Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shanah Tovah!

Today is Rosh Hashanah - so... Happy New Year (on the Jewish civil calendar) to you! Rosh is the Hebrew word for “head” or beginning. The very first word in the Bible, B’reisheet, has Rosh embedded within it. Since this holiday looks back to the creation of the world (which is a sphere), the Challah bread used at this time is made into a round shape. Apples (which are round) and honey are customary desserts at this time to express the hope that the year coming up will be a sweet one for you.
The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). It is observed on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It begins a 10 day period that is known as Yamim Noraim ("Days of Awe"), or Asseret Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance) which are days specifically set aside to focus on repentance that conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur. The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.
The following 2 paragraphs are taken from the source:
The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, "big tekiah"), the final blast in a set, which lasts for at least 10 seconds.  The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar's sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat.
Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before evening services. Religious services for the holiday focus on the concept of G-d's sovereignty. The common greeting at this time is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." 
One of the books that I’m reading is called The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson. Coincidentally, I’m at the point in the book where Ed is coming into the Fall Holy Days, so his comments on Rosh Hashanah are pertinent to this post. Here are a few quotes from the book (pages 194-206):
“Rosh Hashanah is a time for personal reflection and for doing acts of repentance... This repentance is meant to lead to regret and remorse for the harm we have done, to attempts at restitution when possible, and to turning away from our past selves to better selves who will act differently in the coming year.
Repentance is based on the Hebrew word Teshuva. There are numerous references to “repent” in the Bible. The Greek verb for “repent” is metanoeo, which literally means to “change one’s mind”. But neither John the Baptist nor Jesus spoke in Greek.
So even though the teachings of John the Baptist and Jesus and his disciples were written in Greek, they were actually spoken in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for repentance, teshuvah, means a whole lot more than just “changing your mind.” It comes from the Hebrew verb shuv, which means “to turn back or to turn around,” and has a variety of nuances in the Hebrew Bible. When you study these nuances you get a better understanding of teshuvah: (Dennis’s references to these are summarized below)
1. Teshuvah is a fundamental change of condition.
After the fall of Adam and Eve, God pronounced judgement on Adam, Eve, and the serpent. To Adam he said, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
The word “return” is the Hebrew word shuv. It represents a fundamental change in one’s condition.
2. Teshuvah is movement in a specific direction.
In the account of Noah and the ark, God caused a great flood which covered the whole earth for 150 days. Genesis 8:3 then says, “The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of 150 days the water had gone down.”
The word “receded” is the Hebrew word shuv. It means a consistent, steady movement in a certain direction.
3. Teshuvah is to recover what was stolen.
In the account of Abraham and Lot, Lot departs from Abraham and takes up abode in the city of Sodom. In due time, Sodom was attacked and Lot was taken captive by a coalition of kings. When Abraham was notified, he pulled together 318 of his trained men and pursued the captors. They were found and defeated, freeing up Lot and everyone else. Genesis 14:6 says, “He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.”
The word “recovered” is the Hebrew word shuv. It means to recover what was stolen and taken away.
4. Teshuvah is a process that must be repeated.
The setting for this story is the returning of the exiles from Babylon under Ezra and Nehemiah. Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra realized that many of the people had intermarried with the surrounding inhabitants, which had been forbidden by God. So Ezra tore his clothes as a sign of repentance and offered prayers to God. Toward the end of the prayer he made this statement: “Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices?” (Ezra 9:14)
The word translated “again” is the Hebrew word shuv. Teshuvah is both an act and a process. That is, you have to come to the point where you’re willing and ready to change. But it is also a process, so you need to keep doing it over and over again.
5. Teshuvah is returning to God.
Ultimately teshuvah is returning to God. It is the recognition that we have wandered off the right and proper path. It is the recognition that the path we are now on is not the path God intended for us. It is the passionate desire to leave the path and return to God’s path. Jesus said the same in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
In the book, Ed attends a Rosh Hashanah service (which lasts for more than 4 hours) and hears the shofar blown 100 times. After the service Ed observes the tashlikh privately. The following is an excerpt of that event:
“I drove down to the Grand River which flows through downtown Grand Rapids. There is a boat ramp just north of town with a dock. When I get there, several fishermen are launching their boats. I’m still dressed in my suit, and my long, partially gray beard blows in the wind. I’m also carrying my Bible. I walk down to the boat ramp and then out to the end of the dock. The fishermen look at me like I’m crazy. I open the Bible and begin reading from the prophet Micah (7:18-20):
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on the oath to our fathers in days long ago.
Then I take the bread crumbs out of my pocket and throw them into the river. I stand there until all of the crumbs have floated away, Of course, I keep wondering what the fishermen are thinking. It’s not every day you see someone dressed in a suit and a tie with a Bible, throwing bread into a river.”
There are other concepts that are relevant to this period that I won’t have time to get into deeply, but one is the idea that the bookends of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mark a time period where books and gates are opened and then closed. The idea is that  while the gate is open, one is either written in the Book of Life or the Book of Death depending on how we choose to deal with repentance. Of course, for the believer in Yeshua, this question is settled and does not have to be “renewed” like a library book that we have checked out. Here a few references to these “books”:
(Exo 32:33) (Dan 7:10)  (Psa 69:28) (Psa 139:16)  (Dan 10:21)  (Dan 12:1)  
(Phil 4:3)  (Rev 3:5)  (Rev 13:8)  (Rev 17:8) (Rev 20:12)  (Rev 20:15) (Rev 21:27)  
In closing, I can compose no better thoughts, than those already penned by FFOZ on this period:
“Even as we wait to hear the trumpet blast of the king, the great shofar of our returning Redeemer, we celebrate the appointed time of the Rosh Hashanah. The annual blast of the shofar during the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows that day when the heavens will be rent by the blast of Messiah's trumpet. For disciples of the Messiah, Rosh Hashanah is a reminder of that appointed time yet to come when the Master "will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." (Matthew 24:31) It is a day on which we anticipate the coming judgment, the trumpets of the book of Revelation, and the beginning of the end. It is a glimpse of the future, a shadow cast through time. As such, the Feast of Trumpets is relevant for everyone who believes in Messiah's return. It is an important festival for the disciples of Yeshua.
Shanah Tovah!
Prayer by Paul, which is an echo of an ancient Temple prayer:
Ephesians 5:14-17 This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and [Messiah] will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”

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