The two-day celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tonight and ends at sundown on Friday. (It started earlier today in Israel, which is 7 hours ahead of the East Coast.) We at SPIB want to wish all of our Jewish friends and readers a very happy Rosh Hashanah and a blessed and prosperous year ahead. Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah.
Here is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Rosh Hashanah 5775 greeting:
Video retrieved from IsraeliPM.
He also tweeted a transcript:
Eric Levinson at Boston.com has written an interesting article about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:
11 Questions About Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask
Read the rest here.
Raphael Poch at Breaking Israel News has more about the shofar:
Praising God with the Sound of a Shofar
“Praise Him with the sound of the shofar.” (Psalm 150:3)
As we come to the period leading up to the High Holidays on the Jewish Calendar (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement), Jews all over the world embrace the custom of blowing the shofar (Ram’s Horn). Numerous times throughout the Bible do we see the Ram’s horn brought into use and each time has a different purpose and symbolism.
The symbolism behind the shofar first appears during the binding of Issac in Genesis 22:13.
“Abraham 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.”
It is interesting to note that the first time the Hebrew word for ‘love’ appears in the Bible is in relation to a father having to sacrifice his son who he loves (Genesis 22:2). The idea of sacrifice and love, and sacrificing for love, has been intertwined ever since.
The shofar is also used to herald God’s presence, as it states in Exodus 19:16 when the Jewish Nation received the 10 Commandments:
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.”
Aside from awakening the nation, the shofar is also used to signal the start of the High Holidays for the Jewish nation (Leviticus 23:24, 25:9 and Numbers 29:1).
We see the shofar used as an instrument of spiritual warfare, as is evidenced in Numbers 10:9:
“And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies.”
Aside from these purposes the shofar was used to sound alarms for the camp of Israel (Numbers 10:5-6, Ezekiel 33:3), to convene assemblies, announce the new moon and the Jubilee, herald messages and to coronate kings. The shofar was also used in the Temple service (2 Chronicles 15:14, Psalm 47:6, 89:16, 150:5) and when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to the Jewish Temple (1 Samuel 4:5, 2 Samuel 6:15).
But what is this instrument of many hats that is seemingly present in almost every Jewish public ceremony?
On the High Holidays it is Jewish belief that all of mankind comes before God for judgement and to be inscribed either in the ‘book of life’ or the ‘book of death’. The shofar is meant at its very core to spiritually awaken those who hear the sound and help them realize that they should be the ones weeping before God either in jubilation or in trepidation.
Certainly this is a time for trepidation and introspection, and the shofar is sounded for a month leading up to the awe-filled day. During its sounding we try to incorporate in our thoughts all of the different elements that the shofar represents: love, sacrifice, the glory of God, Kingship, independence, freedom, worship, independence, existential threats, the conquering of enemies, and the thrill of victory together with the threat of defeat.In that maelstrom of meaning and emotion the call pierces through to the very soul of those who attune themselves to ‘grandeur of meaning’ that this simple horn represents. Even though not all shofars sounds the same, and not all those who blow the shofar will do so with the same intensity, the sound is laced through-and-through with meaning and symbolism that incorporates over 4,000 years of pain, suffering, joy, jubilation, sacrifice and love highlighting the human experience.
Read more about the types of shofars.
Tuly Weisz at Breaking Israel News gives us some history about the sounding of the shofar in Israel during British occupation of what was then known as Palestine.
When Sounding the Shofar Was a Crime in JerusalemThere is no more powerful sound than the blast of the Shofar. To the Jewish people, the Shofar is not some primitive trumpet; rather, it is the instrument which accompanied our most glorious national episodes. The Shofar provided the soundtrack for the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and was Joshua’s secret weapon as he sieged the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6) and in Gideon’s battle with Midian (Judges 7). As we prepare for Rosh Hashana which is referred to as ‘Yom Teruah’ the day of the sounding of the Shofar (Leviticus 23), its important to remember that the Shofar was not merely a source of inspiration in Biblical times, it has a vital role throughout all of history, past, present and future.
Much attention has been paid to the discriminatory practices against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This past June, a ten year old Jewish boy was nearly arrested for praying on Judaism’s holiest site for fear of provoking local Muslims. Unfortunately, this is not a recent phenomenon and already during the period of the British Mandate, when England controlled Palestine from 1922 to 1948, Jews were forbidden full access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, for fear of offending Arab sensibilities. In 1929, the British increased their discriminatory policy: while allowing Jews to pray at the Western Wall, they distributed pamphlets and hung posters forbidding Jewish worshippers from ‘provoking’ the Arabs, and criminalized the act of blowing the Shofar at the Kotel during the High Holy Days.
Jerusalem’s Jewish population was stunned at the announcement and determined to resist the British orders. In defiance, at the concluding service of Yom Kippur, a member of Menachem Begin’s youth movement snuck in and covertly blew the Shofar. After years of this unlawful behavior every Yom Kippur, British police began stepping up their presence at the holy site, ready to pounce upon anyone caught breaking the law. On Yom Kippur 1943, as the evening progressed, the British guards pressed their way into the mass of praying Jews. When they heard the sound of the Shofar they flew into a frenzy. The young “culprit” who blew the Shofar was tackled while other police beat those who tried to defend him. Israel’s future Prime Minister Menachem Begin witnessed this brutality and was shocked to think this is how Jews are treated on our holiest day of the year, at the holiest spot in Judaism!
This traumatic sight caused Begin to resolve to turn the tables on the British bullies. With a daring sense of audacity, ten days before Yom Kippur in 1944, Menachem Begin, as the leader of the Jewish underground, instructed his followers to distribute pamphlets and hang posters throughout the streets of Jerusalem warning that any British policeman who would disturb the Jewish prayer services at the Western Wall “will be regarded as a criminal and be punished accordingly.” His warnings became more intense and piercing, causing all sorts of rumors to be circulated concerning the type of punishment the British might expect.
Tension filled the air and increased over the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The fateful night arrived, and at the Western Wall the cantor chanted the final words of Yom Kippur’s closing service while the congregation fervently responded with deep emotion and the British police stood around nervously waiting. Suddenly, the air was pierced by the long, loud, single blast of the Shofar from the lips of the boy who was beaten the previous year for performing the same act. Not a single British officer moved. After a long pause, the commanding officer ordered his men to “Fall out. Return to the barracks at the double – one, two, one, two, one, two.”
With the Jewish people’s return to the Land of Israel, the Shofar has once again been used as a rallying cry to inspire the People of Israel and the world. We pray that this Rosh Hashana proves to be the final harbinger for the prophetic fulfillment of the ultimate purpose for the Shofar, “and on that day [of Redemption] a Tekiya will be sounded from a great Shofar” (Isaiah 27:13).
Yes, Jews and Christians alike await the sounding of that great Shofar!
Enjoy these videos:
Video retrieved from TorahChannel
Video retrieved from JordanbenJudah’s channel