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Revive Israel Ministries
Rosh Hashana and Shabbat
© September 2003 by Asher Intrater

Several of the Messianic leaders in Israel asked me about whether Jewish tradition allows for blowing the Shofar on Shabbat, since Rosh Hashana happens to fall on Shabbat this year. Although this is a technical issue of culture and tradition, some of you may have had the same question. If this is too mechanical for your tastes, just ignore it and delete it. In Israel it becomes a pertinent question, because we are so surrounded by Jewish tradition, and so "examined" for what we do.

(Special thanks to my dear friend, brother-in-law and rabbi - Moshe.) I am by no means an expert on these issues, but for those of you who have an interest, may this be helpful:

1. Of course for us this is not Rosh Hashanah (new year) but Yom Teruah (feast of trumpets).

2. Erev Rosh Hashanah - there is a tradition of eating certain foods and attaching a blessing to have a good year. Eg - apples and honey - have a sweet year. Fish head - be the head and not the tail. Whether or not this is shabbat does not make any difference to halacha. While the food - blessings have some superstition in it, the idea of using that evening to pronounce Deuteronomy 28 blessings over our family and friends seems nice.

3. Shofar - according to the rabbis is blown only during the day, not the evening. I don't know of a scriptural instruction one way or the other.

4. Shabbat Shofar - orthodox halacha is NOT to blow Shofar on shabbat. Reform rabbis do allow it - so in this case we happen to agree with the Reform Jews. Since Yom Teruah is a Shabaton any way, I don't see any reason not to blow the Shofar on Shabbat. Orthodox halacha forbids Shofar on shabbat in the same way that it forbids playing of musical instruments on shabbat. The idea is that if the temple were to be rebuilt, then you could play instruments and blow the Shofar at the temple in Jerusalem.

5. Two days - orthodox halacha is to have a second day of Rosh Hashanah So this year the Shofar will be blown in orthodox congregations during the day on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, that is, Sunday. The Reform only have one day of Rosh Hashanah. As I don't see any mention of two days for Yom Teruah in the bible, I imagine that most of us would happen to agree in this case also with the Reform Jews.

6. Tashlich - there is an interesting tradition called tashlich in which sand or crumbs are emptied from one's pockets and thrown into a river or lake. Micah 7:19 is quoted saying that our sins will be thrown into the depths of the sea. Obviously there is a New Covenant parallel with believing that through Yeshua our sins are both forgiven and forgotten. Orthodox Jews will not do this on Shabbat. Since the ceremony is connected with the afternoon prayers, they will do tashlich on second day (Sunday) afternoon.

7. Torah Readings - on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the orthodox read Genesis 21 on the birth of Isaac, and on the second day Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac. Since we generally celebrate one day, the choice usually goes with Genesis 22, which is such a central passage and appropriate for this day and for our faith in general.

8. As far as scriptural themes go, I think it is interesting to note the connection between the feast of Trumpets in the Torah with the Trumpet Judgments of the book of Revelation. Of course there are many other connections (fall of Jericho, etc.). The trumpets of Yom Teruah should not be confused with the "Last great trumpet" (I Corinthians 15, I Thessalonians 4) which is connected to the blowing of the Shofar at the end of the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), both according to rabbinic tradition and to Leviticus 25:9.

Blessings to you,
And even if it is not the new year, may your year be sweet and may you be the head and not the tail.