Below are two blogs from last year, explaining how “People Of The Book” (Isa. 8:20) can relate to the upcoming Biblical holiday on the first day of Tishri, starting the Jewish calendar year “5773” – as “The Book” presents the holiday, and with the meaning Scripturally central to it.
This is a practical follow-up to the blog “The Spiritual Alarm Clock Chimes” containing specifics on practice during this season of history in which Yom Teruah is being observed in most of the Jewish world as “Rosh HaShanah.”
THE SPIRITUAL ALARM CLOCK CHIMES
“Rosh HaShanah” is Actually “Yom Teruah”
Leviticus 23:24 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial by blowing of trumpets, a holy assembly.’”
We do not seek to be iconoclasts: we simply aspire to do what the Scriptures direct. However, in so doing, we often find ourselves shattering standard paradigms and embracing emphases not necessarily widespread among our People at present. We did not choose it, but as Kurt Vonnegut said, “So it goes.”
Throughout the world, our People will soon be observing what is commonly called, “Rosh HaShanah” – the Jewish New Year.
The Talmud states the following in TB Rosh HaShanah 2a:3-13:
“There are four new years. On the first of Nisan is the New Year for Kings and for Festivals. On the first of Elul is the new year for the tithe of cattle. R’Elezar and R’Simeon however, place this on the first of Tishri. On the first of Tishri is the new year for years, for release and Jubilee years, for planting and for the tithes of vegetables. On the first of Sh’vat is the new year for trees according to the ruling of the House of Shammai; however, Beth Hallel places it on the fifteenth of that month.”
I am sure you already see the ticklish thing for those of us adhering to Scripture as the core-standard of Judaism – how shall we put this delicately? The Scriptures directly state the Jewish New Year “for years” is on the other side of the year, in the spring month of Nisan.
Contemporary mainstream Judaism has selected a “new year for years” directly in contradiction to the Scripturally-declared new year “for years” in Exodus 12:2. Our standard, per Scripture (Deuteronomy 18 and Isaiah 8:20) is that the Scripture’s directives have final and absolute authority to define Judaism’s practices and doctrines.
It is not like the Scriptures are vague about it: “This month (Nisan) shall be for you (Israel) the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Exodus 12:2) The Hebrew states Nisan is to be “rosh ha-chodesh-eem” (head of the months), rishon hoo lachem l’chod’shay ha-shanah” (the first it is of the year’s months).”
So, nu? What is a God-following, Scripture-believing person to do?
We have a few choices.
We can hide from the contradiction. No – I don’t think so.
We can be completely instantaneous: we can boycott Rosh HaShanah as it is currently anti-Biblically practiced among our People due to the primacy of Talmudic influence over Scriptural influence during the past two millennia of our national religious life. Somehow, severing ourselves entirely does not seem in the spirit of our New Testament mandate not to abandon “the customs of our ancestors.” (Acts 21:18-25)
Or – we can adopt King Solomon’s paradigm in Ecclesiates 7:18 for incremental change: “it is good to grasp toward one thing while not letting go of the other. One who reveres God will come forth with all of them.”
Solomon is not advocating fear-based tolerance of compromise: he is advising engagement with the need for some changes to be incremental rather than instantaneous. As long as patience does not equal a moral compromise, we can consider such an approach.
The first day of Tishri is a Biblical holiday. We should observe it.
It is called, “Yom Teruah” – the Day of A Trumpet-Call.
We should mark it as such, even as we use contemporary nomenclature to allow the current Jewish world to relate to our observance of it.
It is a mandated shabbat of rest from vocational work.
We can do that.
It is the national spiritual alarm clock for the Jewish nation, signaling that Yom Kippur – the all important Day of Atonement – is a mere ten days away. In societies before electricity made instant communication possible, a span of ten days to ready oneself for the day of all days in the calendar is not really all that much time; especially since there was no instant way to affirm a calendar date as accurate. One’s locality might be “off” a day or even a few: the “isru hag” custom (to extend the holiday an extra day) in Talmudic practice evolved in great part because of this uncertainty of calendar calculation.
We can ready our heads and hearts, align our actions and re-align our past deeds by redemptive action.
Our synagogue of Two-Testament Judaism celebrates the holiday currently called “Rosh HaShanah” by most of Judaism, declaring its nature as Yom Teruah – observing the meaning of the holiday assigned to it by Scripture. We seek to make restitution for any wrongs committed against other people, since wrongs done to people necessitate restitution to the harmed person before going to God for His forgiveness. (Matt. 5:24) Our focus is not so much on an actual “Jewish new year” as it is upon the meaning of the “alarm-reminder” of the trumpet-call pointing toward the soon-arriving day of Yom Kippur. We take up the call for spiritual introspection and restorative action as best we may.
Psalm 89:15 cries out, “Blessed is the people that know the teruah! They shall walk, oh, Lord, in the light of your presence.” The writer could not resist throwing in a pun (like your Rabbi is oft wont to do) two verses later: “For You are the glory of their strength! And in Your favor, our horn (keren) shall be exalted.” The horn of warning (our shofar) – connected to the horn of blessing.
A horn is a symbol of strength – and also of abundance.
Blessed are the people who know the teruah – for what it truly is.
May we be such a people – and may we know such a blessing.
So – Yom Teruah mevorach! – May you have a blessed Day of The Trumpet-Call! May your season of introspection be deeply meaningful and genuine – and may the atonement of Messiah Yeshua give you deep and abiding peace as we draw near to Yom Kippur this year.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
New York City – September 2012