Bible festivals were never merely holidays to the Jews—they were holydays. The difference is that on a vacation or a holiday you don’t have to go to work or do things. On a holyday you get to do things, very special things that polish your personality, sculpt your soul, and redirect your life.
Furthermore, Bible holydays are not random events scattered around the calendar. They are exquisitely positioned highlights in the tapestry of time. Each holyday is linked, not only to the beating heart of a living nation but also to every other holyday in a synchronized system of spiritual development.
Take for instance the holyday of Shavuot, widely known as Pentecost, which we start celebrating next Thursday night.
This holyday is bound up with Passover, celebrated seven weeks earlier, by a formal count each day which marks the march of the forty-nine days connecting the two holydays like forty-nine steps along a pathway.
The pathway starts with Passover, chiefly characterized by the eating of unleavened crackers known in Hebrew as matzo or LeCHeM ONI. The word LeCHeM means bread, while ONI possesses several meanings but the one of interest to us here is POVERTY.
Thus, the Torah instructs that on Passover,
“….seven days shall you eat matzo… the bread of poverty….”
The pathway ends with Shavuot or Pentecost (from the Greek for 50 referring to Shavuot being the fiftieth day from Passover) celebrated with bread, as described in Leviticus 23:15-20. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that while unleavened bread or matzo is rightly described as the bread of poverty, it is regular bread which is known as the bread of prosperity.
This idea that bread is linked to prosperity lies at the root of such colloquialisms as “Can you lend me some bread?” or “Do you have any dough?” Yes, bread means money. When we say that someone has enough bread to eat, we mean that he makes a living.
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that in the reality of God’s world, time and place do not exist independently but only as an interchangeable amalgam. Later on, as the twentieth century dawned, western physics began to catch on and relativity was born. The time-space continuum was on everyone’s lips.
In popular parlance people began to say things like “I just wasn’t in a good place” when referring to a bad time in their lives. What they really meant was “I just wasn’t in a good time” but since time and place are interchangeable, all is well.
Thus our pathway leading from a time called Passover to another time called Shavuot, forty-nine days away could be accurately viewed as a pathway from a place called Passover to a place called Shavuot, forty-nine steps away.
Or, more helpfully, we could visualize these two Biblical holydays as a journey down a pathway from a place of poverty (bread of poverty) to a place of prosperity (bread of prosperity).
It now becomes rather important to understand the nature of this pathway that can take us from a place/time of poverty—Passover, to a place/time of prosperity—Shavuot. Could this pathway possibly be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime who is trying to walk the path of prosperity?
In our popular Genesis Journeys Set I set out to demonstrate that Scripture is not a collection of primitive myths about extinct nations but a practical guide to how the world really works. In this set you will find numerous examples of how the Good Book answers the question: Can the Bible really speak to me and address my real-life problems?
The answer, happily, is yes. Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals that one vital emphasis of this forty-nine step pathway is care and consideration of our relationships with our friends. One famous instance in Jewish history concerned negligence about nurturing of friendships; it resulted in the shattering of twelve-thousand important friendship relationships.
The life-enhancing message of these holydays now becomes clear. Our relationships are our road to prosperity. People tend to hire, they tend to buy from, and they tend to do business with individuals whom they know, like, and trust. If few other humans know you, like you, and trust you, you might well end up with very little bread. We still have another seven days to the holyday of Shavuot—enough time to cherish our special friendships and show our friends how much they mean to us.