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SUNDAY STUDY: Rosh Hashanah 5780

Feast of Trumpets

Jewish Year 5780: sunset September 29, 2019 – nightfall October 1, 2019

Leviticus 23:23-25 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.’ ” emphasis added

The Hebrew calendar was originally based on the lunar cycle, so that the first day of each month originally began with the first sighting of a new moon. The present calendar is a lunisolar one used predominantly for Jewish religious observances. (Lunisolar calendar- meaning that months are based on lunar months, but years are based on solar years.)

Since days in the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown, the beginning of Rosh Hashanah is at sundown at the end of 29 Elul. The rules of the Hebrew calendar are designed such that the first day of Rosh Hashanah will never occur on the first, fourth, or sixth day of the Jewish week (i.e., Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday). Jewish law states that Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated for two days, due to the difficulty of determining the date of the new moon. The precise timing of the new moon is not easily determined and must be visually sighted.

The term “Rosh Hashanah” does not appear in the Torah. Leviticus 23:24 refers to the festival of the first day of the seventh month as “Zicaron Terua” (“a memorial with the blowing of horns”). Numbers 29:1 calls the festival Yom Terua, (“Day [of] blowing [the horn]”.

Rosh Hashanah, which literally means ‘head of the year’ or ‘first of the year’, is observed in autumn as a two-day holiday, on the first and second of Tishri (or Tishrei, the 7th month of the Jewish calendar).  It is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. The first month of the Jewish calendar is Nissan, occurring in March and April. Why, then, does the Jewish “new year” occur in Tishri, the seventh month?

Judaism’s calendar has 2 “new years” festivals. a concept which may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American “new year” starts in January, but the new “school year” starts in September, and many businesses have “fiscal years” that start at various times of the year.

In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time). It is also the start of the civil year in Israel today.

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy days or “Days of Awe”, or Ten Days of Repentance, which are days specifically set aside to focus on repentance that conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur.

The Blowing of Trumpets

One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar (a trumpet made from a ram’s horn or the horn of a goat or various types of antelope or gazelle though not from a cow) in the synagogue. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat. The blowing of the shofar is intended to symbolically awaken the listeners from their “slumbers” and alert them to the coming judgment.

Most Jews believe Rosh Hashanah represents either analogically, or literally, the anniversary of the creation of the world, or Universe. Upon blowing the shofar, the following sentence is said: “Hayom Harat Olam ― today is the birthday of the world.”

But, according to one view in the Talmud, that of R. Eleazar, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of man, which entails that five days earlier, the 25 of Elul, was the first day of creation of the Universe. And, further, that Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the Neshama, the soul of human life. Counting from the creation of the soul of Adam, the Jewish year is figured by adding up the generations since Adam.

Rosh Hashanah is also the day when “God takes stock of all of His Creation,” which includes all of humanity.

The Mishnah, the core text of Judaism’s oral Torah, contains the first known reference to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of judgment.” In Jewish thought, Rosh Hashanah is the most important judgment day, on which all the inhabitants of the world pass for judgment before the Creator, as sheep pass for examination before the shepherd.

In the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah, it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded:

  • The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book of Life, and they are sealed “to live”
  • The intermediate class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous
  • The wicked are “blotted out” of the book of the living

The Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the year ahead.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of wishing for a sweet New Year, and round challah bread, to symbolize the cycle of the year.

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 and 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

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.

L’Shanah Tovah!


Compiled by Editor