During the Hebrew people’s sojourn in Egypt, God had to transform a gaggle of ex-slaves into a kingdom of priests. He had to evolve a confused post-traumatic community into a light to all the nations. Before the Hebrews even entered the promised land, two major things were put in place to aid each successive generation in their own faith journey: the Torah and the holy calendar. In the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy, we learn that before Moses died, he finished writing down the words of the covenant. He commanded the Levites to place it at the side of the Ark of the Covenant so that it could be “an eternal witness.” If the Israelites ever lost sight of their identity, they had the Holy Book to remind them of their unique history and their divine laws which set them apart so that all would be right with them. As Elizabeth Elliott once said, “the Word of God is a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness.” The Hebrews were the only people with the straight edge of the Bible.
God also instituted the holy calendar as a way of safeguarding national moments for the Israelites to regularly remember and reenact their story, and also as a method to atone for their sins, both by repentance and ritual sacrifice.