The three major Jewish feasts are associated with three annual harvests; historically each involved the return of a portion of the harvest to the Lord. These offerings symbolized the reasons for the feast itself: God is the source of the fruits of the earth; God’s gifts of produce are for the sustenance and comfort of the people; and because God gives freely, the worshipers must do the same, sharing their benefits with the needy.
A feast celebrates the positive character of existence. In the face of evil and pain, feasts proclaim the goodness of creation and the freedom to enjoy the world because God made it.
A feast is a sign of the divine in history. Israel celebrated three kinds of feasts: pilgrimage feasts, solemn or repentance feasts, and lesser feasts not mandated by the Torah. All of these commemorated God’s action in the life and history of the community.
Jesus gave his disciples a model to follow in the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, Jesus brings to a clear focus many expressions and elements already present in first-century Jewish synagogue worship.
The brakhah, blessing or benediction, is the chief form of prayer in Jewish worship. The New Testament provides numerous examples of the use of this form of prayer by Jesus and the apostles.
The Shma‘ represents the creedal affirmation of Jewish synagogue worship. It is comprised of three passages from the Pentateuch. The first of these is the most important; Jesus quoted it in response to a scribe who asked him which commandment was the greatest in the Law (Mark 12:28). The second and third portions may be shortened. The Shma‘ is recited in the opening part of synagogue worship. This section gives a translation of the text of the Shma‘.