This is an important time of the year for the Jewish community, as it is Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe, eventually leading to Yom Kippur. Although Christians are not required to observe these holidays, it may be helpful to understand what these festivals are since they are in the Bible, what it means for the Jews, and what it means for us as Christians.
Rosh Hashanah, or Yom Teru’ah - the Feast of Trumpets, or Yom ha-Zikaron - the Day of Remembrance, marks the beginning of the New Year of years. It falls on the month of Tishri, the seventh “new moon” of the year, which is usually around September or October, depending on the Jewish Calendar.
According to Jewish sages, Moses first ascends Sinai to receive the first tablets on Sivan 6, 49 days after the Exodus. 40 days later, the tablets are broken on Tammuz 17. Moses intercedes for Israel until God calls Moses back up on Elud 1, and returns to the camp with the second tablets on Tishri 10. The “Season of Teshuvah” (Repentance) begins with Elud 1 and continues to Tishri 10, during Moses’ second ascension up Sinai and his return with the tablets.
This festival is observed according to Leviticus 23:34:
23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “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.25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”
During this ten-day festival, repentance, prayer, and charity are important elements since their destinies depend on them. God will write his or her name either in the Book of Life or the Book of Death, and the people have ten days to change their destiny until it is sealed on Yom Kippur. The “Ten Days of Repentance” calls people to self-examine, pray, forgive and reconcile any strained relationships.
The shofar, or the ram’s horn, is blown, at least 100 times in a typical Rosh Hashanah service, to make a joyful noise unto the LORD. The shofar is to remind them of God’s provision of a ram in exchange for Isaac in Genesis 22, and the “very loud trumpet blast” in Exodus 19 before Moses received the Torah on Sinai.
Yom Kippur begins on the nightfall of Tishri 9 and continues 25 hours until the end of Tishri 10. During Tishri 10, the High Priest would perform a special ceremony to cleanse the Temple and the people, outlined in Leviticus 16. A bull is sacrificed to cleanse the priests and his household. Two goats are brought and lots are drawn. The one chosen for the LORD would be sacrificed, while the other, after the High Priest having laid his hands on its head to confess the transgressions of the people, is sent away into the wilderness - the scapegoat.
It is said that Yom Kippur is the only Holiday of the year where fasting is explicitly commanded: “…It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves…” (Leviticus 23:27). Thus, a special meal is prepared on the eve of Yom Kippur and blessings are shared. The fast begins an hour before sundown on Tishri 9 until an hour past sundown on Tishri 10. According to the Halakhah, or the Jewish Law, these five forms of pleasures are forgoed:
Throughout the “Season of Teshuvah” is the principle of “life for life”. The days of repentance lead up to the High Priest’s atonement, exchanging the life blood of an innocent animal for the life blood of a guilty worshipper. This cleansing is necessary because we worship a holy and just God. As it is written: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22)
For the Jews, the promised Messiah has not yet come. Thus a human mediator functioning as the High Priest must continually offer up sacrifices yearly to atone for the people’s sin. Without this exchange, there can be no forgiveness of sins, since God’s justice is not satisfied.
For the Christians, the promised Messiah has come – Jesus Christ, who entered not into a temple made with human hands, but into heaven itself, on our behalf. He came as a man so that He can offer life blood not of goats and bulls but His very own, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, once for all (Hebrews 9:22-28). He is the Great High Priest through which we can enter true rest (Hebrews 4). He is the propitiation for sins, fully satisfying the justice of God (Romans 3:25). This is why Christians do not need to observe Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, because these festivals are shadows pointing to the true provision, Jesus Christ.
For the Jews, God is said to examine each soul to see repentance is complete. If a person turns to God and reconciles with his brother, he will be given another year. If he does not repent, then he will die during the coming year.
For the Christians, we believe the names of those in the Book of Life were written before the foundation of the world (Revelations 13:8). The names are not written year by year, depending on our works, but have already been sealed. Those who trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ will find themselves repenting and being renewed day by day until He returns (2 Corinthians 3:18). And then “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet... the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10) and that we must “give account for every careless word” we speak (Matthew 12:36). Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remind us to rejoice that Christ sealed our destiny on Calvary, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for the tree will be known by its fruit. Let us pray for the Jewish community that their hearts be softened and eyes be opened to see Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Jesus is coming soon. Come Lord Jesus! (Revelations 22:20)
Nearly all the information about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur came from this resource:
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