A DEEPER LOOK ...

ROSH HASHANA

Rosh haShana is different than the other Feasts of the Lord, as it is not tied to a specific event in Jewish history. Rather, it is the "anniversary" of the creation of Adam and Eve, and the beginning of their realization of mankind's role in God's world. Thus, it is given the name, Yom Harat Olam - the Birthday of the World.

Rosh haShana (literally "Head of the Year"), is the Hebrew "New Year" according to the civil calendar. It is also the New year for Sabbatical years, Jubilee years, planting trees, and for tithing vegetables. Rosh haShana is the beginning of what is called, Yamin Noraim, the "Days of Awe," also known as, Aseret Yemai Teshuvah, the "Ten Days of Repentance." As this is a time of judgment, Rosh haShana is also known as Yom haDin, the Day of Judgment.

Because judgment is "awakened" above, it is imperative that people seek repentance in order to restore balance, by "awakening" the merciful aspect of God. Rosh haShana is also called Yom Teruah - the day of sounding the Shofar. The shofar blast is a call to repentance, and as with prayer, "causes things to happen in the heavenlies." It is therefore to be taken quite seriously, especially by the person blowing the horn.

The shofar is blown one hundred times during the Rosh haShana service and symbolizes the prevalence of Hesed-Mercy over Gevurah-Judgment. These 100 blasts are divided into groups as follows:

First a series of three groups:

  • Tekiah, a single unbroken note
  • Shevarim, three short individual blasts rising in tone
  • Teruah, nine short staccato notes

Following these three groups, there comes:

  • Tekiah Gedolah - "big tekiah" - is sounded. This is one long sustained blast

A custom at Rosh haShana is Tashlikh (literally: "casting off"), where people gather around a body of flowing water empty their pockets or throw stones into the water, symbolically casting off their sins.

This practice is inspired by the words of the Prophet Micah:

Micah 7:18-20 - Who, O God, is like You? You forgive sins and overlook transgressions. For the survivors of Your people; He does not retain His anger forever, for He loves kindness; He will return and show us mercy, and overcome our sins, And You will cast into the depths of the sea all their sins; You will show kindness to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, As You did promise to our fathers of old.

The above passage is associated with a principle called the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, (which are "hidden" in the text of the above verses from Micah). Note that there are a total of thirteen shofar blasts in the first three groups of the blowing of the shofar (1-3-9) as shown above.

The Shofar is also said to connect the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) with Mount Sinai and Messiah. The shofar sounded at Sinai (by God) was the left horn of the ram (supplied by God), offered by Abraham at the Akeidah. The right horn of that ram will be the shofar that will herald the coming of Messiah.

YOM KIPPUR

At the end of the Yamin Noraim (the "Days of Awe"), comes the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. One of the themes of this solemn day is that of "afflicting the soul," a means of achieving reverence and repentance. Yom Kippur is closely associated with the events on Mount Sinai. Jewish history says that it is on Yom Kippur that Moses received the second set of tablets (after smashing the first set).

The rituals of Yom Kippur are a reenactment of how Moses prepared himself for Sinai. For instance, only the High Priest was permitted to approach God, having to remove his sandals beforehand.

Another interesting custom is associated with the Shema, which is recited as such:

Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Blessed be His glorious name whose kingdom is forever and ever.

Throughout the year, the second line of the Shema is spoken in a whisper, as the Name of God is not yet unified and His kingdom not yet established. At Yom Kippur however, this response is said aloud, indicative of this representing the time when these events will occur.

The Holiday of Yom Kippur concludes with a final shofar blast. This is the "last trumpet" referred to in the "New Testament," and is associated with the ingathering of the elect of Israel from the "four corners of the earth."   This is the time of the great wedding feast between God and "faithful Israel," the latter of which includes gentiles who come into the faith of Israel and its Messiah, Yeshua.