The Hebrew calendar begins with the month of Nissan. During the month of Nissan the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt. It is important to remember the days of slavery to fully appreciate (and celebrate) the freedom that Jesus the Messiah has brought to the world. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He has delivered the world from eternal death and the damnation of sin. The victory of what Christ did for the whole earth is greater than the victory of Jewish slavery from Egypt; but it is another symbol and another reminder.
Rosh Hashanah (It means “Head of the Year”) is the Hebrew celebration of the New Year and the Birthday of the world. It falls on the first two days of the month of Tishrei (seventh month in the Hebrew calendar) and is ten days before Yom Kippur.
This is meant to be a sober time of remembrance. Many people use this time to reflect on the past year and the lessons they have learned (or not learned) through it. Although this reflection is serious, it is also filled with hope as we can look forward to a new beginning and see a fresh perspective of our past mistakes over the year.
Rosh Hashanah also is called: Yom Hakeseh, which means to hide, conceal or to cover. This is the only holiday that celebrates the “New Moon”. During this time, the Jewish people celebrate that the gates of heaven are opened during this time. We, as Messianic believers, know that the gates of heaven have been opened since Jesus the Messiah came to redeem all of humanity through His death (and resurrection) at the cross. Heaven is available to all men, Jew and Gentile, through the death of Jesus. Heaven is opened with prayer.
Rosh Hashanah is also referred to as: “The feast of Trumpets”. Trumpets signify remembrance. This is a call for man to remember God; and for God to remember man.
Traditionally, during the trumpet blast of the Rosh Hashanah, it is a symbol of man asking God to move from the seat of judgment into the seat of mercy. We, as Messianic believers, know that God has already judged all the sins of man when He poured out His wrath on Jesus at the cross. All men, Jew and Gentile, have the opportunity to receive God’s blessing, mercy and adoption into His family and eternal kingdom when they ask Jesus to cover their sins with His shed blood.
Here are some verses that celebrate the mercy of God:
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” Lam. 3:22
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoeth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us: He will subdue our iniquities; and thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and their mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Mich. 7: 18-20
“I, even I, am He that blotteth out they transgressions for mine own sake and will not remember thy sins.” Is. 43:25
The three themes of the feast of Trumpets are:
1. Resurrection of the Righteous: Rev. 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second hath hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
2. Coronation of The King: Rev. 19:11-16 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that o man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
3. Marriage of the King: Rev. 19:7-9 “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, cleansed and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And He saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And He saith unto me, these are the true sayings of God.”
Yamim Nora’im (Which means the days of Awe in Hebrew) is the term used to describe the combined celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. As a result, during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them) the Jewish people seriously examine their lives and repent for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This inner process of repentance is called Teshuvah.
During these days, the Jewish people are encouraged to pray to God and ask Him to convict them of anything that He would not be pleased with. An important part of the tradition is to make amends with any person one may have wronged and to make fresh commitments for improving character and relationships during the coming year.
God looks upon the heart and asking for forgiveness without repentance is not truly asking for forgiveness. God is not a God of rules and regulations. He is a God that looks upon the sincere desires and intentions of the heart.
Repentance is broken down into these two root words: “Re” originating from the word “return”; and “Pent” coming from the word “penthouse”, (or highest place of inhabitance). A person who has a truly repentant heart, is one not only has stopped the offensive sin or sinful attitude, but turned away from it and is now choosing to step up to a higher level.
Many people do not feel sorry for the sins they have committed. If one is honest about this callous condition of the heart, God will help him (or her) if they ask the Holy Spirit to unleash conviction and sorrow for the offenses committed against man and ultimately, against God Himself.
The theme of these Holy Days is to develop and grow to be more like Christ every year, to come together as a community and be accountable for our sins and our commitments to be good friends, neighbors and family members. The goal and commitment of every human being is to work with the spirit of God in continuing to better themselves.
Although the theme of Rosh Hashanah is life and death, it is also a holiday that is filled with hope. God is a compassionate God that desires His people to repent, turn from their sins and rely on Him to help them develop the character qualities that Christ reflected.
God is anticipating the repentant prayers of a heart that is broken with sin. He accepts and hears the prayers that are interceded by the sacrifice of His perfect Son, Christ. He looks upon the death of Christ the Messiah and receives the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God and forgives the sins of those who pray with a sincere and repentant heart.
Customs and Symbols:
Shofar– This is a ram’s horn that is blown 100 times during each of the 2 days of Rosh Hashanah. (It a auditory reminder to reflect upon the past.) When the ram’s horn is blown, it signifies a time of deep respect, careful consideration, and deep reflection of the inner state of one’s heart and motivations.
Tashlich (means “casting off”) – takes place during the first day of Rosh Hashanah. This is the tradition of tossing pieces of bread into a body of flowing water. This signifies letting go of the “yeast” (yeast is a symbol of sin and corruption in the Jewish culture) that has slowly leaked into our lives. This “casting off” ceremony symbolizes a deliberate action to throw away compromise and corruption, and start with a new, fresh, clean slate in our motives with the Lord.
L’ Shanah Tovah– Is the traditional greeting during this time of celebration. It means: “May you have a good year.”
Challah bread (bread baked in braids)- is formed into a round piece, symbolizing the continuation of life. Typically, the Challah bread is baked in a long braided piece. During this season of remembrance and celebration, The Challah bread is still braided, but then baked in circle. This is a physical symbol of asking God for the blessing of another year and to continue to bless with another cycle of life.
Apples dipped in honey– Is usually eaten after a prayer that says: “May it by Thy will, O Lord, Our God, to grant us a year that is good and sweet.” Apples and honey symbolize blessing, fruitfulness, joy and comfort. The sweetness of life cannot be enjoyed unless we take the time to notice it, celebrate it, cherish it and give the God the credit for being the one who brings these blessings. We honor Christ for being the apple and honey of a life that was once desolate, and bitter with sin.
Pomegranates– Are traditionally eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. This tradition is to honor and thank God for the new season and the new fruit. (The pomegranate was specifically chosen because it has 613 seeds. (One for each of the mitzvoth.)
Unetaneh Tokef– This is a traditional prayer that is about life and death. A section of this prayer reads: “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, how many will leave this world and how many will be born into it, who will live and who will die…But penitence, prayer and good deeds can annul the severity of the decree.” We, as Messianic believers, know that God is in control of our days on earth. We are lift up the Lord and praise Him for the gift of life and ask that He have mercy and bless us with another fruitful year. No deed can be done to “coax or bribe” the Lord into doing what He chooses. We make the choice to do good deeds; as a pure gift to honor God, not as a bribe in expectation of special favor. Of course we ask for His blessing; but God is wise enough to see if our motives are to love Him and do good because we to, or to serve Him out of obligation or to receive a blessing. If God chooses to grant our life with death in the coming year; so be it. Man cannot defy nature (no man lives forever) or override God’s plan for our lifespan. In the end, all those who have accepted Christ as the Messiah will be joined with God and Jesus Christ for eternity. What better place is there to be than that?
Avienu Malkeinu– (which means: “Our Father Our King” in Hebrew.) Often, the entire congregation will sing the last verse of this prayer in unison. It says: “Our Father, our King, answer us as though we have no deed to plead our cause, save us with mercy and loving-kindness.” The Messianic believer will include Jesus Christ in this prayer. Jesus died and suffered a horrible death of willing sacrifice. He was the perfect Passover lamb that appeased the wrath of God for the sin of all of mankind. We honor and praise the Messiah for this gift, and ask for mercy to save all fellow men (Jew and Gentile) on earth. We ask Him to bless us with the wisdom of the correct time and words to speak the good news of the Messiah and the blessings His death provided for all of humanity.
As we are focusing on the new year, it is crucial that we celebrate and acknowledge the new creature we are in Christ. For with God all good changes are possible for we, as believers in Christ, have the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in us.
These verses give glory and praise to a God that loved humanity so much, that He sent His only Son to pay the ransom for each person’s individual sins (against Him).
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3: 13-14
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you and expected end.” Jer. 29:11
As we are taking time to reflect on our good and bad deeds, Let us celebrate the mercy and goodness of God. He took the time, and went through much personal pain, to reach out to humanity with the most sacrificial gift one could give—His only Son. Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of a world who showed no mercy or repentance.
Rosh Hashannah focuses on repentance and we, as Messianic believers, see the truth and the light that was in Christ. We repent and ask for mercy this coming year to all those who have not seen the light of Christ yet. This year is a new beginning and a fresh chance to be a witness to those whom the Lord has put on our hearts.
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage: He treatineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy. HE will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Mich. 7:18-20
“Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for another year of life. During this time of reflection, I ask that you bring to my remembrance the attitudes and actions I have committed that have not been pleasing to you. Unleash the power of your conviction to bring me to my knees in true repentance. As I am asking for forgiveness, give me the release of my guilt. I know I am coming to you through the power of the blood of Jesus. I know that because of what He did, I can come freely to your throne of grace and be washed of all my sins. I am condemned no more of the sins I have confessed and sought forgiveness for.
Thank you for the chance to start over, to be washed new. This freedom will allow me to walk with confidence and see clearly as I learn from these past mistakes.
I praise you and thank you that you are the God of mercy and forgiveness and that it gives you much pleasure to bring me into closer relationship with you.
I know my sin is what separates my communion with you and I reject anything that will take away from me knowing you, hearing from you or disappointing you.
I want to please you and I pray that this year will be the most pleasing to you yet. I want to serve you with power and with praise and I can only do this if I am completely submitted to your will and not my own.
Please change my heart’s desires to become the desires of your heart for my life and bless me as I venture out on a new year. I ask for a fresh anointing of your Holy Spirit, as I will need it to walk in victory.
Thank you for your blessing, for the life that you have given me and for the health that I am enjoying today. I would love to have another year of this blessing, but if that is not your will, Lord, I know I will be in a better place—I will be enjoying the land of apples and honey, the eternal Israel, heaven.
As for me and my house, we are dedicated to serving the Lord. In Jesus’ name, I thank you, I bless you and I praise you! Selah. Amen.”
Author: Julia Shalom Jordan