Rosh HaShanah

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HaShem spoke unto Moshe, saying: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘In the seventh month, the first day of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts of the shofar.  Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to HaShem (Lev. 23:23-25).’”

Tonight begins Rosh HaShanah.

The festival of Rosh HaShanah is intimately connected to the sounding of the shofar. It is so bound together with the imagery of the shofar, that the Biblical term for the holiday is actually Yom Teruah – “the Day of Sounding.” The English reference to the holiday, the Feast of Trumpets, also reflects this relationship. So how did this come to be?

The Torah speaks of Rosh HaShanah as a holy convocation to remember, announced with blasts of the shofar. According to the Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16a) and expounded on by Rashi, remembrance is to be understood in conjunction with the shofar blasts, which call upon God to remember the deeds of the Jewish people for good.

According to Tosefta Rosh HaShanah 1.13, “All things are judged on Rosh HaShanah, and their fate is sealed on Yom Kippur.” Being that Rosh HaShanah is the day that the Book of Life is opened, and judgment begins, the shofar is sounded to call our souls to repentance.  The Rambam states that the shofar beckons to our souls: “Awake, you sleepers, from your sleep! Arise, you slumberers, from your slumber! Repent with contrition! Remember your Creator! (Hil. Teshuvah 3:4)” As such, the shofar serves to call us to do teshuvah, and for God to act mercifully toward us and pardon us for our shortcomings.

The shofar is also sounded on Rosh HaShanah to announce the arrival of our Righteous King.  To recognize God’s sovereignty and His creation of all that exists. The shofar blasts serve as a reminder of the time to come, when Yeshua, our righteous Messiah, will ultimately return and regather the exiles of Israel.

For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven and with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with Him in the air.  And thus, we will always be with the Lord.  So encourage each other with these words (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

During this Rosh HaShanah, let us hear the calling of the shofar, and let it beckon our souls to repentance. As we seek God to remember us for good in the coming year, let us do so with the confidence that one day that same shofar will sound, and it will bring with it the return of Messiah Yeshua. L’Shanah tovah tikateivu – May each and every one of us be inscribed for a sweet New Year, and may this be the year that we merit the coming of Mashiach!

About Rabbi Joshua

I’m a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband … not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I’m just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Ahavat Zion Synagogue in Santa Monica, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin’ hot human rights attorney… and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.

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