Rosh Hoshana 

The fall Holy Days begin in just two days. Sometimes I assume that my Official Page followers already have a grasp of the Holiday and their meaning in Yeshua. The Fall Feasts include Rosh Hoshana, then ten days later, Yom Kippur-the Day of Atonement, and five days after this, the seven days of Sukkot or Tabernacles.  After the seven days, there is an eighth day assembly, a day of no work, Shimini Atzeret. 

Rosh Hoshana translates literally as the head of the year or the new year.  It is mentioned in the post exilic prophets but is not emphasized as the head of the year in the Torah. Rather it is called Yom HaTeruah, The Feast of the Blowing (of the shofar-the horn of the ram).  It is a day of rest with no work. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the calendar and recounts the atonement ceremonies in the Temple while including many prayers of the confession of sin that connect us to forgiveness.   Sukkot recalls the days in the desert when we lived in tents in the desert for 40 years, and ate supernatural food and drink.  Our clothes did not wear out. 

However, today’s article is on Rosh Hoshana.  There is very little about the meaning of the Feast in the Torah.  The instruction is that everyone needs to hear the sound of the shofar and then take the day as a day of rest unto the Lord.  Jewish tradition fills in the vacuum.  The prayers for the day emphasize the Kingship rule of God and God’s judgment.  It is as if Yom Kippur meanings blend into the meaning of Rosh Hoshana.  There is a festive meal on the evening when the Feast begins and plenty of food the following day.  However, the prayers are solemn.  Maimonides, the famous rabbi of rabbis of the middle ages, said that the shorfar was an awaking call, to wake up from sleep and deal with the issues of God, sin, judgement and eternal life. 

For me, as a Messianic Jew, the most noteworthy tradition of the day is the reading from Genesis 22 on the sacrifice of Isaac.  We recall in in Genesis 22 that God gave the strangest command, that Abraham was to sacrifice his only son of Sarah on the altar.  In the history of Christian interpretation this text is seen as prophecy of the sacrifice of Yeshua, the only Son of his Father in heaven, who sacrifices him on the altar for our sin.  Some Christians have also argued the act of sacrifice was an intercessory act of Abraham giving his all, his most important relationship, to God at such a level that it called forth from God to give his all, the most important gift of his Son as our sacrifice.  In this interpretation, both were necessary and are tied together.  Of course, the Father’s will was to give his Son as a sacrifice, but could He find someone that would give his son in a like way to call forth His great gift?

Judaism finds amazing and helpful meaning in the sacrifice of Isaac.  The sacrifice of Isaac (vicariously though not in actuality) was an act of such merit that it is the foundation for all the sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The location of the sacrifice was on Mt. Moriah where the Temple would be built.  Was it actually where the Most Holy Place would be?  This leads to the rabbinic teaching that the sacrifices of the Tabernacle and Temple were only efficacious became they participated in the meaning of the sacrifice of Isaac.  Of course, we would say they are efficacious because they participated in the in the sacrifice of Yeshua.  There is a question as to whether or not the sacrifices were efficacious at all on the basis of Hebrews 7 which says that the blood of bulls and goats and not really take away sin.   My view is that since Messiah is the Lamb slain form the foundations of the world, these sacrifices did provide forgiveness on the basis of Yeshua’s shed blood.  I understand that the argument in Hebrews to say that the blood of bulls and goats in themselves cannot take aways sin, but point to and participate in the blood of Yeshua.  Only due to Yeshua’s blood do we have atonement. 

Jewish tradition does provide meanings that are helpful in enriching our celebration of this day.  Of course, Gentiles are not responsible to keep these sabbath days.  But if they are in Messianic Jewish congregations we join together in common life.  Those in the church world do well to at least teach on the meanings made full in Yeshua.