Feast of Trumpets: Shofar, Sho Good
Today we get to celebrate our first biblical holiday, everyone! Woo hoo!
Tonight at sundown, the Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh HaShanah) begins. In Judaism, the new day always begins at sundown because in the creation account in Genesis, it says “and there was evening and there was morning — the first day” and so on. The Bible lists evening first in a day, so the Jews do as well.
Feast of Trumpets is the first of the three fall holidays, and this holiday along with the Day of Atonement ten days later are known as the High Holy Days.
God talked to His people about the Feast of Trumpets in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6. There are not a lot of instructions or reasoning given in these passages — mostly the Israelites were supposed to take a special Sabbath and avoid all work. (Should we all take the day off tomorrow?!) It is also a day that the Israelites blew the shofar, which was a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. It is unclear why God commanded the blowing of a trumpet for this holiday, but many believe it was a time to call people to repentance. The Feast of Trumpets begins the Days of Awe, which are the ten days that lead up to Israel’s most solemn holiday, the Day of Atonement.
So, when the shofar sounded on Feast of Trumpets, the Israelites would have stopped to remember God’s acts on their behalf — His promises to Abraham, the Exodus, the mighty miracles in the desert. It also would have begun a time of serious reflection for the days leading up to the Day of Atonement.
Today the Feast of Trumpets is more commonly known as Rosh HaShanah. It is the Jewish new year (in Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah means “head of the year”), because, although the religious year starts in the spring with Passover, the civil year starts in the fall.
Today Rosh HaShanah is celebrated by going to a worship service. I went to a Messianic service for Rosh HaShanah once (Messianic Jews have accepted Jesus as their Messiah). Everyone at the service was dressed in white as a recognition of a fresh start for the new year.
They blew the shofar during the service, as God commanded. There are short staccato blasts and long mournful ones. I picture a man in robes in the camp of Israel, blowing the shofar, calling all of the people to remember the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of blazing fire that warmed them by night.
They also had a long praise and worship session during the service, and the women of the congregation danced at the front with tambourines. People were much more active in their worship than I was used to, but then I remembered that God invites this kind of active praise. The word for “rejoice” in the Bible is “nagila” — literally to twirl and dance in praise of God. This is the Jewish way, this is the way of the people of God. We might do well to praise the Lord with their same passion.
Another tradition of Rosh HaShanah is to eat apples and challah bread dipped in honey — the sweetness on your tongue makes you hopeful to God for a sweet new year.
I made challah bread last night and brought it in to work today. (Here’s the recipe I used in case you want to make some. It’s quite easy! I would probably use 6 cups of flour instead of 8 next time, though!).
Jesus would have celebrated all the biblical holidays when He lived on earth, and many people believe that Jesus either fulfilled or will fulfill each of these feasts in a special way. Rosh HaShanah is associated with trumpets, so some believe that Christ’s return, signaled by a trumpet, will be related to this holiday.
Many people start preparing for atonement at Rosh Hoshanah. They pray and reflect and hope that God will write their names in the Book of Life. When I went to the messianic Rosh HaShanah service, the rabbi reminded us that we are grateful to God that Jesus came and died as our atonement — once and for all. We don’t have to convince God, year after year, that we’ll be good enough or right enough because he has made us righteousness when we had none. Blessed be He!
So, that’s our celebration of Feast of Trumpets! L’shanah tovah! (Happy New Year!)
* What is something that stood out to you in this explanation of the Feast of Trumpets?