About the Holiday

The section of the Torah that describes Rosh Hashanah does not say what we might expect: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts" (Leviticus 23:32). There is no mention of a "New Year." We're not told much about the significance of the day other than it is celebrated with "loud blasts."

Most odd, even though we consider the day the beginning of the new year, we're told that it is to be celebrated in the seventh month, not the first month. According to the Torah, the first month is Nisan, the month of Passover, and not Tishri, the month of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Why, then, did the early rabbis insist that this holiday of shofar blasts was, in fact, the beginning of the year?

The matter became one of considerable debate 2,000 years ago. Spring was the anniversary of the redemption of the Jews from Egypt. For many, the springtime – the time of Passover – would be the natural time to think about beginnings and the start of a new year. There's something poetic about things beginning to grow and turning green in the spring. Why start the year in the fall when trees lose their dead leaves and the world of nature grows dormant, seemingly dead?

It is precisely because of the somber nature of autumn that the rabbis decided it was appropriate to consider it the beginning of the world. Just as we have faith that the trees will bloom again in the spring, so we have faith that God will not abandon us in a world in which the days are growing constantly shorter. In fact, the rabbis considered Rosh Hashanah to be the birthday of the world.

The blasts of the shofar remind us of the birth of the world and of our faith in the Creator.




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