The Jewish New Year is just around the corner.
In the Bible, the day known as Rosh HaShanah is never actually called ‘a New Year’. Instead, God calls it the Feast of Trumpets, when He ordained to blow the shofars – ram’s horns. The sound was a reminder to repent and to encourage reflection.
According to the Torah, on Rosh Hashanah every Jew is obliged to hear the sound of the shofar. So, what relevance does it have for us today? Let’s unpack the true meaning of the Jewish New Year.
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Jewish New Year
Entering a new year is always meant to be special. We want to leave all our failures behind, and we look forward to new and better opportunities. Many of us treat entering a new year as a fresh start – like opening a blank slate, which we first fill only with sketches of dreams and expectations. Over the course of the next few months we hope to turn them into beautiful memories.
The Jewish outlook on entering a new year is quite different. Although today it is very common to wish everyone “a sweet and good year” on Rosh HaShanah, the traditional and biblical approach is a little more reverent and spiritual. The day is not so much about celebrating, but rather meditating on one’s life and giving glory to God. The latter is most definitely a reason to be joyous, but this holiday is also a reminder of the Creator’s judgment over creation.
According to the Jewish sages, Rosh HaShanah is when time began. Traditionally it is believed that the year count started at creation, and a new year is added in the Jewish calendar on the first day of the month called Tishri (biblically, the seventh month).
The Sound of the Shofar
The shofar, which is more a horn than a trumpet, is a very important instrument in the history of Israel. The trumpets, according to Numbers 10:2-10, were used to summon the people or to warn of battle and approaching of the enemy. It was a plea to God for deliverance, and in a sense, that’s what the essence of Rosh HaShanah is.
Leviticus 23:23-25 states: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.’”
The sound of this horn is a reminder that God is our Creator and King. But more than that, the shofar is our recognition that God is King of all creation as well as our Lord on a personal level. Not only as the one who began the work in us, but as the one who reigns today.
The horn invites us to reflect on our actions and to return to God. It calls for repentance, turning away from your sins, and returning to the Creator. We have forgotten the truth and daily struggles distract us from what’s really important. With the sounds of the shofar, we are reminded to look into our souls, examine our lives, and return to the God of the Bible.
Deliverance at Rosh HaShanah
The main theme of Rosh HaShanah is liberation. The sound of the shofar is a call for busy and tired people to stop and look to the heavens. Do the people fear when the trumpet blows in the city? Amos 3:6. Blowing the shofar is meant to be a reassuring sound – reminding us that God hears and is constantly watching.
In the New Testament, we find the words of the apostle Paul about the future gathering of believers around the Messiah. He writes that it will begin with the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep before, and then of all the living. He explains that this gathering will begin with the sound of a trumpet – a shofar.
“For the Lord himself, at the command, will come down from heaven by the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God; then first those who have died in Christ will rise up, then we who survive will be caught up with them in the clouds in the air to meet the Lord; we will always be with the Lord anyway. So comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18.
The sound of the shofar on that day will announce the second coming of our Messiah. Apostle Paul said to encourage one another with these words. There is no condemnation for those who live in Christ, so all the more we should desire His sanctification every day. And especially when we embark on a new year – on Rosh HaShanah.
Let’s use this time of reflection to purify our lives and our relationships with others. Entering a new season is always a good time to seek God and listen to His voice. Rosh HaShanah can be our time to raise the standards of our lives in every aspect.