“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” Leviticus 23:23-25.
The Hebrew calendar was initially 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 means 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’ 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) even though the Torah ordains only one day, as the verse (Vayikra 23:24) states: “And in the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall observe a cessation of work – a day of remembrance, of the sounding of the shofar.” Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when the year number is increased. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).
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 forever
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.
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.
CHRISTIAN APPLICATION: According to Compass.org
Many Christians believe that, whatever year the Lord removes the Holy Spirit at Rapture, it will occur during the Jewish feast Rosh Hashanah. The theory is not without merit.
There are 7 Jewish feasts commanded by God to be celebrated each year. The first three are in the spring (April or May) in succession: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. Fifty days after Firstfruits is the Feast of Weeks.
Then there is a break until fall (September or October), and three more feasts are scheduled: Feast of Trumpets (the Hebrew word is Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on September 20 in 2017), ten days later the Day of Atonement, and five days later the Feast of Tabernacles.
This is the interesting part. The first three major events for Christians—Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection—fell EXACTLY on the first three feasts. And the symbolism of the feasts appears to be beyond coincidence.
- While Passover was being celebrated, which included the slaying of an unblemished Lamb, Jesus was being slain on the cross.
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. —1 Corinthians 5:7
- The feast that followed, Unleavened Bread, is a picture of sanctification, as Jesus was buried. Leaven is representative of sin, of which Jesus had none.
- And then the feast of Firstfruits, to be celebrated on the morning AFTER the first Sabbath following the feast of Unleavened Bread (Sunday), is symbolic of Jesus being the first of the firstfruits.
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.'” —Leviticus 23:10-11
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming —1 Corinthians 15:23
Even more interesting, the next big event for Christians was the coming of the Holy Spirit. And it fell EXACTLY on the next feast 50 days later, on what Christians call Pentecost. The symbolism is again obvious as two loaves of bread are offered, which is a picture of the Old and New Testament. In this feast the bread is offered WITH leaven, reminding us that we still have a sin nature.
The theory therefore concludes that if the first four major events of the New Testament Church happened on the first four Jewish feasts, then the next big event would fall on the next scheduled feast—the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah. Again, the symbolism is seemingly beyond coincidence as this is to be a day of regathering and rejoicing.
Editor’s Note: To read the one of the most beautiful prayers recited by observant Jews on this day, click HERE.