Monthly Archives: February 2017

ROSH HASHANNAH (Feast of Trumpets –“New Year”)

maxresdefaultROSH HASHANNAH (Feast of Trumpets– “New Year”)

Date:  The first and second day of the Jewish month, Tishri, which falls in September or October.  It was an autumn festival associated with preparations for the harvest.

Name:  The Bible name is Feast of Trumpets because it was observed with the blowing of trumpets or the shofar, the ram’s horn.  In later years, it was called Rosh (Hebrew for head or beginning) HaShannah (Hebrew for the year) since it marked the beginning of the year.

Purpose:  To present Israel before the Lord for His favor.

Old Testament:  “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire” (Leviticus 23:24-25).  Also Numbers 29:1-6.

Observance:  It was a day of rest when Jewish people gathered at the tabernacle (temple) with their sacrifices.  Today they come to the synagogue to examine their deeds of the past year and pray for forgiveness.  They reaffirm their faith and prepare for a 10-day period of repentance that climaxes on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Tradition:  The ram’s horn recalls Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God asked it of him, but in the last moment God provided a ram and accepted the sacrifice of the ram instead of the son.  The sounding of the shofar reminds people of their responsibility to God and calls them to repentance.

One tradition holds that three books are opened at the sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShannah–one for the completely righteous, one for the completely wicked, and one for the average person.  Those most righteous are inscribed in the Book of Life, the wicked are inscribed in the book of death, and the average are kept in suspension for the ten days of repentance until the Day of Atonement.  If they fare well, they will be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Fulfillment:  As the trumpet called people to the presence of God to stand before His judgment and mercy, believers in the Messiah look forward to hearing the trumpet on the last day when He will return with “the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

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Tradition!

fiddler-on-the-roof1520As I write this, I am thinking about our Purim celebration and our Passover Seder plans.  Of course, if Purim and Passover are coming up, then Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Holy Week are too.  And all of these are wonderful opportunities for worship, fellowship and growing in faith, and all are rich in tradition.

Tradition!  We are all probably familiar with Tevye’s take on tradition in The Fiddler on the Roof.  This month, for our Shabbat fellowship on the 17th, we are hosting a sing-a-long (and dance-a-long!) evening with Fiddler on the Roof.  And while I will laud the value of tradition along with Tevye, I will also grieve a little.

Tevye’s whole perspective is that living in this world is a tenuous proposition.  Life is hard, and you never know what the world is going to throw at you.  So you rely on tradition to keep your balance.  Because, “without our traditions, life would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.”

Traditions are good things. . .until they’re not.  We all know the joke, “How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?”  The punch line is of course, (with a horrified look on one’s face), Change!?  I was with a group of guys the other night, and a few were Lutherans, and one of them added to that old joke with the addendum, “My grandfather paid for that lightbulb!”

There are traditions that strengthen our faith and grow us as a people of God.  I would argue that the celebration of biblically historic festivals and days fall into that category including all those that I mentioned above.  Liturgy can be in that category and unites us with the historic Church throughout the ages, even as ours unites us with the historic Church, even before the 3rd century!

But some traditions serve only to serve our flesh.  The old “we’ve never done it that way before” can stifle our growth in faith.  Lutherans are full of those kinds of traditions too.  So are the Jewish people.  And the worst tradition of all is that “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”  I’ve heard that both from Lutherans and Jews, and that’s when I grieve.  Because, though our God is unchanging, for those of us who believe in Jesus,  “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52) and raised imperishable.  Praise Him!

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