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Rosh Hashannah

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
–Psalm 81:3-4

This week, for Jewish people all over the world, marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the Fall Holy Days festivals that were commanded by God in the book of Leviticus. God set up seven High Holy Days and grouped them together as follows:

  1. Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits all occur together in the spring and are celebrated concurrently in the March/April time period on our calendar
  2. Pentecost is the fourth festival and occurs by itself in June
  3. Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot all occur in the fall and are also celebrated consecutively during the September/October time period

The fall festivals begin with Rosh Hashannah, or the Feast of Trumpets, and occurs on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, which corresponds on our calendar to today, September 5th, 2013.

Leviticus 23:23-25 says:

“The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’”

Rabbi blowing shofarThis verse begins with, “The Lord said to Moses” and therefore indicates a start of a new section in the Feasts which in this case is the Fall Feasts. The phrase, “commemorated with trumpet blasts” translates the Hebrew word, “tĕruw`ah”. This word is similar to the English word “fanfare” and refers to the things for which a trumpet would be sounded, such as the arrival of a King, or a call to battle. The Day of Rosh Hashannah therefore announces the coming of the Holidays to follow and says by the blowing of the trumpet that these days to follow are incredibly important. You need to be prepared; you better get ready because the day has arrived.

The Jewish people actually begin blowing the ram’s horn (shofar) in the synagogue in the previous month to remind the people that the Fall Holy Days are approaching and to get everyone ready to observe them. Then, on the first day of the seventh month, there is a special service that features an elaborate ceremony of trumpet blowing. The trumpets remind the Jewish people to prepare for the coming Day of Atonement by examining their lives for the past year. This is much different than our American tradition of celebrating our New Year. We make it a happy and raucous celebration and give no thought to the year just finished, but focus on the new beginnings to come. In contrast, Rosh Hashannah and the succeeding Yom Kippur have a much different atmosphere. They are known as the ”Days of Awe” and are serious days as they call you to reflect on your life from the past year and the moral responsibilities that you carry. These two holidays are not greeted with noise and joy, but with a serious and contrite heart.

Besides being reminded to prepare and examine your heart, Rosh Hashannah also reminds the Jewish people of some other important events. It reminds them to celebrate God’s creation because they believe God began His creation of the universe on the first day of the seventh month, which is the same day Rosh Hashannah is celebrated. Also, it reminded them that the Lord descended on Mt. Sinai with the blast of a shofar (Exodus 19:16-19) and that the coming of the Messiah’s Kingdom will be announced by the blast of the shofar.

To Christians, the spring holidays speak of the first coming of the Messiah (Passover, Pentecost) and the fall holidays speak of his imminent return. Look at the following verses:

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
– Matthew 24:31

in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
– 1 Corinthians 15:52

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:16

Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
– Revelation 8:6

As the trumpets sound before the Day of Atonement to call all Jews to repentance, they also sound for all mankind to repent before that day when the Lord will return and pour out his wrath on the earth because it has not repented. For Christians, the trumpets announce the return of the King. These trumpets call us to repent and prepare our hearts for His coming. For the lost, the trumpets are a call to repentance, because they announce the coming judgment of God. Yom Kippur, the holiday that follows Rosh Hashannah, will be for each person either a Day of Atonement or a Day of Judgment.

Additional information on the feasts can be found here: