By Toni Ford
Over this past year, I have loved learning how God speaks to us prophetically through the Hebraic calendar with the purpose of giving us direction for the season ahead. At the creation of the world, God not only instituted a weekly Shabbat cycle and monthly “firstfruits” cycle, but also ordained a yearly cycle of life marked by a series of feasts or appointed times. Understanding these cycles is the starting point for a life of blessing!
This past week, from Monday to Wednesday, we experienced Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The name “Rosh Hashanah” literally means, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah, which means “day of shouting or blasting.” It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, also known as “Days of Awe,” as specified by Leviticus 23: 23-25.
Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishri. You may notice that the Bible speaks of Rosh Hashanah as occurring on the first day of the seventh month. The first month of the Jewish calendar is Nissan, occurring in March and April. Why then does the Jewish “new year” occur in Tishri, the seventh month? Judaism has several different new years, a concept that may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American new year starts in January, but a new school year starts in August or September. Also, many businesses have fiscal years that start at various times of the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar. Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).
This leads us to ask what is the significance or importance of Rosh Hashanah and this time of year?
* Holy Days of Awe. Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world, acknowledging this time as the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman created by God. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday, also known as the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two “High Holy Days” in the Jewish religion.
* The Blasts of the Shofar. On Rosh Hashanah, we renew our relationship with God with celebration and blasts of the shofar (a ram’s horn trumpet). Hearing the sound of the shofar is the single, unique commandment which we see in Leviticus 16:24, “In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation.” One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day as celebration and also as a call to repentance.
* The Customs of Foods. The foods on the table during this holiday are richly symbolic and meaningful. Many sweet foods are served to usher in a sweet year of blessings and abundance. Apples dipped in honey are some of the first foods thought of when one mentions Rosh Hashanah. The reasons apples are chosen is based on the design of apple tree. Some fruit trees shade their produce with new leaves, but apple trees offer their fruit no such protection. Being different could make these trees vulnerable, yet they thrive regardless, a sentiment carried by the Jewish people. Honey, of course, is a sweet, perfect for symbolizing the start of the year. The tradition of dipping apples in honey dates back hundreds of years. Today, many tables showcase apple honey cakes.
Another recognizable feature of a Rosh Hashanah meal is this braided egg bread, which is typically served on Shabbat. During Rosh Hashanah, the bread is shaped into spirals or rounds to symbolize continuity. The challah honey cakes are symbolic of the desire for a sweet and positive upcoming year. On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, “new fruit,” or seasonal produce that has not been tasted since the start of the season, is eaten. The fruit symbolizes gratefulness for being alive the most typical new fruit is the pomegranate for its biblical significance. The Land of Israel was known for its pomegranates, which is one of the “seven species” of Israel, and for its abundant seeds. Given that Rosh Hashanah translates to “head of the year,” a head has to make an appearance somewhere on the menu. While this may include the head of a sheep or rooster, it’s often as simple as a whole roast fish. As a bonus, fish symbolize fertility and abundance.
Casting Off. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh, or “casting off.” This is done by walking to flowing water, such as a creek or river, and emptying one’s pockets, which symbolically stands for “casting off our sins.” Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible but is a long-standing custom and normally observed on the afternoon of the first day.
When we get to this time of the year, we have already come through two feast cycles and are ready to enter another. God has declared a time for us to feast at the Head of the Year, which provides revelation for the year ahead. Divine providence creates a new beginning, so this is a time when God will release certain revelation that will start your beginning in a new way. This month, Tishri, is the month to “press though to touch HIM!” God wants to reveal Himself to you in new ways, so our responsibility is to press through to hear Him and experience Him in new ways as we enter into this New Year!
If you would like me to join you in prayer please email me at email@example.com. I would love to pray for you!