Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 6 Rosh haShanah

Before discussing the fall feasts, I would like to mention other holy days.  The New Moon was the first day of each month.  It was determined when two witnesses saw the first sliver of moon and reported it to the temple authorities.  At that point the temple declared the first day of the month and trumpets were blown over the sacrifices for that day.  It is interesting that in Revelation there are seven trumpets sounded before the wrath of God falls.  There are seven New Moon trumpets sounded from the first month of the year (when Passover occurs) to the seventh month when the Feast of Trumpets occurs.  The Feast of Trumpets is the seventh trump of the year.  As will be seen, the Feast of Trumpets holds a special connection to the trumpets of Revelation.

The Fall Festivals

There is a stretch of time between the spring festivals and the fall festivals. This corresponds to the time gap between the first and second comings of Christ. There are three festivals in the fall, just as there were in the spring. Rosh haShanah - The Feast of Trumpets, which is the New Year; Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement; and Sukkot - The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur deal in Jewish tradition with judgment, repentance, and restoration. They are really two connected festivals, one being the beginning of what is known as the Days of Awe, a significant ten day time period in between the two festivals, and ending with Yom Kippur. The Feast of Tabernacles is also the Feast of Ingathering which deals with the gathering of the harvest (both wheat and grapes which will be significant in Revelation). Just as the spring festivals deal with the sacrifice for sin and the beginning of the church, the falls festivals deal with Christ being crowned King, God’s judgment, and the gathering of His people at the end of the age.

Rosh haShanah

Rosh haShanah (the popular name for it today) is known by several names (as are many of the festivals). It is known as Yom Teruah, The Day of Sounding the Shofar. This is the name that God gave it. He really gave no other meaning attached to it, except the blowing of the trumpets.  It is also known as Yom HaDin which means Day of Judgment and Yom ha-Zikkaron , The Day of Remembering. Rosh haShanah means Head of the Year. It is the New Year’s Day celebration which is actually a two day celebration. Offerings were to be offered at the beginning of every month, but this month, more sacrifices were required in addition to the New Moon and daily offerings. Num 29:4.

Lev. 23:23-25. The first day of the 7th month of the religious calendar is the first day of the civil calendar and according to Jewish tradition, was the anniversary of the day God created the world. Now God has them celebrate this day as a Sabbath day and they were to memorialize it by blowing the trumpets. There were two kinds of trumpets in Israel. The shofar or ram’s horn and silver trumpets. The shofar was used to announce the beginning of festivals, to muster troops, to warn of danger, to assemble the people, in the midst of battles, at the year of Jubilee, and for coronations. The silver trumpets would have been used at the daily burnt offerings, at the beginning of each new month (except this one when the shofar is blown) and for music in the temple.

It was a common Jewish teaching that the blowing of the shofar on this day would among other things, sound the coronation and hailing of God(or the Messiah) as King, announce the coming of the Day of the Lord or Judgment Day, herald the Messianic age (when God will fully reveal Himself and bring about the end of days and start His reign).  As a side note reminder, the First Trump was blown at Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law. We know from New Testament Scriptures that the blowing of the trumpets is associated with the trumpet judgments in Revelation, the resurrection of the dead and with those events accomplished, the Messianic Age of Christ is ushered in. He is also crowned King of Kings when all of this commences. In Rosh haShanah services, the shofar is blown in specific ways with a specific order to accompany the reading of Scriptures.

Rosh haShanah is a two day celebration. There are evening services on the night that the New Year occurs. Then there are services the next morning and afternoon, after which really orthodox people go to a stream or river to symbolically cast their sins in the waters to be washed away by throwing crumbs in it. On the home front, the mother stays home from the evening services and prepares a lavish meal for the family to enjoy. This requires the best silver, crystal, china, and linens. In the center of the table would be an arrangement of fruits and honeycake. It is considered bad luck to eat anything sour or bitter as that would be an omen of bitter times to come. Also nuts are not allowed as the word nut in Hebrew has the same numeric value as the word sin. After chanting a special blessing, the father dips an apple into a bowl of honey and recites some things. The apple symbolizes the Shekinah glory of God. The next night, the same ritual is repeated only a new fruit is dipped in the honey. Challah bread, which is a braided loaf, represents the crown of kingship.

It is believed that the world was created at this time, and also that God will begin judgment on man on the anniversary of his creation. Judaism teaches that man was created with both a good inclination and an evil inclination. Each man must choose to obey God’s law rather than follow his evil tendencies and reap judgment. A man’s righteous deeds could offset his evil deeds. A thorough, sincere repentance could make up for an entire life lived in sin. By the Day of Atonement, it was imperative that the scale be tipped in favor of the good to assure a positive judgment. Every deed had a lasting value. One good deed could outweigh a multitude of evil ones, and likewise one evil action could negate a lifetime of good works. Ez. 33:12. So they believed that the ten days between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, called the Days of Awe were crucial in securing your place for the next year. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh haShanah is the beginning of ten days of judgment when all the children of men pass before the Creator. The righteous are written into the Book of Life, the wicked are condemned, and those who are not wholly righteous nor wholly wicked are given ten days to repent and thus escape judgment. The ten days of repentance lead to the most solemn day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, at which time their fate is decided and names are written into one or the other of the books. So important is this particular holiday season that spiritual preparation begins a month in advance with the start of the sixth month. According to Jewish tradition, Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets of the law on the first day of the sixth month and returned forty days later on the Day of Atonement. Prayers of repentance are recited the entire week before Rosh haShanah and the shofar is blown every day after services the entire month before to warn the people that Rosh haShanah is coming. It is Jewish teaching that the Day of the Lord will begin on this day and that the Messiah’s reign will begin with His being crowned King.

The three themes that are preached on in the synagogue on this day are God’s sovereignty over the world, God’s remembrance of all our deeds good and bad, and the revelation of God and the final redemption to come. The passages of Scripture recited that day are from the book of Genesis. They are the Garden of Eden story, the story of Noah and God remembering and saving him from the flood, and the Tower of Babel. That they recite these stories cannot be irrelevant. We see from the significance of the aphikomen that nothing in the traditions are there “just because.” God has woven importance into things, even when they have not been outlined in the Scripture and have only come about by tradition. I can certainly understand the story of Noah, as it represents the saving of the righteous when the world is being subjected to God’s wrath. This certainly symbolizes our being saved from the wrath of God in the end by being raptured when He again punishes the world. I can associate the garden story with the fact that this holiday is supposed to be the New Year’s celebration of the creation of the world. The only connection I can make to the Tower of Babel story is that at the end when God pours out His wrath, (which will come at the timing of these fall festivals) the harlot Babylon will finally be destroyed thus ending her history. If someone can see more relevance to the stories than that, please comment.

The Sabbath day between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Turning. It is also called Shabbat Teshuvah, the Sabbath of Repentance. A particular Scripture verse associated with this day is Hosea 14:2 “Return O Israel to the Lord, your God.”

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