Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Rosh Hashanah and The Days of Awe

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Tishri, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, contains three major holidays. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

Tishri begins sometime during the last three weeks of September or the first week of October. The first day of Tishri is the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah which means "head of the year." If you read Exodus 12:2, you will discover that the Torah teaches that the month of Nisan when Passover is celebrated, is to be the first month.

How then did the first of Tishri come to be celebrated as New Year's day? Probably because the letters of the words "the first of Tishri" in Hebrew can be rearranged to form the words "in the beginning". This was probably understood as being a hidden indication that the world was created on the first of Tishri, according to a certain method of Rabbinic interpretation, and, therefore, the year begins on this day.

There is a Biblical holiday, however, on this day, the Feast of Trumpets (see Lev. 23:23 and Nu. 29:1- 6).

Rosh Hashanah, also known as Yom ha-Din (Day of Judgement), begins the "Ten Days of Awe" (Yomin Noraim), the "Ten Days of Turning or Repentance" or "the High Holy Days" which conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During this period, it is customary to greet one another with the phrase, "L'Shanah Tovah Tikateyvu" meaning "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life."

This holiday is both solemn and joyous since it is both the Day of Repentance or Day of Judgement and the birthday of the world. It is celebrated for two days. On the first day, some Orthodox Jews practice a custom called "tashlich", which involves going to a body of water and emptying one's pockets or casting bread crumbs into the water. This is symbolic of Micah 7:19, "And you will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." A family meal is celebrated which includes honey cake, wine, and apples dipped in honey to symbolize hope for a sweet and happy year. On the second night, a fruit not yet eaten that season is served. Hallah bread, in a round loaf, symbolizing a crown, is another traditional food.

In the synagogue, the major focuses are introspection and repentance. It is a time for recognizing one's sins and turning from them. The blowing of the shofar (trumpet) is a central feature and calls the worshippers to turn to God. It also announces that a great event is about to take place. Genesis 22, which tells of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, is read on the second day.

The Biblical holiday of the Feast of Trumpets is described most fully in Numbers 29:1-6. The central elements are the number 7 (7th month, 7 male lambs offered), the abstaining from regular work, the sounding of the ram's horn trumpets, various burnt offerings, and the sin offering of one male goat to make atonement for sin.

Notice that this holiday, which focuses on sin and repentance, is followed by the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishri, and then Sukkot or the Feast of Booths on the 15th of the month, which focuses on God's providential care of his people. We must acknowledge our sin, repent and receive God's atonement for sin before we can experience God's providential care over our lives.

The New Covenant Fulfillment Rosh Hashanah

God has provided the ultimate Sabbath rest through Jesus the Messiah. We can rest from our own efforts to be accepted by God. Our own good works cannot save us, as even the traditional Jewish song from the liturgy, Avinu Malkeynu says: "We have no good works of our own; deal with us in mercy and kindness and save us." Messiah is our sin offering. If we recognize our sin, turn away from it, and return to God in faith, we can be sure our names are inscribed in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3 and Rev. 3:5). The ultimate Day of Judgment of sin will come. Jesus' death demonstrated that sin must be judged. He received the judgement in our place. His resurrection shows that God has appointed Him the Judge (see John 5:21-27; 12:31; and Acts 17:31).

The Ultimate Day of Judgement will come when the trumpet shall sound and Jesus the Messiah returns to judge the earth (I Thess. 4:16; I Cor. 15:52). He will preside over the heavenly court. We are called to repent and celebrate the New Creation that has begun in the Messiah (2 Cor. 5:17; Romans 5:12-19; and I Cor. 15:45) and will come in fullness when he returns (Romans 9:19-22).

Used by permission, The Intercessors Network.

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