Rosh Hashanah Prayers
Much of the day is spent in synagogue. The evening and afternoon prayers are similar to the prayers said on a regular holiday. However, the morning services are significantly longer.
The holiday prayerbook—called a machzor—contains all the prayers and Torah readings for the entire day. The most significant addition is the shofar-blowing ceremony. However, there are also other important elements of the prayer service that are unique to Rosh Hashanah.
The Torah is read on both mornings of Rosh Hashanah.
On the first day, we read about Isaac’s birth and the subsequent banishment of Hagar and Ishmael. Appropriately, the reading is followed by a haftarah reading about the birth of Samuel the Prophet. Both readings contain the theme of prayers for children being answered, and both of these births took place on Rosh Hashanah.
On the second morning, we read about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. As mentioned above, the shofar blowing recalls the ram, which figures prominently in this story as a powerful display of Abraham’s devotion to G‑d that has characterized His children ever since. The haftarah tells of G‑d’s eternal love for His people.
The cantor’s repetition of the Amidah (Silent Prayer) is peppered with piyyutim¸ poetic prayers that express our prayerful wishes for the year and other themes of the day. For certain selections, those deemed especially powerful, the ark is opened. Many of these additions are meant to be said responsively, as a joint effort between the prayer leader and the congregation.
Even without the added piyyutim, the Rosh Hashanah Musaf prayer is significantly longer than it is the rest of the year. This is because its single middle blessing is divided into three additional blessings, each focusing on another one of the holiday’s main themes: G‑d’s kingship, our wish that He “remember” us for the good, and the shofar. Each blessing contains a collage of Biblical verses that express its theme, and is then followed by a round of shofar blowing.
Rosh Hashanah is often called the feast which no man knows the day or hour – since it officially begins with the sighting of the new moon. Some prophecy instructors teach that the rapture of the Church will take place on Rosh Hashanah since there is a connection to a trumpet blast and the difficulty in determining the day and hour, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” Matthew 24:36, 44.
Others teach that the fullness of the Gentiles is number-specific and not tied to any Jewish holiday.
Jewish kings began their reign on Rosh Hashanah giving credence to the possibility that Christ will return following the Day of the Lord (or 7 year tribulation period) on the New Year.
For those who have placed their trust in the atoning work of Jesus through His life, death, burial, and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:21), their names are already written into the Lamb’s Book of Life. And now, even we believers in Jesus listen for that trumpet call,
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).