Appointed Times — Rosh Hashana
A Sweet New Year
Rosh HaShanah, literally meaning "Head of the Year," is the celebration of the new civil year. In our own secular New Year celebrations, we experience the joy of a new beginning and a chance to set new goals. While we can still do these things individually at any time, the new year is a special event dedicated to this. The same holds true for the Appointed Time of Rosh HaShanah. It occurs on the first day of the seventh month on the religious calendar (there are two calendars: the civil and religious). This usually takes place in September/October. It is a time of joy and celebration, yet it is simultaneously a time for somber reflection and repentance.
Feast of Trumpets
For thirty days prior to Rosh HaShanah, a ram's horn is blown to call the people to consider their deeds. This horn, called a shofar, gives this day it's alternate name: The Feast of Trumpets. The sound of the shofar blast is called the teruah; this word can also be translated as "shout." The purpose of all this noise is to wake us up! Just as Ephesians 5:14 tells us, "For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.'" During the thirty day period mentioned earlier, we blow the shofar every day and recite a short passage which calls us to awake, look deep within ourselves, turn from futile behavior, and return to God so that He may have mercy on us.
The Books Are Opened
Another name which tells us about the nature of the holiday is "Opening of the Gates." This day is symbolically when the gates of the heavens are opened and God judges all the people of earth. The righteous have their names written in the Book of Life—blessings and health for the next year, while the wicked are portioned out judgement. Those who are neither exceptionally righteous nor wicked are continued to be tried until the end of Yom Kippur, ten days later. This idea should sound familiar and is something we should carefully consider. Rosh HaShanah should remind us of the Final Judgement when the books of our lives will be opened. As we see in 2 Corinthians 5:10, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Yeshua Himself tells us, "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay each man according to his deeds" (Matthew 16:27). As we all know, our salvation is not earned. However, our deeds will tell us much about the condition of our relationship with God: "If any man's work which he has built on it [the foundation, Yeshua] remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).
"Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (1 John 2:28). And how do we abide in Him? "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.... If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:5, 10).
So we see that Rosh HaShanah is a time for us to examine our lives and see what we can do in the next year to further the Kingdom as well as to grow closer in our personal relationship with God.
Hail the King!
Another tradition associated with Rosh HaShanah is the creation of Adam and Eve and, consequently, the coronation of God as King of the world. All of the other created things were not given free will. But on the sixth day of creation, God made man and gave him the ability to choose if he wanted to serve Him. When Adam chose to do so, God's kingship over the earth was made complete. This is another reason the shofar is blown on this day: to remember the coronation of the King: "With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, the LORD" (Psalm 98:6).
The King is Coming
In addition to remembering the first crowning ceremony, we also look to the future coronation of our Messiah Yeshua: "And behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
When that day comes, we will celebrate His dominion over a new earth: "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind" (Isaiah 65:17). "And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27).
This Rosh HaShanah, let's make sure our names are written in the book of life; let's make sure we are storing up treasure in heaven rather than on earth.
Have a sweet new year!
How to Celebrate
- It is a tradition to eat apples dipped in honey on this day, the reason being that we hope that it will be a sweet new year. You are also encouraged to try a new fruit or some type of food you don't have very often. The new year should be sweet and joyful!
- Make things right with the people around you. Mend any strained relationships and look for ways you can strengthen them in the coming year.
- On the afternoon of Rosh HaShanah, take your family down to a large area of flowing water (ocean, river, lake, etc.), each carrying stones or crumbs of bread with you. Individuals toss their sins, represented by the stones/bread, into the water. This ceremony, called Taschlich, finds its basis in Micah 7:19, where it says, "Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
- Don't forget to hear the sound of the shofar and respond by examining yourself.