What Is There To Remember?

by George F Spall

The Christian world is becoming increasingly aware of the significance of the Jewish religious Festivals. Year by year, especially since the Feast of Tabernacles 1980, church groups have sought knowledge of them, and books like CELEBRATE THE FEASTS by Zimmerman are selling well.

In particular, Passover Sederim are being adapted to Christian observance rituals, and it is to be regretted that some of its essential Jewishness is lost in consequence.

But there is no denying the fact that interest is increasing. During the 1986 Easter period and on right through the true Passover time, church schools, youth camps, ladies' groups and other Christian-orientated classes did their best to re-enact and understand the deep spiritual significance of the Seder observance.

At our own meeting room in Brisbane we could barely accommodate the scores of demure high school teenagers who streamed in one day, armed with sheaves of questions and notebooks to fill with answers. And that was the fourth class addressed in one week!

If in the Passover the Exodus of 3,500 years ago is still observed, consider the magnitude of an exodus yet to be enacted that will overshadow the miracle of Israel's deliverance from Egypt! We read in Jeremiah:

"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith The LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but The LORD liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers." (16:14,15)


It is helpful to keep in mind that the seven Festivals that comprise Israel's sacred year are in two groups. The first four all stem from Passover. Without that, the others could not be. They all fall within a certain fixed number of days that commence with it.

The second group of three have the same form in that they all count from the first day of Tishri which is known as the Jewish New Year. Its popular name is Rosh haShanah , chief day of the year. The two Festivals that follow conclude on the twenty-second day of the seventh month, Tishri .

In passing, we note that the time interval between Pentecost (the last of the first group) and Rosh haShanah (the first of the second group) varies each year, but there is no variation in the number of days between Passover and Pentecost or between Rosh haShanah and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) which is the last day of Tabernacles.

Although Moses commanded Israel to observe Abib as the first month of the year, the tradition to observe the first of Tishri , the seventh month, began in ancient times. In Jewish tradition Rosh haShanah , which falls on the first day of the seventh month, has somehow come to stay, and is said by the Rabbis to commemorate Creation.

If we turn to the famous Festival Calendar in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23, we read: "And the LORD spoke unto Moses saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation." English Bibles usually insert the words 'blowing trumpets' to make the sense, but those words are not in the original text. The phrase is 'memorial shouting' or 'blasting' to translate the Hebrew word 'teruah'.

But trumpets were used, of course, as can be gathered from Numbers chapter 10. There, Moses describes the two silver trumpets that were blown on ceremonial occasions.

However, there was another trumpet or horn in use before those silver trumpets were fashioned, and it is still known by its name 'shofar'. It was probably the shofar that was used when Jericho fell.

When Moses was given the instruction from God quoted above it was to be simply a memorial blast of the shofar . Of what was it to be a memorial? In my view, it was a reminder of those awesome days of which Moses wrote: "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people in the camp trembled ... and mount Sinai was altogether on smoke because the LORD descended on it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked exceedingly. And when the voice of the shofar sounded long, and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice." (Exodus 19:16,18,19)

It is not surprising then that the first ten days of the month of Tishri are kept as 'Days of Awe', concluding on the Day of Atonement.

We are aware that Shavout (Pentecost) is considered by the learned Rabbis to be the day when the Law was given. This would be because of the time assessed from the crossing of the Red Sea till the arrival at the Mount and because of the mention of Israel's ARRIVAL there in the third month. (see Exodus 19:1-2)

Bible scholars suggest that fifty days transpired from the Exodus to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. If we calculate fifty days from the day following Israel's departure from Egypt, we find that from the sixteenth day of the first month to the first day of the third month, when they arrived at Sinai, there was a period of forty-six days inclusive. (Exodus 19:1)

A further four days elapsed while Moses went up to the Mount to commune with God, during which time the people sanctified themselves for three days, thus making a total of fifty days to the giving of the Law.

Of what is this Blowing of the Trumpet, then, a memorial? I believe it refers to the shofar that was blown on Mount Sinai on the occasion of the giving of the Law.

WHAT IS THERE TO REMEMBER? Whilst the blowing of the shofar on the first day of Tishri ushers in the civil New Year and commemorates creation according to tradition, it is also a yearly reminder of the awesome day on Mount Sinai when the God of Israel manifested His dreadful power, "and the voice of the shofar sounded long and became louder and louder" as the magnificent prelude to the giving of the Law.