Hebrew Highlights 62 – ROSH HASHANA
Shalom. This is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
NUM 29:1 'Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets.
Did you know that today is the “Chag haTruot”, or the “Feast of Trumpets”? Possibly Not. Today is the first day of the Seventh Hebrew month, “Elul”. This holiday is mentioned only in one other passage in Leviticus, which says basically the same thing. The word “trua” is translated variously as shout, alarm, fanfare, signal, war cry, and, as in this case, the sound of a trumpet. PSA 47:5 says, “God has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.” In this case the “trua” is the shout, and the sound of a trumpet comes from the literal “voice of a shofar”.
No one knows exactly what the Feast of Trumpets is all about. However, the blowing of shofars is incorporated into the feast which is celebrated today, that of the Jewish New Year. Now, those of you who are familiar with biblical history know that the New Year mentioned in God’s word, is at the time of Passover. So why is it celebrated at the beginning of the seventh month?
The answer begins in NEH 8:1-10, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And … opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also … the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
When Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, and rebuilt the city and its walls, no one had heard the word of God for practically a whole generation. Remember that no one had bibles to carry around back then. The torah was shared in sermons by the Levites publicly.
The people listened to the Word of God as it was read over a few day period, standing half of the day and sitting the other half. It was a time of great celebration and rejoicing. Today we take God’s word for granted, and count ourselves righteous if we sit through a one hour sermon.
Today “Rosh Hashana”, or New Years, is celebrated in conjunction with that time of renewal of the love of God’s law. We in Israel still keep the tradition of giving sweets to our friends and neighbors and co-workers during this day. We also blow the shofars in the synagogue at the onset of the holiday. We say to each other “Shana Tova Umetuka”, or “May you have a sweet and good year”, as we dip apple slices into bowls of honey, and together enjoy God’s goodness. Don’t you wish you were here?
Shana Tova Umetuka, from Jerusalem.