Rosh Hashanah, then to now… Has it changed?
When God chose Abraham, the first Jewish roots of our faith were born. While God had always been present with man since creation, Adam and Eve gave away their authority and direct connection to God. It wasn’t until Abraham was chosen that a covenant promise from God was given and the foundation was laid for the laws, commandments, and lessons to come.
As Rosh Hashanah was, and is, the Jewish New Year, God’s covenant was, and is, our new beginning.
Rosh Hashanah includes many traditions that play key roles, to this day, in the Jewish community; yet the Church avoids them. This is because many Christians believe that the Church replaced the Jews, the Jewish covenant, and the Jewish laws… yet the Bible never says this.
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought Gentile Believers into His fullness, allowing covenant access; but God never told His Church to disregard the Old Testament or His covenants to Abraham and Abraham’s children. If we dismiss aspects of God’s Word that we don’t like or that we don’t believe apply today, we refuse a part of God, a part of who Jesus was, and is… and in the process we dismiss many of the blessings that are ours as children of God.
So, what was, and is, Rosh Hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah today is commonly referred to as the Jewish ‘New Year’ and signifies the preparation we required to succeed in the coming year, as well as a call to remembrance and repentance. Unlike the secular New Year, Rosh Hashanah is not filled with empty promises and covenants… it is preparation of ourselves and our relationship with God to answer His call for our lives.
This preparation relates to Rosh Hashanah being sometimes referred to, or thought of, as being the ‘head of the year.’ Since the head is where our mind, eyes, ears, and mouth are located it’s important to direct the head in the appropriate direction.
It’s like putting on the yoke of God. The yoke turns the head and directs where our feet will go and what we see. God’s yoke is the only yoke that’s not only without burden, but points us in a direction that will bless us and others here AND in Heaven!
Rosh Hashanah symbolism and tradition:
Symbols of Rosh Hashanah often include:
- Torah—God’s Word
Yet, perhaps the most common and important of these symbols is the shofar—the rams horn; the trumpet. Throughout Jewish history, and even to today, the shofar has been an important symbol of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people, and is a common theme within the archaeological record.
The shofar was often used as a signal… sometimes in war, and sometimes, like in the case of Rosh Hashanah, to herald in God’s presence and joy.
When God breathed life into man the soul was brought into being, and the cry of that moment is uttered through the breath of man sounding the shofar—remembering God’s breath and presence within us, and the joy of creation. This cry of the shofar still resonates within the soul today for both the Jew and Gentile who hear it—to many it feels as if their soul is resonating, ringing out to the song of creation; to God. This connection with God and creation is one of the many reasons we see the shofar throughout archaeological finds.
The Shofar and Archaeology:
In sites all over Israel, and beyond—wherever Jewish people have traversed—the shofar has been carved, drawn, cut, and mentioned over and over again. Within the layers of the archaeological record we find that while the shofar had a general cultural significance… it was always connected to God.
God commanded the shofar to be blown and the reasons behind His command varied. From bringing down the walls of Jericho to ringing in the Sabbath rest, the shofar is tied to God, to innocence, and even to our creation.
“And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat…”—Joshua 6:4-5
The shofar is a sound of peace, a sound of war, a sound of repentance, and a sound echoing the song of creation. No matter its use, the sound penetrates the soul.
The Shofar in Artifacts:
Artifacts that include the shofar are particularly poignant when found in Israel. These artifacts show the biblical importance of the land to not only the Jews, but to Gentile Believers who embrace the fullness of their roots.
Found at the base of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the stone below reads, “to the place of trumpeting…”
Hebrew inscribed stone found at the base of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The translated inscription reads, “to the place of trumpeting…” The final word of the inscription is missing and can be interpreted as either ‘to declare [the Sabbath]’ or ‘to distinguish [between the sacred and the profane].”)
This stone, in days gone by, was located near the corner of a parapet surrounding the Temple, where one of the Temple priests would have sounded a trumpet blast to call forth the Sabbath, and to announce its end—along with High Holy Days, such as the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah). The ‘place of trumpeting’ was a place to declare the holiness that God Himself ordained in His Word. A calling for the people to remember the Lord and to revel in His Holy presence.
“The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations.”—Numbers 10:8
The blowing of the shofar to announce Rosh Hashanah, as with the announcing of the Sabbath, is a cry from man to God. It is a Holy sound, a sound of Heaven, given by the life of an innocent ram—like the ram that God gave to Abraham in place of his son Isaac—a sacrifice of innocent blood to bring about redemption and holiness.
In the second part of this two-part blog series, we will examine other artifacts related to Rosh Hashanah. From the city of Jericho, to the southern Temple wall in Jerusalem, these artifacts show the fullness of God to Jews, Gentiles, and to the One New Man. Through the remnants of the past wrought in stone and even gold, we find that the Word of God comes to life as Jew and Gentile walk together with God to create a beautiful mosaic of faith.