 'Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning.'" This is a great example of a weekly Sabbath Prep day in ancient times.
3. Before the Feast of Unleavened bread, we are commanded to prepare our homes by removing the leaven. Exodus 12:15
4. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the Gospels) all talk of the Day of Preparation before Yeshua’s crucifixion and death. By using these examples, it’s easy to see that it is important for our homes and all who live there to be ready to fulfill the weekly Sabbaths and Sabbaths which accompany the Feasts. Think of how much more restful your weekly Sabbath would be if you were able to truly rest and spend time with Yahweh and the Word, rather than be concerned for any of your family’s needs.
How can you do this? By following the example of what Yahweh commanded the Israelites to do in ancient times: Be prepared!
Now, many families believe that all of the preparations must be done on that day before the Sabbath. Have you ever found that it is difficult to get it all squeezed into that one day? I do – and there are only two of us! The challenge is even more complicated and exhausting for someone who has several children to tend to as well.
Here is what I do:
I learned a couple years ago: Winter is my enemy. The days are so very short. Some weeks, no matter what I do, it seems there are not enough hours in the day. With sunset coming at around 4:15 PM here in the mountains, winters taught me that we need to get as much done through the week as humanly possible. That is when I decided to make some changes to reduce the stress of trying to “do it all” before sundown on Friday.
Sunday and Thursday I try to get all the laundry done – washed, dried, folded and put away. I often will do dusting on these days, too, because laundry pretty much washes and dries itself. So while the machines are running I do other things to maximize the effort. This is also a great time to squeeze in some baking! Yum!
Tuesday and Wednesday I like to get as much of the dusting and bathroom cleaning accomplished as possible. A lot of times you can whip out a bathroom right before you jump in the shower. Then as you shower, you are rinsing down the stall so that it’s spotless! Mutli-tasking helps. I always try to accomplish room by room so that I know which rooms have been finished. Thursday I will vacuum the carpets, then sweep and mop the kitchen. This all helps me so that on Friday, pretty much all I have to do is cook, which I try to get done as quickly as possible so that I can run a quick broom or microfiber sweeper tool around to wipe away any final spills or messes I made that day. Then when sundown comes, I can breathe a sigh of relief and rest!
The week takes a bit more planning during gardening, harvest, and canning seasons. I still try to spread things out so that Friday is not packed so full that I am exhausted and can't enjoy time with my husband and relax in Yahweh's Shalom.
Often times I see sisters who get overly concerned about having to do it all on Prep Day before sunset. There is no way Jim and I could accomplish everything our home needs in 8 or so hours and cook all our Shabbat meals as well. If we find it challenging, I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a family to try and squeeze it all in before Sundown.
Doing things throughout the week also helps on those rare occasions when we have no choice but to run to town on Friday or deal with something when something throws us a curve. My hope is that this will give you some ideas on how to organize your week as well as explain more clearly about Prep Day, so that your Sabbath is more restful and peaceful.
PS: Jim wanted me to share his favorite tip to make Prep Day even easier for us (for ME!):
Make your Prep Day extra special by ordering your favorite takeout for Friday evening and Saturday meals. Buy your favorite snacks and drinks and enjoy the day. This eliminates cooking and clean-up, plus kids will look forward to Shabbat every week. This is a great way to build lasting family traditions. Rotate weekly. One week can be Pizza Friday, another can be tacos, and another BBQ Chicken Friday -- You get the idea. Cut down on the cooking and make Shabbat different from the rest of the days in the week. Just remember to purchase enough takeout and snacks for Friday evening and Saturday for lunch and dinner. Breakfast can be leftovers, hardboiled eggs, sandwiches, bagels, cold cereals, or something toasted, etc. You can adjust this idea to your families needs and abilities. Just a great way to give mom a break and not accumulate a lot of dishes for mom to wash after Shabbat.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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