Good is Not Always Happy: A Rosh Hashanah Message (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24-25 Bamidbar/Numbers 29:1)
L’shana tovah—for a good year
“Tell the people of Israel, ‘in the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar. Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai.’”
-Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24-25 CJB
“Jews don’t say, ‘Happy New Year!’”
—Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Rabbi Benjamin is absolutely right, Jews don’t say “Happy New Year,” and for good reason. Instead we say, “L’shana tovah tikatayvu,” or “L’shana tovah.” So how does that translate? In English it is best translated, “for a good year,” or, the full greeting translates as, “for a good year as you are inscribed.” Inscription refers to the belief that good Jews are inscribed in the Book of the Righteous for the year ahead. This greeting has developed as a result of the rabbinical teaching concerning the opening of three books in the heavens at the beginning of the Yamim Noraim—Days of Awe: the book accounting for the wicked, the book accounting for the righteous and the book accounting for those who hang in the balance. It is thought that there is time in the Days of Awe, prior to Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—to perform enough mitzvoth--righteous deeds--and acts of repentance to sway the odds in ones favor and enter into the book of the righteous for the year ahead. This is in part, based on Daniel 7:10 and finds a parallel in the New Covenant Scriptures:
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
Revelation 20:12 NASB
As Messianic Jews, we understand that nothing we do can make us right with G-d, because the Temple sacrifice no longer exists, and even if it did, the moment we sin again it becomes ineffective. The rabbi Shaul the apostle writes, “without the shedding of blood there can be no (continuing) remission of sin,” (Hebrews 9:12) therefore G-d sent His Son Yeshua—the pure lamb of G-d—to die for us, and upon receiving this free gift of G-d’s sacrifice we can be assured of our place in the lamb’s book of life—the book of the righteous—(Revelation 13:8-10) not only for the year ahead but also for all eternity. In Yeshua’s sacrifice we are assured that our place in the Olam Haba—World to Come, eternal life—has been sealed. Therefore we may say, “L’shanah tovah ki-nikhtavnu!”—“for a good year (eternity), you have been inscribed!” (John 3:16-20)
Why the statement, “for a good year?” Firstly, wishing someone a good year means to wish that they walk in righteousness. We may find that at times we are quite happy in our sinful actions. We can be happy while sinning, but we can never be good. On the other hand an act of righteousness may lead to unhappiness, for example: a person might shield a child from an oncoming vehicle, and in the process permanently damage themselves. The subsequent pain from the injury will not bring happiness, but the good done may well bring the child’s family closer to HaShem—G-d.
As I have previously stated, Messianic Jews understand that in Messiah we have already been inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life through the sacrifice of Yeshua (Revelation 21:27). This knowledge should remind us that Messiah is at work in us and that with every thought, inclination and action we represent His name. With this in mind we are wise if we walk before the L-rd with appropriate awe in the wonderful knowledge of our security in Him. Therefore the Days of Awe are given an additional meaning for us.
So what is Rosh Hashanah? Is it the same as Yom Teruah or Zikhron Teruah?
The Torah calls this Holiday Zikhron Teruah and Yom Ha-Teruah, meaning, the remembrance of trumpet sounds or the day of the trumpets sounding (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24-25: Bamidbar/Numbers 29:1).
After Israel’s return from Babylon the term Rosh Hashanah began to become more popular. This may be due to the fact that the Babylonian word Tishrei means beginning. Tishrei of course had become the name for the seventh month in the Hebrew Calendar, therefore there seems to be a logical correlation.
Over the centuries rabbinical tradition accepted Rosh Hashanah as one of four New Years’, however Rosh Hashanah became the favorite due to the fact that various traditions saw it as the day commemorating Creation or the day that human beings were created. Some also taught that this was the day that the Torah was given. Up until the present day Rosh Hashanah is the most commonly used name for this festival.
Yom Ha-Teruah—the day of the sounding of trumpets—is one of the Biblical titles for this feast (Bamidbar/Numbers 29:1)—also called Zikhron Teruah, Memorial of blowing trumpets (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24-25). The emphasis of the feast is on the sounding of trumpets and the bringing of a sacrifice to be offered to the L-rd by fire. The sounding of the shofar at Rosh Hashanah celebrations today is linked to this Scriptural edict.
During the time of the second Temple, Silver trumpets were used during this festival—some believe them to have been hammered out of the shekels brought to the L-rd for the redemption of the first born. Following the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. The Rabbi’s began to modify Judaism and its celebrations to meet the changing needs of the Jewish Diaspora. One of the changes made was that of emphasizing the use of the Shofar –rams horn—as the festival trumpet for Yom Teruah. In addition, because there was no longer a Temple where the sacrifice of fire could be made, the rabbis introduced prayers of petition and repentance, adding to synagogue liturgy and creating traditions such as taslich--casting lint and debris from ones pockets into an open body of water--in order to find an alternative to the now missing sacrificial aspect of the Yom Teruah celebration. Messianic believers understand that Yeshua has filled this sacrificial obligation—amongst other—in His death on the cross.
Three key ideas have become part of the liturgical practice of Judaism regarding Rosh Hashanah: G-d’s Kingship/Malkayot, Remembrance/Zikhranot and Shofarot/Trumpet sounding. These adaptions also give weight to the preference for calling the Holy day, Rosh Hashanah. Celebratory foods such as apples and honey were also added to give the holiday a fresh lease on life. The changes made have enhanced this beautiful festival, and when seen in the light of Messiah, both the ancient practice of Yom Ha-Teruah or Zikhron Teruah and the modern practice of Rosh Hashanah join together to offer Yeshua’s disciples a wealth of symbolism that reflects His Gospel message.
The shofar/rams horn, is linked by traditional rabbinical teaching to one of the central accounts of Judaism, the Akedah—binding—of Isaac. For Messianic believers this is an obvious type for Messiah Yeshua, seen represented both in the willing Son Isaac (37 years old) and the provision of the ram. Yeshua, the literal lamb of G-d, was previously the literary ram of G-d. It is interesting to note that when we say the blessing for the shofar we refer to the voice of the rams horn--l’shmoa kol shofar. We know that the Hebrew d’var—word, voice, intention—refers to Messiah Yeshua (John 1:1). Therefore we hear in the sounding of the ram’s horn, a kinetic symbol of the voice of G-d with us. We are reminded that Yeshua has said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27)
Traditionally there are four sounds of the shofar:
Tekiah—a long single blast (Symbolizing the Kings coronation)
Shevarim—three short broken blasts (A call to repentance)
Teruah—Nine staccato blasts (An alarm, to awaken the soul)
Tekiah ha-Gadol—a great long blast (A unifying blast, a culmination, the last trumpet)
The custom is to first blow Tekiah, followed by Shevarim, followed by Teruah, culminating in Tekiah ha-gadol. It is traditional to blow the shofar one hundred times at Rosh Hashanah. This is due to a rabbinical discussion regarding the Torah term Teruah. Some traditions give other explanations that reflect a numerological meaning within the names of certain angels, none of these explanations have any relevance in light of what is a very simple instruction from G-d, “Blow trumpets!”
The Sound of the trumpet is used in Israel for the following reasons:
· A call to repentance
· To call the people together for celebration
· To warn the people of danger
· A cry of mourning
· To call the people together to prepare for war
· To proclaim a new king
· As an instrument of praise to Adonai
· To commemorate the new moon at Rosh Chodesh—head of the month.
Rosh Hashanah begins the Yamim Noraim—Days of Awe: a time of introspection and repentance before G-d. The shofar is said by the famous rabbi Maimonides, to have a hidden message that suggests to say, “Sleeping ones! Awaken from your sleep! Slumbering ones! Awaken from your slumber! Examine your deeds. Remember your Creator and do teshuvah—repentance.” The writings of this great rabbi reflect the words of the New Covenant:
“Wherefore He—G-d—says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah shall shine upon you.”
Both Yeshua’s favorite prophet Yeshiyahu/Isaiah and the New Covenant Scriptures tell us of another shofar call, one that reflects all of the aforementioned reasons for the sounding of the trumpet of G-d:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great trumpet shall be blown; and they shall come
that were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that were outcasts in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship Adonai in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:52
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the shofar of G-d: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the L-rd in the air: and so shall we ever be
with the L-rd. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
I Thessalonians 4:16-18
Have you been inscribed in the Lamb’s book of Life, sealed for eternity? If not, the gift of G-d is beautifully simple to receive:
· Acknowledge that G-d is King of the Universe, King over you (Exodus 20:1-5; Romans 10:13; Acts 4:12, Hebrews 11:6).
· Confess to Him that you are a sinful human being (1 John 1:9).
· Accept the sacrifice of His Son Yeshua the Messiah (John 3:16).
· And you will be saved. (John 3:16; Romans 10:9; Romans 10:13).
Then send me an email so I can help direct you to other disciples of Yeshua who can guide you as you grow in your new faith.
©2013 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.