Friday, September 29, 2006

Yom Kippur, Part 2: The Exodus and the Future

The Exodus
The Feastdays of the Torah are divided into three groups—the spring feasts, Shavuot (Pentecost), and then the fall feasts—each of which is linked to a distinct stage of the Exodus and Israel’s instruction at Sinai. In addition, there are at least three minor feasts (that is, those which were not ordained at Sinai) which are also prophetically significant. The key to understanding the Feasts’ prophetic significance is to understand their historical significance.

When YHVH reorganized Israel’s calendar by proclaiming the month of the Pesach (Passover) to be the “beginning of months” (Exo. 12:2), He was establishing that His plan of salvation begins with the Passover. However, to truly understand God’s plan, we begin our brief study not with the Passover, but with the six “silent” months which separate the Passover from the previous Sinai-ordained Feastday, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Within this “silent period” lie two minor Feasts: Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Israel over the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes, and Purim, which celebrates her victory over the forces of Haman some three centuries earlier as is described in the book of Esther. Hanukkah has an eschatological significance which will be explored in another article, but for now it is enough to note the element these two feasts share in common: Both celebrate YHVH’s “hidden” protection of and provision for His people. Though He did not act with any obvious miracles like fire from the sky or supernatural plagues, nevertheless He brought His people to victory against overwhelming odds: In Purim by the placement of a Jewish queen, and in Hanukkah by giving the Jews might in battle.

These “silent” months between Sukkot and Pesach correspond to the 430 “silent years” which lead up both to the Passover of the Exodus (Gal. 3:17) and the Passover of the Messiah. Both periods were characterized by the lack of a true prophet to lead the people, “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHVH" (Amos 8:11). God had not forgotten His people, but it probably felt to them like He had.

When YHVH fulfilled His promise to redeem His people from bondage, it was through the Passover and the death of a Lamb. God’s people were set free from Egypt via the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. Likewise, God’s people were set free from sin by the blood of the Lamb painted on their hearts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. The seven days of the Feast of Matzah, in which all the leaven had to be removed from Israel’s houses and no leaven could be eaten, represents the quick removal of Israel from Egypt (in which there was no time to make leavened bread) and the complete removal of all sin in our lives by the sacrifice of Yeshua as we flee the ways of the world.

In the third month after Israel’s departure from Egypt, they arrived at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:1). There God descended on the mountain in fire, with the sound of a shofar (vv. 16ff), and called Moses up the mountain to begin giving him the Torah. According to Jewish tradition, the day that this happened was the day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, a date consistent with the Biblical record. Like HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits for the barley harvest, on which Messiah was raised as the Firstfruits of the dead, Shavuot is a firstfruits festival for the wheat harvest. On the first Shavuot, the firstfruits of the nation of Israel began receiving the Torah. On Shavuot after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the firstfruits of the Church began receiving the Torah written on their hearts by the giving of the Spirit of God in the form of fire and with a great sound (Jer. 31:33, Ezk. 36:26-27, Acts 2:3ff).

After giving Moses the first commandments, the Lord called him back up the mountain to receive further instruction, and Moses remained with Him for forty days (Exo. 24:18). It was during this period that Aaron led the people in the sin of making and worshiping the golden calf. When Moses descended again from the mountain and saw this, he smashed the stone tablets on which God had written His commandments, signifying that Israel had broken the covenant they had made to follow all of God’s commands, and many in Israel died, both at the hands of the Levites whom Moses commanded to take arms against their kinsmen, and by a plague sent by God. Moreover, Moses removed the Tent of Meeting (not the Tabernacle, which had not yet been built, but a different tent in which Moses lived and met with YHVH; Exo. 33:7ff) to outside the camp, signifying that the people’s sin was great enough that God had removed the visible place which was the focal point of Israel’s worship and His Presence.

The parallel is not difficult to understand: Forty years after Yeshua ascended into Heaven, Israel still had not repented as a body from her “golden calf.” Just as Israel in the Exodus fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their tradition (in this case, image-based worship), which they learned while in Egypt, instead of worshipping God in the manner in which He had commanded them, Israel in the first century fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their traditions rather than doing so through the Messiah as He had commanded them. While the details differed, the essential core of the sin was the same.

So was the punishment. As Israel in the Exodus was punished by the sword and plague, so Israel in 70 AD was punished by the sword and plague. And as Israel in the Exodus had the Tent of Meeting removed by their prophet, Moses, so Israel in the first century had the Temple removed by the prophet after Moses, Yeshua HaMashiach. The destruction of both Temples took place on Tishbi b’Av, or the 9th of the month of Av. While it cannot be proven, the timing of the Golden Calf incident makes it quite possible that Tishbi b’Av is the day on which Moses removed the Tent of Meeting as well.

In the Exodus sin, God’s fury was so great that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (Exo. 32:10). YHVH-Tzva’ot, the LORD of Hosts, was actually planning to destroy the whole nation and start over with Moses and his children! This is, in fact, what Replacement Theology claims that God did to Israel in the first century: destroyed them, and replaced them with the Messiah’s “children,” the Church.

Those who believe that God has cast away His chosen nation need to take another look at Exodus. Moses, who had not joined in the sin of the people, interceded for Israel so that God would not utterly destroy them, though He did punish them, even (temporarily) taking away their place of worship. Are we to think that Yeshua did any less, or that His intercession for Israel would be any less heard? And notice the basis on which Moses interceded for Israel: Not on the basis of their obedience or repentance, but on the basis of YHVH’s Name—that is, His reputation—and His promises (ibid., vv. 12-13). It is on this same basis that YHVH has already begun returning Israel to her land: “Thus saith the Lord YHVH; ‘I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake . . .’” (Ezk. 36:22).

The Future Fulfillment
“Okay,” the amillennialist answers, “clearly not all of the Jews were destroyed, but the Temple was, and since we are now the Temple of God, there will be no other.” Again, keep reading. After seeing to the punishment of Israel and removing the Tent of Meeting, Moses was told by God, “And I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way” (Exo. 33:2, 3). But Moses, not content that a lesser angel go with Israel, returned up the mountain, and interceded with God for another forty days, going without food or water, until YHVH relented and agreed to send His Presence with Israel. The form in which His Presence went with Israel was in the pillar of fire and cloud which was intimately connected with the Tabernacle:
The Tabernacle of Israel was known by several names. . . The name dwelling from Heb. mishkan, from shakan, to “like down,” a “dwelling,” connected itself with the Jewish, though not scriptural, word Shekinah, as describing the dwelling place of the divine glory. (Unger, F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, ed. [Moody, 1988] “Tabernacle of Israel,” p. 1238)
According to the Talmud, the day on which Moses returned with the second set of stone tablets, showing that YHVH had forgiven Israel and restored fellowship with them, was the day of Yom Kippur (Tractate Taanit 30b), and the forty days that he fasted before God correspond with the forty days of T’shuva (Repentence) that are traditionally observed leading up to the Day of Atonement. (This forty-day period of fasting may be the same forty-day period that Yeshua spent fasting and being tested in the wilderness after His baptism.)

Likewise, the day on which Yeshua will return to restore His fellowship with Israel, and direct them in building a Temple greater than that which they built on their own, just as Moses directed Israel in building a Tabernacle greater than the former Tent of Meeting which was taken away from the camp, will be on Yom Kippur. Like the Levitial High Priest emerging from the Holy of Holies to show that God had accepted the sacrifice of the goat on the people’s behalf, Yeshua will emerge from the Holy of Holies in Heaven to show Israel that God has accepted His sacrifice on their behalf.

Yom Kippur is not yet complete. Our High Priest is hidden from our eyes, beyond the veil, making intercession for us day and night, but He has not yet emerged to show all Israel that His blood-stained garments have been turned as white as snow, proving that the Father has accepted the High Priest’s sacrifice on behalf of all Israel, not just the remnant that now believe. When He does, carrying the sign of a covenant restored before Israel even as Moses did, then the Temple promised by Ezekiel will be built, just as the Tabernacle was.

When will the High Priest come forth? On the last day of Daniel’s Seventieth Week when Israel and Jerusalem will “make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24). The word for reconciliation, kaphar, is most often translated “atonement.”

With Israel’s sins atoned for, the way will be made for the final stage of the Messiah’s reconciliation of all things to Himself. Next we will study Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when Yeshua will be officially crowned King over all the nations . . . on His birthday.


Yom Kippur, Part 1: Traditions and Blood

In my first article on the Fall High Holy Days, we saw that the Feast of Trumpets is intimately linked by both Yeshua and Sha’ul with Yeshua’s Second Coming on the clouds of heaven, and saw that this corresponded with the expectations of the rabbis. Now we come to the second of the Fall Feastdays, and the holiest day of the Jewish—which is to say, Biblical—calendar: Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth of Tishri, nine days after Rosh Hashanah.

On that day, the high priest would put on a special coat of white linen and carry out a very unusual sacrifice.

And he shall take the two goats, and present them before Yhvh at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for Yhvh, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which Yhvh's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before Yhvh, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. . . .

And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Lev. 16:7-10, 20-22)

Today, the sacrifices which were the centerpiece of the Levitical ceremony cannot be held of course, but this does not make it impossible to observe the day. Like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is not a pilgrimage Feast: No one was required to be in Jerusalem (other than the cohenim, or priests) for its service. However, those outside of Jerusalem still bore the responsibility for not doing any work, gathering in a holy convocation (i.e., in their home synagogues), and for denying themselves (Lev. 23:27ff). Out of these three commands, modern Judaism has built its customs.

After a final, festive meal in the afternoon before Yom Kippur, Jews the world over dress in white in remembrance of the High Priest’s white linen robe that he would wear within the Holy of Holies, and at sundown go to what is known as the Kol Nidre (“All Vows”) service. The Kol Nidre is a prayer sung to a haunting cadence, which asks God to release one from any wrongful oaths taken that year. It dates to the Middle Ages, when Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity; they would ask God to release them of the vows taken at the point of a sword. Another traditional song is Avinu Malkeynu (“Our Father, Our King”), which translates as follows:

Our Father and Our King
Our Father and Our King
Our Father and King
Be merciful to us
Be merciful unto us.

For we have done no deeds
Commending us unto You
For we have no deeds commending us to You
Be merciful, save us, we pray.

Synagogue services typically run all day, with observant Jews petitioning God to forgive their sins. Fasting, denying one’s self, is mandated by Torah, and observant Jews will usually refrain from any comforts at all during the day, including bathing, wearing leather shoes, etc. It should be noted that Isa. 58 and Mat. 6:16-18 both speak against fasting to be seen and fasting in lieu of true repentance:

“Wherefore have we fasted,” say they, “and Thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?” Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yhvh? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isa. 58:3-7)

True self-denial is not the mere restraint from food, though it may include fasting from food (Mat. 6:16-18, 1 Co. 7:5).

Yom Kippur ends with the Neilah (“The Closing of the Gates”) service and a final blast from the shofar. It is said by the rabbis that the gates of Heaven through which our prayers of repentance can rise close at this time, sealing one’s fate for the year. Of course, in the Messiah Yeshua, we may always “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). However, there is still an eschatological truth to the rabbinical belief, discussed in the previous article on Rosh Hashanah.

Of course, it may rightly be asked in what sense can one be atoned for on this day without blood, “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). One who believes in the Messiah Yeshua, of course, looks to Him and His perfect sacrifice for their atonement. Non-Messianic Jews follow the belief established by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai that acts of righteousness provide atonement (Avot de Rabbi Nathan 4:18). However, even in the Jewish community, the need for blood redemption still runs deep. In the ceremony called Kaparot, practiced only in very Orthodox circles, a chicken is waived over the head three times as the man says,

“This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement. This fowl shall meet death, but I shall enjoy a long, happy life.” After reading several selections from Job and the Psalms, the person lays his hand on the head of the bird as a symbol of identification, it is killed as his substitute, and given to the poor for their final meal before the fast. (Howard and Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, p. 126)

Why is a chicken used instead of a goat, for example? Because goats, bulls, oxen, rams, and lambs could only be offered for sacrifice in the Temple, so the rabbis forbade the use of any animal which might make it appear that one was continuing the sacrificial system. (Turkey or chicken is substituted for lamb for the Passover dinner in most Ashkenazi homes for the same reason.)

In Biblical times, of course, a bull and two goats were the sacrifices made. The bull was offered for the sins of the High Priest and the other priests, so that he could be purified before entering into God’s presence. The goats, one for Yhvh and one for the scapegoat would then atone for Israel. The word “scapegoat” is a translation of Azazel. Keil and Delitzsch explain the significance of the word:

Azazel, which only occurs in this chapter, signifies neither “a remote solitude,” nor any locality in the desert whatever (as Jonathan, Rashi, etc., suppose); nor the “he-goat” . . . The words, one lot for Jehovah and one for Azazel, require unconditionally that Azazel should be regarded as a personal being, in opposition to Jehovah. . . We have not to think, however, of [just] any demon whatever, who seduces men to wickedness in the form of an evil spirit, as the fallen angel Azazel is represented as doing in the Jewish writings . . . but of the devil himself, the head of the fallen angels, who was afterwards called Satan; for no subordinate evil spirit could have been placed in antithesis to Jehovah as Azazel is here, but only the ruler or head of the kingdom of demons. The desert and desolate places are mentioned elsewhere as the abode of evil spirits (Isa. 13:21 and 34:14; Mat. 12:43; Luk. 11:24; Rev. 18:2). (Keil, Johann and Franz Delitzsch, Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, [e-Sword version 7.0.0, ed. Rick Meyers, 2000-2003])

And yet, while the “scapegoat” was, in effect, given over to Azazel, to the very Enemy himself, the “two goats . . . must be altogether alike in look, size, and value; indeed, so earnestly was it sought to carry out the idea that these two formed parts of one and the same sacrifice, that it was arranged that they should, if possible, even be purchased at the same time” (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 248). So all speculations that the scapegoat might represent Satan or the Antichrist or some other evil entity fall short. What could these two goats signify other than the dual-natured Messiah Yeshua? He carried away all our sin, just as the scapegoat would be sent into the wilderness with the sins of Israel: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). Unlike the lambs, goats, and bulls that died on the altar, our Messiah rose again. Thus, like the two goats, He was both sacrificed and yet lives.

A red ribbon was tied in the horns of the scapegoat. When the goat was led out before the people, if God accepted the sacrifice, the ribbon would miraculously turn white as a reminder of the promise that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). It is most interesting that for the forty years between the sacrifice of Yeshua and the destruction of the Temple, the scarlet ribbon did not turn white!

Forty years before the Temple was destroyed the chosen lot was not picked with the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe turn white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the Temple’s Holy Place swung open by themselves, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai spoke saying: “O most Holy Place, why have you become disturbed? I know full well that your destiny will be destruction, for the prophet Zechariah ben Iddo has already spoken regarding you saying: 'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour the cedars'” (Zech. 11:1). (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39b)

Hebrews 8 -10 explains that when Messiah completed His sacrifice on the cross, He entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, of which that of the Tabernacle and the Temple were merely copies, to complete the Yom Kippur ritual of atonement. The sacrifice was not accepted because it was being offered by the wrong High Priest:

For Messiah is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others . . . But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb. 9:24-25, 10:12-13)

But if this is the sole and sufficient fulfillment of the feastday of Yom Kippur, then we have a problem. In every other feastday that we have seen fulfilled in history, the fulfillment took place on that day. Yeshua was offered up on Passover as the Lamb of God, thus taking away our sin just as leaven was removed from the Hebrews’ houses during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He rose as the firstfruits of the dead (cf. 1 Co. 15:20-23) on Sfirat HaOmer or HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits. The Church was given the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) in power on Shavuot, or Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks. And we have seen that His Second Coming seems likely to occur on a Rosh Hashanah in order to fulfill that feastday. Why then would the Day of Atonement be out of sequence?

Next: Part 2: The Exodus and the Future

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rosh Hashanah

As many of you already know, we are entering into the fall High Holy Days, comprised of the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. Just as the spring Feastdays celebrate the First Coming of Messiah Yeshua, and Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrates the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to the Ekklesia in between the visitations of Yeshua, the Fall Feastdays look forward to His Second Coming—and in particular, the Feast of Trumpets looks forward to His Glorious Appearance in the clouds of heaven!

The day which this year falls on September 23 (beginning at sundown the previous night) is known by many names, but is little understood. The most commonly used today is Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year or New Year, and is regarded as the start of the Jewish civil calendar. (The religious calendar begins on the first of Nisan, fourteen days before Passover, in accordance with Exo. 12:2.) For this reasons, Jews will greet each other with the phrase, “L’shana tova u-metukah,” “May you have a good and sweet new year” or simply “Shanah tova,” “A good year.” In anticipation of this sweet new year, it is customary to eat a sweet fruit, like an apple or carrot dipped in honey.

The Talmud records the belief that “In the month of Tishri, the world was created” (Rosh Hashanah 10b), and its probably due to this belief that it became known as the Jewish New Year. The belief that the world was created on Rosh Hashanah came out of an anagram: The letters of the first word in the Bible, “In the beginning . . .” (B’resheit) can be rearranged to say, “1 Tishri” (Aleph b’Tishri). Perhaps because so little is directly said in Scripture about this day—unlike all of the other Feastdays, there is no historical precedent given to explain why Rosh Hashanah should be celebrated—the rabbis also speculated that Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Samuel were all born on this day.

However, that’s not it’s Biblical name, which is Yom Teruah, the Day of the [Trumpet] Blast:

And YHVH spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing (Heb. zikrown teruah) [of trumpets], an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto YHVH.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)

And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing (teruah) [the trumpets] unto you. (Num. 29:1)

In each of these passages, I’ve placed “trumpets” in brackets because it’s not actually in the Hebrew text; however, teruah can and usually does mean to sound the trumpet (though it can mean to shout with a voice as well) and the use of a trumpet on this day is considered so axiomatic that there is literally no debate in Jewish tradition on the matter. Specifically, the trumpet used is the shofar. The shofar is traditionally always made from the horn of a ram, in honor of the ram that God substituted for Isaac, and never from a bull’s horn, in memory of the sin of the golden calf.

The shofar first appears in Scripture as heralding the visible appearance of God coming down on Mt. Sinai to meet with His people (Ex. 19:16-19). It is also linked with His Coming in Zec. 9:14 and with Him going up (making aliyah) to Jerusalem in Psa. 47:5. Small wonder then that Yeshua said He would Come again with the sound of a trumpet, a shofar, in Mat. 24:31, which is echoed by Sha’ul (Paul) in 1 Th. 4:16 and 1 Co. 15:52. Indeed, many commentators have recognized that by “the last trump,” Sha’ul was referring to the final shofar blast, called the Tekia HaGadol, of the Feast of Trumpets.

This visitation by YHVH is closely associated with the second of this Feastdays names: Yom Zikkroun, the Day of Remembrance. This is not primarily meant to be a day when the people remember God, but when God remembers His people—not that He has forgotten them, but in which He fulfills His promises to them by Coming to them. In Isa. 27:13, it is the instrument used to call God’s people Israel back to the Land. In Psalm 27, which is traditionally read in the month leading up to Yom Teruah, we see the Psalmist looking forward to God rescuing him from his enemies:

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident . . .

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. . .

Among the rabbis, the shofar is often associated with the Coming of the Messiah and the Resurrection of the Dead as well. “According to the Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva, seven shofars announce successive steps of the resurrection process, with Zechariah 9:14 quoted as a proof text: ‘And Adonai the Lord will blow the shofar’” (Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, 489f). “And it is the shofar that the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to blow when the Son of David, our righteous one, will reveal himself, as it is said, ‘And the Lord GOD will blow the shofar’” (Tanna debe Eliyahu Zutta XXII). It’s interesting that the rabbis, without the benefit of the New Covenant writings, have come to the same conclusions as the Apostles: That YHVH would visit His people in the person of the Messiah and raise the dead on Yom Teruah (also in the Bablyonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 16b). On Yom Teruah, the shofar not only rouses the people from their complacency, but the very dead from their graves. (See Job 19:25-27, Isa. 26:19, and Dan. 12:2 for the Tanakh’s primary passages on the Resurrection.)

The shofar is an instrument that is very much associated with war (Jdg. 3:27, 2 Sa. 20:1, Neh. 4:18-22, Ezk. 33:3-6). It was used to destroy the walls of Jericho (Jdg. 6:20). In Joel 2:1, it sounds the start of the Day of the Lord, the time in which God will make war on His enemies: “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the Day of YHVH cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (cf. v. 15). This again matches perfectly with the NT, where Sha’ul describes the Lord’s coming with a trumpet immediately preceding the Day of the Lord (1 Th. 4:16, 5:2).

This brings us to the next name for this Feastday, Yom HaDin, Judgment Day. Not only did the shofar sound the call for war, but also the coronation of kings (2 Sa. 15:10; 1 Ki. 1:34, 29; 2 Ki. 9:13, 11:12-14). Therefore, the rabbis have always associated this day with God’s sovereign Kingship over all mankind: “On Rosh Hashanah all human beings pass before Him as troops, as it is said, ‘The LORD looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works’” (Rosh Hashanah 6b, quoting Psa. 53:13-15). To remember God’s Kingship, it is traditional to eat round objects to remind us of God’s crown (oriental crowns being shaped as skullcaps instead of circlets). For example, challah is made to be round instead of braided as it normally is.

Because this day is associated with God’s judgment, it is also considered a time of repentance (t’shuva) in preparation for Yom Kippur. The Casting (Tashlikh) Ceremony, in which observant Jews gather together at the shores of oceans, lakes, and rivers and cast in stones and/or crumbs of bread to symbolize “casting off” their sins, is performed on this day to a prayer comprised of Mic. 7:18-20, Psa. 118:5-9, Psa. 33 and 130, and often finishing with Isa. 11:9.

He will turn again,

He will have compassion upon us;

He will subdue our iniquities;

And Thou wilt cast all their sins

Into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:19)

The Talmud (ibid.) goes on to say that on this day, all mankind is divided into three types of people. The wholly righteous were immediately written in the Book of Life (Exo. 32:33, Psa. 69:28) for another year. The wholly wicked were blotted out of the Book of Life, condemned to die in the coming year. Those in between, if they truly repented before the end of Yom Kippur, could likewise be scribed in the Book of Life for another year. For this reason, a common greeting at this time is “L’shana tova tikatevu,” which means, “May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for a good new year.”

The Bible, of course, is clear that one is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (cf. Php. 4:3; Rev. 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, and 21:27) not by one’s own righteousness, but by receiving the Messiah’s righteousness by faith, trusting in Him, and that there is no in-between; one either trusts God or one doesn’t. Nevertheless, a great eschatological truth is preserved for us in this rabbinical tradition. At the time of Yeshua’s Second Coming, all mankind will be divided into three groups. Those who have already trusted in the Messiah will be Resurrected and Raptured to be with Him immediately upon His Coming on the clouds of the sky. Those who have taken the mark of the Beast and have chosen to remain with the Wicked One will be slated to die in the Day of the Lord, which for reasons that are beyond the scope of this essay to address, I believe will last for about a year.

However, there will also be a third group, who neither had believed in the Messiah until they saw Him Coming on the clouds but who also had not taken the mark of the Beast. Many of these will be Jews, who will mourn at His coming and so have a fount of forgiveness opened to them (Rev. 1:7, Zec. 12:10-13:2)—most prominently, the 144,000 of Rev. 7 and 14. Others will be Gentiles who will be shown mercy because they showed mercy to the children of God (Mat. 25:31ff). These are given the opportunity to repent during the period between the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonment, called the Days of Awe—a reference, I believe, to the Day of the Lord.

Finally, this day is known as Yom HaKeseh, the Hidden Day. It was a day that could not be calculated, only looked for. Ancient Israel kept its calendar simply by observing the phases of the moon. If a day were overcast, it might cause a delay in the observance of the beginning of the month, the new moon (Rosh Chodesh), the first tiny crescent of light. Every other Feast was at least a few days after the beginning of the month so that it could be calculated and prepared for in advance. For example, after the new moon that marked the beginning of the month of Nisan, the observant Jew knew that he had fourteen days to prepare for the Passover.

Not so Yom HaKeseh. In the absence of reliable astronomical charts and calculations (which were made only centuries after God commanded the Feasts to be observed), the Feast of Trumpets could be anticipated, estimated to be arriving soon, but until two or more witnesses reported the first breaking of the moon’s light after the darkest time of the month, no one knew “the day or hour.” Therefore, it was a tradition not to sleep on Rosh Hashanah, but to remain awake and alert, a tradition alluded to by Sha’ul: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Th. 5:4-6).

Because of the difficulty of alerting the Jews in the Diaspora when the Sanhedron had decreed the start of the Feast to be, it became traditional to celebrate the first and second day of Tishri together as Yoma Arikhta, “One Long Day.” Is this meant to remind us, perhaps, of when another Y’hoshua (Yeshua) won against his enemies because God cast down great hailstones (like the hailstones of Rev. 16:21) and called upon the Sun to stand still so that they would not escape (Jos. 10:10ff)?

Yom Teruah is a day which ultimately calls all of God’s people together in repentance in anticipation of the glorious Second Coming, in which He will once again visit His people in the Person of the Messiah Yeshua to Resurrect the dead, awaken the living, and judge all mankind together.

Shalom, and Maranatha!