Yesterday in the northern hemisphere we passed the Autumnal Equinox, which heralds the beginning of the winter season. Today at 6.14 a.m. GMT is the New Moon. For Jews it also heralds the beginning of their autumn feasts, starting with Rosh Hashanah, literally“head of the year”. This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown today, September 24th. Let’s investigate further.
Based on the Old Testament, the year begins in the autumn, the month begins at the new moon, and the day begins at sundown.According to Leviticus 23:24 Rosh Hashanah is a memorial. It has to be proclaimed “with a blast of trumpets”. However, the Hebrew word here for trumpets is T’RUAA, a derivative of RUAA, both of which mean a loud noise, shouting. The trumpet makes a loud noise, so the translators decided on “a blast of trumpets.”
But in Joshua 6 these words are used of the “great shout” made by the children of Israel at the fall of Jericho. In 2 Samuel 6, the people gave a “great shout” as David returned with the Ark of the Covenant. In Ezra 3 the people gave a “great shout” as the foundation stone was laid on the temple mount. In Job 38:7 we read that when the earth was created “all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
This explains the feast of Rosh Hashanah – it is the memorial of creation, a remembrance of shouting for joy. The autumnal equinox is the occasion of the beginning of the year, and Rosh Hashanah is new year’s day. By using the word “trumpets” translations miss the connection with “shouting for joy”. Young’s Literal Translation is more accurate – “Speak unto the sons of Israel, saying, in the seventh month, on the first of the month, ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of shouting.” [N.B. the 7th month used to be the 1st month until the Exodus]
Strictly speaking everyone should think of Rosh Hashanah as the beginning of the new year, but over the centuries and millennia different races and nations have developed their own calendars. We think of January 1st as new year’s day, but how many people realise that September is Latin for the 7th month? December the 10th month, and so February is the 12th month? Before 1752 in Britain the new year began on March 25th, the spring quarter day!
I’m not advocating changes. Most festivals are somewhat out of sync – for example Christmas remembers the conception of Jesus, and the “feast of Michael and all angels” His birth, but most still celebrate His birth on December 25th. It’s good to know about origins, but not to be pedantic about the time of celebration.