Holiday Greetings in the Beloved!
The New Year, the Shofar, and Joy
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel saying: In the seventh month תשרי] Tishri], on the first day of the month [September 26th of this year], you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation” (Lev. 23:24). A “memorial of blowing of trumpets” in Hebrew is zikron teruah תרועה זכרון) zeekh-ROAN teh-ROO-ah). Another verse, referring to this holy convocation—moed מועד) moe-ED)—of Adonai is found in Numbers 29:1, “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation, you shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” This last phrase in Hebrew is yom teruah תרועה יום) yome teh-ROO-ah). Yom is the Hebrew word for day (long O sound). If someone says yam teruah—which I hear frequently—they are using the word for sea (yahm) instead of the word day (yohm).
So why is the first day of the seventh month called the New Year or the Head of the Year (Rosh HaShanah), even though the Bible clearly states that Nisan is the first month of the year (Ex. 12:2)?
A good question. There are two calendars in Judaism, one religious and one civil. In ancient times, Israel was mainly an agrarian society. A calendar was developed based on the annual gathering in of crops in the fall season. The first of Tishri was called the new year “for the years, for sabbatical years, for Jubilee years, for planting and for vegetables.” Tishri was later given spiritual significance as well. (A great book, The Fall Feasts of Israel, by Mitch and Zhava Glaser, is highly recommended and gives many insights on the Feast of Trumpets).
Teruah, from Yom Teruah, is one of the sounds made by the shofar or ram’s horn trumpet. This sound, comprised of nine, quick staccato blasts, can evoke fear, dread, or joy. For those who don’t
know that their sins have been forgiven, washed in the blood of God’s Son, the Messiah, the sound of the shofar can be ominous. But to those of us who, by the grace of God, have been made new in
Yeshua, the sound of the shofar means joy and victory. We relate to what King David said in Psalm 89:15, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.” And again: “With trumpets and the sound of a horn (shofar); shout joyfully before the LORD, the King” (Psalm 98:6).
Your Jewish friends may be totally unfamiliar with the name Yom Teruah, since Rosh HaShanah has totally eclipsed the biblical name of the day. There is an element of mystery to Yom Teruah as
well. It is the only feast of the Lord observed for two days instead of one, both in Israel and the Diaspora, because for many years no one knew for sure which day was the accurate day of the feast (due to the sighting of the new moon). Yom Teruah came to be known as Yom HaKeseh הכסה יום) yome ha-KEH-seh), the Day of Concealment or The Hidden Day.
Considering the fact that the Messiah Yeshua fulfilled the spring and summer feasts at His first coming and will fulfill the fall feasts at the second coming, this “mystery” may involve Him. Two verses seem related to the fulfillment of Yom Teruah: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a Erev Yom Teruah shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet (shofar) of God. And the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17). “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My father only” (Matt. 24:36). A hidden day! It might be a good idea to have your lamps filled with oil on September 26 and September 27, 2022. This could be the year that Yom Teruah is fulfilled.
The Sound of the Shofar
Kol HaShofar השופר קול) kohl hah show-FAR), the sound of the shofar. So much has been written about this special sound in traditional Jewish literature. One ancient rabbi, in Elyahu Zuta 2,
commented: “The shofar was created for the welfare of Israel. The Torah was given to Israel with the sound of the shofar, as it is said: When the voice of the shofar waxed louder and louder (Ex. 19:19). Israel conquered in the battle of Jericho with the blast of the shofar: when the people heard the sound of the shofar that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat (Josh. 6:20). Israel will be advised of the advent of the Messiah with the sound of the shofar: And the Lord God will blow the shofar (Zech. 9:14).” Yes! Messiah’s advent will be announced with the sound of the shofar, but it will be His second coming, not the first. He will come next time as King of kings and Lord of lords.
My heart goes out to pious men such as Samson Raphael Hirsch who wrote: “With the sound of the shofar, God once called us together on Sinai; with it He will once again gather us together. The
sound of the shofar used to call the slave to freedom, the poor man to his property, the disposed to his home. Even so the sound of the shofar at every Tishri calls us to God. It calls the slave of sensuality to Divine freedom. It calls the poor and rich to true riches. It calls the most distant wanderer to his own home. It calls every heart and spirit to a glorious jubilee” – from the Rosh HaShanah Anthology by Philip Goodman.
While traditional Jews, or anyone, may hear the call, we are all incapable of changing ourselves. Only God can do that— through His Spirit—on the inside! That is why we need to enter into the Brit
Hadashah, the New Covenant, promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. With God’s law written on our hearts, we can answer the call of the shofar and receive the freedom over sin and its dominion through the Messiah Yeshua. His voice, like a shofar, is mentioned in the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:10). Our response to that divine shofar call should always be, “Yes, Lord.”
The Book of Life and Joy
A traditional greeting at Yom Teruah is, “L’shanah tovah tikateyvu” תכתבו טובה לשנה) leh-shahNAH toe-VAH tee-kah TAY-voo). “May you be written for a good year.” This phrase refers to the traditional image of God writing one’s fate in the Book of Life—Sefer Hayyim חיים ספר) SAY-fair kheyeYEEM)—based on their actions during the year.
There’s a very sweet Rosh HaShanah poem written by a child, Ben Aronin, that shows the belief from childhood that our names are written in the Book of Life, based on our good deeds. The final
stanza of the poem says: “I dreamed about a great big book that has your name and mine; The name of everyone on earth, a name on every line. And when you do a kindly deed God writes, ‘That child is fine.'” Although God is pleased when we show kindness to others, our salvation (being written in His book) is not based on our good works. The Jewish prophet Isaiah said, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” (Is. 64:6). In the Brit Hadashah we read, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
The Old Covenant concept of the Book of Life is based on two verses: Psalm 69:28 and Exodus 32:32-33. King David says of his enemies, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not
be written with the righteous.” Moses said to the Lord, following the sin of the golden calf, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.‘”
Traditional Jewish rabbis came up with the concept that there are three books opened in the heavenly courts during Yom Teruah. The completely righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book
of Life. The completely wicked are inscribed in the Book of Death. The average persons are kept in suspension during the Ten Days of Awe נוראים ימים) yah-MEEM noe-rah-EEM) between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. If God is pleased by the sinner’s 1) repentance: t’shuvah תשבה) teh-shoo-VAH), 2) prayer: t’filah תפלה) teh-fee-LAH), and 3) charity: tzedakah צדקה) tzeh-DOCK-ah), he or she is inscribed in the Book of Life for that year. A common rabbinic saying is, “Sin blots man out from the book. Virtue sets his name there in indelible ink…”
While repentance, prayer, and charity (giving) are good, the Torah does not say these practices atone for sin. Only blood atones for sin. Our names must be spiritually written in blood in God’s Book. Leviticus 17:11 is clear: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Final atonement was made for us by Yeshua, God’s Son, our New Covenant High Priest, when He shed His blood for the sin of all mankind.
My husband, Neil, often told the story of the day that he realized that the Book of Life mentioned each year at Rosh HaShanah during his childhood belonged to someone! He had come across Revelation 21:27, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (See also Rev. 13:8). The Book belongs to Yeshua, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When we receive Him by faith as the One who paid the price for our sin, our names are written in His Book. This is cause for great rejoicing, as found in Luke 10:20, “..rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Revelation 3:5 says it as follows, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” How do we overcome? “By the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” (See Rev. 12:11.)
Other references to the Sefer Chayyim (Book of Life) are Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, and 22:19. Revelation 20:15 has serious implications and should help us have a healthy fear of the Lord:
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Yom Teruah and Return to God’s Word
On Yom Teruah in the year 444 B.C., Ezra and Nehamiah convened a great assembly of returnees from the Babylonian captivity in the temple court. “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the
assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month” (Neh. 8:2). The Bible tells us that all God’s people were attentive to the Book of the Law. They lifted their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Neh. 8:6). All the people wept when they heard the words of the Law. (Neh. 8:9). But those who taught the people said to them, “… this day is holy to the LORD your God, do not mourn nor weep…” (Neh. 8:9). “…Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
The context of that very famous Bible verse is The Feast of Trumpets—Yom Teruah! Khedvah Adonai אדוני חדוה) khed-VAH ah-doe-NYE), the Joy of the Lord! I certainly have found this to be true
this past year. From diagnosis of breast cancer on July 30, 2021, until the end of six weeks of radiation, post-surgery, on August 1, 2022, the joy of the Lord has sustained me in amazing ways. I have found that not only is the joy of the Lord my strength, the strength of the Lord is my joy. King David said this in Psalm 21:1, “The king shall have joy ישמח (yees-MAKH) in Your strength, O LORD; and in your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!”
The custom of feasting is part of the rejoicing on Yom Teruah. This is also based on the Nehemiah 8:10 verse: sweet foods, nothing sour or bitter (eg. no pickles!), honeycakes, round challah.
Guests for dinner. Apples dipped in honey. Lots of joy.
Joy in Heaven
All of heaven rejoices when the name of even one sinner is written in the Book of Life. Yeshua, in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, said to His followers, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Our Messiah pursues that one lost sheep (even now, this moment, He is seeking your lost loved ones). Thank God that, by faith, their names will one day be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Since souls receiving salvation bring such joy to God and His angels, this should bring joy to us as well. With this in mind, I went to the beach to spend Father’s Day 2022 with my Heavenly Father. I was on the sand at 7:00 AM, June 19, 2022. The only other person there was Nicholas, the chair and umbrella attendant. I greeted him, asked him his name, and said, “Do you know what today is?” He answered, “Yes, it is Father’s Day.” I said, “Do you know who the best father in the world is?” Nicholas answered, “No.” I replied, “God!” That led to a sweet conversation with the former Catholic school student who had a limited knowledge of God and no knowledge of the Gospel. Nicholas knew he was a sinner but had no idea what to do about it. He desired to know God personally and readily prayed with me to repent of his sin and receive Jesus as his Savior—and God as his Father.
By 9:00 AM, people began coming to the beach. I was in the ocean when a woman waded in saying out loud, “I don’t understand my family. They are afraid to come into the ocean! We have pools in Ohio, but no ocean. Why did we come here if they won’t come in?” I looked at her and said, “Tell them it is perfectly safe. It is low tide, no undertow, and no waves. It doesn’t get any better than this!” A long (probably 45 minutes) conversation with Mary followed, as we stood in the ocean, and she poured out her heart about recently losing her husband to a sudden heart attack. This young widow (in her 40s) was distraught, unable to live alone, hence on vacation with her parents and siblings. At one point, Mary said to me: “I don’t know what God is saying to me!” I said, “I do!” She said, “You do?” We both stood there laughing with heartfelt joy. Shortly thereafter, Mary prayed with me to receive the Lord. (We had a long counseling session on the beach later that day.) I pray that Nicholas and Mary call me (they have my cell phone number on a seashell). Most important, I pray that they read the Bible and get grounded in God’s Word.
There is no joy that compares to seeing a lost soul come to the Father through the Son. I am considering making a yearly trip to the beach on Father’s Day because of the easy open doors of witness. Imagine the joy in heaven when we see the One who laid down His life for us so that we might experience fulness of joy here on earth and eternal joy in heaven.
Heaven may be closer than we imagine. Messianic rabbi, Felix Halpern, died, left his body, and crossed over into heaven. He tells his story in A Rabbi’s Journey to Heaven. In his words, “You see,
the morning my spirit checked out of my body, the crossing over was met with an instant lightning bolt of joy, peace, and tranquility. It felt wonderful and freeing…In one fluid motion, my spirit naturally and harmoniously stepped out of the confines of my physical frame…heaven is glorious. And so is the process of crossing over.”
Could this be the year that Yeshua fulfills the Feast of Trumpets? Join me in getting ready and listening for the sound of the shofar. Pray with me: “Abba Father, please help me to focus on heavenly realities and less on things of this earth. Call me into a deeper depth of joy. In Yeshua’s Name, Amen.
Love in Messiah,
P.S. At about 6:00 PM, on August 5, 2022, I received a call informing me that my only brother was in the hospital dying. At 3:30 PM, on August 6, 2022, I called the hospital and my brother (who
was asleep) woke up and listened alertly on speaker phone as I gave him an opportunity to say yes to Yeshua, Jesus. He did—with a loud “AMEN!” My prayer of 49 years was answered, just in time for him to meet his Father in Heaven on August 11, 2022. Thank You, Abba!