The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish calendar actually has four New Years. Judaism is all about new beginnings!! First of the month Nissan (March or April) known as Aviv in the Bible is the Biblical New Year as God commanded Moses in Exodus 12:1-3. Second is the New Year for trees taking place in the month Shevat in January or February. This holiday in biblical times was the date for designating fruit as forbidden or separating fruit for tithing (separating portion for God). Today this is a day for eating fruit and planting trees. While Elul (August or September) is the New Year for tithing cattle.
The whole previous month before Rosh Hashanah called Elul, the shofar (a ram’s horn) is sounded twice a day. This mournful sound is getting people’s attention to focus on God and the need to repair the relationship between God and man as well as between man and man. This holiday is a joyful holiday, but it calls for serious reflection. The holiday begins the 10 days known as the Days of Awe in preparation for God’s final judgment. The first day of Rosh Hashanah an interesting ceremony known as Tashlich takes place. It is the casting away of sins. Verses are read outloud include Micah 7:18-19 which concludes with “You (God) will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea”. As a Christian, this reminds me of the fact that my sins are cast away in Christ. This is why for me this ceremony is a reminder. According to Chadad.org “The goal of Tashlich is to cast both our sins and the Heavenly prosecutor (a.k.a. The Satan) into the Heavenly sea. Also according to the Christian Bible (New Testament) Revelation 20:10 “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur…and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”.
As part of the evening service at the beginning of the holiday a release of oaths take place. The connection with oaths is why 1 Samuel 1-2 is read. Hannah who does not have children prays to God for a son and swears an oath to give him back to serve God. This is the prophet Samuel. Interestingly enough her prayer in chapter 2 is the model for the Amidah prayer “Hannah – she was speaking from the heart, only her lips moved but her voice was not heard”.
As a visual learner these symbols are very precious to me. I also enjoy the focus on having a sweet New Year with the rounded challah bread and the honey. The round challah reminds us of the eternal cycle of life. Any day I celebrate with my Jewish friends, I consider it wonderful opportunity. So my challenge to you is what will you do to grow closer to God? And what will you give up that is hindering your relationship with God? As anti- semitism marches on, it is time for Christians to stand up for our Jewish friends. Just as the one before gave all he had for us, this is time of reflection. I have four questions adapted from the Jewish Women’s Archive.
What did you do this year for God? For others? What did you do out of pride or selfish motives?
Did you act boldly? How do you feel about it?
What are your hopes for your community, church, or synagogue next year?
What is your favorite Rosh Hashanah memory or tradition?
Have a Happy & Sweet Jewish New Year!!