In just a few days we celebrate the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah). In Rabbinic literature and tradition, this holiday has become Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. It’s not clear when the Day of Shouting, as it’s also called, became the New Year celebration, as these are not connected in the original institution of the holy day in Leviticus and Numbers. As we study the two traditions, there are many beautiful overlapping traditions we may draw upon to celebrate the holiday meaningfully.
Yom Teruah is a day of proclaiming that God is king of the world. It was established along with the other fall festivals in Numbers 29, to be observed as a time of blasting on the shofar; a day of rest and public prayer.
Rosh Hashanah (“The Head of the Year”), observing the Day of Trumpets as a celebration of the New Year, has been a traditional practice for centuries and is considered the “birthday of the world,” a commemoration of the earth’s creation. Others believe it is also the time when Christ will return to establish the new heavens and the new earth.
You may associate apples and honey, pomegranates and challah with Rosh Hashanah, as they are traditionally eaten on the holiday to bring in a sweet new year. On Rosh Hashanah it is also traditional to perform a blessing of the children; participate in tashlich, or casting away of sins; and to have a special family meal. Children enjoy making and blowing their own shofars. It’s truly a special celebration!
As I learn more about these holidays this year, I am seeking to integrate the central meaning of the holy day into my spiritual growth, to better understand the nature of God.
Researching the holiday of Yom Teruah, I was reminded of an unrelated story; the unforgettable telling of Joshua and the people of Israel encountering the impervious city of Jericho. In Joshua chapter 6 we read:
“Yericho had completely barricaded its gates against the people of Isra’el — no one left, and no one entered. Adonai said to Y’hoshua, “I have handed Yericho over to you, including its king and his warriors. You are to encircle the city with all your soldiers and march around it once. Do this for six days. Seven cohanim are to carry seven shofars in front of the ark. On the seventh day you are to march around the city seven times, and the cohanim will blow the shofars. Then they are to blow a long blast on the shofar. On hearing the sound of the shofar, all the people are to shout as loudly as they can; and the wall of the city will fall down flat. Then the people are to go up into the city, each one straight from where he stands.” (Joshua 6:1-5 CJB, click to read the rest of the story!)
The people of Israel obeyed God and the result was astounding. The walls were flattened, the city taken — an amazing display of God’s power. This story shows us spiritual parallels, as many of the Old Testament stories do. When I read it, especially with the upcoming holiday in mind, I think of the many strongholds God casts down to proclaim himself lord in our lives. He is infinitely powerful to break down every wall enclosing us and lay waste to the false security we build for ourselves in worldly strength. He is powerful over seemingly hopeless circumstances. At his word, the earth shakes.
On this day of shouting, we shout along with the people of Israel to proclaim God’s power over every stronghold of the enemy; his kingship and glory over all the earth. There’s something about proclaiming truth as a group. Speaking forth the authority of God into the earth is revelatory — remember this scripture: “Trust comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through a word proclaimed about the Messiah.” (Romans 10:17 CJB). This is a day of proclaiming: waking the sleepers, encouraging the hopeless, calling God to our defense and declaring him Lord of the universe.
Read also Psalm 20 — I don’t have room to re-share it here, but what a beautiful, victorious Psalm that captures the heart of Yom Teruah.