Autumn in Israel starts with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which in Hebrew means “head of the year” (the Jewish New Year). It is also known as the Feast of Trumpets and Day of the Blowing (Yom HaTruah). The shofar, or ram’s horn, is blown all over the Land on this day, which marks the beginning of the holiest time of year on the Jewish calendar.
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), are called the Ten Days of Awe. These ten days are a time of introspection, a time of searching your soul, a time to make everything right between you and God, as well as your fellow man.
Rosh Hashanah falls in October. Rev Rebecca Brimmer is the CEO of Bridges for Peace, based in Jerusalem. She and her husband Tom have lived in Israel for more than twenty years. In her article ‘Feasts of the Lord’ she wrote, “Because it is the seventh month, it echoes the seventh day, the Shabbat [Sabbath] of rest and contemplation, of catching our breath after six days of hard work. So perhaps Rosh Hashanah is the new year for renewal. Like Shabbat, it is the time to focus our attention on ultimate spiritual truth. This is then the new year for learning how a human being can turn toward God.” I like that thought.”
My wife Yvonne and I lived and worked in Jerusalem where Becky Brimmer was my boss. Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Awe were special, exciting times. It is a strong reminder to search your heart. Are there relationships that need mending? Am I right with God and my fellow man? What areas of my life need attention if I am to grow into all God has for me?
There is a common greeting for this time. In Hebrew L’shanah tovah tichatevu means “May you be inscribed for a good year”.
Yom Kippur this year is in October. To most Jewish people, Yom Kippur is considered the most important day in the Jewish year. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is holy to God. In Leviticus chapter 23 verses 26–32 we find, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves…” Three times in these verses, the children of Israel are commanded to deny themselves.
The most common interpretation for this (in Israel) is to fast from food and water. It is a source of amazement to me that nearly the entire Jewish population of Israel does just that. Often in Christian circles, I have heard people say how hard it is to fast. When they say this, they are talking of fasting from food. I can tell you from experience that fasting from food for a day is easy compared to fasting from both food and water and all other liquids.
On Yom Kippur, the nation of Israel stops for 25 hours (from an hour before sundown to sundown the next day). The streets are empty, as everyone stays home and virtually no one drives a car anywhere, unless it is an absolute emergency. Children and teens take advantage of this fact and rollerblade, ride their bikes, and walk in the middle of the streetsâthe only day of the year when such a thing is even possible.
During Yom Kippur the focus is on the Lord. He will often shine His light into our hearts, and suddenly we find things we need to repent of. Obviously, we should repent of our sins on a daily basis, but Yom Kippur is a special day of repentance, one God has chosen.
Often in Jerusalem we ended Yom Kippur with a festive dinner with Tom and Becky and others from Bridges for Peace.
Sukkot is a joyous time. This year it also falls in October. It is a time of gathering with family and friends, of decorating booths, and of joyous meals shared in the sukkah. Yvonne and I enjoyed delightful times of fellowship with our Jewish friends sitting in their sukkah enjoying fellowship, tasty food and meaningful reflection.
The word "Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings. Throughout Israel Jews live in this flimsy structure in memory of their times of wandering. The Hebrew pronunciation of Sukkot is "Sue COAT," but is often pronounced as in Yiddish, to rhyme with "BOOK us." Because you can see the stars through the roof, there is the reminder that the true shelter in life is the Lord Himself.
During reflection, we will remember the mighty deeds God performed for His chosen people in the desert. But, we will also eagerly look forward to the day foretold by the prophet Zechariah, who said, “And the Lord will be King over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one and His name the only one…Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths” (Zechariah chapter 14, verse 9, 16 NASB).
Finally, is Simchat Torah also in October. This is a one-day celebration in which the annual Torah (Gen.–Deut.) reading cycle is completed with the last verses of Deuteronomy and is immediately restarted with the first verses of Genesis. It is not a biblical feast, but one not to be missed, as the Jewish people rejoice over the Word of God.
On this most joyful of days, the scrolls of the Torah are taken in procession. Songs of praise are sung as the people take the scrolls from the synagogue and into the streets. There is dancing, singing as the people dance with the scrolls and as the children wave special flags.
During Simchat Torah I am always reminded of Romans chapter 1 verse 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html