Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah

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Thanks to Mat Reames for sharing this rich insight into Rosh Hashanah for our Holy Days series – a series of articles dedicated to our Christian/Hebraic holidays, feasts, and observances.

Rosh Hashanah is coming up at the end of this month. But do many Christians have any idea what that means? Sadly no. That is why I am writing this article. I believe that there is much to be learned from studying Jewish culture, customs, and their calendar. Because they receive many of these times, seasons, and traditions from The Lord himself. If we begin to understand these customs, we will be able to understand our God a little better.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is literally translated “Head of the Year.” It is the anniversary of creation. But, with our modern culture we have reduced “New Years” to A Big party, binge drinking, and resolutions we don’t intend to keep. The Jewish new year is very different. This is because the Jews are very different. For a better understanding on how the Jews are different from us. I recommend reading “To The Jew, and also to the Greek” (a thread on The Worship Community Forums). This is a lengthy thread, but if you just being with the First page and follow the thoughts that Yod1948 is sharing, you will get a start to understanding this mindset issue. (You may become so enthralled that you read all 10 Pages. I did)

Now understanding that Jews are different from the rest of us, it is easy to understand that their holidays would be as well. You see, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the year, but also the begining of an important season on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah in itself is not of much significance. It is the season that gives it significance. Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom Teru’ah, which is The Day or Feast of Trumpets, as well as Yom ha-Zikaron, which is The day of remembrance. Rosh Hashanah is a day of remembrance. It begins the 10 days of Awe which lead to Yom Kippur, or the day of atonement.

Rosh Hashanah, the day of remembrance,  the feast of trumpets. What is the significance to us as Christians? Well, this is the start of a new year. A time when we let go of the past and prepare for the future. God opens up the heavens over us for a spirit of Repentance and the Fear of the Lord to fall upon us. God is preparing us for the day of atonement.

How do we partake in this? Many Christians struggle with the Idea of the day of atonement, because we have the cross which is the ultimate atonement.  However, this is a season where we are preparing ourselves for God’s presence. The days of awe lead us to Repentance and the Day of atonement. However after the day of atonement, we have a bit of a break before the feast of Tabernacles begins. Tabernacles is a time of special communion with God. A time when the people set themselves apart and met God in their own tents.

Instead of looking at Rosh Hashanah as a single day, we need to look at the scope of Tishri. Which is the month on the Jewish calendar in which these all happen. God calls us to rememberance of who we are and what we have done. God begins to show us the things that are keeping us from more of him. This could be blatant sins, like sexual sins, or murder, or similar things. However, often it is mindsets and attitudes that keep us from God. He begins to show us our wrong thinking and our wrong attitudes; the things we do and say that are not pleasing to him. If you can honestly tell me you don’t have any of these and you are in perfect communion with God at all times, I suspect Pride, and Lies are your big enemy.

As we progress from Celebrating the beginning of the new year, to reflecting upon ourselves and our relationship with God, we move to the day of atonement. A time to ask God to remove these from ourselves and our congregation. To cleanse us and restore us to purity. After he has restored this purity upon us, he calls us to come aways with him.

Now you might argue that this doesn’t have to be done at this time of the year. You might say that you can repent of sins and mindsets any time of year, and you are right. However, this is a God Ordained season. I did not institute Trumpets, Atonement, or Tabernacles. I did not pick the dates and the traditions. God designed this time for this purpose. Yes, you can repent and experience him any time of the year. However, this is a time when he has planned it to be done and there is a special grace that is not found the rest of the year. This is a doorway in time and the door is open. When we begin to move and live in God’s timing we find ourselves having to strive less, but receiving more.

So hopefully I have given you a brief understanding of the significance  of this time. I am hoping you see the importance this next upcoming season, and how it can bless you richly. The question is how do we respond to it as Christians. How do we celebrate this time, and take part in these traditions?

Well, Messianic Congregations, and those who observe the Jewish holidays hold special services. Rabi Curt Landry from House of David broadcasts these services live from his website. Last year I had the honor and privilege of going to Oklahoma and being a part of his Rosh Hashanah service. It began with a feast. This is something I loved. It was a church Pot Luck and people brought foods. (kosher of course) But families volunteered to be responsible for a table. This meant that the family would provide the dishes, silverware, glasses, everything for that table from their own home. They also served as hosts for those who were at their table. I love this because it was a great community building exercise.

After the dinner was over, we all shifted to the sanctuary and celebrated in worship. We sang, and danced, and made merry in the presence of God. Jewish worship involves much more than singing and lifting hands. Its truly a celebration! When the worship was over, Rabi Landry came up to give the word.

First an introduction into the significance of Rosh Hashanah as a day of Remembrance and Trumpets.It was during this explanation that the sound of the Trupmet was blasted. House of David used Silver horns, but a Shofar is also widely used. There are four types of blasts sounded. First a Long blast that signifies Christ as King. Then Three diatonal blasts that symbolize repentance. Third 9 staccato blasts in rapid succession to symbolize awakening the soul or sounding the alarm. Finally One Long blast, held as long as you can stand it. This final blast is the victory blast, and shout of Jubilee. Then he moved on to the sermon. The sermon was not like a normal sermon, but it was a “state & direction of the church” message. He shared about the last year, and cast the vision for the next year. This wasn’t simply his vision, but the vision the Lord had given him.

Finally he ended with a challenge. He asked everyone to search their hearts over the next 10 days and to deal with their sins, their mindsets, and their attitudes in preparation  for the day of atonement.

This is a great example of how I feel a service should be held for “The Feast of Trumpets” Begin with community, move to worship, then release the word. This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Wednesday the 28th and continues to sundown on Thursday the 29th.

That Wednesday would be a great opportunity, since many churches already have a midweek service.  Have a dinner, then a special service for Rosh Hashanah. Worship the Lord, and thank him for the work he has done in the last year (5771 on the Jewish Calendar) Then move into vision casting for the next year. After you have shared the vision, call the congregation to attention, and sound the blasts of the Shofar or the trumpet. After this, give the call for repentance and self-examination. As you make this call bring the worship team up for altar ministry so they can make music and worship as people come to the altar to examine themselves.

I promise that as you being to move in time with God’s calendar you will begin to see a stronger presence in your congregation. Because the Lord honors obedience, and when you move in the season he says to move he rewards you greatly.

Mat is a regular contributor and reviewer for The Worship Community and blogs at www.matreames.tk.