Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rosh Hashanah

Last night at sundown, the nation of Israel (and Jews around the world) began the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. It will continue until sundown on Friday of this week.

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri in the Jewish calendar. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." We would call Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game. It is a very holy day for them.

The Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. The name "Rosh Hashanah" is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday was instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.

The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. The traditional greeting on this day is "L'shanah tovah!" (For a good year!)

Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). The observant walks to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empties their pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before afternoon services.

Today, ponder the significance of a new start. Muse over the release of sins that we have from our Lord Jesus Christ. Seek to cast off that which does so easily hold us back (Hebrews 12:1), and pray to walk forward in a new and refreshed life in Christ. May I wish you "L'shanah tovah!"

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