Note: For religious Jews, September 29 of the year 2011 is the Old Testament Feast of Rosh Hashanah. It begins at sunset on the 28th and ends at nightfall on the 30th. Since this is a holiday that God ordained, I thought we at least ought to know a little bit about it and what the purpose of the feast was.
The Feast of Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. “Rosh” means head and “Hashanah” means year, so it is the Head or top or beginning of the New Year. It is observed on the first two days of the Jewish month of Tishri, the 7th month of the Jewish Calendar. It is described in the Torah as the day for the sounding of the Shofar. The day is more commonly know as the Feast of the Trumpets or the Day of the Sounding of the Trumpets.
Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the New Year in the Hebrew calendar and is when contracts and other legal documents start over. It also marks the day the Jews believe that God began his creation of the universe. So, it is a very important and serious holiday for the Jewish believer. It is totally unlike the American New Year celebration in that it is a very sober and serious occasion.
How do you observe Rosh Hashanah? The Day of Rosh Hashanah begins a ten day period called the High Holy Days or the Days of Awe. The first day is the Day of Judgment or the Day of Remembrance. The ten day period ends with the most important day of the feast, “Yom Kippur” or the Day of Atonement. This was the day, in Bible times, when the scapegoat would be let out to send the people’s sins away from the camp. There are three themes that are emphasized for the ten day period – repentance, admitting, and returning. This process of repentance is called “teshuvah”. It is a time for reflection and introspection and looking back at the mistakes of the past year. You ask God to forgive you and make plans to change your life for the new year. People are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged or have differences with and to make plans to improve during the coming year. It is a time to make peace in the community and strive to be a better person.
At the synagogue, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown one hundred times throughout each day in varied notes, calling people to repentance and to remind God of his covenant relationship with his people. No work is permitted during the entire two day holiday. Religious Jews spend most of the day in the synagogue, listening to the special liturgy that accompanies the festival.
These were days that were important to God and his chosen people because He had them written down way back during the time of Moses. These feasts are still being faithfully followed by religious Jews over three thousand years later. On the day that Jewish people begin to ask God to forgive them and bless them for another year, perhaps it would be wise for us to pause and also ask God for his forgiveness and blessings for our nation and for each of us individually.