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Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year begins on the 1st Tishri, Tishri being the 7th month in the Hebrew calendar. Rosh Hashanah literally means ‘Head of the Year’ and is the civil new year, not the new year instituted by God. ‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you”.Exodus 12:1-2. This was at the beginning of the commandment concerning the Passover so the 1st of Abib, also called Nisan, is the start of the year. This is important when we consider the prophetic nature of the Feasts of the LORD.

The 1st of Tishri is marked in the Hebrew Bible by the first of the Fall Feasts and is Yom Teruah, often referred to as the Feast of Trumpets or Shofars (Ram’s horns) and shofars are normally blown in synagogues on this day as Rosh Hashanah is celebrated.

The Hebrew word תְּרוּעָה Teruah literally means ‘a shout or blast of war, alarm or joy’.

The Feasts of the LORD are found in Leviticus 23:

Sabbath (Shabbat)

Passover (Pesach)

Unleavened Bread (Matzah)

Firstfruits (Reshit)

Weeks (Shavuot)

Trumpets (Teruah)

Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Tabernacles (Sukkot)

There are only 3 verses in this chapter relating to Yom Teruah –

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD."’ Leviticus 23:23-25

This is a day of sabbath rest and a reminder of the ‘teruah’. It is also mentioned in Numbers 29:1-6 verse 1 using the phrase in Hebrew ‘yom teruah’.

On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets.’ (It is yom teruah).

There is a sense of mystery surrounding Yom Teruah as God gave no reason for this feast other than the fact that it is to be a memorial. Any trumpet or shofar blast would get our attention and perhaps after a long break since the last feast, which was Pentecost or Shavuot, this sound is to wake us up, an alarm call.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that this begins a new year and so we often refer to this as a civil new year not a biblical one. Nevertheless, it is treated as a New Year and people wish each other a sweet New Year. The appropriate greeting is ‘L'Shanah tovah’ meaning ‘to a good year’ or ‘shana tova u’metukah’ meaning a good year and sweet, and it is traditional to have some food such as apple dipped in honey. There are other variations of greeting one of which means ‘may you be inscribed and sealed (in the Book of Life) for a good year. This relates to the fact that it is believed in Judaism to be a day of judgment. This is also the start of what is known as the Ten Days of Awe which culminate in the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.

Yom Teruah is the only one of these feasts which occurs on a new moon. A new moon, the beginning of the month was always a time for the shofar to be blown so this feast focuses much more on the shofar.

There are two main words in the Hebrew Scriptures for trumpets – we are familiar with Shofar, the ram’s horn. The other word is ‘chatsotserah’ and this is also a trumpet but not a horn. This silver trumpet was man-made whereas the shofar, a ram’s horn is made by God and it is always curved which reminds us that our cry is going upwards towards heaven. The very first trumpet sound in Scripture does not come from man but from

God.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.Exodus 19:16-19

Here we have God calling an assembly of His people to the sound of the trumpet.

The shofar, the ram’s horn, also reminds us of salvation – it was as Abraham was about to offer Isaac on the altar of sacrifice that the Angel stopped him and a ram was seen having caught its horns in the thicket. We see here the provision for salvation which God would provide in Messiah who Christians celebrate as Yeshua, the Lamb of God who offered his life as a substitute for us all.

The Feast of Trumpets is a day of solemn rest and a memorial. There has been a long gap since the last biblical feast of Shavuot and perhaps this is to remind us of the LORD once again and to remind Him of us.

There are 4 different sounds that can be made by a shofar and which will be sounded in synagogues on this day. These differing sounds have also different meanings.

Tekiah, a long single blast with a sharp ending is the sound of the king’s coronation.

1 Kings 1:39 ‘There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!"

This also reminds us of Messiah as our King, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Psalm 98:5-9

O Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.’

Shevarim, three shorter wail-like blasts is the sound of repentance, the sobbing cry of the heart. This name may refer to an incident in Joshua 7:4-5

So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

The Jewish Sage Rashi, in his commentary on verse 5 says the place was called Shevarim because it literally means ‘broken’. They were broken; Joshua tore his clothes and fell prostrate before the Lord. They had failed to be victorious because there was sin in the camp. The Shevarim sound is a broken sound, a wailing for repentance, a cry to get right with G-d, to seek His forgiveness and know then His victory.

For Christians, Yochanan, John wrote -

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’ 1 John 1:5-10

Teruah, nine very short blasts is a call to wake up, an alarm.

The next sound of the shofar is the Teruah after which the Feast is named. It literally means ‘Shout’. It is a call to wake up.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) (1135-1204) said (Mishneh Torah, Hikhot Teshuvah 3:4): “Although it is a divine decree that we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, there is a hint of the following idea contained in the command. As if to say: ‘Awake from your slumber, you who have fallen asleep in life, and reflect on your deeds. Remember your Creator. Those of you who miss reality in the pursuit of shadows, and waste their years in seeking vain things which do not profit or deliver, look well into your souls and improve your behaviour. Forsake each of you your evil ways and thoughts.’”

It is time for us to wake up from our slumber, there is a battle to be fought as we see the storm clouds gathering in our nations and throughout the world. It is a time to seek the LORD like never before and remember that we do not fight in our own strength.

This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.Zechariah 4:6

Tekiah Gadol, a long blast is a shout of victory! It is the last trump, at least for Yom Teruah. The final great trump is on Yom Kippur.

The final blast is this one. The first time the trumpet was sounded by G-d was to bring all the Israelites to the foot of Mt Sinai. God told Moses ‘When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.Exodus 19:13

Christians also look to a future gathering in 1 Cor 15:51-54

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."

Also in Isaiah 26:19

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.


The prophetic significance of the feasts Christians relate to Messiah Yeshua who said that He had not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets but rather to fulfil them (Matthew 5:1). We see that He fulfilled the Spring Feasts in his death and resurrection. The Summer Feast of Shavuot was also fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yeshua is considered yet to fulfil the Fall Feasts.

Finally, Christians look forward to the Teruah, the cry of command from the LORD Himself accompanied by the sound of the shofar!

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

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