Jewish Feasts, Fasts
and Lectionary Materials

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The Jewish calendar of feasts and fasts
Special lections for the feasts and fasts
        The Punishment and Consolation Sabbaths
Year, months and days

The festivals
    The Old Feasts
    Later Observances
        Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur
Fast Days
        The Ninth of Ab
New Year's day/Rosh ha-Shanah, 'Trumpets'

Sabbaths Shekalim, Zachor, Parah & Hachodesh

Further Bibliography

These materials are all drawn from secondary sources, primarily, and without quotation marks but often slightly modified, from  R. G. Finch,
The Synagogue Lectionary and the New Testament (SPCK, London, 1939), pp. 12-21, 56-59, except where other sources are acknowledged.

Materials on the readings for the Palestinian Triennial Lectionary are based on the work of Cyril Howard Cave in his MA (Nottingham, 1962) and BD (Nottingham, 1964) theses.

Drawn primarily from R. G. Finch, The Synagogue Lectionary and the New Testament
(SPCK, London, 1939), pp. 12-13.
Jewish Month Our month No. of days Fixed Festivals and Observances
  1 Nisan (Abib) March-April 30   1 New Moon, and so each moth.
14 Paschal Sacrifice
15 First day of Unleavened Bread (7 day feast) & Passover (Pesach)
16 Waving of first ripe Omer (of barley)
  2 Iyyar (Ziv) April-May 29 15 Second or "Little Passover" (Pesach Ze'era)
  3 Sivan May-June 30   6 Feast of Pentecost or "Weeks" (Shabuoth)
  4 Tammuz June-July 29   9 Babylonian capture of city by Nebuchadnezzar
17 Roman capture by Titus -------  Sabbaths -------


  5 Ab July-Aug. 30   9 Fast, Destruction of 1st & 2nd Temples
15 Feast of Woodbearers
  6 Elul Aug.-Sept. 29
  7 Tishri (Ethanim) Sept.-Oct. 30 1&2 "Trumpets" & New Year (Rosh haShanah)
  3 Fast of Gedaliah
10 Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)1
15-21 "Tabernacles" or "Booths" (Sukkoth)
23 Octave of Tabernacles
  8 (Mar)-Cheshvan (Bul) Oct.-Nov. 29 or 30
  9 Kislev Nov.-Dec. 30 or 29 25 Feast of "Dedication" lasting 8 days (Hannukah)
10 Tebeth Dec.-Jan. 29 10 Fast - The beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem
11 Shebat Jan.-Feb. 30
12 Adar Feb.-March 29 or 30   7 Traditional date of death of Moses
13 Nicanor Day
14-15 Purim and during month 3 or 4 special Sabbaths: Shekalim, Zachotr, Parah and Hachodesh
12 Second Adar
(A month intercalated seven times in nineteen years to adjust the lunar-based calendar to the solar year in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle, but not always that neatly in the 1st century CE.

1 10th Tishri - first day of Jubilee years.
2 H. St. J. Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship (London, 1921), pp. 83 f., 103: Probably post-70 CE the 9th of Ab became the centre of a cycle of Sabbaths of Punishment and Consolation, three punishment readings before the 9th of Ab and six consolation readings on the Sabbaths after it; the two-to-one ration was based on Isa. 40.2: "She hath received double consolation for all her sins."


   Some of these precede the Triennial Cycle (TC) in origin (e.g. Lev 23 readings); some were replaced after the introduction of the TC; some are attested late (e.g. readings for Purim).  Sabbaths of Punishment and Consolation (3 + 6 = 9 in all, from 17 Tammuz onward) are probably post-70 CE in origin, i.e. after the partial destruction of Herod's Temple.
    The basic core of the data below is taken from R. G. Finch, The Synagogue Lectionary and the New Testament (London, SPCK, 1939), pp. 32-33, supplemented  with data from other sources (marked with an asterisk).  (H = Haphtarah, prophetic reading to go with Torah reading.)

Ecclesiastical New Year (1 Nisan)   Lev 23.4-8; Micah 6.3, probably
Passover & Unleavened Bread (15 Nisan)   Lev 23.4-8; *Mic 6.3 in b.1 Pes. 76b.
  Exod 13
*Exod 13.17 - later reading for 7th day of Pesach
*2 Sam 22 - later reading for 7th day of Pesach
*Song of Songs
*Pss 113-118 (Hallel)
Firstfruits; Weeks or Pentecost (6 Sivan)   Lev 23.15-22; later Deut 16.9-12; Habakkuk 32; Pss
  29, 68; Exod 19-20; Ezek 1.
*HH: Isa 4; Jer 34.10; H to Exod 19: ? Isa 6.1-13
*Pss 113-118 (Hallel)
Sabbaths of Punishment & Consolation (17 Tammuz to ca. 15 Elul) 70 CE & after   See table below.
9th of Ab   ?; Hos 14.1; Lamentations
*Lev 26 & Deut 28
Civil Near Year; Trumpets (1 Tishri)   Lev 23.23-25
*b.1 Meg. 31a:
I: Num 29, H: Jer 31.20 (Jer 30.10 likely3)
II: Gen 21 (Sarah), H: 1 Sam 1 (Hannah)
(1 & 2 Tishri)       *When observed as a 2-day feast:
I: Gen 21, H: 1 Sam 1
II: Gen 22, H: Jer 31.10
*Deut 5
*1Sam 2 (Song of Hannah)
*Jer 31.19 (acc. to Büchler, J.Q.R. vi, 20)
Day of Atonement (10 Tishri)   Lev 23.26-32 originally, 16.1-34; Num 29.7-11;
Isa 57.15 (*when Deut 6.4 read in TC);
Jonah (probably 2.2-9, Song of Jonah)
*Lev 8.1-10.7 plus 23.26-32
Tabernacles (15-21 Tishri)   Lev 23.33-34 (on 1st day); ? Zech 14
  Num 29.17-39 (on 2nd to 78th days); 1 Kings 84
  Num 29.35--39 (or -30.1) (on 8th day);
*H: 1 Kings 8.12 ff. (Solomon's Song)
*Pss 76; 42-43 (as single psalm -almost as
ancient use as Ps 76, probably); 111 (composed, it is commonly believed, for the great celebration of the feast recorded in Nehemiah5)
*Pss 103-107 (a single liturgy, possibly, for the
thankoffering of the pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem for the Feast in the time of Nehemiah)6
*Pss 113-118 (Hallel)
Dedication (25 Kislev - 8 day feast)   Num 7.84 (*-8.4, probably; H: Jer 17.12 ff.? [TB]7),
when reading only on Sabbath of feast.  Then Num 7.1; with appropriate section for each day.  then Num 6.22; originally Num 8.1; with 1 Kings 7.49 or 7.51;
Num 18.31 & Zech 4.2 for a second Sabbath
*Lev 24.1 on Dedication in TC; H: Zeph 1.12 or Zech 4.2.
Sabbath Shekalim8 (Adar)   Num 28.1-8, originally; Ezek 45.12 originally.
  Exod 30.11-16 later (*in late 1st cent. CE);
2 Kings 11.17 (= MT: 12.5-6)
Sabbath Zachor (Adar)   Deut 25.17-19; 1 Sam 15.2.
Purim (14-15 Adar)   Exod 17.8-16 if a week-day; Judg 5.14 if a Sabbath
(*earliest references to this TS & H is in b. Tractate Sopherim xiii,6; TS & H are not in the Mishnah or Tosephta)
Sabbath Parah ()Adar)   Num 19.1; Ezek 36.25; ? 1 Kings 4.33 ff. (MT: 5.33).
(*H: Ezek 36.25 in Toseptha [T. Meg. iv], but the older Pesikta gives: 1 Kings 4.33 f. where cedar and hyssop necessary for the purification are mentioned.9)
Sabbath Hachodesh10 Exod 12.1-20; Ezek 45.18 (*in Toseptha: T. Meg. iv, 4)
New Moons Num 28.11-15; Ezek 45.17, then Isa 66.23, one verse only.
(*Isa 66.23 ff. later?)
Ma'amadoth11 Gen 1

1 b. = Babylonian Talmud; Pes. = Tractate Pesahim (Feast of Passover); Meg. = Tractate Megillah (Scroll of Esther).
2 See H. St. J. Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship (London 1921), pp. 46-50.
According to C. H. Cave, Lectionary of the Synagogue and the Synoptic Gospels (Nottingham BD thesis, 1964), p. 91.
Probably part of the ancient Prayer of Solomon, in Jashar.  See LXX 3 Kingdoms 5.34.
Thackeray, op. cit., p. 74, n. 4.
The Hymnal 1940 Companion (Church Pension Fund, New York), p. 358.
Cave, LS & SG, p. 8.
8 Originally on the second Sabbath in Nisan (since it deals with the half-shekel Temple tax due at Passover); after Sabbath readings were introduced it was put back to the first Sabbath in Adar.
C. H. Cave, The Lectionary ... and the Epistle to the Hebrews (LEH) (Nottingham MA thesis, 1962), pp. 27 ff.; A. Büchler, Studies in Sin and Atonement, pp. 256-259.  This latter H, 1 Kings 4.33 f. (MT: 5.33) is expounded in a long section in Bemidhbar Rabba (Numbers Rabba), according to Cave, ibid.
The order of these Sabbaths (Shekalim, Zachor, Parah and Hachodesh) has varied somewhat.  the readings were the same for every year.
Services in local synagogues when the representatives of that one of the twenty-four courses of priests were officiating at Jerusalem.  see Luke 1.5.


A series of Sabbaths having the Ninth of Ab for a pivot and connecting the Fast of Tammuz and the autumn New Year, ca. 70 CE.12  (Table from Finch, op.cit., pp. 33 f., with additional material from Thackeray, op. cit., pp. 83 f., 103.)

Punishment Sabbaths I. II. III. Thackeray
17 Tammuz when Sabbath Exod 1.1: Jer 1.1 Lev 26: Ezek 34 Deut 28: Jer 51 or Isa 1
Sabbath following 17 Tammuz Isa 1.1 ? Jer 1.1; ? Jer 51.50
1st Ab when Sabbath Isa 1.14-19 Isa 22.1-4 Jer 2.4
9th Ab when Sabbath Isa 1.21 Jer 51.50 Jer 36.32-37.12 3rd: Deut 3.23, H: Isa 40
9th Ab Hosea 1
Consolation Sabbaths
1 Isa 40.1-9 Isa 49.14 Isa 54.1
2 Isa 51.12-17 Isa 60.1 Zech 2.14 Isa 49.14 ff.
3 Isa 54.11 Isa 61.10 Zech 9.9 Isa 54.11 ff.
4 (When the triennial reading was replaced by an annual these haphtarahs were used with variations according to different authorities for the seven Sabbaths.)
"Seek ye" Sabbath13 Isa 55.6
"Turn" Sabbath13 Hos 14.1 (2) Ezek 18 2 Sam 11.1-51
12 See Thackeray, op. cit., pp. 83 and 103, where the readings from Baruch are given.
13 These are much later.  They are two Sabbaths in preparation for Day of Atonement.


The original year which obtained among all the dwellers in Canaan: Hebrews, Phoenicians, Moabites and Edomites, began in Tishri (hence New Year, Rosh haShanah, on 1st Tishri near the autumnal equinox).  This reckoning survives in what the Jews call the 'civil year' (referred to by Josephus, Antiq. I, iii, 3) beginning in Tishri as opposed to the 'sacred year' which begins in Nisan.

Only four of the earlier Canaanite names for the months survive in the Hebrew records: Abib (Nisan) Exod 13.4; Deut 16.1; Ziv (Iyyar) 1 Kings 6.1, 37; Ethanim (Tishri) 1 Kings 8.2; Bul (Cheshvan) 1 Kings 6.38.

The names of the months are all Babylonian.  The montyhs are usually referred to by numbers, to which generally the Baylonian proper name is added.  This numbering of the mongths from the Passover begins, except for 'P', in the wriuters of the Exile.

Days of  the week.  There are no special names for days of the week, except for the seventh (the Sabbath), for the 'eve' of the Sabbath, i.e. the παρασκευή (Greek for 'preparation'), and the 'going out', the day following the Sabbath.


The original festivals, using the term in a strict sense for a joyous observance, for to these the word hag is rightly applied, are three:

Exod 23.14-16: Mazzoth, Kazir and Asiph
(in English:) Unleavened cakes, Harvest and Ingathering
Or as in Deut 16.6 & Lev 23.4: Passover - Unleavened Cakes, Weeks and Tabernacles

The two feasts named first in each passage mark the opening and the close of the grain (barley) harvest, and the third the completion of the harvest of oil and wine and of the agricultural operations of the year.   The agricultural basis of life which this triad of festivals presupposes gives an indication of the time of their adoption.  They belong not to a nomadic life but to a settled life, and it is to be presumed that they were taken by the Israelites from the earlier inhabitants of Palestine when this change was made.

PASSOVER        The observance of  Mazzoth or 'Cakes' (it is enjoined before Exod 12.15) extends over seven days.  It has in part surrendered its name to Pesach, an observance of a pastoral (i.e. flock-keeping) people by which it is preceded in the Priestly Code.  See Lev 23.5 anmd Num 28.19.  The name Pesach is obscure. m It does not occur until 'D' is reached.  The observance belonged entirely to the night: it was a moon festival, Exod 12.42, a pannuchis (παννυχίς , Greek for 'night-festival'), and it was expression of thankfulness for fruitful flocks and herds.
        Pesach is a word pre-dating the OT records.  Its etymology was really unknown.  When the feast was later 'historicized' by taking it as a commemoration of the liberation from Egypt, the word was apparently explained in terms of the Hebrew pasah ('to skip' or 'to pass over'), to suggest the destroyer 'passing over' the Hebrew houses in Egypt to spare them on the eve of the Exodus (Exod 12.12-14), or the passing of Yahweh over the sills into the interior of his people's houses to protect them.  (Some authorities see the derivation of  'Passover' in the skipping or leaping done at altars in ancient Semitic rituals [1 Kings 18.26]; others see it in the Assyrian pasahu ['to propitiate].)
        The eventual 'historicized' explanation of the feast (not its origin):

Passover - commemoration of liberation from Egypt and the slaying of the firstborn, and as
'Cakes' or 'Unleavened Bread' - i.e. hurriedly prepared loaves, recalling the haste of the departure.

It was kept in the first full moon of Nisan and practically coincides with the vernal equinox.
        Notes on readings for Pesach: Num 9 on Pesach, 3rd year (A. Büchler, JQR, vi, 29 n.2; v, 439).  Num 9.1 - reading for Pesach Ze'era, the second Pesach on same day in second month (15 Iyyar) for those prevented by uncleanness or absence from joining in Nisan Pesach.  This custom was discontinued when the Temple service ceased.  H: Joshua 5.20 ff. (b. Meg. 31a) (Cave, LS & SG, 103)  Lev 22.26 on second day of Pesach in Babylon; H: 2 Kings 23.1-10, 21-25 (Cave). 
        Gen 1 & Exod 11.1-12.28
are strongly associated with the feast, and they gave rise to a number of speculations and expectations concerning Passover in the first century CE.  (For these
see Wisdom, Power and Well-being: Background on Passover and Wisdom.)

PENTECOST        The second festival is that originally called 'Harvest', Exod 23.16 (and also the day of Firstfruits,  Num 28.26), afterwards Shabuoth, i.e. 'Weeks' or The Pentecost.  The later Hebrew form of the name and the origin of the Greek name, Pentecost (= Fifty) may be seen in Lev 23.25.  The interpretation of the words 'the morrow after the Sabbath' in this verse (Lev 23.15) divided Jews and Samaritans, Pharisees and Sadducees.1  The festival marked the completion of the wheat harvest, and this was symbolized by the offering of finished loaves of bread.  The observance was originally concluded in one day (6 Sivan), but about 100 BCE the feast was doubled to include 7 Sivan.2
     By a strained interpretation of Exod 19 (which was read near Pentecost in the TC; later Num 19.1 ff. was read at Shabuoth outside the TC), it was held that the festival coincided with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, fifty days after the deliverance form Egypt.  However. the Pentateuch contains no historical explanation of the feast (cf. Deut 16.12).
        Along with the associating of the feast with the giving of Torah also went the idea that God's voice was heard in every corner of the earth when he gave Torah, but only Israel responded - cf. Acts 2.5 ff.
        Gen 12-17, the chapters that speak about the 'seed of Abraham' were read in Sivan in the TC.  Yahweh's call to Abraham in Gen 12.1 was taken to mean that Abraham had turned from idolatry to Yahweh, so that Abraham was the first proselyte (i.e. convert).  Further, the phrase in gen 5.1, 'the souls that they had gotten in Haran', was taken to mean that Abraham made proselytes, so that Abraham was viewed as 'a proselyte and the maker of proselytes'.
        The Book of Ruth (like that of Jonah) is a tract which is at least in part pitted against the narrow ethnic outlook of Ezra and Nehemiah by placing the great King David innthe line of a Moabitess, and it came to ber read on Shabuoth.
     Shabuoth/Pentecost themes: Kingship, Priesthood, Covenant od Sinai; [proselytes.
        Psalms: Ps 29, supplemented or supplanted by Ps 68 (a psalm apparently of Maccabaean origin).
        On Lev 26 being read before Shabuoth against the Samaritans, see note on readings for the 9th of Ab.

1 For a convenient statement of this and also of the difference in regard to Passover, see R. H. Charles, Jubilees, XLIX, 12 n. and XV, 1 n.
2 Thackeray, op. cit., p. 46.

TABERNACLES or Sukkoth ('Booths')        This took place at the end of the year according to the old Nisan reckoning, on the 15th of the seventh month (15 Tishri).  It corresponded approximately1 with the autumn equinox, a fact not without importance in view of the illumination of the Women's Court of the Temple at the festival and the express disclaimer of sun worship in 'our fathers who were in this place turned their backs on the Temple and their faces towards the east and worshipped the sun towards the east; but we, our eyes to God' (Mishnah, Sukkah v,4).  (The 'our fathers' statement is based on Ezek 8.16.)
        It is known as 'the Feast' in the OT and the NT, the feast as it were par excellence.  Its observance was continuous over seven and ultimately eight days, the last being the most splendid of all.  See John 7.37.
        The booths (sukkoth) used at this time were taken to recall the hut dwellings of the wilderness, while they would suggest to others a shelter from Leviathan, as may be seen from the prayer said by the head of the family after each evening meal in the booth: 'May it please thee, O Lord my God, ... that I have ... been sitting in my booth, so that in the coming year I may be counted worthy to sit in the booth of Leviathan'.  In haggadic legend the monster Leviathan is to be killed (cf. Rev 20.2, 10, which may echo this) and the flesh is to furnish food for the righteous (at the messianic banquet).  From the hide tents will be made by God for the pious of the first rank, which explains the allusion to sitting in 'the booth of Leviathan'.2
     The ceremonies connected with it, the illuminations and the libation of water unmistakeably point to the original nature of the feast as an agricultural one, telling of the blessings of sunshine and rain.  See Zech 14.16-17 read at the feast.2
     Themes: Light, water, booths in the wilderness (and God's care for them in the wilderness), Jerusalem and Temple as the place of God's life-giving presence.  Basic character|: Temple and altar dedication, with a procession around the altar.  See Mishnah, Sukkah iv, v, and Zech 14.16, 21.
         Psalms: Ps 76; Pss 42-43 (as a single psalm; its usage was probably almost as ancient as that of Ps 76); Ps 118 (it is commonly believed to have been composed for the great celebration of the feast recorded in Nehemiah (Thackeray, op. cit, p. 74, n. 4).  Pss 103-107 - a single liturgy (possibly) for the thank-offering of the pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem for the Feast in the time of Nehemiah (The Hymnal 1940 Companion [The Church Pensi0on Fund, New York], p. 358).
        Note on readings: Lev 22.26 is a later reading, HH: 1 Kings 8; Zech 14.
The course of these three original feasts was interrupted to make room for some observances which began during the Babylonian Exile.

1 Thackeray, op. cit, p. 62, quoting Philo, De Spec. leg., ii,204.(24).
2 W. O. E. Oesterley & G. H. Box, Religion and Worship of Synagogue, pp. 398 f. & n.
3 Thackeray, op. cit., p. 64.

DAY OF ATONEMENT or YOM KIPPUR        First to be mentioned is the great Day of Atonements (plural), now the most conspicuous mark of synagogue worship, but an observance of very late appearance in the OT, since it does not appear in 'J' or 'D' or in the historical or prophetical books (it is not in 1 Kings 8.65 or 2 Chron 7.8).
        It is known as 'THE DAY' and in this form gives the title 'YOMA' to the tractate of the Mishnah which deals with its later development (yom = 'day'.  It was instituted to give an opportunity to the community as a whole to find escape from the taint of sin after due legal and ritual purification had been made by the individual.  See Lev 16 and Ezek 45.20, LXX.  [It is said of YK that it is 'the fast that is a feast'.]
        It falls on Old New Year's Day (i.e. 10 Tishri.  See later under 'Trumpets').
        Notes from C. H. Cave:  YK is a comparatively later observance.  The old festival calendar was gradually revised in the centuries after Ezra, especially affecting 1-15 Tishri:

Rosh ha-Shanah (RH), i.e. New Year's Day (literally ' Head of the Year')
was transferred from 10th to 1st Tishri.
Sukkoth (Tabernacles) moved to the full moon, 15th Tishri,
its pre-exilic mourning and grieving were suppressed,
and the days between the new RH and the old became
Days of Penitence, culminating in
Yom Kippur on 10th Tishri.

        This new theological repentance-emphasis on Yom Kippur was followed by signs of forgiveness on Sukkoth (whose ancient themes were the obtaining of the rains and the blessing of the fields).  These new aspects are emphasized in, e.g., b. Ta'an. 7b; j. Ta'an. 65b; Ber. R. (Genesis Rabba) xiii: 'The rains do not fall unless the sins of Israel have been forgiven.'
        The YK ritual is composite, including some old RH ritual plus the new YK theological emphasis.
        Yom Kippur readings (Cave, LS & SG, p. 79): at first Lev 8.1-10.7 with the rubrical Lev 23.26Lev 16 is as late as 76-67 BCE, in the reign of Alexandra Salome, when the Pharisees began their reform of Temple ritual.  This would account for the identification in B. Yom. 4a of the sacrifices of Lev 9 with those of YK, since the change would be comparatively recent.

FAST DAYS        Zechariah (c. 520 - c. 500 BCE) mentions two regular fast-days as having been observed for 70 years, that is, those of the fifth (Zech 7.5) and seventh months, and adds (8.19) two others which occurred in the fourth and tenth months.  These all recall days of calamity immediately preceding the Exile.
        On the 9th of the Fourth month [Tammuz] Jerusalem was taken (Jer 39.2).1
     On the 7th of the Fifth month [Ab] the city and Temple were burnt (2 Kings 25.8).
        On the 3rd of the Seventh month [Tishri] Gedaliah was murdered and the annihilation of the Jewish state was completed.  Cf. Jer 41.
        On the 10th of the Tenth month [Tebeth] the siege of the city by Nebuchadnezzar was begun.
        Later Rabbinic readings for these fasts were: Exod 32.11-14 & 34.1-10, read both in the morning and afternoon services, with Isa 55.6-56.8 read in the afternoon as H on all fasts.

1 Later 17th (Tammuz wailing) a day of mourning for destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in  70 CE.  See Ezek 8.14, LXX, for a wailing in this month.  It is possible, [perhaps even probable, that the movement to 17th Tammuz involved the taking over and historicizing of an existent fertility observance which involved a weeping for Tammuz, a Babylonian deity.  cf. J. Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, IV (1902), pp. 676-677 ('Tammuz', by A. H. Sayce).

THE NINTH OF AB        This fast in the Fifth month (transferred from the b7th of Ab) commemorates (1) the destruction of the first and (2) second Temples (those of Solomon and Zerubbabel).  [Later it picked up three more commemorations: (3) the condemning of the Israelites to 40 years in the Wilderness, (4) the capture of Bathar (Bar Kokba's stronghold), (5) the ploughing over of Jerusalem with a ploughshare to make a Roman colony of it (after the suppression of Bar Kokba's revolt).  Since this revolt was 132-135 CE, at least items (4) and (5) are post-NT in origin.
        C. H. Cave's Notes on Lev 26 & Deut 28 in relation to 9th Ab, Shabuoth (Pentecost) and Rosh ha-Shanah (New Year's Day):
        9th Ab: Lev 26 & Deut 28: these two chapters known as  berakoth weqalloth, 'Blessings & Curses' to be read on 9th Ab acc. to M. Meg. iii.6; T. Meg. iv,9.  J. Rabbinowitz. Mishnah Megillah, p. 107.
        Shabuoth & Rosh ha-Shanah:
1)    b. Meg. 31b:  Says Ezra directed that Lev 26 be read before Shabuoth and Deut 28 before RH.  Reading of either passage on  Ab has been noted by A. Guilding (The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship, p. 199) to be appropriate to a TC beginning in Tishri.
2)    A. Büchler, JQR, v, 440 ff.: Origin of these readings as preparation for the festival is ascribed to controversy with the Samaritans.  Samaritans also read the Decalogue on the Festivals, but the Samaritan Pentateuch differs from the Jewish: at Deut 27.4 it reads Mount Gerizim for Mount Ebal
Although the sense of the Jewish Pentateuch is established in vv. 12 f., the Samaritans counted v. 4 so important as to include it as the tenth commandment after Exod 20.17.  Büchler holds that 'the Curses' were read before Shabuoth and RH 'to expose this falsification'.
        H. St. J. Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship, pp. 80 ff., decided that the Book of Baruch was a homily for the 9th of Ab.  Guilding, op. cit., p. 199, notes that Baruch's Pentateuch base is Deut 28 & Lev 26.
        The Damascus Document (CF ii,2), connected with the Essenes at Qumran, begins with two columns that seem to be a midrash on Lev 26.  If this exhortation was read before Shabuoth, then the phrase 'those who have entered the Covenant' (CD ii,2) is appropriate.  Nte that Jer 34.10, which speaks of those 'who have entered the Covenant', was a Shabuoth Haphtarah.

DEDICATION or HANUKKAH        The Dedication (τὰ ἐγκαίνια of John 10.22), Hanukkah, was instituted in 162 BCE by Judas Maccabaeus to celebrate the rededication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes three years before.  Judas, in fact, rededicated the pagan festivities of the winter solstice, adopting part of the ceremonies connected with the worship of the sun-god - ceremonies which were celebrated at the time of the year when the days began to lengthen.  The very date selected for Hanukkah was at one time observed, and afterwards at Rome, as the birthday of the Sun.  (The Church at Rome in the fourth century CE changed this latter observance into Christmas Day, Dec. 25, which is approximately 25 Kislev).  See 2 Macc 10.1-8.
        Dedication was in effect a repetition of the feast of Tabernacles.  It has been called 'the Tabernacle Feast of Winter', and 'the Feast of Tabernacles of the month Kislev' (cf. 2 Macc 10.6).  It was known as 'the Feast of Lights' (Josephus, Antiq. xii, 7.7), and was marked by a kindling of lights for eighte days, whichb increased from one candle to eight candles among the Hillelites (while the Shammites usually diminished the number from 8 to 1), which recalled or suggested the growing light of the year (more on this below).  At Hanukkah the Temple and all the houses were illuminated.  The pagan origin of these lights appears to have caused an embarrassed silence among the rabbis, for no explanation for them is found until quite late in rabbinic sources.  Then two suggestions appear.  One is that Judas found eight Roman spears in the desecrated Temple, stuck lights on their points and used them for Temple lights.  The second and more popular story is that only a small cruse of oil was found intact with the high priest's seal on it; although it was only enough for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days (this is similar to, and may perhaps even had its origin in, the similar stories of Elijah and Elisha, 1 Kings 17.16; 2 Kings 4.1-6).
        Points of similarity between Sukkoth and Hanukkah include the following.  Both were feats of joy.  at both, the concept of Light figured prominently.  Perhaps the most striking ceremony at Sukkoth was the illumination of the women's court at night in the Temple and the torchlight-procession.  At both festivals, however, extensive illuminations were made.  A further similarity is to be found in the processions of palm-branches and tree-branches which were solemnly made on each of these occasions.  Sukkoth and Hanukkah at one time each lasted eight days, and at both the Hallel (Pss 113-118) was sung.  To sum up, Hanukkah was made to be a repetition of Sukkoth.
        Themes: Light and Dedication of the Temple.  Psalm: Ps 30.
Notes on the readings for Hanukkah by C. C. Keet, A Liturgical Study of the Psalter (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1928), pp. 107-111, drawing on A. Büchler's articles in JQR:
Torah sections:
1)    Num 8.1 (apparently the original plac e where the reading began), where the lights and the kindling of them is described (Megilla iii.6, Sopherim xx.10 - Sopherim is a minor tractate of the b. Talmud, valuable for its liturgical information).
2)    Num 7.84 - this verse speaks of 'dedication' (hanukkah) of the altar, so Mishnah, Meg. iii.6 pushes the reading back to start it here, calling the section 'the Princes', which occurs in 7.84.
3)    Num 7.1 - when readings for each of the eight days were apportioned, then they began with 7.1, with an appropriate portion for each day.
4)    Gen 48.28 & Lev 24 occurred at Dedication in the TC (years 1 & 2, Nisan Cycle).
1)    Zech 4.2 ff. - speaks of light and the Temple-candlestick at the time of the prospective rebuilding of the Temple.
2)    1 Kings 7 (construction of Solomon's Temple).  Question of where to begin the reading: 7.40 ? or 7.49 ?  But Büchler, JQR vi (1894), p., 46, points out that the Pesikta makes 7.51 the start.  This would leave out any references to light, but its description of certain offerings would parallel Num 7.84.
3)    1 Kings 18.31 (including Elijah's miracle of fire on Mount Carmel against the powers of Baal).
4)    Zeph 1.12 (begins here according to Pesikta Rabbati) - refers to the light to be used by Yahweh when he will search Jerusalem to punish iniquity (i.e., this light is no emblem of joy or thanksgiving).

PURIM        The name means 'Lots'.  According to Esther 3.7, Haman determined by 'lot' (pur) the date for exterminating the Jews.  Esther was written for the feast, and the feast is explained b the book; that is, the Jewish observance of the feast and the writing of Esther arose at the same time, drawing on a pagan feast and muth (see O. Eissfeldt, The OT: An Interoduction [ET: 1965], pp. 507-509 for some possibilities).  It very likely arose in the eastern Diaspora under late Persian rule in the mid-4th century BCE, and then spread to Palestine in the 2nd century BCE.  The feast and the book arose in a period and place where there was intense animosity against the Jews.  This probably explains why canonical Esther does not mention God even once, even in passages where we would expect it, although this may also be due to the author's use of an old heathen festival and being unwilling to mention God's name in such a context/  (The apocryphal additions to Esther, dating from ca. 50 BCE, mention God's name enough times to make up for its earlier omission!).
        The point of the feast (and of the book read at it) is the confident expectation that God will judge and punish the Gentile oppressors of Israel, whoever they may be.  In the Greek additions to Esther (which are to be found in the Apocrypha), there occurs the [phrase about God doing 'signs and great wonders'.  All through the OT the phrase 'signs and wonders' refers to God's judgements and punishments directed against Israel's Gentile oppressors, usually against Egypt.  (The one apparent exception is Isa 8.18, and the children whom Yahweh has given the prophet are 'signs and wonders' in (apostate) Israel, apparently to indicate that God's judgement has turned against Israel; thus this passage is probablly no exception.)
        Thus Purim by the 1st century CE is associated with 'signs and wonders' against the Gentiles (Est 10.6 [EV]; 10.3 {LXX]).  This expectation of the feast is turned upside down in John 4.46-64 (4.58: 'signs and wonders' for the only time in John), which is echoing Purim.  In Luke-Acts the frequently occurring phrase 'signs and wonders' is invariably used of God's mercies to all men, Gentiles included.  It is the narrow vindictiveness of Purim which explains the NT counter-reaction.
        The Fast of Esther (Nicanor Day) as the preparation for the feast was kept on the previous day.  See 2 Macc 15.36.

'TRUMPETS' or ROSH HA-SHANAH, i.e. 'The Head of the Year', NEW YEAR'S DAY        This is now kept on 1st and 2nd Tishri, whereas New Year's day earlier fell on 10th Tishri (on its being moved see above on Yom Kippur).  In the OT is it mentioned in the Pentateuch in Lev 25.9 (where in a gloss it is equated with the Atonement which took its place at this point in the Calendar), Num 29.1 and Ezek 40.1 where the number of the month is omitted in the English versions.
Judgemental character of 1st Tishri:  Thw following is quoted (with the spelling modified by Gibbs) from Langdon, Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendars, p. 100, as reproduced in Finch, op. cit., pp. 56-57:

      In the late Hebrew Calendar 1 Tishri was a day of judgement; so Ps 81.4-5:  'On the day of the new moon blow up the trumpet [and] at the full moon on the day of our feast; for this is a law unto Israel, a [day of] judgement (mishpat) of the God of Jacob.'
       The Talmud, Targum, and the whole of Jewish tradition connect this passage with Tishri.  The myth of a general judgement of souls goes back to the Babylonian belief based upon the the passing of the sun beyond the equator and the beginning of his descent into the lower world, when Libra rises helically.  According to the Talmud, from 1 Tishri to the Day of Atonement (10 Tishri) is a period of the condemnation of the doubtful, and the Mishnah describes 1 Tishri as a day of judgement.  These are the ten terrible days of the world's judgement in Jewish tradition.  Then are written the three books of the good, the doubtful, and the damned, a myth undoubtedly inherited from Babylon.
        This is verified by the Mishnah, Rosh ha-Shanah, i,2:  'The world is judged ... on the feast of the New Year, when all human beings pass like lambs before God's throne, in order to be judged; as it is said (Ps 30.9): He who hath fashioned all their hearts understandeth all their works.'

        The synagogue readings for New Year as given by Finch, op. cit., pp. 57 f.:
Originally Lev 23.23-25.
Then:    1st year - Gen 30 & 2, with 1 Sam 1.11-22 or 1 Sam 2, not necessarily originally the Song of Hannah.
               2nd year - Lev 4 with Jer 31.19 or Ezek 18.4-17;
               3rd year - Deut 5 with Joel 2.1.
The first year readings tell of the births of Joseph, Isaac and Samuel, of the removal of the reproach in the gift of firstborn sons of many tears.
        The Psalms associated with the festival are, from Rabbinic tradition, clearly Pss 29.8; 47; 81.3; and 89.16.  From hints in Rabbinic writing there are grounds for adding Ps 2.7 (Thackeray, op. cit, p. 197), Ps 29 (used at Pentecost & tabernacles), and Ps 97.2; and also Ps 24 (telling of a universal king), Ps 75 (of as judgemental scene) and Ps 128, these last three being used according to the psalm ordering of the three-year cycle as detected by E. G. King.  S. Mowinckel, Studies in the Psalms, Vol. 1, adds (acc. to Finch) Pss 24; 96.1; 98.1 118 & 132.
The distinctive feature of the festival is the blowing of trumpets or rams' horns - hence the name 'Trumpets' - to serve as a memorial or reminder, in its most näive form, to arouse the attention of God (Num 10.9), to keep him in remembrance of Israel.  See e.g. Lev 23.24: 'a remembrance of blowing of trumpets'; Gen 30.22: 'and God remembered Rachel'; 1 Sam 1.11 & 19: 'and the Lord remembered her'; Jer 31.20: 'Ephraim ... I do earnestly remember him'.
        Ideas prominently connected with the festival, which is not to be separated from the Atonement and Sukkoth, were chiefly this remembrance; the creation of the world at the Tishri New Year according to R. Eleazar (or on the same day in Nisan according to R. Joshua - these probably depend on when Gen 1 was read in the TC, namely either in Tishri or in Nisan); the sounding of the trumpet; the birthdays of Isaac, Joseph and Samuel (who actually were born on this day acc. to the LXX; cf. Thackeray, op. cit., p.183); the liberation of Joseph and the Exodus (Keet, op. cit., p. 100) as the ending oof the Egyptian service.  The day was a preliminary of the Day of Judgement.  According to Jewish belief, as we have seen above, Yahweh judges all nations at the New Year festival day.  It was a memorial of the hope of the coming of the Messiah (Ps 89.27) whose birth or coming was expected by some to take place in Nisan (as in Palestinian & Jerusalem targums on Exod 11-12 & in the Samaritan Memar Marqa) and by others in Tishri.  At this time the secrets or mysteries of Yahweh, that is, the secrets concerning the Dragon or Leviathan are made known (Thackeray, op. cit, p. 199) and a new and better mode of existence is revealed (Keet, op. cit., p. 90).  Two further ideas are kingship, which is original (Keet, p. 100), and salvation (Keet. p. 101).
Summary: remembrance, creation, trumpet, births, Messiah, liberation, judgement, revealing of mysteries, kingship, salvation.

SABBATHS Skekalim, Zachor, Parah and Hachodesh        These four extraordinary Sabbaths are observed in this order in the month of Adar, though there has been some variation in their sequence.
        At Shekalim, or 'Shekels', people were reminded of the duty of contributing towards the Shekalim fund for defraying the expenses of the daily offering in the Temple.  This special Sabbath perpetuates the memory of a dispute as to the sense in which the verb of Num 38.4 should be understood - 'shalt thou offer'.  Is it strictly singular, implying ann individual offering of a lamb as the Sadducees maintained, or does it refer to the congregation which met its obligation by a general contribution?
        Every adult male Israelite paid half a shekel.  The half-shekel was a two-drachma piece on the Phoenician standard and was rare.  Accordingly it was usual for twon persons to join in paying the tax by presenting a Phoenician tetra-drachma.  See Josephus, Antiq. xvi, 6.2-6, and Matt 17.24 where a single silver coin is to be used to pay Peter's and Jesus' Temple tax.
        Zachor or 'Remember!' and Purim are naturally associated as recalling harsh treatment received at the hands of enemies.
        The purpose of Zachor is made clear in its seder, Deut 25.17, and inn the experiences to which the injunction of 23.2 bears witness: 'an Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the asembly of the Lord for ever'.
        Parah - 'Cow'.  In Heb 9.13 there the allusions to the ritual of the Day of Atonement1 and to the ceremonies described in Num 19.  According to the latter a red, unblemished, unyoked cow was killed and its blood and flesh burned to ashes.  These were kept in a clean place, and when anyone came in contact with a dead body, on the third and seventh days of his separation he was sprinkled with these ashes mixed with running water.
        Plainly this is a survival among the Jews of ideas connected with ritual uncleanness which were common to every part ofthe primitive world,  The prescription of cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet, and the colour and condition of the cow remain obscrure.
        The reading of Num 19 with Ezek 36.16-38, especially v. 25, emphasized the conditions, bodily and other, necessary for a right observance of the Passover festival.
        Hachodesh - 'the New Moon'.  The marking of this was an important part of the month's preparation for the Passover.  Within this period bridges and roads had to be repaired for the use of the pilgrims, and scattered graves indicated by whitening (so that pilgrims would not become ritually unclean by contact with them).  Before the tithing and opening of the Temple treasury chests, on 1 Nisan if a Sabbath, or otherwise on the Sabbath before this, the command to commemorate the Passover and Unleavened Bread as given in Exod 12.2-20 with Ezek 45.18-46 was read.
        The 'New Moon' marked the beginning of each month, and in those cases where the previous month had a thirtieth day, that day as well.  The later name is Rosh Chodesh, i.e. 'Head of the Month'.

1 C. H. Cave, The Lectionary of the Synagogue and the Epistle to the Hebrews (unpublished MA thesis, University of Nottingham, 1962), has shown on the basis of the OT scriptures used that Hebrews is primarily centred on Tabernacles rather than on the Day of Atonement.  But as we have sen above, the Tishri observances are interwoven with each other.

Further Information can be found in, among others, the following books:
Oesterley, W. O. E., & Box, G. H.  The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue (Isaac Pitman & Sons, London, 1911).
Schauss, H.  Guide to Jewish Holy Days (translated by Samuel Jaffe, 1938; reprinted by Schocken Books, New York, 1962).
Gaster, T. h.  Passover: Its History and Traditions (Henry Schuman, 1949; reprinted by Beacon Press, Boston, 1962).
Hastings, J. (ed.)  Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1, article 'Feasts and Fasts~ by E. E. Harding (pp. 859-863) (T. & T. Clark, edinburgh, 1898).
See the relevant articles in: The Jewish Encyclopedia and The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.
On the Lectionary see various works by H. St J. Thackeray, E. G. King, A. Büchler, N. H. Smith, A. Guilding, J. C. Kirby and L. Rabinowitz.