Rosh Hashana is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. Before coming out of Egypt the Jewish people, like those around them, began their calendar year in the fall. God instructs Moses to change this practice, and the Jewish year changes to begin in the spring, just before Passover. But, like many of us commonly do, the Jewish people compromise with God, and begin using two calendars, a religious calendar, which began in the spring and a civil calendar, which began in the fall. Later kings were officially put into office at the beginning of the civil new year, in the fall, which explains why some kings seem to be king, and then are being put into office a wee bit later in the Bible. (Though there are sometimes other reasons for this as well, such as a region, but not the whole nation, accepting the person as king up until this point.)
Rosh Hashana falls on the same day as the Feast of Trumpets. During the Feast of Trumpets the shofar (a ram’s horn) is blown throughout the day. It is a day of assembly (where the Jewish people come together for food and fellowship) when no work is to be done (a day off). (Num. 29:1)
The Feast of Trumpets is a unique holiday since it is the only one that occurs at the beginning of the month. Since the Jewish month began with the first confirmed sighting of the sliver of the moon, this is the only holiday that leaves people guessing which day it will actually occur on. For this reason many believe it to be the foreshadowing of the rapture.
The Jewish people also believe that, on this holiday, a person’s name is placed into one of three categories. He (or she) is either written into the Book of Life for the upcoming year, is exempt from the book of life, or finds themselves in an in between state. Those who are ‘on the fence’ so to speak, have ten days, until the Day of Atonement, to repent and get their name added to the Book of Life. For this reason Rosh Hashana is a day to reflect and examine your past deeds and motivations, and if necessary, repent wholeheartedly. (Remember: This is not Biblical, but instead belief that has arisen surrounding this holiday.)
Many traditions have also arisen to help celebrate this holiday. One is to visit a stream, or river and empty your pocket lint into it, indicating that you wish to start the new year ‘clean.’ Small children will fill their pockets with pebbles along the way, and they will skip or throw them into the stream for entertainment.
Another tradition is the eating of apples with honey, signifying a wish to have a sweet new year.
Many Biblical events are also said to have happened on this day. They include:
-The first day of creation
-The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham
-The giving of the Law from God to Moses at Mount Sinai
-The day the daily offerings resumed at the Temple during the time of Ezra
-The day the heads of the households gathered to study the Torah in Nehemiah
So how is a Christian to celebrate this holiday?
Any way you want to! (with reverence, of course)
Most Christians do not celebrate the Jewish holidays at all, since they were unique to the country of Israel, and cannot be celebrated as the Bible ordains without a working Temple. (This is why the Jewish people today celebrate Rosh Hashana and not the Feast of Trumpets on this day. They are technically not the same.)
Some Christians do celebrate the Jewish holidays, and there are many web pages (both Jewish, Messianic and Christian) filled with ideas about how to incorporate teachings about this holiday into your life.
Here are some things to remember:
Each holiday begins at sundown. Why? Because during the creation account in Genesis a day is described as being from evening to morning, so the Jewish people begin their days at sundown. (Meaning that any day of fasting ends at sundown and does not involve you going to bed starving!)
Like most holidays Rosh Hashana includes food and fellowship. Apples and honey are the traditional foods for this holiday, but there are many other tasty recipes you may wish to try as well.
Setting aside a time to reflect on your behavior, and what motivates that behavior is also an important part of this holiday. Pray to God and ask Him to show you where you could improve this year. You may wish to write down what you wish to change in a journal, and read it next year, or burn it as an indication that you are done with this type of behavior. If the behavior is significant, this may be the time to discuss it with people close to you and ask them to hold you accountable when you fall into patterns of behavior you wish to change. Pray for God to give you the wisdom and the strength to make these necessary changes as well.
You may also wish to take a walk to a stream and empty your pockets of lint as a reminder that, as of today, you wish to make a fresh start. A picnic by the stream, with the children skipping rocks in the stiller areas may also be enjoyable.
But whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. This is a time to reflect and remember that God forgives us when we repent.
I hope this helps you to understand this wonderful holiday!