In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: God’s Calendar [2023 - Rosh Hashana]
This Shabbat is one of those special Shabbats that the Hebrew Calendar has during the year. It is the Shabbat of what TRADITION calls The Jewish New Year. It is celebrated on the first day of the seventh month! Well, anyone with a head on his shoulders ought to ask the obvious question, “How can it be that the first day of the seventh month be a “NEW YEAR” holiday. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that something has gone wrong in the land of Narnia.
The tradition that has the Shabbat on the first day of the seventh month has special Torah and prophet readings on this special Shabbat of Rosh Hashanah. We too, in the Roeh Israel Congregation in Jerusalem will flex our knees in respect for this Jewish Tradition of celebrating the New Year on the first day of the seventh month.
Well, we Jews actually have not invented the wheel! There are others who have such strange and nonhistorical ‘holy holidays. For example, our Christian brothers and sisters, have a holiday called “Christ’s Mass” – i.e., Christmas. Ho Ho Ho – this a very big Christian Holiday. Some of the practices are much older than Yeshua. These practices were even older than Moses. I am sure that Abraham, our father, was happy to go to the marketplace in Hebron and see the Hittite fathers walking hand in hand with their young children, looking for a nice cedars of Lebanon young tree to buy and take home to do what the prophet Jeremiah described in chapter 10: 1-6;
“Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; They must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” In as much as there is none like You, O LORD (You are great, and Your name is great in might),” (Jeremiah 10:1–6 NKJV).
So, in order for all to know that we are no better than other nations and we can import and even invent our own pagan holidays and rename them and redecorate them and clean them up a little just like we did to the first day of the seventh month and may be circumcised it a little to make it Kosher and called it The Jewish New Year.
I forgot to tell you dear brothers and sisters, that actually the first day of the seventh month IS a Biblical holiday, with no small importance.
Here is the Biblical significance of this date on the Biblical Calendar; the Kosher holiday that falls on this important date.
“Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23:24
Here you have the date:
The First Day of the Seventh Month. It is the Feast of blasting a loud sound with the trumpets. There is no mention of New Year on this date neither in the Torah nor in the Prophets, nor in the historical texts in the Bible, nor in the wisdom literature of the Bible. Just simply blast with the trumpets (Shofar) on the first day of the seventh month.
What is the biblical significance of this specific command from God to blast on this very day with the trumpets? Here are the biblical meanings and uses of blasting the trumpets, the Shofar (ram’s horn).
Leviticus (23:24) says regarding that first day of Tishrei: “In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath [as in "day of rest"], a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:24 NKJV).
““When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also, in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”” (Numbers 10:9-10 NKJV)
The true biblical significance of blowing the trumpets is an announcement to the camp of Israel. There were no cellphones or radio or television in those days of the wilderness. There were ram’s horns and brass trumpets that could announce important announcements for the whole camp of Israel. Specifically, in times of war, the headquarters of the children of Israel had to mobilize the army of the camp and they had to do it with the loud sound of the trumpets and the Ram’s horn. This was no trivial matter to gather the men of Israel to get ready for war against their enemies. It was an important matter that gathered the forces of Israel against idolatry.
All the names of the Hebrew Months are not biblical. The biblical way of marking the months is with numbers, the first month, second month, third month and all the way to the 12th month. The names used today were adopted after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the elite population of Judea to Babylon. The elite of the Jewish society was 70 years in Babylon until the Babylonian King sent them back. With Ezra and Nehemiah, they returned to Israel and Jerusalem and rebuild it.
The first of the Babylonian / Akkadian calendar is called Tishrin or in local dialect in Canaan, Tishrei. The basic meaning of Tishrei is “The Beginning!” In the Arabic calendar the month of Tishrei is also called “The First Month!” So, what was the reason for adopting and importing the pagan Canaanite New Year to the Jewish calendar? Here is my understanding of the reason and the connection.
Why was it so important to blow the trumpets on this first day of the seventh month? The story of the conversion of Biblical New Year that is mentioned, clearly says that it is on the first day of the first month; which is the month of Nissan: not in the seventh month.
The feast of trumpets, from the book of Leviticus and Numbers, adopts, with the commands, to blow the trumpets with the war against idolatry and especially against the Baal worship. In Israel it connects the declaration of war against Baal idolatry and the Baal Cycle. So, this is what happens!
The blowing of the trumpets (Shofarot) is an instrument for informing the people of war or calamity. This holiday in the Torah, given by God, is the blowing of the trumpets; a call to war against the idolatry of Baal. Therefore, the command is to declare war against the Baal worship in Israel, on the very day that Baal returns to his place out of Hades (Hell). These are the roots of the blowing of the trumpets (shofar) on the first day of the seventh month.
There are other weird developments in our calendar and worship. We have at least two commands to blow the trumpets (Shofar) on the first day of the seventh month. There is no question on what day this date falls; it could actually fall on any day of the week. Actuality, the first day of the month of Tishrei falls on the Sabbath day, only on rare occasions. The Rabbis decided that on the first day of the pagan month of Tishrei, there will be no blowing of the trumpets (Shofar).
Here you have it, dear brothers. We Jews have lost our way. We cancel a clear and direct order from God and by our wisdom, we cancel the whole command to blow the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month and replace God’s law with some sufistic human smart and fake logic that says blowing the trumpets on Shabbat is not allowed. For me God’s word has priority above and beyond any doctrine or teaching of ruling by man that cancels the word of God.
In Jerusalem on this next Shabbat, in our congregation, we are going to blow the trumpets loud and clear. We are going to practice the clear and blessed command to blow the trumpets (shofar) with conviction and faith and blow our Shofars (Trumpets) and keep declaring war against idolatry and Baalism.
In our congregation in Jerusalem, we will always choose to be obedient to the Torah and the Word of God above all. And when there is no contradiction between Rabbinical traditions and teachings and the WORD of God, and of course the Living WORD of God, Yeshua – we will respect and keep and celebrate our rich Rabbinical traditions and teachings, and continue to give priority and superiority to God’s Word in the Torah first of all, the prophets and the wisdom literature and finally to the teachings and instructions of the Apostles.
Hearing and doing the instructions of the Torah is also a Torah commandment and also Yeshua’s commandment:
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:1-3 NKJV)
On this Shabbat, September 17th, 2023, we will be reading the Torah portion and the prophets and from the New Testament the following texts: From the Torah the reading will be from Genesis 22:1-24. From the Prophets we will read from Jeremiah 31:1-19, and from the New Testament we will read Luke 1:39-55.
Just for your information, this year the first day of Roah HaShanah (The Jewish New Year) starts on Friday, September 16, 2023.
Yehuda Bachana: Why do we blow the Shofar [2023 - Rosh Hashana]
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
Of all the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah is the most obscure holiday in the Torah. The Torah does not reveal to us what exactly the precepts of the holiday are, and what is its meaning. What is clear to us is only the main commandment of blowing of the shofar.
Nehemiah 8 describes for us the first Rosh Hashanah, after the return from the Babylonian exile:
“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” – Nehemiah 8:10 [NKJV]
Here Ezra and Nehemiah are telling the people, “today is holy, today we begin the 10 Days of Awe before the Day of Atonement, but do not grieve, on the contrary: ‘eat the fat, drink the sweet.’” We are meant to rejoice on Rosh Hashanah.
As the people of Israel, we see the eating of the fat and sweet things, as a symbol of a happy and sweet year, a fat and hearty year in agriculture, work, livelihood and family, that we will have happy and sweetness alongside our loved ones.
Numbers 29 lists the five main holidays in the Hebrew calendar:
Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. On four of these holidays, we understand the meaning and reason for the existence of the holiday, and the reason for doing things like building a Sukkah or eating matzah.
Rosh Hashanah, however, is a little less clear to us. In the Torah it is called the “Feast of Trumpets”. Judaism attributes this as being the start of the new year, the first of 10 days of repentance, which are a time of repentance and forgiveness, in preparation for the Day of Atonement.
What is the source of Rosh Hashanah's uniqueness as a day of repentance, forgiveness, and atonement? The holiday makes no mention of the subject of repentance. The Bible simply states:
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” – Numbers 29:1 [NKJV]
According to the Torah, there is only one mitzvah that belongs to Rosh Hashanah – the blowing of the shofar: “For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” What's the point of the commandment to blow a trumpet? This also does not appear in the Torah, neither explicitly nor indirectly.
In the Torah there is no hint of a conceptual connection or closeness between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Why does Jewish tradition connect Rosh Hashanah with Yom Kippur as the “Days of Awe”?
As the New Testament can be understood deeper in the light of the Torah, so the Torah can also be understood deeper in the light of the New Testament. Again, it is one canon of Scripture, of the Living Word of God, and this is how we are supposed to read and understand the totality of Scripture, as a single whole.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:8:
“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” – 1 Corinthians 14:8 [NKJV]
Some traditional interpretations use the same idea as the one that Paul is raising – war and spiritual war, linking the idea of spiritual war with Rosh Hashanah, which is a day of blowing the trumpets. In a time of physical war, when the enemy approaches, we must blow the trumpets.
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.” – Numbers 10:9 [NKJV]
This verse emphasizes that during tribulations, Israel does not stand alone, God is standing by our side. But God's help is not “automatic”.
We must blow the trumpet, and as a result, it is as if we are brought to God's attention, and then He will save us from our enemies that rise up against us. In times of trouble, we turn to Him, and He will save us.
As believers, we encounter two different kinds of dangers: physical war and spiritual war. And 10 days before the Day of Atonement, we blow the shofar and ask God to come and deliver us spiritually.
And here we see the aspect of repentance, and mental preparation before the Day of Atonement. The blowing of the shofar reminds us of the need to repent, the need to correct our ways, and in addition, the blowing of the shofar brings us up before God for help, for salvation.
The Torah teaches us that without this combination of repentance and sacrifice there is no forgiveness of sins. Yeshua is our sacrifice, but the responsibility of repentance rests on our own shoulders.
The shofar also alerts us, Jews who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and the world, to repent, to return to our Messiah, to return to security in our salvation.
During Rosh Hashanah it is customary to read “The Binding of Isaac”. It is as if we do this to remind God that, in the end, He took pity on Isaac, and at the last moment, God saved him. So is the hope that at the last moment, on the Day of Judgment, God will have mercy on us.
But more than that, we, the people of Israel, remember that Isaac was not sacrificed. Instead, a ram was sacrificed. We hope that this will be the case for as as well on the Day of Judgment.
And indeed it is, in the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah. It was Yeshua who was sacrificed in our place, He paid the price in full. In Yeshua, we can stand on Judgment Day.
According to tradition, each text has four layers of interpretation. These are explained in a Hebrew acronym called “Pardes”: “Peshat”, “Remez”, “Derash”, and “Sōd”.
“Peshat” refers to the literal meaning of the text. “Remez” is where the text hints to an additional meaning that is different than what we understand in the literal sense.
In “Derash”, the text hides within it a parable with a deeper meaning, and when we decipher it, then we understand additional texts that are conceptually related to it. “Sōd” is the most complex, and it contains secrets that few are able to discover or understand.
The New Testament is full of each of these layers of interpretation. The New Testament interprets the Torah in each of these methods of interpretation. It illuminates a lot of issues, and produces an entire “Pardes” (“pardes” is also the Hebrew word for “orchard”).
In the New Testament, we find the following verse:
“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” – Luke 24:32 [NKJV]
Yeshua walked with the disciples and explained the Scriptures to them, revealed secrets to them (“Sōd”), and further understanding regarding the “Peshat”, the literal meaning of the text.
Here is an example of an interpretation in the New Testament of a scripture in the Torah:
When we read the story of the binding of Isaac, we do not know what is happening in Abraham's head. We do not know what storm of emotions he is going through. We don't know what he's thinking. We can imagine, but not know.
Then comes the author of Hebrews and reveals to us a “secret” (“Sōd”), something that can not be revealed without revelation from God.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son… concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” – Hebrews 11:17,19 [NKJV]
Abraham thinks and believes that Isaac will be raised from the dead. This is a “secret” that can know only by divine revelation.
But in the story of the binding of Isaac there is also a “Derash”, a deeper meaning, since there is a great similarity between this story and the story of Yeshua the Messiah.
Mount Moriah, according to tradition, is the abode of the Temple. Isaac carries the wood on his back, as one who bears a cross. This leads to a binding-crucifixion parallel, the scope and complexity of which also appear in Jewish art, for example, the painting “The Sacrifice of Isaac” by Marc Chagall.
Isaac asks where the lamb is hiding. Which lamb? The Lamb of God?
There is a “Remez”, a hint, in the word “lamb”. It alludes to the connection between the binding and the Passover sacrifice, and both of them to Yeshua.
The number three - three days Abraham travels, and three days Yeshua was in the grave, and three times Yeshua prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And of course the similarities between the following sayings:
“…This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17b [NKJV]
“…Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” – Genesis 22:2a [NKJV]
Abraham is loading his donkey, and here there's another hint, because a donkey alludes to the Messiah, who says:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9 [NKJV]
This is one of the verses that brings forth the idea that the Messiah comes upon a donkey, therefore the Talmud notes:
“One who sees a donkey in a dream should anticipate salvation.” – Berakhot 56b
Hence the famous Hebrew phrase, “The Messiah's Donkey”. Yeshua entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
And in conclusion, we see Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed. Abraham was very old at the time. If the boy wanted to, he could easily be released from the grip of his father, saving himself.
This is another hint (“Remez”), alluding to Yeshua's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’” – Matthew 26:39 [NKJV]
We touched on the “Sōd”, the “Derash”, and the “Remez” in the story of the binding of Isaac. However, it is important to go back to the literal meaning, the “Peshat”, to the most basic interpretation of the verse:
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham…” – Genesis 22:1a [NKJV]
And this brings us back to the ground. We understand that this is the true meaning of faith in God. When we do not understand the reasoning behind what we are commanded to do, yet we hurry to fulfill the commandments anyway.
Let us all have a Happy New Year, a year of health, a year of success, and of love.
But most importantly, may we have a year of light, that we will walk in the light of God's word.
Happy Rosh Hashanah!