The Jewish New Years Celebration- Rosh Hashanah

The season known to the Hebrew people as ‘Teshuvah’ meaning “to return or repent”, begins on the first day of the month of Elul (dusk on September 20th to dusk on September 22nd, 2017).   Each morning during the 30 days of this month the trumpet, usually a ram’s horn, and referred to in Hebrew as a shofar is blown.  They’re repeating a tradition the Hebrew people have held for thousands of years in obedience to God’s order in Leviticus 23:24.  There he called for a continual blowing of shofars, warning everyone to wake up from their spiritual slumbers to repent and return to God, in preparation for the new moon’s arrival on the following month, the 1st of Tishri and the ten days (known as the Days of Awe) after that- the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

So at dusk on the last day of the month of Elul comes the 1st of Tishri and the festival known in Hebrew as Yom T’rooah, the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah.  It’s the first of the ten High Holy, or “Awesome Days” ordered by God.  Translated from Hebrew Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year.”  It’s the beginning of a new civil year.  The festival lasts until the end of the next day, dusk of the 2nd of Tishri.  Think about it- we Gentiles celebrate New Years Day in the winter.  A tradition of our holiday is to make a resolution(s).  Perhaps that tradition came from Rosh Hashanah.  Keep reading.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:23-25 NKJV)

Every new month of the Jewish calendar was noted and celebrated, especially Tishri.  The Mishnah tells us that runners came from all over to Jerusalem spreading the news that the new moon starting Tishri had been sighted.  They could even violate the laws of Sabbath concerning traveling if necessary to carry out this duty.  Even the high priest encouraged this by holding a magnificent feast for any and all runners who made the journey.   When these witnesses made it to Jerusalem, if two or more made the trek together they were examined one at a time;  their examiners looking for any discrepancy in when they saw the new moon, how and where they saw it and what it looked like, etc.  Some were excluded from being a witness; for instance dice-players, usurers, any pigeon flyers, or traffickers in Seventh Year produce and slaves were ineligible.

No work was allowed.  It was a festival celebrated in joy, solemnity, and above all- humility.  See, Rosh Hashanah was a time for every Jew to self-examine themselves for even the smallest offense they committed against their fellowman and to God.  If they cheated someone, insulted them, or abused anyone in anyway they were to beg for repentance from that person.  Likewise if they violated any laws of God they were to admit and repent for doing so, all in the hopes that ten days later on the Day of Atonement (which is the subject of another posting).  They wanted their names written into the Book of the Righteous (as opposed to the Book of the Wicked & the Book of the In-Betweens) for the next twelve months.  Failure to do so meant some kind of disaster was bound to happen to them in the next year.

The 1st of Tishri marks another anniversary- it’s the day Jews believe God created the world, a time when “God takes stock of all of His Creation,” which of course includes all of humanity.

There was continual horn blowing, a memorial, in honor of the trumpet being blown when Moses received the law on Mt. Sinai.  A study of Revelation will reveal many instances of the blowing of trumpets in the presence of the Lord.  When he makes his triumphant return it will be marked by the sound of trumpets from heaven.

Now all the people witnessed the thundering, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.  (Gen 20:18 NKJV)

The common greeting Jews give each other at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”) or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi” which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” They eat bread and apples dipped in honey symbolizing their hope and wish for a sweet new year.   A more modern custom is they go to places where there is flowing water and empty their pockets into it, symbolizing the casting off of their sins.

We Gentile Christians should appreciate this festival for its symbolic reminder that one day Christ shall appear to us, and the call going out for all to repent (like John the Baptist did) but with the blowing of a trumpet to initiate the Rapture of the Church when he makes his second entry into the world.

Behold, I tell you a mystery:  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.  For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on in corruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NKJV)

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NKJV)

These scripture teachings serve to bind Gentile Christians with the Jewish people.  We must also remember that Christ never commanded anything to be done in vain, or without some great purpose.  They are reminders of Christ’s plan of salvation for all humanity and His eventual return.

As pointed out above the apostles didn’t forget Christ’s promise to always fulfill the law he handed down in what we call the Old Testament.  It is incumbent upon us, His Gentile followers to do as well.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  Matthew 5:17

I end with a greeting that all Gentile Christians should use in of honor of the people and culture God chose to bring our beloved savior from: Shalom!

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