Rosh HaShana: new time and space

The month of Tishri is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Once it was the first month and for this reason the first of the autumn festivals is called: the Israeli New Year or Rosh Hashanah. Since the Exodus from Mitzraim, Egypt, however, the month of Nisan has become the first month of the year. In Leviticus 23 we read in verse 5, that Pesach is celebrated in the first month. And this is because the deliverance from slavery – which includes the slavery of addictions – is so important. Two of the four Scripture texts in the Tefilin (phylacteries) which Jewish men wear every day during morning prayers to dedicate themselves to Adonai, deal with deliverance: in Exodus 13 verses 1-10 and 11-16 we can read about this.

Tradition teaches us that on the first day of Tishri of the year 1, now 5781 years ago, G-d created the world. Since that time much has happened of which we can learn a lot. On Rosh Hashanah we remember what took place in the past year, but it is certainly worthwhile to keep an eye on the whole picture of what has happened since creation. In this manner we can see which prophecies have been fulfilled and which still need to be fulfilled. And we can see how the Almighty has saved His people again and again by His mighty hand and has led us through all the obstacles of history. It is important for us to remember all of this on Rosh Hashanah. For this reason the feast is also mentioned Yom Hazikaron, Day of Remembrance.

A temporary report
The Eternal One watches our deeds and actions. And although our bad deeds cannot take us to hell, just as our good deeds cannot take us to heaven, our deeds do count. I do believe, based on what has been written in the Bible regarding good works, that the Almighty can see from our deeds whether our faith is genuine or dead. And this gives a greater weight to our deeds than we might think. The dogma of certain churches that our deeds do not matter is very dangerous. They believe that grace is all there is to it and that we can claim this from G-d. On the other side of the ecclesiastical spectrum there are churches where you cannot do enough or where only deeds count. The Tanach makes it very clear: the grace of the Eternal One is meant for every one. But the relationship between man and G-d has to be a two way street. Grace does not mean: it does not matter how you behave. Grace means: no matter how good you behave, eternal life is something no man can earn by himself. And out of a love relationship between man and G-d we receive, by grace, the citizenship of heaven.

Judgment: final time to show responsibility
There will be judgment for every human being, according to the deeds we performed. And if we think this is just a Jewish yoke, read for instance I Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 11 to 18, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Yeshua the Messiah. Some will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation; while others will use wood, grass of straw. But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire – the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work someone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward; if it is burned up, he will have to bear the loss: he will still escape with his life, but it will be like escaping through fire. Don’t you know that you people are G-d’s Temple and that G-d’s Spirit lives in you? So if anyone destroys G-d’s Temple, G-d will destroy him. For G-d’s Temple is holy, and you yourselves are that Temple. Let no one fool himself. If someone among you thinks he is wise (by this world’s standards), let him become “foolish”, so that he may become really wise.” This coming judgment means that the Eternal One will remember the deeds we have performed. Rosh Hashanah is an annually returning opportunity to bring into remembrance which deeds we have performed. And this enables us to make any necessary corrections in the course of our lives. For this reason Rosh Hashanah is also called: Yom Hadin, Day of Judgment.

As soon as we gain the insight that we have done certain things wrong, the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit, can lead us to repentance. In Hebrew this is called: teshuva, literally: return. The festival of New Year is also called: Yom Terua (Day of the Blowing of the Ram’s Horn, see Vayikra, Leviticus 23:24). This impressive sound is made on the oldest wind instrument of the world for those, according to our tradition, that have fallen asleep and are no longer aware of their wrong behavior. On this day all Jews not only think and pray for themselves, but also for the entire world. We pray for peace. We pray that G-d will soon bring the time near in which the mighty men of the earth will also be righteous en the righteous ones will have power. In which the children of men will be united in one bond of brotherly love, and national arrogance and persecution will disappear as smoke from the earth.

Another name for Rosh Hashanah is: Yom Hakese (Day of Concealment). This name is derived from Psalm 81:1-3, “For the leader, on the gittit, by Asaf. Sing for joy to G-d our strength! Shout aloud to the G-d of Ya’akov! Start the music! Beat the drum! Play the sweet lyre and the lute! Sound the shofar at Rosh-Hodesh and at full moon for the pilgrim feast.” It is true that all other festivals are during or close to full moon. Only Rosh Hashanah is on new moon. On that day the moon is concealed for our eyes. The expression: “at full moon” is literally in Hebrew: bakese, at the concealed time; kasá means: to conceal. For on Rosh Hashanah Israel humbles itself and conceals its greatness out of awe for the Day of Judgment. At the same time the Almighty One places a covering over His people, to conceal her sins, to protect her and to grant her forgiveness, out of grace. This greatness, although concealed, is our calling to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Shemot, Exodus 19:6). And on the Day of Trumpets we evaluate what we have made of our calling and our inheritance.

At home
On the eve of the festival at home two candles are lit and we make Kiddush: the festival is being dedicated with a cup of wine. We break bread – a special challa bread that is made of a roll of dough that has been wound as a spiral. This symbolizes the new chances that are given to us at every new beginning. After that we dip a piece of apple in honey. And we wish each other: “A good and sweet New Year.” The Berachah (stress on the last syllable) over the apple, that is said before we eat it, is as follows: “Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu melech ha’olam, bore p’ri ha’etz.” (Blessed are You, Eternal One our G-d, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the tree). After we have eaten the apple with the honey we say the wish: “Y’hi ratsòn milfanècha Adonai Elohénu w’Elohee awoténu shetchadésh alénu shaná tová umtuká.” (That it will be Your will, Eternal One our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, that You make the New Year for us happy and sweet). For and after the service we wish each other, “That you will be inscribed for a good year en immediately sealed for a good life”, in Hebrew, “L’shaná tová tikatév w’techatèm l’altér l’chajím tovím.”

Some go in the afternoon to a river and symbolically throw their sins into the water. This action is called Tashlich (the verb shalach means to throw), after the words in Micah 7:18-20, “Who is G-d like you, pardoning the sin and overlooking the crimes of the remnant of his heritage? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in grace. He will again have compassion on us, he will subdue our iniquities. You will throw all your sins into the depths of the sea. You will show truth to Ya’akov and grace to Avraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors since days of long ago.”

In the synagogue
In the synagogue during the service at least a hundred times will be blown on the Shofar: Messiah shall come, just like the Eternal One came on mount Sinai, with the sound of a Shofar. This number is also a reference to the hundred and one characters in the Hebrew text of Shoftim (Judges) chapter 4, where the mother of Sisera laments her son, who will not come back. This verse is part of the song of Deborah. This victory that was needed, because a deadly attack was pointed at Israel – not the last one – was given to Israel by the Eternal One. And He will continue to act like that in her behalf, because He is working towards His goal: the continuous liberation of Israel.

Future expectations
As Jewish people we wait since many centuries for the coming of Messiah. Messianic Jews realize that Messiah has already appeared, a fact which we can also discover in the Talmud. But all Jews, including Messianic Jews, wait for the sound of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, to announce His coming. Rosh Kehilla Shaul, later also mentioning himself Paul (= small), states, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with
G-d’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we… will be caught up with him.. to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; I Corinthians 15:52). This is the moment when the suffering Messiah from Isaiah 53 (Mashiach Ben Yosef) will appear as the King-Messiah (Mashiach Ben David), read Zechariah 14.

Three autumn festivals
In the month of Tishri three autumn festivals will take place, begnning in the evenings: Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Hakippurim (the Day of Atonement and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles. Between the first and second feast are ten days (see Leviticus 23:24-27). These are days of inward reflection. These ten days are also called: the days of awe (hajamim hanora’im), or: aseret j’mee t’shuva, the ten days of return to the Eternal One. Learn to keep the festivals and experience the blessings of the Eternal One like never before. A real revival in your country will only happen, when Jewish and gentile believers assemble in the holy presence of the Almighty, under His Messiah and His holy commandments. Together we will be one flock, under our Messiah and Shepherd (see the Jewish prophet Ezekiel 34:15-23), who has one name: Yeshua (salvation).

Lion S. Erwteman,
Roh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua, Amsterdam