Let’s begin by going to the Scriptures to see what it tells us about this feast: “Adonai said to Moshe,“Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘In the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar. Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai.’” (Lev 23:23-25)
It is interesting that this occasion had no title and was simply called ‘The Day of Blowing’ (‘Yom Teruah’). It marks a continued period of repentance and introspection that lasts 40 days from the month of Elul to Yom Kippur. It is recognised by many as the future time of the rapture of believers. Scripture describes this as a ‘bride,’ (believers) who is received by the bridegroom (Yeshua) that is taken from the Jewish pattern:
(1) the betrothal in which the dowry was paid and the young couple were formally married in a legal sense (receiving the Holy Spirit as a downpayment);
(2) the bridegroom would subsequently go with his companions to the house of the bride to claim her for himself and to take her back to his own home;
(3) This was followed by the marriage feast which would often last for 7 days.
In biblical times it was the custom of men who appear before a court of justice to wear black clothes, fast, and be mournful because the outcome would be uncertain. However, as believers we are certain of God’s mercy through Yeshua! And so, as we walk in close fellowship with Him we traditionally wear instead white garments, representing our bridal garments in the sure knowledge of our redemption.
RHS always occurs on the 2nd, 3rd or 5th day of the week.
At RHS, just as the Lord recalls even the smallest amount of good we do, we seek to identify and deal with even the smallest things in our lives that hinder our relationship with Him. This is why the feast is also known as ‘Yom Teruah’—literally a day to ‘cry out’. God hears our voice when we cry out to Him. (Jer.31:31-37) Yet, there is also a sense where God Himself is crying out to gain our attention: “The one having oznayim (spiritual ears), let him hear!” (Matt.13: 9)
There is an association between the Hebrew words ‘Yom Teruah’ and ‘Neshimah:’ “The Lord formed the man of dust from the ground and he blew in his nostrils the breath (‘Neshimah’) of life and the man became a living soul.” (Gen.2:7)
So how does this connect to the ‘Day of Blowing,’ with the sounding of the shofar? It is a portrayal of Yeshua our ‘Great High Priest’ who is calling (crying out in exhortation) for His people to return to Him. Through His ‘breath,’ He calls us by name that we might hear His sound and embrace Him as Lord of our lives.
In Jewish tradition, it was at Rosh Ha Shanah when Abraham offered up his son Isaac on the altar in obedience to God’s command. An instant before the sacrifice, the Lord intervened and provided a ram as a substitute offering (This is one reason why rams horns are used for shofars).
Rosh Ha Shanah speaks to us prophetically of Yeshua’s birth. We calculate that He was born in this season over 2000 years ago and many people believe that His future return will also be around this date. (1 Cor.15:52; 1Thess.4:16) although no one would knows the exact day and hour of His return, (Matt. 24:36).
The Jewish people watched for the first crescent of the new moon to appear which would usher in Rosh Ha Shanah. They did not know the day or the hour but the moment it was confirmed by two witnesses (watchmen), they blew the shofar throughout the country. Since it would take longer to spread the news abroad, two days were allocated for the feast instead of one.
The silver trumpets in the Temple were blown on each new moon and at the daily burnt offerings other than at the beginning of the month of Tishri when only the shofar was sounded. 4 different notes are sounded by the shofar:
TEKIAH—One long straight blast (representing the coronation of the king—also the joy and celebration when we acknowledge Him as our king).
SHEVARIM—Three medium wailing sounds (representing the sobbing cry of a Jewish heart—and repentance). The first Hebrew letter (‘Resh’) in the word ‘Rosh’ is shaped like a shofar indicating brokenness.
TERUAH—Nine quick staccato blasts in quick succession (representing the call to arouse from spiritual slumber).
TEKIAH GEDOLAH—Prolonged, unbroken: final appeal for repentance and atonement. The 30th trump of Elul is known as the ‘last trump.’ It is not blown on that day to confuse the enemy. It is a day no man knows. (1Thess 4:16) It releases the ‘Day of the Lord’ and comes as a ‘thief in the night.’
The phrase ‘thief in the night’ originates from biblical times. The Temple had guards and the captain of the guard was known as the ‘thief in the night.’ He would roam silently around the building inspecting the guards, to ensure they were all awake. If he found anyone slumbering, he would set the fringes of their clothes on fire.
This is symbolic of the ungodly who must one day appear before the Judgement Seat of God. The blasts of the shofar are sounded independently, representing individual experiences that remind us that whether our lives are interspersed with pain or joy we can at all times rest in the knowledge of His faithfulness.
When we hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Ha Shanah, it reminds us of our commitment to do all that the Lord has revealed for us through His word and arouses holy fear in the hearts of believers. As the prophet Amos asked, “Can a shofar be blown in a city and the people not tremble?” (Amos 3:6)
At Rosh ha Shanah, we greet one another with the words: ‘For a good year—may you be written and sealed in the Book of Life’ (Hebrew: ‘L’shana Tova—Ketivah v-chatima Tova’) and traditionally, Jewish people reflect upon 3 books in Scripture:
1. The Book of The Law Deut 31:26, Gal. 3:10
2. The Book of Remembrance (our conversations) Deut. 3:26, Gal. 3:10
3. The Book of Life Matt. 12: 36-37; Prov. 13:3
YAMIM NORA’IM – DAYS OF AWE
Yamim Nora’im are 10 day’s counting from Rosh Ha Shanah to Yom Kippur. What distinguishes the Days of Awe from all other occasions is that here, and only here, do God’s people kneel. They do not kneel to confess a fault or to pray for forgiveness of sins, but only in beholding the presence of God. The congregation now rises recalling the temple service of old, and visualises the moment when the priest, on Yom Kippur pronounced the Name of God at which the assembled people fell on their knees.
During Yamim Nora’im believers recall how Yeshua separated Himself for 40 days before the commencement of His public ministry. This could well have been during the 40-day period from Elul to Rosh Ha Shanah. If so, it would provide us with a good example of how we should always be earnestly seeking God. (Matt 3:16)
Yamim Nora’im is a special time where we reflect upon the importance of living in unity with others and forgive those who have hurt us and release all offences.
FAST OF GEDALIAH – This minor fast is observed during this intermediate period. Jewish people reflect on the passage from Jer.40-41 that describes the assassination of the governor, Gedaliah. He was ruler for a short period over an impoverished remnant of Israel subject to the Babylonians during the period of Israel’s captivity. This remnant had returned to Judah after fleeing to neighbouring lands, tending the vineyards which the King of Babylon had given them.
Here, we see the folly of Gedaliah who though was a godly ruler refused to heed warnings from others regarding an assassination attempt on his life. Gedaliah’s erroneous judgment cost him dearly. His mistake was not fundamentally a refusal to think badly of others, but rather his lack of discernment.
Our actions have implications upon the lives of others. In the circumstances, Gedaliah’s death led to the same consequence for many people. It destroyed the final vestiges of Judean autonomy after the Babylonian conquest and the remaining Jews sought refuge in Egypt. The land of Judah became desolate and its people dispersed.