Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

Just as the seventh day, Shabbat, is holy, so the seventh month, Tishri is set apart by God as sacred.  It can be viewed as the most holy of months in that it contains four Jewish holidays, two of which, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are call the “High Holidays”.  As a sign of its importance in ancient Israel, the arrival of the new moon marking the beginning of Tishri had to be confirmed by at least six witnesses, not just the three required for any other month.  Also, baesides the normal procedure of lighting signal fires to announce a new moon, messengers were sent out from Jerusalem to hand deliver the news of Tishri’s arrival.  These safeguards point out that the Israelites felt a holy obligation to be obedient to the timing of the feasts as God instructed in His Word.  It was not a small thing if a mistake was made and an appointment with the Creator of the universe was missed.  We also can honor God by being diligent in our observation of the feasts.

The first of the fall feasts is Rosh Hashanah which occurs on the first of Tishri every year.  As Rosh Chodesh is “head of the month”, Rosh  Hashanah is “head of the year”, or new year.  This phrase appears once in  scripture in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 40:1
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year…

However, scripture refers to Tishri as the seventh month.  In fact, there are more references to Pesach as the new year than to Rosh Hashanah. The answer to this seeming contradiction is that Tishri is the first month in the civil calendar, while Nisan is called the “first month of the year” in the religious calendar due God calling attention to the importance of Pesach. 

In our Jewish calendar there are a variety of “new years”, but the designation of Rosh Hashanah as “head of the year” has been in use since the Babylonian exile.  Its name is an indication of the importance of this month as a time of preparation. How should we prepare?  The answer comes from scripture:

Leviticus 23:23-25
The LORD said to Moses,  [24] “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  [25] Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.’ “

Numbers 29:1
“On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.”

The commands for us are to rest, assemble together before the Lord, and sound a “trumpet”.  The “blowing of trumpets” has become so associated with this day that it is also called “Yom Teruah”, or day of the shofar blast.  The shofar is not exactly a trumpet….coming from the horn of a ram it has a peculiar sound unlike a man-made instrument.  It is one of the oldest of wind instruments and has played a prominent role in Jewish history.

The blast of the shofar was heard when Moses spoke with God on Mt. Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19:9…a reminder of the Word of God and the laws He gave us by which to live.  Israel conquered in the battle of Jericho with the blast of the shofar in Joshua 6:20…a reminder of victory through God’s power.

The shofar is mentioned in Judges 3:27 as a call to battle, and as a signal to assemble in 2 Samuel 20:1…a reminder to serve God in unity.

In Jeremiah 4:19 it is called an alarm of war, and in Joel 2:1 we hear the familiar verse:  “Blow a shofar in Zion, sound an alarm on my holy mountain…”  Watchmen who guarded the walls of ancient Jerusalem blew the shofar to warn people of impending danger as in Amos 3:6 and Ezekiel 33:6…a reminder to be vigilant in serving God and to stand firm in spiritual war.

The year of Jubilee is to be proclaimed by the sound of the shofar in Leviticus 25:9…a reminder of joyfulness.

The kingship of God is recalled with a shofar blast in Psalm 98:6…”With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, the Lord!”  In the ancient world a shofar was used to hail a king.  When we hear it at Rosh Hashanah we anticipate standing before the King of Kings, who’s arrival can be very soon.

The shofar in Psalm 47:5  reminds of the joy of being in our King’s presence:

“God has ascended amid shouts of joy,  the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.”

Isaiah 27:13 says that those who were scattered will be re-gathered to worship the Lord in Jerusalem with the blowing of a great shofar…encouragement that God is gathering His people to Him.

Zechariah 9:14 tells us that the Lord Himself will blow the shofar on the day when He delivers His people from attacking armies:  “Then the Lord will appear over them and His arrow will go forth like lightening, and the Lord God will blow the shofar, and will march in the storm winds of the south.”

The return of Messiah as told in Matthew 24:30 is to be announced with a shofar blast:  “…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, and He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet.”  This is a faith builder reminding us of Messiah’s triumph in the end days.  From this it has been tradition to say that even Satan trembles at the shofar blast, recognizing that his time will come to an end at Messiah’s return.

In the Talmud (Lev. Rabbah 29:10) the ram’s horn is mentioned as having a role in Israel’s redemption:  “Your children are destined to be caught by the nations and entangled in troubles, but they will ultimately be redeemed through the horns of the ram.”

Even the dead will hear the shofar when Messiah returns:

1 Thes. 4:16
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar blast of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first.”

When we hear the shofar we should remember all these scriptures…it should be like a memory jog.  In fact another name for this feast is “Yom Ha Zikkaron”, day of remembering.  We are called to attention, holy fear, rejoicing, battle, and reverence for God’s holiness and sovereignty. The shofar calls us to consider our personal relationship with the Lord and to be prepared for the day of atonement to come… Yom Kippur just nine days later.  The idea of preparation is so strong that the shofar is traditionally sounded forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, the preceding month.  This gives us plenty of time to consider our spiritual state, and to repent and ask for forgiveness.  The shofar blast should be like an air raid signal going off… like someone shouting “Look up!  Seek cover!”  Or better, “seek a covering” (a “kippur”)

The shofar is to be made from the horn of a ram…a cow horn cannot  be used because of the cow’s connection with the golden calf episode in Israel’s history.  The use of the ram may come from the traditional Torah reading for this holiday, Genesis 22, the story of the binding of Isaac, or in Hebrew, the “Akidah”. A rabbinical tradition holds that this event took place on Rosh Hashanah.  When Abraham obediently showed his willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice, God provided a ram in his place.  This reminds us of the faithfulness of Abraham, and these verses also show us a picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua.  There are many parallels:

1.   Abraham loved God so much that he obeyed and was willing to offer up his only son.
Genesis 22:13
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us.
John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2.   Isaac was the dearly beloved son of his father, born by a miracle after a promise and much waiting.
Genesis 17:16
” I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Yeshua was the dearly beloved Son of His Father, born by a miracle, prophesied from long ago.
Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Matthew 1:21
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

3.   On the 3 day trip to Mt. Moriah Isaac was under the sentence of death, considered “dead”.  Then on the 3rd day his life was given back to him.
Genesis 22:4
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Yeshua was in the grave 3 days, under the sentence of death.  He rose from the dead on the 3rd day.
Matthew 28:6
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

4.   Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice.
Genesis 22:6
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Yeshua carried the wooden “tree” for His own sacrifice.
John 19:17
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

5.   Isaac submitted to the will of his father.
Genesis 22:7-8
Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”. Yeshua submitted to the will of His father.
Luke 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

6.  God provided His own sacrifice, a lamb (male lamb = ram) for the offering.
Genesis 22:8, 13
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.  Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Yeshua is called the “lamb of God”, given as a sin sacrifice.
John 1:29
The next day Yochanon saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

7.  The sacrifice took place on Mt. Moriah, near where Jerusalem would stand one day.
Genesis 22:2
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
Yeshua was sacrificed on Golgotha, just outside ancient Jerusalem.
Matthew 27:33
They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).

8.   Abraham called this site “Yaweh yireh” (Jehovah jira), “God will provide”.
Genesis 22:14
So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
The “substitute sacrifice” at this place was followed years later with countless animal sacrifices to provide atonement conducted by the Levitical priests. Yeshua was the fulfillment of all these substitute sacrifices, and is a better “high priest”.

Hebrews 7:27
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

9.   Right after the Akedah God promised Abraham that, because of his obedience, God would use his descendants to bless all the nations of the earth.
Genesis 22:18
…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.
Yeshua came to bless all people, and to be light to everyone who follows Him.
John 8:12
When Yeshua spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The central point of the Rosh Hashanah service is the sounding of the shofar.  Some synagogues go to great lengths to find an accomplished shofar blower, known as a “Ba’al Tekiah” since this is not an easy instrument to master.  The Ba’al Tekiah is responsible for making over one hundred separate blasts during a traditional service.  Scripture does not tell us the number nor the order of these blasts, but rabbinical interpretation from Numbers has determined at least two different notes:

Numbers 10:5-7
When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out.  [6] At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out.
[7] To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets,
but not with the same signal.


  • Today we have three sounds:

tekiah”…one long base note ending abruptly
teruah”…nine staccato notes in rapid succession
shevarim”…three quavering notes, a cross between the other two


  • Since the order of the sounds was not specified we use the following formula to cover all bases:

“tekiah, teruah, tekiah”
“tekiah, shevarim, tekiah”
“tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah”
“tekiah g’dolah”  (“big tekiah”, the long ending blast)


  • The three sounds have by tradition been associated with the three books opened on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur:

– T
ekiah, the sound of rejoicing for the book of life for the righteous;
Teruah, a trembling sound for the book of death for the wicked;
Shevarim, a mixture of joy and sadness, representing hope for most people who are somewhere in between.


  • The concept of three books comes from scripture:

Exodus 32:32-33
But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
[33] The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of
my book.
Psalm 69:28
May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.
Daniel 12:1
…But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.

Malachi 3:16
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

Rev. 21:27
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


  • For believers the three blasts can have additional meanings:

– The single note of
tekiah…representing one God, reaching out with His love to each of us at this special time of year;
– The nine short notes of
teruah… representing the nine fruits of the Ruach:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control;
– The three broken notes of
shevarim…representing one God in three persons:  Abba, Yeshua, Ruach Ha Kodesh

When those who know Messiah personally hear the shofar blasts this year they can come before the Lord with thankfulness that they are written in the Book of Life…a true cause for rejoicing. They can then confidently say the traditional salutation for this feast:

“Le shanah tovah tikkateivu, ve-tehateinu!”  “May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good year!”