The Jewish New Year in the Bible
In the Bible, festivals, feasts and celebrations commemorated significant acts or promises of God. As January 1st, 2020 marks the start of a new year and a new decade around the world, I am drawn to contemplate the Jewish New Year and its deeper biblical meaning.
The Western (Christian) Calendar
The calendar observed by most of the world that puts us in the year 2020 AD is called the Gregorian calendar. It wasn’t introduced until 1582 and was implemented as a correction to its predecessor, the Jullian calendar, which was proposed by Julius Caesar in 46BC.
The Gregorian calendar calculates the average year as 365.2425 days long, determined by the Earth’s revolution around the sun. This calendar, that designates our New Year, was mainly adopted by the Catholic countries of Europe and then slowly adopted by Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries. This designation is significant because the reform also restored the date for Easter as it was originally celebrated by the early Church.
The Jewish Calendar
Unlike the modern Western calendar, the Jewish calendar pays attention to the correlation between the moon cycles and the months. As one website puts it, the Jewish calendar coordinates all of the astronomical phenomena. “Months are either 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the 29½-day lunar cycle. Years are either 12 or 13 months, corresponding to the 12.4-month solar cycle.”
For comparison, here are the months of the Jewish calendar in relation to where they fall in the Gregorian calendar:
- Nissan: 30 days long — March-April
- Iyar 29 days long — April-May
- Sivan: 30 days long — May-June
- Tammuz: 29 days long — June-July
- Av: 30 days long — July-August
- Elul:29 days long — August-September
- Tishri: 30 days long — September-October
- Cheshvan: 29 or 30 days long — October-November
- Kislev: 29 or 30 days long — November-December
- Tevet: 29 days — December-January
- Shevat: 30 days — January-February
- Adar I (leap years only): 30 days — February-March
- Adar (called Adar Beit in leap years): 29 days — February-March
The phrase Rosh Hashanah is formed from three Hebrew words. Rosh is the Hebrew word for “head”, ha is the definite article “the”, and shanah means “year”. So the day Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year.” This term, however, only appears once in the Jewish Bible (Torah) in Ezekiel 40:1, which references the timing of the restoration of the Temple area.
The Biblical name for the New Year is Yom Teruah, the “day of shouting or blasting.” This day falls on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri). Referred to in Leviticus 23:24, it signifies the first day of the festival of Zikhron Teru’ah, and is set aside as a holy day of remembrance.
So how did a day that falls in the middle of the Jewish calendar become a new year? Historically and Biblically, this day is connected to the beginning of the agricultural cycle—sowing, growth and harvest.
Traditions of Rosh Hashanah
In Jewish tradition, the day of Rosh Hashanah also marks the day God created Adam and Eve, and is celebrated by:
- Hearing the sounding of the ram’s horn (shofar)
- Lighting candles each evening
- Eating festive meals, which include challah bread, apples dipped in honey, and the head of a fish, pomegranates, and other foods
- Performing a ritual prayer
- Attending synagogue services
Peace in This New Year
While the Jewish New Year is many months away, our family at Agave Sozo wish you love and peace as you enter the year 2020. If you are interested in our inner healing prayer ministry, contact us today. The New Year is a great time to set goals for your healing journey.