Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (lit. head of the year), marks the beginning of the Jewish calendar.
The holiday starts this year at sundown September 4, 2013, and ends at sunset September 6, 2013. This is the year 5774 which, according to Jewish oral law, means it is 5774 years since God’s creation of the world.
Can you imagine having to juggle three calendars? Jewish people have to manage the Jewish civil calendar (which begins with Rosh Hashanah), the Jewish holiday calendar (which begins with Passover), and the Western calendar (which begins on January 1). I have a hard enough time keeping up with the one calendar I use to help organize my own life.
Rosh Hashanah doesn’t simply mark the beginning of a new year; it’s the opening of the fall high holy days, which include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, the Mishnah (a Jewish holy book) calls Rosh Hashanah the “day of judgment” because it’s believed that God opens the Book of Life and decides who will live and who will die in the coming year. To stave off death, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide an opportunity for the Jewish people to repent to assure a good and full year ahead.
While Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful time of sweet celebration, it’s also a reminder of a time of repentance and turning back to the Lord. The truth is, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur aren’t the only time God has given to us to turn back to Him. He invites us to turn to Him any day of the year. I’m reminded of King David’s psalm of repentance when he cries out to God:
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge (Ps. 51:3–4).
David, in this passage, recognizes his sins before the Lord, turns away from his sin, and returns to Him.
When we turn to God and His Son Jesus the Messiah, we aren’t just ensuring for ourselves a good year, we are promised and assured eternal life with Him (John 6:40). A true expression of God’s overwhelming grace.
Shana Tova––Happy New Year––Everyone!