The Feast of First Fruits


The Biblical Jewish Festival of First Fruits comes a day after the festival of Passover. It was given to the people of Israel as a holiday to celebrate the first fruits of their harvests. Because Israel was an agricultural community, they were to offer to God a sacrifice of the first fruits of their harvest, commemorating their gratitude and thankfulness for his provision. The people of Israel were not to celebrate this holiday until they were in the Promised Land (Leviticus 23:10). This was because they were wanderers whose food was provided from God, not an agricultural community who grew their own food.

First Fruits Spring Holiday

This day was commemorated as a Sabbath (Numbers 28:26). The people were resting on this day as a reminder that God was their ultimate provider, and it was his provision that gave them a harvest. The people of Israel celebrated this festival through their generations. Even today in Israel, many of the people who work on Kibbutzim (communal agricultural communities) will celebrate the day with a harvest, feasting and dances in the fields until late into the night.



First Fruits commemorates the day the Messiah rose from the grave. Because it comes right after the celebration of Passover, we see this day often falling on a Sunday. In a sense, Jesus fulfilled the holiday through his miraculous resurrection. He was the first to be raised and we have the promise that he will raise us up from the dead too. In this way, we see that the promise of First Fruits is that there is more to come! The harvest is just beginning and Jesus will continue to raise up his people!


On this feast day, we would encourage you to take the day off and rest in the abiding presence of Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus ate fish when he rose from the grave, many people will eat fish during breakfast, lunch or dinner on First Fruits as a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection. It is a wonderful day to spend with family and friends being reminded of the provision of God to his people, and the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus.

Fresh uncooked sea bream or dorado fish with lemon, herbs and spices on rustic wooden board over grey concrete background, top view. Healthy, dieting, clean eating concept
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What is Challah?

Challah is a Jewish braided sweetbread, usually enjoyed during Shabbat, or Sabbath, a weekly biblical celebration of rest. But why is challah such an important part of Sabbath, and what is it’s history?


In the Bible, bread symbolizes provision from the Lord. God provided manna or “bread from heaven” for the people of Israel while they were in the desert. On the sixth day of the week, Friday, God provided twice as much of the manna so the people of Israel could rest from work on Sabbath. God provided more than they needed in order to show his abundance and provision to his people.

In Numbers 15:18-21, we see the first reference in the Bible to challah or “cake”. “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land to which I bring you and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the LordOf the first of your dough you shall present a loaf as a contribution; like a contribution from the threshing floor, so shall you present it. Some of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord as a contribution throughout your generations.” We see in this passage that some of this bread that was presented to the Lord in his tabernacle or temple was to be holy. 

Bread continued to be an important part of biblical stories. Specifically in Mark 14:22-25, Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples, symbolizing his death on the cross in provision for their sins. So bread continued through the Bible as a representation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in communion.


The term challah may come from the phrase hafrashat challah or “separating bread” representing a tradition of the Jewish people back during the first and second Temples in Jerusalem in which they would rip a portion of the dough off of the bread before they braided it as a sacrifice to the Lord. While the word challah means many things in various languages, it consistently has referred to bread in a Jewish context. Through history, challah became the term for a yiddish bread that was made all across European countries by Jews ranging from Poland, Austria and Germany.


Challah became a tradition during Sabbath dinner in order to represent the provision God gave to his people in the wilderness and the tradition continues today.

Challah is made into two loaves representing the double-portion God gave to his people.

It is to be braided so it has twelve “humps” representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve loaves of holy bread in the Tabernacle.

It is braided in three strands to symbolize unity, peace and love because they look like arms intertwined. In addition, it is a reminder of the Shema or “Hear and Obey”. Christians today can also see the trinity in the three strands of bread woven together into one.

When the bread is baked, it is ripped rather than sliced to remember the priests in the temple who would rip a portion of the bread off to offer it to the Lord.


Today, challah can be made with toppings such as poppy seeds, rosemary, salt, cinnamon, raisins and nuts. The bread is covered with a decorative cover and prayed over during Sabbath. As believers we eat the bread and drink wine in communion during Sabbath in remembrance of God’s provision, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Challah is a delicious bread, a wonderful addition to the Sabbath meal, and makes a fantastic French toast for breakfast the next morning. Now, as you dive into the following recipes and new baking traditions, remember the story and tradition that we are blessed to be a part of as we braid our Sabbath challah bread!

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Sabbath and the Gospel


Sabbath is a time of rest as we remember that our Creator called us to rest in his goodness and grace. But how does Sabbath interact with the bigger picture of the gospel? Sabbath began at the creation of the world. God declared his power and authority over time and space by resting from the work that he had done. Adam and Eve followed this same pattern of rest in the Garden of Eden. There was wholeness in Sabbath rest because it created a set-apart time. This set apart time was declaring that man is given freedom from work through God’s rest. God created this sacred space and sacred time set apart from all the rest of time in order to bring wholeness to his creation.

God next gave the people of Israel the mandate to follow Sabbath as a gift and a provision for their tangible and spiritual needs. He gave them twice as much manna in the wilderness of Sinai so they could rest on Sabbath. This was not given to the people out of a religious “saved by works” mandate, but rather meant to declare His imminence and give the people of Israel the conviction that they were set apart as a nation for something more. They were to declare the goodness of the Living God Yahweh to the rest of the nations. They were to reflect this in their daily practices and new hearts in Yahweh.

Jesus in the Sabbath

When God became flesh and dwelt among us in the form of Jesus, He kept Sabbath. In addition to keeping the Sabbath, he performed miracles on the Sabbath, and taught and preached and cast out demons on Saturday. He was designating his power over Sabbath and his authority over time, just as he had when he created the world. He was showing us what life in the age to come would look like. Today, as followers of Jesus, keeping Sabbath is a practical expression of following God’s mandate of rest as well as living as Jesus lived.

Sabbath invites us to see gospel restoration. This leads to us adjusting our schedules so that we can be restored, and then extend that life to other people so that they can be restored. We are given the hope that someday we will rest in eternity with Jesus and be forever with him. Sabbath strengthens the hope that we will be resurrected and that His promise will be true.

Sabbath in History

Jesus’ disciples, His apostles, the early church and believers for centuries have all received the gift of stepping into this seventh day sanctuary. Today, we do the same. We do not celebrate Sabbath as some religious attempt to find God through it, but rather to see His lovingkindness in it. Sabbath is a moment in time when we cease from work and rest. We lay down the cares of this world, rejoice in the beauty of sharing life with others, and consider God’s goodness in our lives. All of this is a part of the bigger gospel story that God has been telling since the beginning of time: we were created to worship Him and enjoy Him forever. Sabbath is the loving provision God gave to us to see His goodness and kindness.

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Five Ways to Celebrate Sabbath in Today’s World

Sabbath, or Shabbat is the Jewish holiday observed every week from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday evening. Sabbath is a time of rest as we remember that our Creator called us to rest in his goodness and grace. But how is this lived out in the life of a believer today?

Sabbath calls us to practical rest and worship. We do not celebrate it today as some kind of religious attempt to find God through it, but rather to see his lovingkindness in it. Sabbath is a moment in time when we cease from work. So here are five practical ways to live out Sabbath in today’s world:


It reminds us that we are no longer slaves to work. Just like the Israelites who were redeemed from Egypt celebrated Sabbath in the wilderness, so can we. We are reminded of the provision of the Lord and we are invited to trust him to provide for us, even when we don’t work. You can choose to intentionally take time away from your busy life and rest. When we stop working, mowing our lawns, and buying clothes, we get an opportunity to step away from life, we spend time in the presence of God and in the presence of those we love. When we physically rest we are blessed. We may ask, “how do we step away from work when my boss needs me, or my children’s soccer game is on Saturday afternoon?” It is a matter of choice. We can actively make the decision to choose to rest and we can step into trusting God to provide us with what we need. We trust Him enough to leave our provision in His capable hands.


Sabbath gives us an opportunity to engage in church and community. Sabbath in the Bible was always a communal experience, whether it was the Jews gathering in the temple in David’s day, or believers who met in the synagogue during the time of the early church in Acts. Sabbath is meant to be shared. The communal experience of unity with other believers allows us to intercede for miracles to be performed on Sabbath like when Jesus was on earth. What does this practically look like? This means we attend church and spend time in community on Saturday. We may ask the question, “What if I cannot find a Sabbath-keeping church?” The emphasis of community can be celebrated in good formative God-fearing communities on Sunday as well, but this does not mean we forget Saturday as the day of rest ordained by God.


Sabbath is meant to be a time of delighting and rejoicing in the Lord and the good things he has done for us. Taking time to delight in the Sabbath rest is about the fragrance of Heaven working in our lives so we can enjoy him. Practically this can mean many things: spend time with your family, enjoy time in nature, reading a book or take a nap. The physical act of resting our bodies and souls brings refreshment and wholeness to our very minds and bodies. We receive the fullness of joy when we receive the rest the Sabbath offers.


Through Jesus we are able to engage in the practical application of Sabbath so we can receive grace to be restored. We can then extend that grace to others on this day. The gospel story is bigger than all of us, and we become a part of this story when we celebrate the tradition and rhythm that has been a part of our world since it began. Celebrating Sabbath as a tradition just like millions of others through thousands of years of history, shares the gospel with those who need Jesus. When we live our lives in a way that reflects the gospel story people desire to celebrate with us, especially in our Sabbath celebrations. The gospel story is told through the tradition and rhythm of Sabbath.


Sabbath is not just a marker in history of creation and the Exodus from Egypt. It is not just a time of peace and a reminder of God’s command to rest. It also points to the future of being in eternity with Jesus. Sabbath in the present strengthens the hope and the promise that we will be resurrected and in Jesus presence forever. When we celebrate Sabbath over dinner with family and friends, consecrating the time and creating an atmosphere of worship, we step into that future life now. We get a little taste of our eternal life with Jesus. When we create that atmosphere during the Sabbath dinner, we increase our hope for eternity and get to experience the wholeness of Jesus in our lives in a very real and tangible way.

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