Rosh Hashannah

The Season of Teshuvah

A special season known as Teshuvah, which in Hebrew means “to return or repent,” begins on the first day of the month of Elul and continues 40 days, ending with Yom Kippur.

Thirty days into Teshuvah, on Tishrei l, comes Rosh Hashanah. This begins a final ten-day period beginning on Rosh Hashanah and ending on Yom Kippur.

These are known as the High Holy Days and as the Awesome Days (Yamim Nora’im, the days of awe). The Sabbath that falls within this ten-day period is called Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Return. Then 5 days after Yom Kippur is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.

Teshuvah begins on Elul 1 and concludes on Tishrei 10, Yom Kippur. Each morning during the 30 days of the month of Elul, the trumpet (shofar) or ram’s horn is blown to warn the people to repent and return to God.

Teshuvah (repentance) speaks to all people. Those who believe in the Messiah are called to examine their lives and see where they have departed from God. It is a call to examine the Scriptures and the evidence that the Messiah was who He said He was and is.

God has always had a heart to warn people before He proclaims judgment. God warned the people before the flood, and He warned Nineveh before it was ruined.

He does not want anyone to receive the wrath of His judgment (Ezekiel 18:21-23, 30-32; Zephaniah 2:1-3; 33:1-7; 2 Peter 3:9)

The whole month of Elul is a 30-day process of preparation through personal examination and repentance for the coming High Holy Days. The shofar is blown after every morning service. Psalm 27, which begins with “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” is also recited at the end of the morning and evening liturgy.

The message from Elul 1 to Rosh Hashanah is clear: Repent before Rosh Hashanah. Don’t wait until after Rosh Hashanah, or you will find yourself in the Days of Awe.

Just as unfamiliar foreigners may be confused when they hear Americans call Thanksgiving Day, “Turkey Day” or “Pilgrims’ Day,” non-Jewish believers in Yeshua can be confused by the different terms for the major feasts of the Lord.

Rosh Hashanah: Names, Themes, and Idioms

Teshuvah (repentance)
Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year, Birthday of the World)
Yom Teruah (the Day of the Awakening Blast Feast of Trumpets)
Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgment)
HaMelech (the Coronation of the Messiah)
Yom HaZikkaron (the Day of Remembrance or memorial)
The time of Jacob’s (Ya’akov) trouble (the birthpangs of the Messiah, Chevlai shel Mashiach)
The opening of the gates
Kiddushin/Nesu’in (the wedding ceremony)
The resurrection of the dead (rapture, natza1)
The last trump (shofar)
Yom Hakeseh (the hidden day)

Rosh Hashanah: The Head of the Year
(Birthday of the World)

Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year and is a part of the season of repentance. Rosh in Hebrew means “chief or head” and shanah means “year.” Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year on the civil calendar, and is also known as the birthday of the world since the world was created on this day (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a). (SIO = Search it Out)

Jewish tradition believes that Adam was created on this day (Mishnah, San Hedrin 38b). How did they decide that this was the day of the year the world was created? Because the first words of the Book of Genesis (Bereishit), “in the beginning,” when changed around, read, Aleph b’Tishrei, or “on the first of Tishrei.”

Therefore, Rosh Hashanah is known as the birthday of the world, for tradition tells us this is when the world was created.

There are four New Years on the Jewish calendar. Nisan 1 is the New Year’s Day of kings (the date that determines how many years a king has ruled) and for months, Nisan is the first month. Elul 1 is the New Year for the tithing of animals. Shevat 15 (Tu Bishvat) is the New Year for the trees, and Tishrei 1 is the New Year of years. It also marks the anniversary of the creation of the world.

Time of Observance

Rosh Hashanah is observed for two days. It comes on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (usually in September or October), which is the first month of the biblical civil calendar.

The month of Tishrei is the seventh month in the biblical religious calendar.

This may seem strange that Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is on the first and second day of Tishrei, the seventh month on the biblical religious calendar. The reason that Rosh Hashanah is the seventh month in the biblical religious calendar is that God made the month of Nisan the first month of the year in remembrance of Israel’s divine liberation from Egypt (Exodus 12:2; 13:4).

However, according to tradition, the world was created on Tishrei, or more exactly, Adam and Eve were created on the first day of Tishrei and it is from Tishrei that the annual cycle began. Hence, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at this time.

Why Is Rosh Hashanah Two Days Long?

Unlike other festivals that are celebrated in the Diaspora (the dispersion, referring to Jews who live outside of the Holy Land of Israel) Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days because of uncertainty about observing the festivals on the correct calendar day.

Rosh Hashanah is the only holiday celebrated for two days in Israel. As with all other festivals, the uncertainty was involved in a calendar that depended on when the new moon was promulgated, designating the beginning of each new month by the rabbinical court in Jerusalem in ancient times. The problem of Rosh Hashanah is heightened by the fact that it falls on Rosh Chodesh, the new moon itself.

Therefore, even in Jerusalem, it would have been difficult to let everyone know in time that the New Year had begun. To solve this problem, a two-day Rosh Hashanah was practiced even in Israel.

Creating a two-day Rosh Hashanah was also intended to strengthen observance of each day; in the rabbinic view, the two days are regarded as a yoma arikhta, one long day.

Yom Teruah: The Day of the Awakening Blast

In Psalm 98:6 it is written, “With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, the Lord” (NAS).

The blessing we receive from God when we understand the meaning of Rosh Hashanah and the blowing of the trumpet (shofar) is found in Psalm 89:15, as it is written, “How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound [blast of the shofar]…” (NAS).

Rosh Hashanah is referred to in the Torah as Yom Teruah, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar (or the Day of the Awakening Blast).

On Yom Teruah, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, it is imperative for every person to hear the shofar.

The mitzvah (or biblical commandment John 14:15), of the shofar is to hear the shofar being blown, not actually blow it yourself, hence the blessing, “to hear the sound of the shofar.”

Teruah means “an awakening blast.” A theme associated with Rosh Hashanah is the theme “to awake.” Teruah is also translated as “shout.” The Book of Isaiah, chapter 12, puts the shouting in the context of the thousand-year reign of Messiah, the Athid Lavo.

The Messianic era and shout is mentioned in Isaiah 42:11; 44:23; Jeremiah 31:7; and Zephaniah 3:14.

The first coming of Yeshua is associated with a shout in Zechariah 9:9. The ultimate shout is the rapture (natzal) in 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17.

Whether it is by the blast of a shofar or the force of a supernatural shout, God’s goal is to awaken us! For this reason it is written, “… Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 NAS).

The Book of Ephesians has many references to Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy Days. For example, in Ephesians 4:30, being sealed unto the day of redemption refers to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

God has given us this festival to teach us that we will be judged on Rosh Hashanah and will be sealed unto the closing of the gates on Yom Kippur.

Isaiah 26:19 speaks of the resurrection. The word awake is associated with the resurrection, as it is written, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise.

You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits” (Isaiah 26:19 NAS).

The theme of awakening from sleep is used throughout the Bible. It is found in John 11:11; Romans 13:11; Daniel 12:1-2; and Psalm 78:65.

In Isaiah 51:9 it is written, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago…” (NAS).

The arm of the L-rd is used as a term for the Messiah in Isaiah 53:1. The word arm is the Hebrew word zeroah. During Passover, a shankbone, known as the zeroah, is put on the plate. So, “awake” is a term or idiom for Rosh Hashanah. In Isaiah 51:9 quoted earlier, the awakening is associated with the coming of the Messiah.

The shofar is the physical instrument that God instructed us to use to hear (shema) the sound of the shofar teaching us to awake from spiritual slumber (1 Corinthians 15:46).

In the days of old, the shofar was used on very solemn occasions. We first find the shofar mentioned in connection with the revelation on Mount Sinai, when the voice of the shofar was exceedingly strong and all the people who were in the camp trembled (Exodus 19:16b).

Thus, the shofar we hear on Rosh Hashanah ought to remind us of our acceptance of the Torah (Bible) and our obligations to it. The shofar also used to be sounded when war was waged upon a dangerous enemy.

Thus, the shofar we hear on Rosh Hashanah ought to also serve as a battle cry to wage war against our inner enemy — our evil inclinations and passions as well as the devil, Ha Satan, himself.

The shofar was also sounded on the Jubilee Year, heralding freedom from slavery (Leviticus 25:9-10).

Spiritually (halacha), this refers to freedom from the slavery of sin, the desires of this world, and serving the devil (Romans 6:12-13; James 4:4).

Another reason for sounding the shofar is that Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the birth of creation God began to rule over the world on this day. When a king begins to reign, he is heralded with trumpets.

That is why Psalm 47 precedes the blowing of the shofar; it is a call to the nations: “….. Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth…” (Psalm 47:6-7 NAS).

It also proceeds because of the reference to the shofar in the previous verse (Psalm 47:5), as it is written “God has ascended with a shout, the Lord, with the sound of a trumpet” (NAS).

In Jewish tradition, many reasons have been offered for the sounding of the shofar: The ram’s horn is identified with the ram that became the substitute sacrifice for Isaac in Genesis (Bereishit) 22:1-19. The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was accompanied by the sounding of the shofar (Exodus 19:19).

The proclamation of the Jubilee was heralded by the blast of the shofar (Leviticus 25:9-11); and the commencement of the Messianic age is to be announced by the sound of the great shofar (Isaiah 27:13).

The shofar was also blown at the temple to begin the Sabbath each week. There are two types of trumpets used in the Bible:

The silver trumpet, and
The shofar or ram’s horn.

On the Sabbath, there was within the temple a sign on the wall that said, “To the house of the blowing of the trumpet [shofar].” Each
Sabbath, two men with silver trumpets and a man with a shofar made three trumpet blasts twice during the day.

On Rosh Hashanah, it is different. The shofar is the primary trumpet. On Rosh Hashanah, a shofar delivers the first blast, a silver trumpet the second, and then a shofar the third.

The silver trumpets and the gathering at the temple are specified in the Book of Numbers chapter 10.

According to Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1, Rosh Hashanah is the day of the blowing of the trumpets. According to the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 16a; Rosh Hashanah 3:3), the trumpet used for this purpose is the ram’s horn, not trumpets made of metal as in Numbers Chapter 10.

Yom HaDin: The Day of Judgment

Another name for Rosh Hashanah is Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment. It was seen that on this day, God would sit in court and all men would pass before Him to be judged.

Three great books will be opened as each man is weighed in the balance and placed into one of three categories (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 6b).

It has been taught that the school of Shammai says that there will be three classes on the final Day of Judgment, one of the wholly righteous, one of the wholly wicked, and one of the intermediates.