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October 1, 2016 by William H. Scarle 813-835-0129

Happy New Year

Tishri is the seventh month of the Jewish year, but is counted as the first month of the Israeli civil year.  Monday, October 3, falls on Tishri 1 and is thus celebrated as Rosh Hashanah, or the “head of the year.”  Each Jewish month begins with the new moon.  However, the new moon is extremely difficult to determine.  As a result Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days to avoid missing the Holy Day.  Furthermore, since the Hebrew day begins at sunset, Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday evening, October 2 at exactly 6:16 pm.

In Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1 this holiday is designated “the Feast of Trumpets.”  It was originally a designated day for the blowing of the shofar, or rams horn trumpet, from the Temple in order to call the people to the Temple for worship and sacrifice.  Today it marks the New Year and the beginning of the High Holidays of Israel.

Ten days later the highest holy day of the Jewish year is observed, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.  Again the day begins on the evening of October 11 at 6:01 pm.  The Hebrew word “kippur” is a form of the verb “to cover.”  It is commonly translated “atonement” in our Bibles since the usual reference is to cover our sins in order that our fellowship with God can be restored.  The cover of the Ark of the Covenant is referred to in our English Bibles as the “Mercy Seat.”  The Hebrew word, however, is the word for covering.  Hebrew words often have a range of meanings.  In this case the lid of the ark is its covering.  But it is also the place where the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement, thus “covering” the sins of Israel.

The final festival of the High Holy Days begins on Tishri fifteen which commences on the evening of Sunday, October 16 at exactly 6:14 pm.  This feast lasts for eight days and is called Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. It is described in Leviticus 24 beginning with the 33rd verse.  We will say more about these festivals as the time approaches.

Since the eve of both Trumpets and Tabernacles falls on a Sunday there is an opportunity to give some recognition to these special days in Christian churches.  Rosh Hashanah traditionally begins a time of self-examination in order to identify anything in our lives which may displease God or hinder our fellowship with neighbors.  Churches might consider blowing the rams horn trumpet, or shofar, if one is available.  The sound is somewhat jarring and is an appropriate reminder that an unpleasant task is also a spiritually rewarding task.  Jesus forcefully recommended self-examination (Mt. 7:1ff).

Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, may offer an opportunity for a young people’s group to build a booth in which to enjoy some refreshment.  There are specifications which are available for such a project.  It would be a good way to become acquainted with the history of Israel and the journey through the wilderness.

We need to be reminded that the Bible, including what Christians call the New Testament, was written by Jews.  All the Apostles of the early Church were Jews.  All the Bishops of the Jerusalem Church were Jews up until the year 135 AD.  They would be celebrating this month of Tishri.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs