A Time to Blow the Shofar

Modern Judaism calls the fifth of seven observances recorded in Leviticus 23 Rosh Hashanah. The words mean “head of the year.” And the holiday—which begins at sundown on September 29—is considered a New Year, marking the beginning of the High Holy Days. The Bible calls this observance “a day of blowing the trumpets.”

On this day, according to Jewish tradition, the Devil accuses Israel of its sins. Therefore, a trumpet is blown to confuse Satan. During the Middle Ages, the custom began of casting crumbs into a moving body of water to symbolize a person’s sins being cast into the sea, to be remembered no more (Mic. 7:18–20).

Other Rosh Hashanah customs that started about the same time are reconciling with neighbors, expressing good wishes to one another, and visiting the graves of relatives and friends. Practices include dipping pieces of challah (braided egg-bread) into honey. This signifies hope for a sweet new year.

During Bible times, the Israelites gathered at the Sanctuary (Num. 29:1) and heard Scripture read about judgments that God would send for failing to turn back to Him: “Seek the Lᴏʀᴅ, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lᴏʀᴅ’s anger” (Zeph. 2:3).

Then a trumpet was blown. Today a ram’s horn, called a shofar, is used. It signifies a call for repentance: “He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life” (Ezek. 33:5). Scripture speaks of a coming judgment for personal sin (18:4; Jn. 8:24).

The warning continues to sound. Today only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah Jesus can deliverance be found: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).

Finally, Rosh Hashanah was viewed as a sabbath, a day of rest (Num. 29:1). Only in the Lord does a person find true peace and rest: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

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