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Rosh Hashanah - the Ten Days of Awe - and Yom Kippur 

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UPDATED:APR 27, 2021, ORIGINAL:OCT 27, 2009
Rosh Hashanah

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 Rosh Hashanah is not mentioned in the Torah, Judaism’s founding religious text, and appears under different names in the Bible. Though the holiday was likely well established by the sixth century B.C., the phrase “Rosh Hashanah” shows up for the first time in the Mishna, a Jewish code of law compiled in 200 A.D.

   The Hebrew calendar begins with the month of Nisan, but Rosh Hashanah occurs at the start of Tishrei, when God is said to have created the world. For this reason, Rosh Hashanah can be seen as the birthday of the world rather than New Year’s in the secular sense; still, it is on Rosh Hashanah that the number of the civil year increases. The Mishna described three other “new years” in the Jewish calendar in addition to Rosh Hashanah. Nisan 1 was used to resume the cycle of months and measure the duration of kings’ reigns. Elul 1 resembled the start of the modern fiscal year and determined the tithing of animals for charity or sacrifice. Shevat 15 calculated the age of fruit-bearing trees and is now celebrated as the minor holiday of Tu B’Shevat.

   According to tradition, God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year. Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah; people who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Rosh Hashanah and the days surrounding it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others.

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

   Unlike modern New Year’s celebrations, which are often raucous parties, Rosh Hashanah is a subdued and contemplative holiday. Because Jewish texts differ on the festival’s length, Rosh Hashanah is observed for a single day by some denominations and for two days by others. Work is prohibited, and religious Jews spend much of the holiday attending synagogue. Because the High Holy Day prayer services include distinct liturgical texts, songs and customs, rabbis and their congregations read from a special prayer book known as the machzor during both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

   The sounding of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The ancient instrument’s plaintive cry serves as a call to repentance and a reminder to Jews that God is their king. Tradition requires the shofar blower to play four sets of notes on Rosh Hashanah: tekiah, a long blast; shevarim, three short blasts; teruah, nine staccato blasts; and tekiah gedolah, a very long blast. Because of this ritual’s close association with Rosh Hashanah, the holiday is also known as Yom Teruah—the day of the sounding of the shofar.

   After religious services are over, many Jews return home for a festive meal steeped in symbolism and tradition. Some choose to wear new or special clothing and to adorn their tables with fine linens and place settings in recognition of Rosh Hashanah’s significance. The meal typically begins with the ceremonial lighting of two candles and features foods that represent positive wishes for the new year.

   Apples and honey: One of the most popular Rosh Hashanah customs involves eating apple slices dipped in honey, sometimes after saying a special prayer. Ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties, and the honey signifies the hope that the new year will be sweet. Rosh Hashanah meals usually include an assortment of sweet treats for the same reason.

   Round challah: On Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) and other holidays, Jews eat loaves of the traditional braided bread known as challah. On Rosh Hashanah, the challah is often baked in a round shape to symbolize either the cyclical nature of life or the crown of God. Raisins are sometimes added to the dough for a sweet new year.

   Tashlich: On Rosh Hashanah, some Jews practice a custom known as tashlich (“casting off”), in which they throw pieces of bread into a flowing body of water while reciting prayers. As the bread, which symbolize the sins of the past year, is swept away, those who embrace this tradition are spiritually cleansed and renewed.

   “L’shana tovah”: Jews greet each other on Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew phrase “L’shana tovah,” which translates to “for a good year.” This is a shortened version of the Rosh Hashanah salutation “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (“May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year”).


   Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is one of Judaism’s holiest days. Meaning “head of the year” or “first of the year,” the festival begins on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which falls during September or October by the Gregorian calendar. Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holy day, also known as the Day of Atonement. This period of time at the beginning of Tishrei marks the “High Holy Days” in the Jewish religion.

When is Rosh Hashanah?

   Rosh Hashanah 2022 begins at sundown, Sunday, September 25, 2022 and ends on the evening of Tuesday, September 27, 2022. The exact date of Rosh Hashanah varies every year, since it is based on the Hebrew [luni-solar] Calendar, where it begins on the first day of the seventh month. Rosh Hashanah is almost always in September or October. Yom Kippur 2022 begins on the tenth day of Tishrei at sundown, or Tuesday, October 4. Gather with friends and family and enjoy a good meal before the beginning of Yom Kippur, and the fast. It ends at sundown Wednesday, October 5, by the Gregorian calendar.

a brief look at the Ten Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur     see also the text of the Al Chet prayer

   As noted above, Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets and again, carries with it the idea of the Messiah coming, or in the case of Christian believers, the Messiah returning. It is the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, and in the Jewish culture this is the period of time when God “opens the books” and begins judging all living creatures to see whose lives merit eternal life, and whose fall short. Some Christians find this feast to be very meaningful, as during these Ten Days of Awe, we recognize that ALL humanity falls short. We are encouraged to seek the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, asking to understand how the things we do are displeasing in His sight. It's a time to bring into focus those sins that so easily entangle us and then we ask for guidance, direction and insight regarding His divine plan for our lives.

   The Sages say that when Adam first opened his eyes and took his first breath, he declared God to be the King of the Universe and acknowledged Him as his Creator. Then again, a sage is just a sage, and they say a lot of things (let the reader use discernment).

   The Jews not only believe that on this day (Rosh Hashanah) Adam and Eve were created, but also that this was the day of the binding of Isaac for sacrifice, the Akedah (Genesis 22) as a prefiguration of the sacrifice of the Messiah.

   The Akedah, as prophetic symbolism, speaks of God providing His first born Son as a sacrifice for our sins. In baptism, we accept the sacrifice of Yeshua, and are cleansed from our sins, but that cleansing requires our confession and repentance.

   One thought-provoking aspect of Jewish tradition during the Days of Awe is that Jews will visit a moving body of water and cast pieces of bread upon the waters and watch as they are carried away (tashlich). The bread is symbolic of confession of sins and the discouraging aspects of life. It helps to focus on both repentance and God's forgiveness, for when we confess, He washes us clean and removes our sins. These two themes need to be woven into these Ten Days of Awe as we proclaim Yahweh to be both King and Creator of the universe, and reflect on our sinfulness, while asking for His merciful grace. 

   One of the other customs - one that enjoys widespread opposition, is called the Kapparot ritual. This involves, holding a live chicken by it's feet and waving it around over one's head, while reciting a formulaic prayer, asking that one's sins be transferred to the chicken, which is then butchered. There is a substantial degree of maltreatment involved in the poor care given to these creatures prior to the ritual itself. This ritual has brought criticism from rabbis as well as animal rights groups. The ritual is not sanctified in scripture, where in fact, causing grief to animals is prohibited in Torah, and the practice is likewise not mentioned in the Talmud. It is customary to perform the ritual on the eve of Yom Kippur, however, some allow it through to the end of Sukkot. Some will substitute flowers instead of a chicken, or often times money will serve as common substitutes. Even so, cruelty to chickens remains a highly favored tradition. 

   And then the culmination, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the holiest day of the Jewish year. This is the day when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, a small room in the Temple containing the Ark of the Covenant. A sacred room where only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only on one day of the year, to do a little dusting, and pray for the atonement of the sins of the nation. Animal sacrifices were made according ritual ceremonies in order to remove the sins of the people.

   However, the Christian understanding is that Yeshua is now the eternal High Priest, and has risen to the right hand of God. Christians recognize Yeshua as the embodiment of everything the Temple stood for, including the Most Holy chamber of the Temple, the sacrifices, and including the High Priest. As stated, our complete justification and our names being found in the Lamb’s Book of Life is predicated on what He did, not on our confessions, prayers, or acts of repentance. 

   It is a mitzvah in the Torah to fast on Yom Kippur, the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The fast begins before sundown on 9 Tishrei ( Yom Kippur eve) and finishes after nightfall the following night. This means no eating and drinking at all, not even water. We must also refrain from bathing, brushing teeth, or wearing perfume.

   Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan once said, “When we refrain from indulging our physical appetites for a limited period, in order to devote ourselves for a time more exclusively to demands that rank higher in our hierarchy of values, we are not denying the physical appetites their just place in life; we are simply recognizing the need of putting them in their place.”

   Jewish tradition recognizes that fasting is not a safe practice for all Jews. For this reason, children under the age of 13 and individuals who are pregnant or ill are not required to partake in the fast of Yom Kippur. In fact, people who are pregnant or nursing are explicitly exempted from fasting, lest it harm them or the fetus/baby.

   Those who are ill or have chronic medical conditions should talk to their doctor before fasting to make sure it is safe, and any medications you take daily should also be taken on Yom Kippur. Fasting is not supposed to endanger your life or your health. Before you begin such a fast, you should take some healthy precautions. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.

   Finally, it is noted that the blowing of the shofar is a regular feature of the High Holy Days each year, which is why many Christians believe that the return of the Messiah will occur during the High Holy Days. Only Yahweh knows when, but we are told that we must stay alert and sober, and not allow ourselves to be deceived. Among His parables we find the illustration of the workers being found busy when the Master returns, and receiving a reward.

   For Jews the sounding of the shofar can carry either of two primary significant meanings. First is to sound the alarm, and prepare for battle, but secondly it is used to sound a fanfare for the coronation of the King, the Messiah, a time to make a joyful noise. In the Book of Revelation, there is the description of the Messiah returning with an army of angels, descending to the earth at the sound of the shofar. 

With that being said, the ecumenical examiner would like to wish all the best to our readers, and friends. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year. Shalom. Amen. Hallelujah.

Incidentally, if you don't own a shofar, you might consider getting one. Whether you are a Christian or a Jew, you can order them in all sizes, types, and in various price ranges through the internet.

  The day for making a joyful noise will soon be upon us. Among other sites, you might try; 


   The Biblical 'Festivals of God' are as important and relevant for Gentile Christians as they are for the Jewish people; “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: ‘These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts’” (Leviticus 23:1-2).

   Leviticus 23 spells out the seven 'Feasts of God': Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits. (These three springtime feasts are closely connected, taking place over an eight day holiday period.) Pentecost (Shavuot, celebrating the close of the harvest season.)

   In prophetic terms, these first four feasts describe work that Yahweh has already done. First in presenting the Messiah Yeshua. We are currently living in the period between the Feast of Pentecost which saw the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit indicating God's stamp of approval on Messiah's disciples to begin the great harvest of souls -- and the festivals of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot). Note that in Lev. 23:4 it says that the feasts would happen "in their seasons."

   Here is why it's so important to know and understand these feasts, even if you aren't Jewish: These seven feasts integrate and embody profound prophecy, lighting a way for us from the coming of the Messiah to the End of Days. These seven feasts depict the entire redemptive mission of Yeshua. Through the ordained feasts God gave to Moses, we can see the timeline for Yahweh’s rescue plan for His earthly children. The sequence and timing of these feasts were carefully arranged and coordinated by Yahweh Himself to bring His people into relationship with Him and to offer a blessed assurance of a place in the coming Kingdom of God.

   The High Holy days, in particular, embody a period of renewal, forgiveness, freedom and joy, as well as somber reflection that can enable us to deal with the more difficult measures of life that we all must deal with, like repentance and forgiveness, thus providing channels to reflect on the events of the past year and to make adjustments in our lives hopefully bringing us into a closer relationship with God Almighty. 

   While we don't know the day or the hour, remember God has provided us with signs to recognize that the return of the Messiah is drawing near. After describing the End Times in the Olivet Discourse Yeshua added:


 The sound of the Lord’s return will ring like the coronation of a King coming to establish His Kingdom for the good of mankind;

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever'” - Revelation 11:15

Customs and Symbols of Rosh Hashanah

History and significance of Rosh Hashanah

"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." - Luke 21: 28

see also the text of the Avenu Malkeinu prayer