Rosh HaShanah: getting used to G-d’s Presence
Rosh Hashana starts this year on Friday evening September 18 after sunset. The month of Tishri is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar year. Once it was the first month and that is why the first of the three autumn festivals is called: Israeli New Year, Rosh Hashanah. But since the Exodus from Mitzraïm, Egypt, the month of Nisan has become the first month of the year. In Leviticus 23, verse 5 says that Passover is celebrated in the first month. That’s because the release from our slavery, is so important. Two of the four texts contained in the Tefilin (phylacteries) that Jewish men use every day to devote themselves to Adonai, deal with this liberation. In Exodus 13, verses 1-10 and 11-16 we read about this.
Tradition teaches us that on Tishri 1 of the year 1, now 5781 years ago, G’d created the world. From that time on a lot has happened from which we can learn a lot. On Rosh Hashanah we remember what happened in the past year, but it is certainly also good to keep an eye on the whole picture from creation. In this way you can see which prophecies have already been fulfilled and which have yet to be fulfilled. You can see how the Almighty has always through His wonderful intervention saved us, His people, and allowed us to escape between all the cliffs. Remembering this on Rosh Hashanah is very important. That is why this feast is also called Yom Hazikaron, Day of Remembrance.
The Eternal looks at how we behave. And although our bad deeds cannot take us ‘to hell’, just as our good deeds cannot take us to heaven, our deeds do count. In fact, I would say that from all that is written in the Bible about good works, the Almighty can see by our actions whether our faith is real or dead. That makes our actions a lot more important than we might think. It is so dangerous that it is believed in certain denominations that our actions do not matter at all. Grace is what we may claim from G’d, it seems. At the other end of the ecclesiastical spectrum, there are churches where you cannot do well enough, or where even only your actions count.
Rosh HaShanah to get used to G-d’s Presence
The Tanakh makes it very clear: the grace of the Eternal is there for everyone. But the relationship between man and G’d should be a two-way street. Grace doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter how you behave. Grace means no matter how well you behave, Eternal Life is something no human can attain for himself. From a love relationship between man and G’d we are, by His grace, promoted to be citizens of heaven.
There is a judgment for everyone, according to the deeds you have done. And if you think this is a Jewish yoke, read for example 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 11 to 18, “For no other foundation than that which is laid, namely Yeshua HaMashiach, cannot be laid. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, everyone’s work will be revealed. For the day will show it, because it appears with fire, and what is everyone’s work, the fire will make it up. If the work that he built on it stands, he will receive a reward, but if anyone’s work burns, he will suffer damage. But he himself will be saved, as though through fire. Do you not know that you are the Temple of the Eternal and that the Spirit of the Eternal dwells in you? If anyone violates the Temple of the Eternal, the Eternal will violate him. Because the Temple of the Eternal – and you are – is sacred! Don’t let anyone deceive themselves! If anyone among you thinks he is wise at this time, he would have to become a fool to become truly wise.” This coming judgment means that the Eternal will remember what we have done. Rosh Hashanah is our annual opportunity to remind us of what we have done. And so we can apply course corrections. Hence, Rosh Hashanah is also called: Yom Hadin, Day of Justice.
When we see that we have done certain things wrong, the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit, can lead us to regret, to repent. In Hebrew this is called teshuva, literally: return. This New Year’s feast is also called: Yom Terua, Day of Blowing the Ram’s Horn, see Leviticus 23:24. This impressive sound is made on the oldest wind instrument in the world for those, according to our tradition, who have fallen asleep and are no longer aware of their wrong behavior. On this day all Jews do not think and pray for and for themselves, but for the whole world. We pray for peace. We pray that G’d will quickly draw near to the time when the mighty of the earth will also be righteous, and the righteous will have power. That the children of men will form one bond of brotherly love, that national haughtiness and oppression will disappear like so much smoke from the earth.
Another name for Rosh Hashanah is: Yom Hakese, Day of the Mystery. The day is named after the text in Psalm 81: 1-3, “To the Chief Musician, on the Gittit, from Asaph. Sing joyfully to Hashem, our Strength; shout for the G’d of Ya’akov. Lift up a psalm and strike the tambourine; the lovely harp with the lute. Blow the trumpet on the new moon, at the appointed time, on our feast day.” It is true that all other festivals fall on a full or near full moon. Only Rosh Hashanah falls on the new moon. The moon is then hidden from our eye. The expression “in the appointed time” is literally in Hebrew: bakèse, in the hidden time; kasá means: to hide. For on Rosh Hashanah, Israel humbles herself and hides its greatness through its awe of the Day of Judgment. Likewise, the Almighty puts a covering over His people to hide their sins, to protect them, and to forgive them, by grace. That greatness, though hidden, is our calling to be a kinG’dom of priests and a holy people (Exodus 19: 6). On this Day of Trumpets, we evaluate what has become of our calling, our inheritance.
On the eve, two candles are lit at home and Kiddush is made: the holiday is inaugurated with a cup of wine. We break bread – a special challah bread made from a roll of dough that has been spirally wound. This symbolizes the new opportunities that we get at every beginning. Then they dip a piece of bread in honey and dip a piece of apple in the honey and wish each other: “May it be a good and sweet new year.” The berachá (stress on the last syllable) over the apple, which is pronounced before eating it, is as follows: “Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu melech ha’olam, bore p’rie ha’etz.” (Blessed are You, Eternal one our G’d, king forever, creator of the tree fruit).
After eating apple and honey the wish comes
“J’hi ratzón milfanècha Adonai Elohénu w’Elohe awoténu shetchadésh alénu shanáh továh umtuká.” (That it will be Your will, Eternal our G’d and G’d of our ancestors, that You make the new year happy and sweet for us). Before and after service they wish each other, “That you will be registered for a good year and immediately sealed for a good life”, in Hebrew, “L’shanáh továh tikatév v’techatèm l’altér l’chajím tovím”
Some of us go to a river in the afternoon and symbolically throw our sins into the water. This act is called Tashlich (the Hebrew verb hisjlich means to throw), after the words of Micah 7:18-20, keep not forever, but take pleasure in goodness! He will have mercy on us again, He will tread down our iniquities. Yes, You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show allegiance to Jacob, kindness to Avraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from ancient times.”
In the synagogue
In the synagogue, the Shofar is blown at least a hundred times during the service: the Messiah will come, just as the Eternal One came on Mount Sinai with Shofar sounds. The number has to do with, among other things, the one hundred and one letters that are written in the Hebrew text in Shoftim (Judges) chapter 4, where Sisera’s mother lamenting about her son not returning. You will find this in the song of Devoráh (Deborah). That victory so needed because of a deadly attack on Israel – not the last – the Eternal gave to Israel. And He will continue to do so, because He is working directly toward His goal – the lasting deliverance of Israel.
As a Jewish people, we have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah for centuries. Messianic Jews realize that the Messiah has already been, as can be concluded from the Talmud. But all Jews, including Messianic Jews, are waiting for the tones of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, to announce His coming. Shaul, who later calls himself Paul (= small), says about this, “For the Eternal Himself will descend from heaven with an exclamation, with the cry of the Archangel and with the Shofar of the Eternal. And those who have died in faith in the Messiah will rise first. Then we will … be caught up with them … to meet the Messiah “(1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:52). It is that moment when the suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53 (Mashiach ben Joseph) will come as King Messiah (Mashiach Ben David) (see Zechariah 14).
Three Fall festivals
In the month of Tishri, the three autumn festivals take place, Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom HaKippurim (Day of Atonement and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). There are ten days between the first and second feasts (see Leviticus 23: 24-27). These days are meant to give us further reflection, which is why these days are also called: the awe-inspiring days (hayamim hanora’im, also: asèrret yeme teshuvah, the ten days of return to the Eternal). Learn to celebrate and celebrate the feasts. experience the blessing of the Eternal as never before. True revival in the Netherlands will only become possible when Jewish and non-Jewish believers bring themselves into the holy presence of the Almighty, under His Messiah and under His holy commandments. Together we form one flock, with the Messiah and Shepherd (see the Jewish prophet Ezekiel 34: 15-23), who has one name: Yeshua, literally: salvation.
LeShanah tovah tikatevu,
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, The Netherlands