ROSH HASHANA NOTES
by Luke Gasiorowski
Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, literally “head of the year”) is the Jewish New Year. We are now finishing year 5775 and entering 5776. The Biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (Hebrew: יוֹם תְּרוּעָה, literally “day [of] shouting/raising a noise”) or the Feast of Trumpets.
It is the first of the High Holy Days or יָמִים נוֹרָאִים Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) (which usually occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere). Teruah begins a ten-day period leading up to the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur — the “Day Of Atonement.” The sounding of the shofar on Yom Teruah is a wake-up blast — a reminder that the time is near for the Day of Atonement. It is time to teshuvah (repent, turn back to Adonai). Traditionally, these ten days are ones of heart searching and self examination — the shofar warns us we need to examine our lives and make amends with all those we have wronged in the previous year, and to ask forgiveness for any vows we may have broken. So a main theme of the Fall Holy Days is repentance.
Other themes during Yom Teruah are those of rebirth and resurrection, especially noted in the Brit Chadasha:
“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. ”
1 Corinthians 15:51,52
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
ABOUT TRUMPETS IN SCRIPTURES:
Since there are many trumpets mentioned in Scripture, it is unwise to assume every mention of a trumpet necessarily refers to Yom Teruah, especially when making escatological predictions regarding the Holy Days, as we are also commanded to sound the trumpet on Yom Kippur (Lev 25:9) to signify the Jubilee year. We do know that when a trumpet blows (in Torah, Prophets, and Revelation) it’s almost always a summons, a war-cry, an alert warning (to prepare for something), to hail an arrival, or a wake-up call if one has been slumbering (spiritually or physically).
BLOWING OF THE SHOFAR (methods of blowing):
Traditionally, the Baal Tekiah (shofar blower) begins with one held blast called Tekiah; followed by three broken blasts called Shevarim; followed by nine even faster broken blasts called Teruah. The Tekiah, Shevarim, and Teruah each last the same length of time. These are repeated three times. Then the Baal Tekiah concludes by blowing and holding a final blast as long as he can (basically, until he runs out of breath). This final blast is called Tekiah Gedolah. Scripturally, no such blast arrangement is mentioned, but as long as the shofar is blown and people hear it, I would consider the mitzvah satisfied.
-cool additional scriptures for blowing the trumpets:
Numbers 10:3 (long sound): When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
וְתָקְעוּ, בָּהֵן–וְנוֹעֲדוּ אֵלֶיךָ כָּל-הָעֵדָה, אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד.
Numbers 10:5 (3 broken sounds):
When you sound the advance, the camps that lie on the east side shall then begin their journey.
וּתְקַעְתֶּם, תְּרוּעָה–וְנָסְעוּ, הַמַּחֲנוֹת, הַחֹנִים, קֵדְמָה.
Numbers 10:9 (9 short sounds):
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.
וְכִי-תָבֹאוּ מִלְחָמָה בְּאַרְצְכֶם, עַל-הַצַּר הַצֹּרֵר אֶתְכֶם–וַהֲרֵעֹתֶם, בַּחֲצֹצְרֹת; וְנִזְכַּרְתֶּם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּם, מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶם.
and there are many many others like: Exodus 19:16,19…
What does Rosh Hashanah – Yom HaTeruah actually mean? Why do people say HAPPY NEW YEAR and what is the actual significance of this holiday?
We will cover three sides to ROSH HASHANAH (Yom Teruah):
- Biblical side
- Development of the Jewish calendar
- The “traditional” aspects of the “traditions” Rosh Hashanah
The term “Rosh Hashanah” does not appear in the Torah.
Leviticus 23:24 says:
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the (that) month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation” (a large assembly of people).
דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שַׁבָּתוֹן–זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ.
This is a direct reference to the festival that we are celebrating now, “Zikhron Teru’ah” (“[a] memorial [with the] blowing [of horns]”); it is also referred to in the same part of Leviticus as ‘שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן’ (shabbat shabbaton) or penultimate Sabbath or meditative rest day, and a “holy day to God”.
*These same words are commonly used in the Psalms to refer to the anointed days.
Numbers 29:1 says:
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” –
וּבַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם–כָּל-מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ: יוֹם תְּרוּעָה, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם.
*Once again, the Tanach calls the festival Yom Teru’ah, (“Day [of] blowing [the horn]”).
So, as we can clearly see in these scriptures, “Rosh Ha-Shanah, is not the beginning of the Biblical year, but more like the middle of the year (7th out of 12-13 months).
The actual “BIBLICAL” new year begins in the month of Nisan, which is around Passover:
Exodus 12:1-2 (where the month of Nisan is stated as being “the first month of the year”):
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”
*also Ezekiel 45:18 where “the first month” unambiguously refers to Nisan, the month of Passover, as made plain by Ezekiel 45:21.)”
So why do we celebrate Rosh Hashanah now instead of during Passover time?
One explanation for this is that the there seems to be a overlap with the “annual agricultural cycle” of crops and rain. We are now entering fall, and will shortly be also celebrating the Feast of Harvest, know as Succoth:
Exodus 23:16: “and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.” – this refers to the time of Succoth but it is considered that this entire month is a transition period between the “agricultural year”.
Rosh Hashanah begins the first day of Tishrei (which is a Babylonian word meaning a beginning), and we adopted the Babylonian civil New Year as our own. Tishrei is the first month of the Jewish civil year, but the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. As one Messianci author wrote, the Jews did this because they were creative!
THE ORIGIN OF THE MONTHS OF THE JEWISH CALENDAR (during exile in Babylon):
שמות החודשים המשמשים בימינו מקורם בשמות בבליים, שאומצו בתקופת גלות בבל בתקופות מוקדמות יותר ניתנו לחודשים העבריים שמות מספריים, כשניסן הוא החודש הראשון, ואדר הוא החודש השנים עשר.
במקרא, נזכר חודש ניסן כחודש הראשון, כי בו יצאו בני ישראל ממצרים: “הַחדֶשׁ הַזֶה לָכֶם ראשׁ חֳדָשִים רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵי הַשָּנָה”. השמות הבבליים, המקובלים גם היום, מופיעים ברובם בספרי זכריה, אסתר, עזרא ונחמיה בצד מספור החודשים מניסן.
- וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, אֶל בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי, הוּא חֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת בִּשְׁנַת שֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ.
- “So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.” Esther
- בְּיוֹם עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה לְעַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ, הוּא חֹדֶשׁ שְׁבָט, בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ, הָיָה דְבַר ה’ אֶל-זְכַרְיָה בֶּן בֶּרֶכְיָהוּ בֶּן עִדּוֹא הַנָּבִיא לֵאמֹר.
- On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet: Zachariah
- בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן, הוּא חֹדֶשׁ נִיסָן, בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ: הִפִּיל פּוּר הוּא הַגּוֹרָל לִפְנֵי הָמָן, מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם וּמֵחֹדֶשׁ לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר הוּא חֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר.
- וַיִּקָּרְאוּ סֹפְרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בָּעֵת הַהִיא בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁלִישִׁי הוּא חֹדֶשׁ סִיוָן, בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה וְעֶשְׂרִים בּוֹ, וַיִּכָּתֵב כְּכָל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה מָרְדֳּכַי אֶל הַיְּהוּדִים.
- דִּבְרֵי נְחֶמְיָה, בֶּן-חֲכַלְיָה: וַיְהִי בְחֹדֶשׁ כִּסְלֵו שְׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים, וַאֲנִי הָיִיתִי בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה.
- The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan[a] the citadel,- Nehemiah
- וַתִּשְׁלַם הַחוֹמָה בְּעֶשְׂרִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה לֶאֱלוּל לַחֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם יוֹם,
בתנ”ך מצוינים גם שמות אחרים לחודשים, כגון “ירח האיתנים” לתשרי, “ירח בול” לחשוון ו”חודש זיו” לאייר. ככל הנראה, מקורם של שמות אלו בשפה הפיניקית, והם מובאים בתנ”ך רק בספר מלכים בשל השפעה תרבותית פיניקית, בעקבות המסחר של שלמה המלך עם הפיניקים.
The words “Rosh Hashanah” appears once in the Bible in Ezekiel 40:1 where it means generally the time of the “beginning of the year” or is possibly a reference to Yom Kippur, but the phrase may also refer to the Hebrew month of Nisan in the spring, especially in light of Exodus 12:2 where the month of Nisan is stated as being “the first month of the year” and Ezekiel 45:18 where “the first month” unambiguously refers to Nisan, the month of Passover, as made plain by Ezekiel 45:21.)
SUMMARY: So why is Rosh Hashanah rosh HaShana?
- Jews believe its the “completion” of creation (as Jewish tradition stated that the universe was created by the Lord on Rosh HaShana so that Rosh HaShana marks the sixth day of creation when the Lord created Adam and Eve)
- It is the beginning of the new agricultural year
- The day of trumpets declares a new beginning. So they called the day ROSH HASHANA – of the Jewish Calendar.
The day is said to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”.
TRADITIONS in ROSH HASHANAH:
- Apple and honey – symbolize a “sweet” new year
- Pomegranates (to symbolize being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds)
- Round challah bread (to symbolize the cycle of the year).
Happy 5776 Year
Shana Tova / Happy New Year / Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
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