#51 09/30/19 Nitzavim

Shana Tova, Happy New Year 5780!

“Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to YAHUVEH.’” (Leviticus 23:23–25)

Today is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year: Rosh HaShanah —the beginning of the Jewish year 5780.

Since this holy day is considered a Sabbath, no work is done; all over Israel and around the world, the Jewish People are attending services in local synagogues.

Biblically, this celebration is known as Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets).

Last night as the holy day began, selichot (prayers for forgiveness) intensified and this morning the shofar (ram’s horn or trumpet) is being sounded about 100 times, depending upon the community's tradition.

It will continue to be sounded throughout this holy day season.

First and Second Day Customs

This holiday is a feast; therefore, it is customary for families to gather for a holiday meal that begins with the blessing over two round challahs (egg bread) dipped in honey.

The challah is round to represent completeness, the continuity of creation and the omnipresence of ELOHIM, as well as the yearly cycle.

Right afterward, apple slices are dipped in honey. This simple tradition conveys the hope that the coming year will be sweet and free of sorrow.

Today, a special ceremony called Tashlich (casting off) will be performed.

This ritual involves symbolically casting off sin. To do this, bits of bread and other food will be tossed into a body of water, such as a stream, river, lake, pond or sea, which will carry them away. As we toss them we recite Micah 7:18–19 and other verses.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18–19)

Tonight as the sun goes down, the second night of Rosh HaShanah will begin, and many will observe the tradition of serving a fruit that has just come into season.

This fruit is often the pomegranate since it comes into season in Israel around this time.

According to Jewish tradition, the pomegranate has 613 seeds, which is the same number of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah.

The following blessing called the Shehecheyanu (Who Has Given Us Life) is recited before eating the fruit:

Blessed are You, YAHUVEH our ELOHIM, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. Amen.

The Blasting of the Shofar

“On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest [Shabbaton], a sacred assembly [mikreh kodesh] commemorated with trumpet blasts [Zichron Teruah].” (Leviticus 23:24)

In Leviticus 23:24, Rosh HaShanah is called Shabbaton Zichron Teruah, which is translated as a special Sabbath holiday of remembrance with the blasting of the shofar.

That is why a central observance of this holy day is the sounding of the shofar, which heralds YAHUVEH as King of the Universe. The shofar played a role when YAHUVEH came to the Israelites in a dense cloud and as fire at Mount Sinai.

There in His presence, on the morning of the third day, three months after they left Egypt, amidst booming thunder and flashes of lightning, the shofar sounded.

We can only imagine the intensity of the scene. It was so powerful that "everyone in the camp trembled.” (Exodus 19:16)

Who blew the shofar from that thick cloud on Mount Sinai with all the people of Israel gathered below? Was it The Angel of YAHUVEH or did ELOHIM — YAH Himself — blow the shofar?

The shofar is an instrument of great spiritual significance.

The purpose of the sound of the shofar is to wake YAH’s people out of their spiritual slumber, to cause them to see the signs of the times, and to remind them to examine the spiritual condition of their lives.

This is the message of teshuvah (repentance), which in Hebrew literally means to return. Teshuvah, therefore, is turning from our sins and returning to YAHUVEH.

So, why do we blow the shofar on Yom Zichron Teruah? Although we know it is a commandment, the reasons are not specifically stated.

"On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets [Yom Teruah]." (Numbers 29:1)

Occasions to Blow the Shofar

In the Biblical times of Israel, the shofar was blown for several reasons:

1. To mark the arrival of a new moon;

2. To celebrate a simcha (joyous occasion);

3. To proclaim liberty to the captives;

4. To hail a king at his coronation;

5. To warn of impending judgment;

6. To gather troops to battle;

7. To sound an alarm;

8. To call a sacred assembly and time of fasting;

9. To confuse the enemy camp; and

10. To draw YAHUVEH’s attention.

Some of these purposes are demonstrated in the following prophecies of Joel:

Sounding the Shofar as an Alarm

“Blow the trumpet [shofar] in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain; let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of YAHUVEH comes, for it is close at hand; a day of darkness and gloominess....

“Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to YAHUVEH, your ELOHIM; for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and relents from sending calamity." (Joel 2:1–2, 13)

Sounding the Shofar to Call an Assembly

“Blow the trumpet [shofar] in Zion! Sanctify a fast. Call a solemn assembly.” (Joel 2:15)

The Shofar of Mercy: the Binding of Isaac

“Abraham said, ‘YAHUVEH will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’” (Genesis 22:8)

Since the shofar is a ram’s horn, it may be understood to represent YAHUVEH’S mercy as demonstrated in the Book of Genesis when YAHUVEH spared the life of Isaac.

In obedience to YAHUVEH’S command, Abraham had prepared to offer up his son on the altar as a sacrifice; however, true to Abraham’s faith, YAHUVEH stayed His hand and provided a ram caught in the thicket for the sacrifice (Genesis 22).

Although some may blow the ram's horn (shofar) to remind us of YAH’s mercy to Abraham, YAH has revealed His mercy to us even more so through YAHUSHUA.

He did not spare the life of His only SON, YAHUSHUA, but gave it up for