The Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are coming up in the next few weeks. Pop culture, greeting cards, and special sales at the grocery store have made these holidays relatively well known. But if you were to look up them up in the Bible, you won’t find Rosh Hashanah anywhere.
Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) – along with other well-known holidays like Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) – are mentioned several times throughout Scripture. You can find them particularly in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29.
But Rosh Hashanah isn’t listed. Not once. Anywhere.
Instead, you will find Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets or Shouting), scheduled on the same day as what we know as Rosh Hashanah! But what is Yom Teruah?
Yom Teruah is an appointed time, a moed. It’s a day to remember ADONAI with the blowing of trumpets in preparation for the upcoming day of atonement. It’s a day to bring an offering before ADONAI – both for sin and fellowship.
So, what’s the difference?
Is it the same holiday with two different names? Or are they two different holidays scheduled for the same day?
The answer is a bit more complicated than just a simple yes or no. Surprisingly, Rosh Hashanah, is a traditional Jewish holiday – not a Biblical one! In traditional Judaism, Rosh Hashanah is known as the Jewish New Year, or “Head of the Year”. It was marked as a holiday by the ancient Rabbis in the Second Century CE in response to starting the agricultural cycle.
In Near Eastern cultures, the year began in what the Western world knows as Autumn – mostly because that’s when the process of sowing and reaping took place. Ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians usually had their own festivals to mark the occasion as well. But that’s not when ADONAI proclaimed that the first month of the year was to be.
According to God’s calendar, the first month of the new year is to be in what we know as the Spring, 14 days before Passover (Lev 23:4-6) on Nisan 1. Meanwhile, Yom Teruah is supposed to be on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei 1).
Which means that although Rosh Hashanah is often thought to be the beginning of the Jewish year, it’s actually closer to the middle of the year!
So technically, they’re two different holidays, celebrated on the same day, using the same imagery while partaking in similar activities. It seems a little complicated, right? It’s the result of Biblical cycles becoming eclipsed by Rabbinical cycles.
Ways to celebrate
Well, with all this in mind, what do we do as people who are seeking to live a Biblical lifestyle while remaining sensitive to Jewish traditions and culture? Here are some tips:
- Spend some time on Yom Teruah praying and preparing your heart for the days of awe and Yom Kippur to come.
- Give some kind of offering to the Lord on Yom Teruah. It can be anything – finances, time, or maybe something creative like a poem or song!
- If you can’t blow a shofar as commanded in Torah, become your own “trumpet”! Lift your voice and shout praises to God!
- Enjoy the traditional Jewish festivities surrounding Rosh Hashanah with your Jewish friends and families.
- Plan your own “Biblical New Year” party for the following Spring!
As you continue to live out God’s Word through His Biblical Feasts, keep ONE focus through it all – keep your eyes on GOD, the King of the Universe, and He will direct your steps.