On May 21, 1910, the first modern Jewish city was founded. It was given the name Tel Aviv [Hebrew for ‘Hill of Spring’] borrowed from a Babylonian town mentioned in Ezekiel 3:15. The coat of arms of Tel Aviv featured a red Star of David and a quotation from Jeremiah: “I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.” (Jeremiah 31:4).
Archeologists dig into the hard ground looking for keys to the past. They may uncover a palace or a garbage dump, yet these broken remains throw light on long forgotten kings and commoners – their clothing, food, lifestyles – even their worship and music. For those who love the Bible and Jewish history, the same dynamic exists. Those who dig into the layers of Hebrew history and sift through medieval and rabbinic writings will discover the fundamental richness of the Israeli people, and will gain understanding about the foundational roots of the Jewish faith. There will of course be some surprises along the way, since the currents of tradition sometimes flow in different directions than biblical perspectives do.
This newsletter (the second of three) looks at biblical teachings regarding the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah – the day of blowing [of shofars]; the fifth biblical feast in the seventh month of the biblical year as per Leviticus 23:2) as well as at rabbinic and traditional perceptions.
Shofar so good
The two central passages defining and outlining the celebration of the Feast of Trumpets (the Day of Blowing) are Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1:
Again, YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest [shabbaton], a reminder by blowing (zichron teru’ah), a holy convocation [miqra qodesh]. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to YHVH’” (Leviticus 23:23-25)
“Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy assembly [miqra qodesh]. You shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing [Yom Teruah]” (Numbers 29:1)
The essential ingredients in both passages are:
a wonderful Sabbath rest (a shabbaton), where no professional work is done
a holy convocation (‘being called together’; miqra qodesh) a meeting with a holy and set apart purpose
a special commemoration/remembering (zichron) through blowing (a musical sound called teru’ah) of shofars/trumpets
The Scriptures describe teru’ah as a musical expression of joyous and explosive power:
a shofar blast (Leviticus 25:9; Hosea 5:8; Psalm 81:3/4)
a great shout of joyous praise (2 Samuel 6:15; Ezra 3:11; Job 8:21; Psalm 27:6)
a resounding cymbal clash (Psalm 150:5)
YHVH the designer of the holy trumpet
In Numbers 10, YHVH gives Moses specific instructions about trumpets made of metal – how to make them and how to use them:
YHVH spoke further to Moses, saying, “Make yourself two trumpets of silver, you shall make them of hammered work; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and breaking camp . . . And when you go to war in your land against the enemy who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, so that you will be thought of by YHVH your God, and be saved from your enemies. Also, on the day of your joy and at your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am YHVH your God” (Numbers 10:1-2, 9-10)
These metal trumpets are to be used to alert the nation regarding breaking camp, military gatherings, spiritual worship and intercessory pleas to the God of Israel.
The idea here is that God hears the blowing of the trumpets, remembers His covenant with the Jewish people and is moved by His own heart of love to respond (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8). The trumpet blast is an intercessory act, reminding YHVH of His prophetic promises over the Jewish people.
The joy of the Lord is our strength
The God of Jacob considers the Feast of Trumpets a joyous convocation. Festive food and drink (and lots of it) are part of the celebration, and YHVH emphasizes that, on this special day His joy is our refuge (Hebrew, ma’oz – stronghold or refuge). This is not a day for tears or fears, for being afraid, for grieving or mourning. It is a holy party day!
Also, Yeshua, Bani, Sherev-Yah, Yamin, Akuv, Shab’tai, Hodi-Yah, Ma’aseh-Yah, Klita, Azar-Yah, Yozavad, Hanan, Plah-Yah, and the Levites explained the Torah [the Mosaic teaching] to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the scroll from the Teaching of God, translating [from Hebrew to Aramaic] to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to YHVH your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Teaching. Then he said to them, “Go, eat the festival foods, drink the sweet drinks, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared. For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of YHVH is your refuge.” So, the Levites silenced all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy. Do not be grieved.” Then all the people went away to eat, drink, to send portions, and to celebrate a great feast, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. (Nehemiah 8:7-12)
In Nehemiah 8 the nation had just heard the words of Deuteronomy 27-28. They understood that their national Exile was a deserved judgment, and they immediately repented of our national rejection of God’s prophets. The holy celebration of the Feast of Trumpets followed immediately on the heels of a national revival.
Our Jewish people today have followed our national leaders in rejecting the message of the Prophets about Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 23:34-39; Mark 12:1-12). Our need in this awesome hour is to wake up and realize that our existence in the Exile is like that of a bird in a gilded cage. We need to enter into national repentance both in Israel and across the globe.
A fork in the road
A crucial fork in the road was crossed in 33 A.D. when Messiah Yeshua was rejected by Israel’s spiritual authorities and handed over to the Romans to be crucified. If Jerusalem’s then spiritual leadership could have made such a horrific decision to reject the Messiah, these same leaders could eventually make errant decisions about a host of other issues – including the nature of the New Covenant, the status of the Mosaic covenant, the way of salvation, the authority of the rabbinic leadership, the date of the New Year, emphases associated with the Feast of Trumpets, etc.
By circa 200 AD Rabbi Judah the Prince (the editor of the Mishnah) made a valiant attempt at justifying an obvious departure from the biblical New Year date, when he proclaimed that there are actually a whole bunch of New Years. He explained that there are “four New Years – on the first of Nisan is the New Year for kings and festivals; on the first of Elul is the New Year of the tithe of cattle…; on the first of Tishrei is the New Year for years, for release and for jubilee years, for plantation and for tithing vegetables; on the first of Shevat is the New Year for trees” (TB, Tractate Rosh Hashanah, Mishna 1, 2a). This teaching seems to be his attempt to justify an accommodation to the Babylonian calendar. His argument has been accepted in rabbinic Judaism as the kosher solution.
This same Rabbi Judah added (with no biblical warrant): “All are judged on New Year and the separate dooms are sealed each in its time – on Passover in respect of produce, on Pentecost in respect of fruit, on Tabernacles judgment is passed in respect of rain, and man is judged on New Year and his doom is sealed on the Day of Atonement” (Babylonian Talmud [TB], Tractate Rosh Hashana 16a).
Another Rabbi (Yochanan bar Nappaha) declared (again, with no biblical authority): “Three books are opened (in heaven) on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life. The thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death. The doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement. If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life. If they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death” (TB, Tractate Rosh Hashana 16b). This tradition has led to Rosh Hashanah being described as Yom Ha-Din – the Day of Judgment.
These traditional rabbinic perspectives have shaped the way most Jewish people see and relate to the Feast of Trumpets. Their emphases are quite different from those that the God of Israel conveyed in Nehemiah 8, Leviticus 23 and Number 29.
How sweet it is!
The traditions associated with the Feast of Trumpets are deeply moving; the liturgy and celebrations are a rich part of many Jewish people’s lives. The sons and daughters of Jacob nibble on apple wedges and honey in hopes for a sweet coming year. They bless each other with wishes that each one will be inscribed in the Book of Life at this season (more on this in our third newsletter). Worldwide, synagogues register their highest attendance as the High Holy Days or ‘Days of Awe’ approach. As the Day of Atonement draws closer, there is a heightened awareness of the dynamic of sin in the Jewish community.
One of the callings that we have as the remnant of Israel – those Messianic Jews who have accepted Yeshua as our Messiah and atonement – is to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets in full light of these above-mentioned biblical teachings. We hold up the flag of God’s word and the glorious person of Messiah Yeshua, and call our people back to Him and His ways. As the Jewish world celebrates the Feast of Trumpets this year, would you join in with us in asking the Redeemer of Israel to shine His glory on His people, and that we would receive Him with open arms and shining eyes!
How should we then pray?
Pray for God to bring revelation and alignment to believers everywhere concerning His times and seasons (Daniel 2:21; Genesis 1:14-18)
Pray for many Jewish people to reach out to our God during this season of heightened spiritual focus
Pray that YHVH would pour out a spirit of grace and supplications on Israel through a revelation of Messiah Yeshua our atonement
Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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