September 19, 2020
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What is Yom Teruah?
The Torah refers to Rosh HaShanah as Yom Teruah “Day of blowing [the Shofar])” or Yom haZikkaron “Day of Remembering.” It was not called Rosh HaShanah until the Talmudic times, a name taken from Ezekiel 40:1.
There are four New Years in the Jewish calendar:
Rosh HaShanah marks the beginning of what many term the “high holy days,” the days of repentance and seeking to have one’s life right before God and man. The month preceding Rosh HaShanah, Elul, is marked by blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) every morning at the morning service. The last week of Elul is marked by selichot, or penitential prayers. In modern times, these prayers are traditionally begun the Saturday night before Rosh HaShanah.
The common greeting for Rosh HaShanah (begun during Elul, the month preceding) is: Leshanah tovah “for a good year” or leshanah tovah tikatevu “may you be inscribed for a good year.” The Rabbis taught that on Rosh HaShanah God inscribes the names of all the righteous in His book of life for the coming year, thus the greeting. For this reason, the greeting is not used after Rosh HaShanah, since it would be indelicate to suggest that the person you are greeting is not inscribed. The Rabbis further taught that those whose righteous and unrighteous deeds are equal, hang in the balance and their inscription in the book of life is put off until Yom Kippur.
Obviously, such a perspective is contrary to the Scriptures and thus foreign to the Messianic believer. We recognize that having one’s name inscribed in the book of life is not a matter of one’s good deeds, but the benefit of having the blood of Yeshua be the payment for our sins. For this reason, we use only the traditional leshanah tovah, “for a good year” as the traditional greeting.
There are three types of blasts on the shofar: tekiah, one long blast; shevarim, three short blasts; and teruach, nine staccato blasts. The Torah does not state explicitly how many shofar blasts are required, but the tradition (based on a complicated exegesis of Lev. 25:9 and 23:24, and Num. 29:1) derive the necessity to have three blasts of teruach preceded and followed by tekiah. Others emphasized the need for the shofar to sound like groaning (shevarim). Thus, to accommodate all interpretations, the tradition is to blow the shofar in every possible combination: tekiah teruach tekiah, tekiah shevarim tekiah, tekiah shevarim teruach tekiah.
The ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are called the “ten days of repentance.” This is a time in which we are called to consider things in our lives which need to be changed, or areas in which repentance is needed. The Sabbath that falls in these days is called Shabbat Shuvah (Sabbath of returning) or Shabbat Teshuvah (Sabbath of repentance) and is marked by additions to the liturgy involving a seeking of repentance and making one’s life right before God.