Rosh Hashanah - Yom T'ruah (Genesis 21:1-34; Numbers 29:1-6)

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. You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to HaShem: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to HaShem.
Numbers 29:1-6

Yom T'ruah. A "day of blowing of trumpets." What an odd phrase. Not that blowing trumpets (or shofars) is odd, but the fact is that there is no reason given for "blowing" here in Numbers 29, or in Leviticus 23 where the word t'ruah is first found in Scripture. But what makes this even more odd is the fact that the "trumpets" is not found in the Hebrew text of Numbers 29:1. In Hebrew it simply says, "It is a day of blowing for you." Blowing? Blowing what, and for what reason? Traditionally, this is a day of the blowing of shofars, but what intrigues me is the lack of information about this Feast. True, it is also the Rosh Chodesh [First of the New Moon] of the Seventh month, on which the shofar is blown (Psalm 81), but why "blowing" and what does it commemorate?

This week, all Israel celebrates Rosh Hashanah [First of the Year]. At the same time we celebrate the Rosh Chodesh [First of the New Moon], for the month of Tishrei.

Let's back up. What does Yom T'ruah have to do with Rosh Hashanah? They are one in the same, but Yom T'ruah is the biblical name. After all, this renewal of the moon is not the first month, but the seventh month. After our release from slavery in Egypt, HaShem decreed that Aviv (also called Nisan in Scripture) was to be the first month. So, this Feast of the New Moon of the Seventh Month used to be the first day. Well, the first day for man anyway. Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah (or Yom T'ruah) is the anniversary of the creation of man, or the sixth day of creation. That makes it also the anniversary of the first sin... and the first repentance, and the first offering.

In the biblical calendar, Yom T'ruah is the first of the autumn Feasts. It is both joyous, and somewhat mysterious. Joyous because it is a time of rejoicing in the goodness and plenty that HaShem has brought us during the year. It is mysterious because we are never told directly what we are celebrating, or what this Feast of HaShem prophesies of. In Leviticus 23:24, we first learn of this Feast of HaShem:

Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation."
Leviticus 23:24

No, the word "trumpets" is not found in the Hebrew here either. Here, Yom T'ruah is called Zik'ron T'ruah, or "Memorial Blowing." This "Day of Blowing" or "Memorial Blowing," this day of beginnings must be something important.

It is.

It is a day which speaks of creation, binding, redemption, offering, service, judgment. It is a day which speaks of Messiah.

Much of what we traditionally know of the celebration of this day is revealed in Psalm 81. Psalm 81 is the Psalm that was sung in ancient times in the Temple on the fifth day of each week (Thursday on our calendar). Here is the Psalm as it appears in the prayers for the Fifth Day of the Sabbath (Thursday):

Today is the fifth day of the Sabbath, on which the Levites would recite in the Holy Temple:

Psalm 81

For the Conductor, upon the gittis by Assaf. Sing joyously to the G-d of our might, call out to the G-d of Jacob. Raise a song and sound the drum, the sweet harp with the lyre. Blow the shofar at the moon's renewal, at the time appointed for our festive day. Because it is a decree for Israel, a judgment day for the G-d of Jacob. He imposed it as a testimony for Joseph when he went forth over the land of Egypt - "I understood a language I never knew!" I removed his shoulder from the burden, his hands let go of the kettle. In distress you called out, and I released you, I answered you with thunder when you hid, I tested you at the Waters of Strife, Selah. Listen My nation, and I will attest to you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me. There shall be no strange god within you, nor shall you bow before an alien god.  I am HaShem your G-d, Who elevated you from the land of Egypt, open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But My people did not heed My voice and Israel did not desire Me. So I let them follow their heart's fantasies, they follow their own counsels. If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways. In an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn My hand. Those who hate HaShem, lie to Him - so their destiny is eternal. But would feed him with the cream of the wheat, and with honey from a rock sate you.
Psalm 81, from the ArtScroll Complete Siddur, weekday morning service.

In this Psalm we read not only of Yom T'ruah, but also some of what it memorializes, and some of what it prophesies to. Beloved, like Yom T'ruah itself, it speaks of the entire history of Israel, and of mankind - from the beginning to the end.

Let's start at the beginning of this Psalm. First, it is "by Assaf." Who is this Assaf fellow? He was a Levite musician during the rule of King David, but what the sages notice in this Psalm is that this is a Psalm about redemption, and that the word asaf means, "ingathering" - remember that, it will be important to your understanding of the Feast of Yom T'ruah.

" out to the G-d of Jacob.." Call out? Beloved, this word shares the root for our verb T'ruah. It is "to blow," "to shout." This is the plural hifil stem of the verb. It is also imperative. It is not an option, or an "invitation," it is a command, and it is a command for all HaShem's people. It is the celebration of the coming Judge of the Earth. "...Because it is a decree for Israel, a judgment day for the G-d of Jacob..."

Then we have this description of Joseph in Egypt, and being freed from the burden of slavery. First this is speaking of Joseph himself. Yom T'ruah is the anniversary of Joseph's freedom from prison, where he had been wrongfully imprisoned because he had shunned the advances of Potiphar's wife. Here Joseph's name is spelled differently from any other place in Scripture. He is called "Y'hosef" [yod-hey-vav-samech-fey]. This spelling adds the letter hey into his name. In Sotah 10a, it is noted that this additional letter is added to Joseph's name from the hey in the Almighty's holy Name. Much like Abraham's and Joshua's name change, this additional hey denotes a holy and unique identity as the servant of HaShem.

As well, this speaks of greater Israel that came to be in Egypt when they followed Joseph there. Yom T'ruah is the anniversary of the end of Israel's servitude in Egypt. It is on this date we remember that our labors for a cruel master ended - and we watched in awe as our G-d struck the Egyptians and their gods with judgment, until we were final freed from slavery 6 ½ months later on Passover.

When we were tested in the Wilderness, we did not do well. There at Meribah we grumbled against Moses one last time. His response in striking the rock, kept him from entering the Land of Promise. Our lack of faith led us away from the G-d of our redemption. And yet His promises of provision and deliverance remain. He will strike down our enemies in an instant. He will turn His hand against our enemies and His and their destiny is one of eternal condemnation.

Psalm 81, speaks of Judgment Day. It speaks of Redemption and the Ultimate Redemption. It speaks of Yom T'ruah - a Day of Blowing. The traditional synagogue readings for Yom T'ruah include Genesis 21. It is about the birth of Isaac. That is because Yom T'ruah is the traditional anniversary of the "Binding of Isaac" [or the Akeidah] in Genesis 22. Blowing a shofar, a ram's horn, seems quite appropriate does it not?

On Yom T'ruah, Noah sent the dove out of the Ark a third time and it did not return (Genesis 8:12-13). Where did it land? Homiletically, it found a place to rest.

When He had been immersed, Yeshua came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of G-d descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
Matthew 3:16

What does a "shout" and a "blowing" call to mind? What should we be memorializing, or looking forward to?

For the L-rd Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of G-d. And the dead in Messiah will rise first.
1Thessalonians 4:16

And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:31

He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12

Sound the great shofar for our freedom. Raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you HaShem, Who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel.

From Shemoneh Esrei, the Artscroll Complete Siddur

As you prepare for Yom T'ruah, consider the "Blowing" that was commanded for you. It is the "blowing" of the shofar, to announce the coming Judge. He is the Asaf [Ingatherer] of the dispersed of Israel. He will gather His elect from the four corners of the earth, and He will restore His Presence to Zion. On this day of Yom T'ruah we look for our soon returning King. Blessed are You HaShem, Who restores His Presence to Zion.

Be ready. These are Days of Awe. Live today as the King, the Judge of the Earth has commanded. Chag Sameach! [A Joyful Feast!]

Yom T'ruah is the date of:

*Traditional date

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Rick Spurlock
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