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Repentance,
Judgment, Awe &
Reconciliation

All the ends of the world shall
remember and turn unto the LORD
and all kindreds of the nations
shall worship before thee.
Psalm 22:27

Turn us again, O God,
and cause thy face to shine;
and we shall be saved.
Psalm 80:3

 

         One of the keys to a meaningful celebration of the Festivals is adequate preparation. This can lead one to a more complete understanding of the special events the Festival pictures. This article will focus on the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The first step will be a discussion of the various meanings found in the Feast of Trumpets. Once the day itself is understood it will then be easier to comprehend how one should prepare for it. From there, it is an easy step into the intermediate days between the two Festivals, and finally a discussion of the Day of Atonement.


Rosh HaShanah

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isa. 55:6-7)

         The first fall Festival is Rosh HaShanah, commonly known among Christians as the Feast of Trumpets. It falls on the first day of the seventh Hebrew month, Tishri (Tish-ree’). Since the months of the Hebrew calendar always begin on a new moon, Rosh HaShanah becomes the only Festival to be held during the dark portion of the moon, when it is new. All of the other Festivals and Holidays occur no earlier than the 6th day of a month, and no later than the 22nd day of a month. Thus, all other festivals are held during the light portion of the moon.

         “Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.”
(Psalm 8 1:3-4)

         “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.”
(Lev. 23 :24-25)

         “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you.’’
(Num. 29:1)

         A question needs to by asked at this point. If this is a day of blowing of trumpets, why is it referred to as a “solemn feast day” in Psalm 81? Does not the blowing of trumpets seem to imply a happy, joyous, festive occasion? The answer is; “Well, yes and no!” Rosh HaShanah is a very complex Festival. The fact of the matter is, it will be a wildly joyous day for some, and a deeply solemn day for others. Let us examine this Festival in detail, and then explore the traditional manner in which to prepare for it.
         The term Rosh HaShanah is never used in scripture in direct reference to this particular day. There is only one place in the Bible in which this term is used. It is found in Chapter 40 of Ezekiel which begins the description of the Great Temple that is to be built by the Messiah after His return. (See Zech. 6:11-13).

         “In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, (Rosh HaShanah) in the tenth day of the month, ... the hand of the LORD was upon me, and brought me thither.”
(Ezek. 40:1)

         The Hebrew calendar actually has four different new year’s days, so it is impossible to say definitively which one is meant in this passage. The four new year’s days are:
         Nisan 1 (also called Aviv), which is the new year for kings (the date which determined a king’s rule) and for festivals (the calendar is calculated beginning with the month Nisan).
(See Ex. 12:2).
         Elul 1, which is the new year for the tithing of animals. (Elul is the sixth month.)
         Tishri 1, which is the new year for reckoning years, (Sept. 14th will begin the Hebrew calendar year of 5757) for Sabbatical years, and for Jubilees. It is also considered to be the time of year when God created the world, and was the day on which the kings of ancient Israel and Judah were crowned. (Tishri is the seventh month.)
         Finally, there is Shevat 15 (one ancient rabbinic school says it falls on Shevat 1) which is the new year for planting trees and for vegetables. (Shevat is the eleventh month.)
         A possible reason that the Jews have considered the Ezek. 40 passage to indicate Tishri 1 rather than any of the other new year’s days, is because it also mentions the 10th day of the month. If the month mentioned here is Tishri, the 10th day would be the Day of Atonement. It is a general Biblical principle, that when specific dates are mentioned in the scriptures they are, more often than not, Festival days rather than common days. In addition, this passage pertains specifically to the Millennial Temple. According to tradition, the Messiah will come on a Jubilee Year. Since the Jubilee Year is always announced on the 10th day of Tishri, (see Lev. 25:9) and the Temple being described is the one the Messiah will administer, it could be logical to assume that Ezekiel’s vision was given to him on the Day of Atonement. If this is true, the term Rosh HaShanah, in Ezekiel 40:1, is then directly connected to Tishri 1 rather than any of the other three new year’s days.

The Many Faces of Rosh HaShanah

         There are several names by which Rosh HaShanah is known. Each name signifies a special aspect of the day and adds to our understanding of it.

Yom Teruah

         The most commonly known name is Yom Teruah (Yohm Teh-roo-ah’) from which we get the English translation ‘Feast of Trumpets.’

         “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.”
(Lev. 23:24)

         The Jewish Tanakh (Old Testament) translates it this way: “... a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.” (Lev. 23:24)

         Neither of the Hebrew words which are translated ‘trumpets’ in English (Strong’s #2689 chatzotzerah and #7782 shofar) are used in this passage. The reason the word ‘trumpets’ is placed here, is because of the Hebrew word Teruah. It is Strong’s #8643 and is defined as: “clamor, i.e. acclamation of joy or a battle-cry; espec. clangor of trumpets, as an alarm:--blow (-ing) (of, the) (trumpets), joy, jubile, loud noise, rejoicing, shout (-ing), (high, joyful) sound (-ing).” Notice, the preferred definitions are the words given in italics. In other words, a more precise translation might be ‘Feast of Clamor’ or ‘Feast of Acclamation’ or, as the Jews sometimes call it, the ‘Day of Blowing.
         Since there is no direct reference to either a silver trumpet (chatzoterah) or a shofar (show-far = ram’s horn) in the above passages, it is not clear, from scripture, which is to be used for the blowing. Both had significant use in the Tabernacle service. However, the ancient tradition always prescribed a shofar. The reason for its use over the silver trumpet is because of Genesis 22, the offering of Yitzchak (Yeets-hahk = Isaac). As you may recall, just as Avraham (Avh-rah-hahm = Abraham) was about to draw the knife across Yitzchak’s throat, an angel appeared and stayed his hand. A ram was caught in a thicket and it became the substitutionary sacrifice in Yitzchak’s place. Thus, the shofar has become the traditional instrument that is sounded on Yom Teruah.
         Why is this day commemorated with loud blasts?
         Two reasons. First of all, tradition holds this Festival to be the day on which the Messiah will be crowned King over all the earth. ‘The word Teruah is used in connection with kingship in the good prophecy, which God required Balaam speak concerning Israel.

         “He (God) hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout (teruah) of a king is among them.”
(Num. 23:21)

         The second reason is because the day is also known as the ‘Day of the Awakening Blast.’ This reference in turn has two meanings as well: First, it refers to the people of the earth hearing the sound of the shofar and repenting of their sins.

         “But everything exposed to the light is revealed clearly for what it is, since anything revealed is a light. This is why it says,
         ‘Get up, sleeper! Arise from the dead,
         and the Messiah will shine on you!’

Therefore, pay careful attention to how you conduct your life -- live wisely, not unwisely. Use your time well, for these are evil days. So don’t be foolish, but try to understand what the will of the Lord is.”
(Eph. 5:13-17) JNT

         The second meaning of the ‘Awakening Blast’ points to the resurrection of the dead.

         “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
(I Cor. 15:52)

         “The dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”
(Isa. 26:19)

         The Tanakh (Jewish Old Testament) renders this passage in even more graphic fashion:

“Oh, let Your dead revive!
Let corpses arise!
Awake and shout for joy,
You who dwell in the dust!-
For Your dew is like the dew on fresh growth;
You make the land of the shades come to life.”
(Isa. 26:19)

         The passage continues with an auxiliary theme that also ties in with this special day:

“Go, my people, enter your chambers,
And lock your doors behind you.
Hide but a little moment,
Until the indignation passes.
For lo!
The LORD shall come forth from His place
To punish the dwellers of the earth
For their iniquity,
And the earth shall disclose its bloodshed
And shall no longer conceal its slain.”
(Isa. 26:20-21)


 

Yom HaZikkaron

         A second name for Rosh HaShanah is Yom HaZikkaron (Yohm HahZee-kah-roan’). It means Day of Remembrance or Memorial Day). This name also has its origin in scripture:

         “... In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial (zikkaron) of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.”
(Lev. 23:24)

         It might be well to pause here and mention that the word ‘sabbath’ in this passage is not Strong’s if 7676 Shabbat (shah-baht), but is #7677 Shabbaton (shah-bah-tone) which means a special Sabbath or high Sabbath. In other words, when the word ‘sabbath’ is used in connection with one of these special Festivals it is differentiated from the weekly Sabbath by being called a Shabbaton rather than a Shabbat. The only exception to this rule is the Day of Atonement which is called a Shabbat Shabbaton (“sabbath of rest”) in Lev. 16:31 and Lev. 23:32. Some of the Festivals are not referenced be either word, but rather are called “holy convocations.” Whenever this term is used, it has traditionally been considered to be a Festival Shabbaton, not a weekly Shabbat. It should be mentioned that the weekly Sabbath is also called a Shabbat Shabbaton in several instances. However, the Festivals are never referenced only as Shabbat. They are either Shabbaton, Shabbat Shabbaton, or mikra kodesh (meek-rah koh-desh = convocation holy). The Hebrew word kodesh means “a sacred place or thing,” “dedicated,” etc. The word mikra means “something called out,” “a public meeting,” also a “rehearsal.” Thus, ‘holy convocation’ can also mean a ‘sacred meeting’ or a ‘dedicated rehearsal.’

         What are we to remember (zikkaron) on this day?
         According to the Mishnah (Meeshnah’ = the Oral Torah or law) there are to be three different types of shofar blasts on Rosh HaShanah. Each blast represents a major theme: sovereignty (malchuyot), remembrance (zikkarnot), and the sound of the shofar. Some things that should be remembered are:

         Another pause is now necessary to explain that the Jews keep Rosh HaShanah for two days, the first and second days of the month, Tishri. They call it ‘one long day.’ This practice is based on the scripture found in Nehemiah chapter 8. A remnant of the House of Judah had returned from their Babylonian captivity and had now assembled to worship God in Jerusalem. Ezra the priest, begins to teach them from the instruction book of God, the Torah:

         “And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. (Rosh HaShanah) And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
(Neh. 8:2-3,8)

         “And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha (the governor), and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
         “Then he said to them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and
send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
(Neh. 8:9-10)

         “And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink,
         “And
on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.”
(Neh. 8:12-13)

         Because of verse 13, which mentions the assembling on the second day of Tishri, the Jews observe this Festival for two days. This is a tradition and not commanded by scripture. However, it certainly would not be wrong to celebrate it for two days if one desired to do so.
         The interesting thing, from the standpoint of understanding the day, is to note what scripture readings have been prescribed by the sages in order to ‘remember’ this day properly.
         On the first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Torah readings are;

The Haftorah reading (from the Prophets) is:

         According to tradition, Isaac and Samuel were born on this day. Both Sarah and Hannah were blessed with a very special son at a time in their lives when it seemed evident that they were to remain childless all of their lives. Thus, we have two important births remembered on the day that also commemorates the birthday of the world.

         “As one whom his mother cornforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
(Isa. 66:13)

         The Torah readings for the second day are:

The Haftorah reading is:

         “...He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”
(Jer. 31:10)

         “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still...”
(Jer. 31:20)

         The Torah reading from Genesis 22 is intimately bound up with Rosh HaShanah. This will be covered in the next section. It is interesting to note that the Haftorah reading mentions Rachel (Rah-khel) weeping for her children:

         “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
         “Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; arid they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.”
(Jer. 31:15-17)

         The phrase “because they are not” could also be translated ‘as if they were not.” In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 37, we see the great hope of this day, the resurrection of ‘the whole house of Israel.” This means hot the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
         Truly, Rosh HaShanah is a Yom HaZikkaron, a Day of Remembrance.


Yom HaKeseh

         It was mentioned earlier that Rosh HaShanah is the only annual Festival that is celebrated when the moon is dark. Thus, it is also know as Yom HaKeseh (Yohm Keh-seh = the Day of the Concealed Moon). Since the moon does not shine on this day, the question might be asked; What shines in its place? For although this is a solemn day, it is also a day of rejoicing.

         “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.”
(Psalm 89:15)

         As Believers in Yeshua as the promised Messiah, we know the joyful sound,” it is the sound of the shofar announcing His arrival here on earth. Yeshua said; “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5) He was the light when He was here the first time, He is the light now when He shines in our hearts to others, and He will be the light when He returns to establish His Kingdom on earth.
         Another interesting question pertains to the way the Jews of Yeshua’s day determined when each month began. Although they were capable of doing the astronomical calculations necessary to determine each new moon, their practice was to begin each month by observation. Some of the practices are recorded for us in the Mishnah.
         In essence, the procedure was for the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court) to accept witnesses that the new moon had been properly sighted. The witnesses had to come in pairs and must have been together when they sighted the new moon. It is said that Rabban Gamaliel (the same Gamaliel that is mentioned in Acts 5:34 and was the Rabbi [teacher] of the Apostle Paul, Acts 22:3) had a picture of the various shapes of the moon on a tablet in his room. He would show it to the potential witnesses to determine if they had seen an actual new moon or the waning of the old moon. If both witnesses did not agree in every detail, their testimony was not accepted. If the new moon was expected on a certain day but there were no reliable witnesses that had observed it correctly, the observance of the new moon was postponed to the next day. If the new moon was not visible on the second day, it was automatically proclaimed to take place on the third. Thus, the beginning of a month could never be postponed more than two days.
         Those who were never allowed to testify included men who played with dice, who lent money on interest, who raced pigeons, who traded produce during the Sabbatical year, and slaves. Also, women were not allowed to give testimony concerning the new moon. A possible reason for this last prohibition is because every new moon (Heb. = Rosh Hodesh) is considered to be a Festival for women and they are not required to work on that day. Since they had a vested interest in the day, they were not allowed to give testimony concerning when it was to occur.
         Once proper testimony had been received, the Sanhedrin proclaimed the beginning of the new month. A fire was started on the top of the Mount of Olives. A large torch was lit and waved back and forth, and up and down. Another group of people waited on a mountain named Sarteba. When they saw the torch being waved they responded in kind, and that also sent the signal to the next mountain. Thus, word went out that Rosh Hodesh (Head of the Month) had arrived and been confirmed.
         At the beginning of six of the twelve or thirteen months of the year, (some years had thirteen months) messengers were sent out in addition to lighting the fires. This was because the enemies of Judah sometimes lit fires a night early to confuse the people. The months when messengers went forth were: Nisan (or Aviv), Av, Elul. Tishri, Kislev, and Adar. All of these months had important religious observances that occurred during them, and the Sanhedrin wanted to be sure the Festivals and other Holidays were observed on the correct day.
         All of this was well and good, but Rosh HaShanah is a very important Festival. Yet, no one knew for sure, ahead of time, on which day it was going to fall. Thus, it became know as the Festival in which “you know not the day nor the hour.’

         “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
(Mat. 24:36)

         Now the words of Yeshua are true and faithful and no man really knows the day or hour in which He will return. Yet, is it possible He might have given us a hint that His return would take place on or near the Festival which the Jewish idiom declared to be the day on which one was never quite sure when it would come? Consider the following scripture:

         “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. ... But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
(I Thess. 5:2,4-6)


 

Yom HaDin

         The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shalt cry there bitterly.
(Zeph. 1:14)

         ...for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.
(Psalm 96:13)

         The last name, by which this day is known in Jewish tradition, is Yom HaDin, (Yohm HahDeen’) the Day of Judgment. It is said in the Mishnah, (Rosh HaShanah 1:2): “...at the New Year all who enter the world pass before Him like troops.” This is considered to be the Festival that rehearses the coming of the “Day of the LORD.” This is the time when God intervenes directly into the affairs of earth though the person of His Son, Yeshua HaMashiach.

         “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet (shofar) and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.” (Zeph. 1:15-16)

         But all is not gloom and doom. There will be a remnant of people, devoted to God and His ways, that He will protect in this ‘day of wrath.’

         “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; (margin = not desirous);
         “Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come upon you.
         “Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness:
it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.”
(Zeph. 2:1-3)

         “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”
(Psalm 27:5)

         It is said that on Rosh HaShanah, every person is judged. In traditional Jewish thought it is a judgment that takes place each year, for the coming year. But it is also recognized that in the final Yom HaDin, the judgment will be for all eternity.
         According to tradition, on this day God sits on His throne of judgment and three books are opened. They are the ‘Book of Life,’ the ‘Book of Death’ and the ‘Book of the Intermediates.’ Those written in the ‘Book of Life’ are the totally righteous who have fully repented of their sins, and had their repentance accepted by God. Those written in the ‘Book of Death’ are the totally wicked who are fit only for destruction. The vast majority of people are written in the ‘Book of the Intermediates.’ These people have until Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to repent and be written in the ‘Book of Life.’ If they do not repent, they will be written in the ‘Book of Death.’
         It is said that; “man is judged on New Year’s Day and his doom is sealed on the Day of Atonement.” A famous Jewish Rabbi, Moses Nahmanides (also known as Ramban) said; “Rosh HaShanah is a day of judgment with mercy, and Yom Kippur is a day of mercy with judgment.”

         “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
(Rev. 20:12)

         In the days when the Temple stood, the gates were opened on Rosh HaShanah symbolizing that the way to God was still available. At the opening of the gates the shofar was sounded. This blowing of the shofar was know as the ‘Last Trump.’ and is fled to the resurrection of the righteous dead.

         “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
(I Cor. 15:51-52)

         The following passage speaks of the shofar as sounding during a baffle between the Messiah with the resurrected saints, against His enemies on the earth. Those whom God will save become “stones of a crown” in the land of Israel.

         “And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the LORD God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south. ... And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.”
(Zech. 9:14,16)

         The Temple gates were left open until the end of the Day of Atonement at which time they were closed. Again the shofar was sounded and this sounding became known as the “Great Shofar.” Once the gates were closed the way to God was considered to be no longer open, so it was imperative for all the “Intermediates” to repent before this time lest they be inscribed in the ‘Book of Death.’ Because of the severity of the judgment, and the importance placed upon real repentance, the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur became known as Yamin Nora’im (Yah-meen Nora’-eem) the “Days of Awe.”
         It must be remembered that in Jewish teaching this judgment took place every year, just as the Atonement goats had to be slain every year for the covering of sin. However, these days are rehearsals of future fulfillments. Prophetically they are pregnant with meaning and their observance is verified by the New Testament scriptures which use the pictures and idioms of these days to teach of future events.

         “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
         “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive
and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
(I Thes. 4:13-18)

         “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
(Matt. 24:31)

         “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
         “... Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore, for the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.”
(Psalm 37:1-2,27-29)

         Rosh HaShanah is indeed a Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment). However, as Believers in the Messiahship of Yeshua, we have the full assurance of scripture that our sins are forgiven through His blood sacrifice.

         “... without shedding of blood is no remission.”
(Heb. 9:22)

         “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
(Eph. 1:7)

         The Day of Judgment need not be feared by those who are in Messiah (Christ). Therefore, Rosh HaShanah is not a day of fear, but rather becomes a day for real celebration. For it is all of these:

         In the past, some of us may have not given a whole lot of thought to the ‘Feast of Trumpets.’ It seemed to sit out there all alone marking the beginning of the fall Festival days. By exploring the ancient understandings of these days, we are able to see more deeply into how well God has planned all of these Festivals. With this background one is now able to begin the study of how to prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The two days are completely linked and neither can be fully understood without a full knowledge of both.


The Shofar

         Before exploring the preparation period for Rosh HaShanah, we need to understand a little more fully the significance of the shofar.
         The shofar is the horn of a clean animal that has been hollowed out, had a portion of the small end cut off, and is usually twisted. The result is a musical instrument that can be sounded by placing it to the lips and blowing on it similar to the way one would blow a trumpet. The resulting sound has a very haunting nature to it which is much different than the sound of a metal trumpet.
         The shofar can be made from the horn of any clean animal except the cow or ox. This is because the children of Israel do not want to remind God of the sin of the golden calf The most familiar horn is that of the ram. The basis for the ram’s horn comes from the story of the Binding of Isaac.
         According to tradition, Yitzchak (Isaac) was thirty-seven years old when God told Avraham (Abraham) to:

         “... Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
(Gen. 22:2)

         Avraham obeyed. He took Yitzchak and went to the land of Moriah. This is believed to be the exact place where the Temple was erected many centuries later. The type of sacrifice that was commanded was that of a ‘burnt offering.’ This is called an olah (oh-lah) in Hebrew, and requires that the one bringing the offering must do it in a state of rejoicing and that the object being sacrificed be not only slain, but completely burned up so that nothing remains.

         This entire story pictures the sacrifice of Yeshua, God the Father’s “only begotten son” for the sins of mankind. It also brings to our attention the principle of a ‘substitutionary sacrifice.’ We can be ever thankful for this principle, since it allows the sacrifice of Yeshua to be acceptable to God in place of our own death for our sins.
         When the time came to slay the olah, an angel from God stayed Avraham’s hand:

         “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
         And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind
him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering (olah) in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.”
(Gen. 22:9-14)

         According to tradition, the ‘first trump’ and the ‘last trump’ are related to the horns of this ram which was caught in the thicket and became the substitute for Yitzchak. The ‘first trump’ is the left horn of this ram, and was the shofar that was blown at Mt. Sinai when God gave the Torah to the children of Israel. The right horn of this ram will be the ‘last trump’ and is to be blown as an announcement of the coming of the Messiah. Since the ram was an olah (a burnt offering) and the horns of the ram were to be burned, it has been asked how it was possible for the horns to be used for these two occasions. The traditional answer is that God created a new ram out of the ashes of the sacrificed ram. In other words, a resurrection. This again is a wonderful picture of Yeshua who, as a substitute sacrifice for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead. There is yet a third strumpet’ mentioned in Jewish tradition. It is known as the ‘Great Shofar’ and is to be blown at the end of Yom Kippur (More about that later.)


Teshuvah

         All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.”
(Psalm 22:27)

         As can be seen from the importance attributed to Rosh HaShanah, preparation is needed in order to understand the full significance of this Festival. Tradition teaches this can be done through a process called Teshuvah (Teh-shoe-vah’), which means to return, to turn around, and to repent. This period of repentance begins on 1 Elul (the sixth month) and it is the thirty day period preceding Rosh HaShanah. During this time, one is to ask God for assistance in a self examination, to find any sins that have been committed over the past year for which one has not repented. As sins are uncovered, one must ask God’s forgiveness. However, sins that have been committed against other people must be forgiven by those against whom the sin was done. In other words, one is to seek forgiveness from others for the sins and offenses we, as individuals, have committed against them. In turn, we must forgive anyone who seeks forgiveness from us, even if the sin is very grievous. If a person who has offended us does not seek forgiveness, it is our obligation to go to that person and give them the opportunity to ask forgiveness.

         In Matthew 18 Yeshua had a lot to say about our relationships with each other. The Jewish practice of going to someone who has offended you is fully supported by our Saviour:

         “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
(Matt. 18:15)

         “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
(Matt. 18:21-22)

         Following this encounter with Peter, Yeshua teaches His disciples the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. It is the story of the man who owed the king an enormous sum of money. He was arrested and brought before the king. The man pleaded for mercy and was forgiven his debt. Then this same man promptly went out and found a poor man who owed him a little bit of money. The poor man could not pay, so the man who had been forgiven of the large debt had the poor man thrown in prison. Then the king heard about the matter:

         “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors; till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
(Matt. 18:34-35)

         As Believers it is imperative that we learn how to properly forgive. Just because we ask God to forgive us of a sin it does not follow that He will automatically forgive it:

         “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’’
(Matt. 6:14-15)

         This adds a whole new dimension to the meaning of the word ‘forgiveness. Not only must we seek forgiveness from God, we must also seek forgiveness from those people we have offended. For some reason, that seems to be a much more difficult thing to do. We get used to talking with God in prayer, and we know He already knows all of our sins, and faults, and weaknesses anyway, so it is fairly easy to admit sin to Him (unless we are blinded to a sin) and to ask forgiveness. It is much more difficult to admit to another human being that we have been anything less that the perfect ‘Christian’ we want to be.
         Even if we are able to get around this problem and admit and ask forgiveness of those people we have offended, or against whom we have sinned, now we have another difficult task. If someone has sinned against us, or offended us, we must go to them and tell them we were offended, in order that we can offer forgiveness and be reconciled. Then we must never bring that offense or sin up to that person again. Very difficult stuff One needs to proceed with extreme caution, especially with the later problem. It is very difficult to go to a person who has offended us without, in turn, offending them. When that happens, then both parties have some word or action that needs forgiving. None of this should be attempted without much prayer and supplication to God for complete guidance. Part of the problem lies in our culture. We are not trained to ask forgiveness or to confront in a righteous way those who have offended us. Usually neither party in such an event has the slightest idea how to proceed, how to react, or how to resolve the differences between one another. We have so much to learn in order to become true ‘children of God.’

         Repentance can be put into two categories. Those sins which are against God, and those which are against other people. But the Torah also has another breakdown of the 613 commandments that it contains. It sites sins of omission and the sins of commission. The sins of omission are those committed when one fails to perform a positive command. In other words, if God instructs us to take care of the widow, and we fail to do that, we commit a sin of omission. We ‘omitted’ doing a positive (Do or Remember) command. On the other hand, a sin of commission is when we break a negative command. The Torah says; “Do not commit murder.” If we murder someone we are ‘committing’ a sin against a negative (Do Not) command.
         Likewise, failing to keep the Sabbath would be a sin of omission against a positive command. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” An act of adultery would be a sin of commission against a negative command. “Do not commit adultery.”

         In Jewish thought the subject of repentance is very important. However, the destruction of the Temple has required their method of atonement to change. During Temple times the sins of the High Priest, his family, and all of Israel were covered by the various sacrifices that were offered on that day. Since the Temple no longer stands, they are no longer able to effect forgiveness by the sacrifice of animals. Since they do not recognize Yeshua as the promised Messiah, they have built a method of atonement through the acts of repentance.

         As Believers, we know that true forgiveness can only be obtained through the acceptance of the sacrifice of the Messiah, our Passover Lamb. Yet, His sacrifice does not negate the need for repentance in our lives. The New Testament is full of instruction about our need to both repent before God, ask forgiveness of our fellow man and be willing to forgive those who have “trespassed against us.” Indeed, there is much that most of us need to learn when it comes to repentance and forgiveness. That is the purpose of this period of Teshuvah, so that we can repent completely, return to God in both our worship, and in the way we conduct every aspect of our lives and thereby be reconciled with both God and our fellow man. No wonder we need thirty days of Teshuvah every year, plus the “Days of Awe” between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.


Some Thoughts on Repentance

         And old saying tells us; “No sin is small, if one persists in it. No sin is great, if one beseeches pardon for its commission.” If one persists in a sin it shows that the person takes God and the commandments lightly. It is also much more difficult to repent of a persistent sin since it has probably become a habit.

         “But the soul that does ought presumptuously ... the same reproacheth the LORD ... because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.”
(Num. 15:30-31)

         One of the most difficult problems to overcome is the sin of the tongue.

         “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. ... they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.”
(Jer. 9:3,5)

         According to an ancient Jewish scholar, Saadia Gaon (892-942 C.E.): “The terms of repentance are four in number, to wit: (a) the renunciation of sin, (b) remorse, (c) the quest of forgiveness, and (d) the assumption of the obligation not to relapse into sin...
         The apostle Shaul (Paul) also had some things to say about the process of repentance:

         “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what (1) carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what (2) clearing of yourselves, yea, what (3) indignation, yea, what (4) fear, yea, what (5) vehement desire, yea, what (6) zeal, yea, what (7) revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
(II Cor. 7:10-11)

         Look at what true repentance does for us. (1) It makes us all the more careful that we do not fall into the same temptation again. (2) We are completely cleared of the sin. In fact, our sin is removed as far from us as east is from west. (3) This causes us to become indignant that we ever allowed ourselves to become entrapped by such folly. (4) Now we have a healthy fear for the power of sin which helps us keep far away from it. (5) In addition we are given a vehement desire to refrain from all sin, to identify sin before we commit it so that we can exercise the power of the Holy Spirit and be kept from it. (6) This engenders a zeal for God, because we are no longer separated from Him by our sins. As family members, (‘joint heirs with Messiah”) we take on the attributes of our elder Brother Yeshua, and become zealous for the good news of the Kingdom of God and for the Torah, which is the instruction book by which that Kingdom is governed. And finally, (7) We have our revenge, because the evil one who has tempted us no longer has a hold on us in any way, shape or form.


The History of Teshuvah

         Why was 1 Elul chosen to be the day on which Teshuvah was to begin? Is it a significant date in the history of the children of Israel? The answer is yes, it is a significant date, and there were good reasons for the choice of this date and the length of the process.
         In actual fact, Teshuvah, for all but the righteous, does not really end on Rosh HaShanah, but extends all the way to Yom Kippur. Thus, Teshuvah becomes a forty day period, rather than thirty days. Forty is the scriptural number of trial and testing.
         The first forty day period of trial and testing took place when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai on the Day of Pentecost (Shavu’ot = Feast of Weeks). This was early in the third month. Forty days later would bring him back down near the middle of the fourth month, called Tammuz. During that time the children of Israel had forced Aaron to construct the golden calf Aaron’s words when he presented the idol to the people is very interesting:

         “... These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
         “And when Aaron saw
it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.”
(Ex. 32:4-5)

         The people knew all about idolatry from their time in Egypt. They wanted a god they could see and touch. It is probable that they actually believed the God of Israel looked like an ox. This is one of the faces that Ezekiel observed when he was given the vision of the four living creatures.

         “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.”
(Ezek. 1:10)

         “And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.”
(Ex. 32:25-26)

         Moses coming down off the mountain, sees the blasphemy, breaks the tablets containing the ten commandments, destroys the idol and calls the sons of Levi to slay the perpetrators of this blasphemy. Three thousand men died that day.
         God then called Moses back up the mountain for a conference. According to tradition this was also a forty day stay, with Moses returning sometime during the later part of the fifth month called Av.

         “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
         “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me,
him will I blot out of my book. ... And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.”
(Ex. 32:30-33,35)

         Moses came back down and pitched the tabernacle outside the camp, away from the people. There he continued to talk “face to face” with God. (‘Face to face’ is a Hebrew idiom for the Day of Atonement since this is the day the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies.)

         “And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.”
(Ex. 34:1-2)

         According to tradition, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai with this second set of tablets on 1 Elul. He came back down forty days later on 10 Tishri which is, of course, The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). During these forty days the children of Israel did Teshuvah (repentance) so that when Moses came back down on Yom Kippur, they had been forgiven for their sins.

         The importance of the thirty day Teshuvah of the month of Elul, is that those who repent during this time (prior to the return of the Messiah, Yeshua) will have their names written in the “Book of Life” and will not have to go through further repentance during the more difficult “Days of Awe.”

         “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness...”
(II Pet 3:9-11)

         “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.”
(Zeph. 3:14-15)

         “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king: ... The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. I will ransom them from the power of the grave I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”
(Hosea 13:9-12,14)

         The first day of Elul falls this year (1996) on August 16th. (It begins the previous evening at sunset.)

continued.....

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