Biblical Festivals/Holidays

Yom Teruah

Yom Teruah
(Rosh Hashanah)

Just as the seventh day Shabbat is holy, so the seventh month, Tishri, is set apart by Adonai as sacred. It can be viewed as the most holy month, in that it contains four Jewish holidays, two of which, Rosh Hashanah, also known as Yom Teruah, and Yom Kippur, are called the “High Holidays.” As a sign of its importance in ancient Israel, the arrival of the new moon, marking the beginning of Tishri, had to be confirmed by at least six witnesses, not just the three required for any other month. Also, besides the normal procedure of lighting signal fires to announce a new moon, messengers were sent from Jerusalem to hand deliver the news of Tishri’s arrival. These safeguards illustrate how the Israelites felt a holy obligation to obey the timing of the feasts as Adonai instructed in His Word. It was a grave error if an appointment with the Creator of the universe was missed. We also can honor Adonai by being diligent in our observation of the feasts.

The first of the fall feasts is Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) that occurs on the first of Tishri every year. As Rosh Hodesh is “head of the month,” Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) is “head of the year,” or New Year. This phrase appears once in Scripture in Ezekiel (40:1):

“In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year. . .”

However, Scripture refers to Tishri as the seventh month. In fact, there are more references to Pesach (Passover) as the New Year than to Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah). The answer to this seeming contradiction is that Tishri is the first month in the civil calendar, while Nisan is the “first month of the year” in the religious calendar, due to Adonai’s stressing the importance of Pesach. In our Jewish calendar, there are a variety of “new years,” but the designation of Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) as “head of the year” has been used since the Babylonian exile. Its name is an indication of the importance of this month as a time of preparation. How should we prepare? The answer comes from Leviticus (Vayikra) 23:23-25:

“YHVH said to Moses (Moshe), ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with shofar (teruah) blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to YHVH by fire.’”

“On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the shofars (teruah)” (Numbers [B’midbar] 29:1).

  • The commands for us are to rest, assemble before YHVH, and sound a “Shofar.” The blowing of “shofars” or “teruah” is so associated with this day, that it is also called “Yom Teruah,” or day of the shofar blast. The shofar is not exactly a trumpet . . . made from the horn of a ram, it has a peculiar sound unlike any man-made instrument. It is one of the oldest wind instruments, and has played a prominent role in Jewish history.
  • A shofar blast was heard when Moses (Moshe) spoke with Elohim on Mt. Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments in Exodus (Sh’mot) 19:9 … a reminder of the Word of Adonai and the laws He gave us to live by. Israel conquered Jericho with the blast of the shofar in Joshua (Y’hoshua) 6:20 … a reminder of victory through Elohim’s power.
  • The shofar is mentioned in Judges (Shof’tim) 3:27 as a call to battle, and as a signal to assemble in 2 Samuel (Shmu’el Bet) 20:1 … a reminder to serve Adonai in unity.
  • In Jeremiah (Yirmeyahu) 4:19, it is called an alarm of war, and in Joel (Yo’el) 2:1 we hear the familiar verse: “Blow a shofar in Zion, sound an alarm on my holy mountain …” Watchmen who guarded the walls of ancient Jerusalem blew the shofar to warn people of impending danger, as in Amos (‘Amos) 3:6 and Ezekiel (Yechezk’el) 33:6 … a reminder to be vigilant in serving Adonai and to stand firm in spiritual war.
  • The year of Jubilee is to be proclaimed by the sound of the shofar in Leviticus (Vayikra) 25:9 … a reminder of joyfulness.
  • The kingship of Adonai is recalled with a shofar blast in Psalm (Tehillim) 98:6, “With trumpets and the sound of the shofar, shout joyfully before the King, YHVH!” In the ancient world, a shofar was used to hail a king. When we hear it at Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah), we anticipate standing before the King of Kings, whose arrival can be very soon.
  • The shofar in Psalm (Tehillim) 47:5 reminds us of the joy of being in the King’s presence: “Adonai has ascended amid shouts of joy, YHVH amid the sounding of shofars.”
  • Isaiah (Yeshayahu) 27:13 says that those who were scattered will be regathered to worship YHVH in Jerusalem with the blowing of a great shofar … encouragement that Adonai is gathering His people to Him.
  • Zechariah (Z’kharyah) 9:14 tells us that YHVH Himself will blow the shofar on the day He delivers His people from attacking armies: “Then YHVH will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning, and YHVH Elohim will blow the shofar, and will march in the storm winds of the south.”
  • The return of Messiah, as told in Matthew (Mattityahu) 24:30, is to be announced with a shofar blast: “ … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, and He will send forth His angels with a great shofar.” This is a faith-builder, reminding us of Messiah’s triumph in the end days. From this, it has been tradition to say that even Satan trembles at the shofar blast, recognizing that his time will come to an end at Messiah’s return.
  • Even the dead will hear the shofar when Messiah returns: “For YHVH Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar blast of Adonai, and the dead in Messiah will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

When we hear the shofar, we should remember all these Scriptures … it should be like a memory jog. In fact, another name for this feast is “Yom Ha Zikkaron,” day of remembering. We are called to attention, holy fear, rejoicing, battle, and reverence for Adonai’s holiness and sovereignty. The shofar calls us to consider our personal relationship with YHVH, and to be prepared for the Day of Atonement … Yom Kippur just nine days later. The idea of preparation is so prevalent; the shofar is traditionally sounded forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, the preceding month. This gives us plenty of time to consider our spiritual state, and repent. The shofar blast should be like an air raid signal … like someone shouting “Look up! Seek cover!” Or better, “seek a covering” (a “Kippur”).

The shofar is made from the horn of a ram … a cow horn cannot be used due to the cow’s connection with the golden calf episode in Israel’s history. The use of the ram may derive from the traditional Torah reading from this holiday, Genesis (B’resheet) 22, the story of the binding of Isaac, or in Hebrew, the “Akidah.” Rabbinical tradition holds that this event occurred on Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah). When Abraham (Avraham) obediently showed his willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice, Adonai provided a ram in his place. This reminds us of Adonai’s faithfulness and Abraham’s obedience. These verses also provide a picture of Yeshua’s sacrifice. There are many parallels:

1. Abraham (Avraham) loved Elohim so much that he obeyed, and was willing to sacrifice his only son.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:13 — “Abraham (Avraham) looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

Adonai so loved the world that He gave His only son for us.

John (Yochanan) 3:16 — “For Adonai so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

2. Isaac (Yitz’chak) was the dearly beloved son of his father, Abraham (Avraham), born by a miracle after a promise and much anticipation.

Genesis (B’resheet) 17:16 — “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Yeshua was the dearly beloved Son of His Father, born by a miracle, prophesied from long ago.

Isaiah (Yesha’yahu) 7:14 — “Therefore YHVH himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.”

Matthew (Mattityahu) 1:21 — “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Yeshua, because He will save His people from their sins.”

3. On the 3-day trip to Mount Moriah, Isaac (Yitz’chak) was under the sentence of death, considered “dead.” Then, on the 3rd day, his life was given back to him.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:4 — “On the third day Abraham (Avraham) looked up and saw the place in the distance.”

Yeshua was in the grave 3 days, under the sentence of death. He rose from the dead on the 3rd day.

Matthew (Mattityahu) 28:6 — “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.

4. Isaac (Yitz’chak) carried the wood for his own sacrifice.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:6 — “Abraham (Avraham) took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac (Yitz’chak), and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together …”

Yeshua carried the wooden “tree” for His own sacrifice.

John (Yochanan) 19:17 — “Carrying His own cross, He went to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).”

5. Isaac (Yitz’chak) submitted to his father’s will.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:7-8 — “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham (Avraham) replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac (Yitz’chak) said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’

Yeshua submitted to the will of His father.

Luke 22:42 — “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

6. Adonai provided His own sacrifice, a lamb (male lamb, a ram) for the offering.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:8, 13 — “Abraham (Avraham) answered, ‘Adonai Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together. Abraham (Avraham) looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

John (Yochanan) 1:29 — “The next day Yochanon saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of Adonai, who takes away the sin of the world!’”

7. The sacrifice took place on Mt. Moriah, near where Jerusalem would stand one day. Moriah means “YHVH is my guide, my teacher, director. The instructions come from Adonai.”

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:2 — “Then Adonai said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac (Yitz’chak), whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’”

Yeshua was sacrificed on Golgotha, just outside the ancient Jerusalem.

Matthew (Mattityahu) 27:33 — “They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).”

8. Abraham (Avraham) called this site “Yahweh yireh” (Jehovah jira), “Adonai will provide.”

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:14 — “So Abraham (Avraham) called that place YHVH Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of YHVH, it will be provided.’

The “substitute sacrifice” at this place was followed years later with countless animal sacrifices to provide atonement conducted by the Levitical priests. Yeshua was the fulfillment of all these substitute sacrifices, and is a better “high priest.”

Hebrews 7:27 — “Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.”

9. Right after the Akidah, Adonai promised Abraham that, because of his obedience, He would use His descendants to bless all the nations of the earth.

Genesis (B’resheet) 22:18 — “ … and through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Yeshua came to bless all people, and to be the Light to everyone who follows Him.

John (Yochanan) 8:12 — “When Yeshua spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

The Shofar Sounds

The central point of the Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) service is the sounding of the shofar. Some synagogues go to great lengths to find an accomplished shofar blower, known as a “Ba’al Tekiah,” since this is not an easy instrument to master. The Ba’al Tekiah is responsible for making over one hundred separate blasts during a traditional service. Scripture does not tell us the number or the order of these blasts, but rabbinical interpretation from Numbers (B’midbar) has determined at least two different notes:

“When a shofar blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the shofars, but not with the same signal” (Numbers [B’midbar] 10:5-7).

Today, we have three sounds:

  • “Tekiah:” one long base note ending abruptly
  • “Teruah:” nine staccato notes in rapid succession
  • “Shevarim:” three quavering notes, a cross between the other two

Since the order of the sounds was not specified, we use the following formula to cover all bases:

  • “Tekiah, teruah, tekiah”
  • “Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah”
  • “Tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah”
  • “Tekiah g’dolah” (“big tekiah,” the long ending blast)

The three sounds have, by tradition, been associated with the three books opened on Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) and sealed on Yom Kippur:

  • Tekiah: the sound of rejoicing for the book of life for the righteous
  • Teruah: a trembling sound for the book of death for the wicked
  • Shevarim: a mixture of joy and sadness, representing the hope for most people who are somewhere in-between.

The three-book concept derives from Scripture:

“But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. YHVH said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book’” (Exodus [Sh’mot] 32:32-33).

“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Psalms [Tehillim] 6, 9:28).

“But at that time, your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered” (Daniel [Dani’el] 12:1).

“Then those who feared YHVH talked with each other, and YHVH listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared YHVH and honored his name” (Malachi [Mal’akhi] 3:16).

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Paraphrase of Revelation 21:27).

For believers, the three blasts can have additional meanings:

  • The single note of Tekiah . . . representing one Elohim, reaching out with His love to each of us at this special time of year.
  • The nine short notes of Teruah . . . representing the nine fruits of the Ruach: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • The three broken notes of Shevarim . . . representing one Elohim in three persons: Abba, Yeshua, and the Ruach HaKodesh (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

When those who know Messiah personally hear the shofar blasts this year, they can come before YHVH with thankfulness that they are written in The Book of Life . . . a true cause for rejoicing.

About The Author

Rabbi Amnon Shor

Rabbi Amnon and Rebbetzin Lynette Shor are international conference speakers on prophetic subjects, the Middle East conflict, Biblical holidays, and Jewish cultural life. Rabbi Shor has appeared on many radio and television programs which include CBS, CBN, TBN, and Jewish Voice. He has also worked with Promise Keepers as the international liaison to Israel and the Middle East, and with the Road to Jerusalem Ministry as global spokesman.

Rabbi Amnon Shor, was born in Israel to an orthodox Jewish family. His grandfather Zachariah was a Rabbi in the local synagogue. Rabbi Shor learned the Old Testament and the Jewish Law from early childhood. After his service in the Israeli Army, where he fought the Egyptian Army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he set out to see the world working for EL-AL Israel’s Airlines , where he met his wife of 41 years Lynette. They have three children and seven grandchildren.

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