Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rosh Hashanah


After a long summer of hard work in the field, either material or spiritual, God gave us some more holidays, the Fall Holidays. In the prophetic scheme the Spring Holidays are likened to the early rain, the first coming of the Messiah and the giving of the Holy Spirit which made possible the construction of the new spiritual Temple made of Jews and Gentiles. We know how Yeshua celebrated the Passover and how the apostles celebrated Shavuot so it is not so difficult for us as believers to relate to these holidays, but how about the Fall Holidays? The Fall Holidays are likened to the later rain, the second coming of Messiah, the rapture, the redemption of all Israel and the Millennium.

The first Fall Holy Day is Zikaron Teruah.

Leviticus 23:23 "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the people of Israel, saying, "In the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall have a Shabbat, a memorial of blowing (zikaron teruah), a holy gathering. You shall do no labor in it."

The seventh month of the Biblical calendar is Tishrei, and God said to have a Shabbat, a memorial of blowing, a holy gathering. Shabbat is a day when you stop your own vain pursuits and worship God and, in this case, on the first day of the seventh month, even if it is not a weekly Shabbat, you are to have a holy gathering, to do no work in it and have a memorial of a joyful acclamation, that is with blowing of the Shofarim. So this holiday is also known as Yom HaZikaron (memorial), and Yom Teruah (blowing). But also as Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment based on the Biblical passage from Psalm 81:3-4 "Blow a Shofar at the new moon, at the full moon on our feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a judgment of the God of Jacob."

But why it is called Rosh HaShanah? This designation of the holiday, literally Head of the Year, is not Biblical but a Talmudic one. The name Rosh HaShanah appears only once in the Bible in Ezekiel 40:1 but it is not clear what is referred to. But in Mishnah the name is connected to the 1st of Tishrei. The rabbis have not only calculated that the world was created on Rosh HaShanah but that there are four New Years. Therefore, according to their interpretation Nisan is the New Year for Festivals, and Tishrei is New Year for Years.

Preparations for this holiday begin in the preceding month of Elul. Elul is, of course, the sixth month of the Biblical year. It is called the month of RACHAMIM — MERCY, in anticipation of God's Judgment, which takes place in the month of Tishrei. It is also called YEMAI HA-SELICHOT — DAYS OF REPENTANCE. The period of forty days, from the first of Elul until the tenth day of Tishrei (Yom Kippur), commemorates the second stay of Moses on Mount Sinai, to invoke God's abundant mercy for our complete atonement, and in which God inscribed the second set of stone tablets. These days are marked as a special period of Divine grace, during which, the tradition says, the sincere prayers are sure to find favor in the eyes of God. According to the Sephardic Minhag (custom), these prayers begin on the first of the month and continue until Rosh HaShanah. In the Ashkenazic Minhag these penitential prayers begin on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. The Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah is called Shabbat Selichot and the first Selichot are said early Sunday morning after midnight.

It is customary on the day before Rosh HaShanah to cut your hair, to give tzedakah and to visit a cemetery and reflect on the memory of the dead. Also, right before the holiday begins to have a Mikveh ceremony.

The traditional greeting is: "L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu" May you be inscribed for a good year. That is because the tradition says that the book of life is opened on Rosh HaShanah and closed on Yom Kippur. The rabbis concluded that every deed is inscribed in the book of life based on the Psalm 69:28 "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." This is a Messianic Psalm.

On the eve of Rosh HaShanah a festive table is set. The lady of the house lights the holiday candles with the additional She-he-chi-yanu prayer (to reach this season), the Challah is round symbolizing the passing of the year, and after the father recites the Kiddush, each family member takes a piece of Challah and dips it not in salt, as on Shabbat, but in honey to symbolize the abundance of the blessings and a sweet new year, no pickles or anything sour are allowed. Also the head of a fish is eaten and the parents bless the children with the words: May you be the head and not the tail.

The Rosh HaShanah synagogue service is characterized by the blowing of the Shofar, the ram's horn. Throughout the service the Shofar is blown in three sets of 100 blasts.

Tekiah, Shevorim, Tekiah

Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah Gadolah.

It is mandatory for one to blow or at least to hear the Shofar. Now, the Orthodox say that if Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbat, you do not blow the Shofar and they give an explanation why this activity will amount to work. But the Bible does not say that. So what are we to do, as Messianic believers? We say, blow the Shofar, it is Biblical, unlike the lighting of the Shabbat candles, which are not Biblical and which we should not light on Shabbat but only on Friday as not to be a stumbling block to the Orthodox Jews. If it is not Biblical and you are inclined to do it - following the Jewish custom, even it is rabbinical - do it the way they have established it. But if it is Biblical do it according to the Bible, so we say blow the Shofar even on Shabbat.

On the afternoon of Rosh HasShanah the worshipers perform a ceremony called Tashlich. They go to a running body of water and symbolically throw their sins into water by emptying the pockets filled with bread crumbs. Tashlich means "you shall cast" based on Micah 7:19;18 "Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. He will again have compassion upon us; he will suppress our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." This custom is first mentioned in 14th century literature. That was the time of the Black Plague and the Jews were accused of poisoning the wells of the Gentiles, because fewer Jews died of the plague. The cause may have been the ritual hand washing that save them from the plague but not from the sword.

Rosh HaShanah is celebrated two days in Diaspora by the Orthodox but not the Reform, and one day in Israel.

How about us, the Messianic believers? Rosh HaShanah is likened to the rapture of believers to meet the Lord coming down to fight for Israel. 1 Corinthians 15:51: "Hinei! I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep the sleep of the dead. But we will all be changed. In a moment, in the wink of an eye, at the last Shofar blast. For the Shofar will sound, the dead ones will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." So, it is a good Holy Day to celebrate and rejoice in it and blow the Shofarim.

In the Jewish tradition Rosh HaShanah begins the Ten Days of Owe or the Yamim Noraim, in which the individual is given the opportunity to prepare for Yom Kippur. The Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah – the Shabbat of Return or repentance, that is because the Haftarah reading from Isaiah contains this plea to return to the Lord.

Weekly Scripture Reading



June 24 / Sivan 30, 5777

Parashah: Korach - "Korah"

— Torah:
(Bamidbar) Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

— Haftarah:
1 Samuel 11:14 — 12:22

Just as in the rebellion of Korach when it was necessary for Yehovah to reveal those who were approved, so, too, in a congregation of believers it may be necessary for God to use the rebellion of some to reveal the true believers as the apostle Shaul encountered in the assembly at Corinth: "When you come together as a kehilla I hear there exist divisions among you, and partly I believe it. For it is necessary also for factions among you in order that those who are approved may become manifest among you"...

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