QA: Why do Jews celebrate New Year in the 7th Biblical month?
Amongst most non-Jewish believers there is an ever-ready accusing spirit of opposing and rejecting of the “man-made traditions brought in by Rabbinic authority and Jewish legalism to supersede the Will of God”. The Jewish New Year in Sept/Oct, on the 1st day of the 7th Biblical month, is one such controversial ‘change’ that Judaism is accused of.
A thorough analysis will reveal great ignorance of the true facts amongst these accusers – as always. It will also show that there is “more than meets the eye” behind this ‘change’, and that in the end, it does hold some great spiritual Truth and significance in the overall Plan of the Supreme Ruler, to regard this day as the ‘New Year’.
In Judaism, this day marks the first Day of the 3rd and final ‘season’ of Sacred Feasts during which the Israelites were Divinely commanded to “Go up to Jerusalem”. These 3 periods are:
- Pesach (Passover) (March/April) during the Spring in Israel;
- Shavuot (Pentecost) May
- ‘High Holy days’ (Yom Kippur, Succot) during the Fall Sept/Oct.
This Day is also commonly known in Judaism as ‘Rosh HaShanah’ – ‘head of the year’ though there is no reference in Torah to this title. The Torah refers to it as:
- Yom HaZikaron – ‘day of Remembrance’
- Yom Teruah – ‘day of the Sounding of the Trumpet’. Note that this day introduces the 3rd concluding Sacred Festive season of the year, depicting Judgment Day, Atonement with God, just reward for evil and separation of the unjust, entry into the Kingdom for the just – all at the Time of His Coming “at the Sound of the Trump”.
The Jewish Prayer books similarly refer to these days by their Biblical titles. In Judaism, the main theme of the Feast of Rosh HaShanah is the acknowledgment of the Kingship of the God of Israel.
The context in the Jewish Festive Prayer books which are exclusively used in the formal religious ceremony on this Festive Day as well as the Torah and Prophetic Scripture readings on this and the other related days of this Season,. clearly depict repentance and reconciliation of the individual and the whole nation with God. In all of the religious interpretation regarding this day, there is no mention of anything regarding the secular celebration of a ‘new year’.
No Rabbi or even secular Jew will deny that Rosh HaShanah falls on the 1st day of the 7th month of the Jewish calendar. Tradition and time has certainly etched the resemblance of Rosh HaShanah with a 1st day of a new year on the minds of the Jewish masses – but the difference lies more in a secular versus a religious commemoration of the day. In Jewish tradition as in Israel today, there certainly is none of this ‘counting down of the final seconds to a new year’, as in the rest of the world. Although it must exist amongst some secular Israelis, there certainly is no official celebration of the ‘New Year’ in Israel society – perhaps because traditionally also, this Day and the 3-week Festive Season which it introduces, have become known as ‘Yamim Noraim‘ – the Days of Awe (literally ‘terrible’ days, referring to the awesome events which it depicts, i.e Final Judgment and Reward for Good and Evil). There is no equivalent also in Hebrew for the general English term “The High Holy Days’ (referring to this 3rd Season of Festivities in the Jewish year).
So, where does the term ‘Rosh HaShanah’ come from?
It is the Mishnah that first mentioned the term ‘Rosh HaShanah’. The Mishnah is the written down version in the 2nd century, of the ancient traditional Oral Torah (carried forth throughout many centuries) of the Rabbinic interpretations of the inscriptions of the Written Torah. It confirmed the Jewish concept of 4 different annual terminals or ‘New Year” dates:
- 1st of First Biblical month, according to which the reign of Israel’s kings were determined; also the year start for calculation of the Biblical Feasts;
- the 1st of Elul (6th month of the Jewish Calendar), New Year for tithing of animals;
- the 15th of Shevat (11th month of the Jewish calendar), the New Year for calculation of trees’ ages;
- 1st of Tishrei (being the 1st of the 7th Biblical month), for the counting of years; the Sabbatical and Jubilees – Rosh HaShanah. The anniversary of the earth’s Creation (and Adam’s birthday), depicting God’s sovereignty over the universe. It marks to this day, the term for counting Jewish history.
Two points of importance here.
- Do Westerners find it strange that they have, next to the calendar year, also fiscal ‘tax’ years, school term years, university term years, business term years; personal birthday term years – which may differ from the annual calendar year date – depending on which country you are in?
- Will the Coming of Messiah to establish His Kingdom, not fall in this same period, therefore determining the start of the New Kingdom Age New year?
- Is it not logic, that this awesome time will be inaugurated at the start of a Jubilee or Sabbatical year – which in Judaism is calculated from this date?
It simply behooved the Creator to point out to Moses, some 1260,5 years after Creation, at the Time of the giving of the Law at Sinai, 50 days after the Exodus from Egyptian bondage, that the Festive Calendar starts from the 1st of Aviv (Mch/Apr) – at the Time of Pesach, depicting the Release from bondage of sin – the first stage of reconciliation with God – i.e. Repentance, turning around (Hebrew: Teshuvah).
The Festive Cycle in its entirety depicts the Cycle of Salvation i.e. Release from Sin (bondage in Egypt – Pesach) to ultimate Atonement with God under His Kingship in His Kingdom (which will be established on earth at the time of Rosh HaShanah – the ‘Jewish New Year’). Rather than being a contradiction of two New Years, this Cycle, spread over 6 months, provides a ‘run-up’ time from the 1st month Aviv New Year, to the 7th month, Tishrei, which will see the inauguration of the New Dispensation of the Rule of YHVH on earth – certainly a Great Event for commemoration in future.
Zech. 14:16 “All who survive of all the nations that have marched against Jerusalem, will go up year by year to worship the King YHVH and to keep the Feast of Succot.” (referring to the Festive period of the 7th month). Surely, this will be the New Year of the New Dispensation?
It seems that Divine Providence, after all, has had an influence in this specification of time, for which Judaism is accused of ‘human overruling of God’s decrees’.