The Jewish New Year

by Joseph Hunting

At sundown on September 10th throughout the world a blast on the shofar, or ram's horn, will usher in the Jewish New Year. And through THE VINEYARD Gentile friends of Israel wish their Jewish friends a Happy New Year.

On the 1st Tishri (actually the seventh month in the Jewish calendar) the blast of the ram's horn has echoed down the centuries from the uttermost parts of earth to herald the Jewish New Year.


Origins in Scripture are both important and significant. The first recorded blast of the shofar is no exception. "And it came to pass on the third day when it was morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a heavy cloud was upon the mount, and the voice of the cornet (shofar) was exceeding loud, so that the people in the camp trembled." (Exodus 16:19 Leeser's translation).

Some days later the Lord gave to Moses the seven holy festivals that were to be observed year by year. Concerning the fifth festival, "The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the Children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall ye have a rest, a day of memorial of sounding the cornet (Heb. teru'ah), a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:23-24 Leeser).


It is admitted that in religious observances there are often time-honoured traditions which are blindly followed without question. One does not have to look far in the various Christian observances to realize how much tradition has become accepted instead of the Word of God. Therefore it may not be a surprise to discover that 1st Tishri is not the Scriptural New Year's Day after all!

According to Divine instruction, 1st Tishri (the seventh month) commemorates the festival of the Blowing of Trumpets, the fifth of the seven Feasts of God. (Leviticus 23). According to Rabbinic tradition the Jewish calendar commenced at Creation on the 1st Tishri 3761 B.C.E., thus substituting the Divinely-ordained first month for the seventh.


According to the Scriptures the New Year was celebrated approximately 1,400 years B.C.E. during the month of Abib (later called Nisan) when the Israelites were about to be delivered from bondage in Egypt. Indeed, the New Year is inseparably linked with Israel's redemption.

The great showdown between Moses and Pharaoh reached its climax when Moses left the presence of Pharaoh in a burning anger. Then the Lord declared: "This month shall be unto you the chief of months. The first shall it be unto you of the months of the year." (Exodus 12:2 Leeser).


Not only had the nation of Israel been slaves, they had been set impossible quotas by the task-masters, humiliated and lashed, until life itself had become unbearable. Then when all hope seemed lost God set a date for their deliverance.

Lest the importance of this fact be overlooked, we must remember that there was no 'underground', no National Liberation Front, no Freedom Fighters, or any similar revolutionary movement plotting for the overthrow of the Egyptians. It was God Who set the date for Israel's deliverance from Egypt, and HE commanded Israel to commemorate the event for ever, commencing with a new calendar. "This month shall be the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." (A.V.)


From time immemorial people delivered from bondage or political yokes have set a day of rejoicing to mark the anniversary of their liberation -- and not the least among them the newly-emerged State of Israel with its YOM HA ATZMA'UT (Independence Day). Indeed Israel has the distinction of being the only nation whom God has liberated, and at the same time commanded a new calendar as a memorial to mark their new freedom.

Their national calendar which commenced with their redemption was to have no record of their degradation, slavery and humiliation in Egypt, for this was the nation of whom God had said: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth . . . " (Amos 3:2).

So when Israel's sages of a bygone age substituted the commandment of God for the traditions of men by altering the first month to the seventh in which to celebrate the New Year, it would appear that something infinitely more precious and meaningful was replaced by a mere speculative date for Creation. This 'something infinitely more precious and meaningful' relates the miracle of Israel's redemption from bondage in Egypt to the nation's New Year -- for redemption is inseparably linked with a new beginning!

Countless millions have learned this truth expressed in the words of one who claimed he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, even Paul of Tarsus. "If any man be in Messiah he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17).