Rosh Hashanah begins tonight (remember, Biblically, days begin in the evening because Genesis tells us "and there was evening and there was morning...").
We see references to it in Leviticus, Numbers, and Nehemiah:
- Leviticus 23:24 24 Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts.
- Numbers 29:1 On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets
- Nehemiah 7:73 - 8:3 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants,and all Israel settled in their towns. When the seventh month came-- the people of Israel being settled in their towns-- 8:1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. 2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
So why is the Jewish New Year when it is obviously the seventh month? This is because there are 2 traditions as to when the world was created, one is Tishrei (the seventh month) and one is Nisan (the first month). So, it's the head of the year in the sense of when the world was created therefore years, that count age of the world, are counted from then, but months, such as when holidays are, are counted from Nisan because Hashem told Moshe "this month is for you as the first month for the months of the year" [you can thank my friend Yaakov for all that info].
There are many meanings and symbols for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time in the Jewish calendar for being introspective about the past and upcoming year. There's a theme of judgment (based on the word mishpat in Ps 81:4) of all people (both Jews and Gentiles) connected with their successes and failures of the upcoming year. Traditionally, apples and honey are eaten as a symbol of wishing for a sweet upcoming year, and challah is shaped into a crown to signify that God is King. The greeting on Rosh Hashanah is l'shanah tovah which means have a good year. The readings on the first day of Rosh Hashanah are Genesis 21:1-34 and 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10 (because the Gemara says these events occurred on Rosh Hashana). The day is also called Yom Zikaron (Day of Remembering) because it is the time when God "remembers", or rather, chooses to pay attention to His promises.
As Christians in the U.S., we typically utilize the secular New Year's holiday to make resolutions; it's not something that we think of doing in the fall, the time of year when the leaves change color and die, when the weather starts to cool, birds migrate south, and the landscape starts to become brown and barren (many of us even pay little attention to when our Christian year begins with Advent, unless we attend a very liturgically-oriented church). Fall is not really a time we associate with new life--even as new experiences begin (i.e. new school year). But new life happens every day, even when we aren't expecting it (as happened recently when my nephew was born 8 weeks early!).
It can be beneficial to us to remember and improve upon our past year, or simply be introspective about one or more areas of life. We are often too busy and caught up with all of our day-to-day activities to really do this well. I've recently taken a "Christian Life Profile Assessment" and while there is a lot about it I didn't care for, it has prompted me to think about some of the various categories it covers, and so I will be starting a new blog series soon based on that Assessment.
Do you practice being introspective on a regular basis? When do you do it and what do you do?
Other posts in this "Year of Renewal" Series can be read beginning here.