At sundown last night, the Jewish people started celebrating their New Year: Rosh Hashanah. They are beginning the year 5783, and their celebration will go until Tuesday.
Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, was ordained by God when He instructed Moses: “Say to the Israelites: on the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:23-25).
This day is the first of the High Holy Days in Judaism, and it goes from one to two Tishrei on the Jewish calendar. The month of Tishrei falls between September and October on the Gregorian calendar. Rosh Hashanah has also been called The Day of Judgment in reference to Revelation 20:15, which talks about those not found in the “Book of Life” being cast into the “lake of fire.”
There are many traditions observed in celebration of Rosh Hashanah. Apples dipped in honey are a staple food eaten during this holiday to symbolize the excellent year expected ahead. Some people who are of European Jewish heritage celebrate with a seder feast, where they eat pomegranates, dates, string beans, beets, pumpkins, leeks, fish heads, and challah bread. These foods all symbolize a good upcoming year that is blessed by God.
In Israel, people stay up all night on the first night of the New Year because they don’t want to fall asleep and lose good luck. Another tradition called Tashlich includes going to the banks of rivers and shaking off their clothes and pockets to get rid of all sins committed in the previous year. During this time, there are also many prayers said from Micah 7:18-20:
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.”
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated to remember the creation of the world. “Rosh Hashanah” literally means “head of the year.” Like all Jewish holidays, it begins at sundown when the shofar is blown, telling people it’s time to repent. The shofar is made from a ram’s horn and is essential to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, if Rosh Hashanah falls on the Sabbath, the shofar is not blown.
Unlike other New Year celebrations, Rosh Hashanah is a solemn occasion for God’s people to inwardly reflect, forgive, and remember what God has done. It’s also a joyful occasion as they look forward to what God will do in the upcoming year.
While Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday, the practice of reflection is applicable to all followers of Christ. Paul encourages Christians to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5a). It is vital for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, to assess their faith and make sure they genuinely believe in God and are striving to follow Him fully. This week, I encourage you to make time to do so.