Yom T’ruah (Rosh Hashanah)

The modern-day name of the feast, Rosh haShanah (ראש השנה, i.e. head of the year), was originally called Yom T’ruah (יום תרועה‎). It became Rosh haShanah during the Babylonian exile, when the Babylonian calendar was adopted by the Jewish people.1

The original name, Yom T’ruah, is translated to English as the “feast of trumpets”, although a more accurate translation would be the “day of shouting”.2 Furthermore, God set the beginning of the year to the month of the Exodus (Nisan, c.f. Ex. 12:2, Lev. 23:4) and therefore, Yom T’ruah occured in the 7th month, as the commandement in Leviticus 23:23-25 shows:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “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 (or: loud shouting), a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”
Leviticus 23:23-25

Summary of rabbinic traditions

In rabbinic Judaism, the days preceding Rosh haShanah are considered holy days during which the Slichot prayers (סליחות‎‎, prayers of repentance) should be recited in preparation of Rosh haShanah, which is also known as Yom haDin (יום הדין, i.e. the “day of judgement”).

On Yom haDin, 3 books are opened, the book of life, for the righteous among the nations, the book of death, for the most evil who receive the seal of death, and the third book for the ones living in doubts with non-evil sins. The final judgment is not done from Yom haDin before the start of Yom Kippur, it is sometimes possible to receive the seal of life by asking for forgiveness.3

Future fulfillment

The shouts and trumpet blasts are alluded to in the book of Revelations with several themes of announcement.

Judgement

The trumpet blasts and shouts in front of the city of Jericho (Joshua 6) announced its judgement by God.

“Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.”
Joshua 6:4

Similarly to Joshua’s account, the coming judgement is also accompanied by shouts or woes, as shown in Revelations 8-11.

“Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.”
Revelation 8:2

Similarly to Joshua’s account, the coming judgement is also accompanied by shouts or woes (e.g. Rev. 8:13). Of course, the one bringing this judgement to restore justice is the new and righteous king.

A new king

Traditionally, after being anointed with oil, new kings were proclaimed by loud shouting, as can be seen with Saul (1 Samuel 10:1,25) and Solomon (1 Kings 1:34). This typefies the coming of Messiah as a King (e.g. Rev. 11:15 & 19-20). First, Yeshua was anointed with oil (Mat. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8) and then recognised as king of Israel by the civil authority in mockery (Pontius Pilate, e.g. John 19:19 or the priests, e.g. Mat. 27:42, Mark 15:32). But like David, he did not become king until much later, when loud voices will proclaim the kingdom:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign forever and ever!”
Revelation 11:15

The bridegroom

Traditionally, the bridegroom would come to take his bride during the night with trumpet blasts and loud shouting from his friends. This is alluded to in Yeshua’s parable of the ten bridesmaids:

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Matthew 25:6

Similyrly, Messiah as the bridegroom of his people is announced with trumpet blasts and loud shouting (e.g. Rev. 12 & 19; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me: “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Revelation 16:6-9a

References and footnotes

1 Blog post “How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashanah” (Link)

2 Compare to the usage of the word תרועה‎ in Joshua 6:5, where it is clearly related to shouting and loud noises

3 Wikipedia article on Rosh haShanah (Link)

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The Story Of Rabbi Eliezer

The following story from the Babylonian Talmud (Seder Nezikin, Baba Metzia 59b speaks for itself:

[…] Rabbi Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. Said he to them:

– ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’

Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits.

– ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted.

Again he said to them:

– ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’

Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards

– ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined.

Again he urged:

– ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall.

But Rabbi Joshua rebuked them, saying:

– ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’

Hence they did not fall, in honour of Rabbi Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of Rabbi Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined.

Again he said to them:

– ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’

Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out:

– ‘Why do ye dispute with Rabbi Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him?’

But Rabbi Joshua arose and exclaimed:

– ‘It is not in heaven.’

What did he mean by this? — Said Rabbi Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because You (God) have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.

Rabbi Nathan met Elijah and asked him:

– What did (God) the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour?

– He laughed [with joy], [Elijah] replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’

It was said: On that day all objects which Rabbi Eliezer had declared clean were brought and burnt in fire. Then they took a vote and excommunicated him.

A number of issues appear with this story. The ones that are immediately obvious are listed below:

  • Nowhere in the Old Testament (Tanakh) does it say that one should follow the majority, as Rabbi Jeremiah claims. This is a statement from the Oral Law.
  • The main theme of this story is the “correct interpretation” of the Old Testament (Tanakh), instead of forming a relationship with God and of focussing on what God says about the passage.
  • This story allows the rabbis to supersede God’s word, i.e. to interpret it at their own will and to create new commandements that God never intended.
  • Using this story and other passages in the Talmud, the rabbis put themselves above God himself by claiming that he (God) has to conform to the interpretations of the rabbis.

This frame of mind makes me wonder whether it isn’t the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.
Jeremiah 8.8