Shana Tova! Happy New Year! The New Year 5783 since the creation of the world (according to Rabbi Jose ben Halafta’s incorrect calculations) is just around the corner. In a little over three months, we will also celebrate the Gregorian New Year of 2023 since the birth of Christ (according to Dionysius Exiguus’ incorrect calculations).
The time between these two New Years is what I call the holiday season season. That is, the season of many different holiday seasons. Because we have the different Jewish fall holidays for about a month, then almost a month later we have the Ethiopian Sigd and American Thanksgiving, and then we go right into December with advent and Hanukka and Christmas time, and then we end it all with the Gregorian New Year. That’s right. In our family we celebrate whichever holidays we feel like.
But there is a difference. No one commanded us to celebrate Sigd or Christmas or Thanksgiving or even Hanukka. We are not even commanded to celebrate our birthdays. Those are holidays we add ourselves because we like them and we like their food. But the fall holidays? Rosh haShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret – God did command us to celebrate them.
Some people will say “that’s the Old Testament, you don’t need to celebrate those anymore,” to which I would answer – even if that was true, why would I want to stop?
Rosh haShana, the New Year, is called “the Feast of Trumpets” in the Bible. Leviticus 23:23-25 defines it as a holiday on the first day of the seventh month. At some point in Jewish history, the seventh month turned into the first month (it’s complicated, and the explanations are a bit conflicting) and the feast of trumpets turned into New Years. Besides sounding the trumpet and resting, there are no more details. But what do we know about the trumpets?
The trumpet used, the shofar horn, was in ancient times both a call for war, and a call made when crowning a new king and for the signing of a covenant. There were sounds of trumpets when Moses brought down the Torah from Mount Sinai. There is even a verse in Isaiah 58:1 about using the trumpet to remind people of their sins.
All these come together in 1st Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.” When Yeshua comes back on the clouds of heaven, we will hear the trumpet that will remind us of our sins and of the coming judgment, and it will be the crowning of him as king over the earth. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.
The proximity to Yom Kippur is no accident. There is a preparation for the day of judgment going on here. It’s not quite Yom Kippur yet, but it’s a new year, so we should be searching our souls and getting ready to examine our lives to see whether we live the way we should. The only occasion in the Bible where we see how they celebrated Rosh haShana is in Nehemiah 8:2-12 and there we really do see this combination – grief over sin, preparation for judgment, but still making in a joyful occasion with food and drinks.
This is what we will experience when Yeshua comes on the clouds. There is judgement, but for whoever is saved, it’s a day of immense joy. This is why I believe that Yeshua will come back on Rosh haShana. Probably not in 2022, but at some Rosh haShana in the future. The actual judgment will be on Yom Kippur, and by the time Sukkot rolls in, we will dwell with him in his tabernacle.
Hopefully, he will let us celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas there too.