Yom Teru'ah: The Day of Trumpet Blasts

Speak to Bene Yisra'el, saying, 'At the seventh new-moon-lunation, on the first of the new-moon-lunation shall be a shabbat for you, a memorial sounding of alarm, a sacred gathering.

-Wayyiqra 23.24

 

A Warning Call to Remember

Yom Teru`ah, (now called by many Rosh Hashanah) is one of the most important days on the sacred calendar. Not many translations are successful in bringing the mood of the day out in its role of signaling the "days of awe" preceding Yom Kippur when we fast and "afflict our souls" because of sins against Yahweh and his creatures, and we reconcile ourselves to Him in complete repentance. This is why "zikron teru`ah" ("memorial sounding of alarm") is used: the verse calls us to bring to mind our transgressions and also a warning that Yahweh will not hold back judgement of the unrepentant forever. We must listen to the call for us to separate from the unrepentant and gather to join in constructive action towards better observing the covenant. While we repent every day in acknowledgement of sins, we remember that there is a time when all are to account for sins.

We are not perfect, but can be forgiven. There is a popular bumper sticker hereabouts, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven!" This is the absolute opposite of the spirit of repentance. It conveys a haughty and ignorant insult that "certain" people can sin at will, without repercussions. True Yahwism is evidenced by a constant remembrance of our short-comings, and constant desire to reconcile with those and the One we have sinned against. Yom Teru`ah reminds us as a nation.

 

The Shofar

The word teru`ah has a basic meaning of "loud sound" that disquiets, startles, or commands attention. Although a specific instrument is not mentioned for creating the teru`ah of Yom Teru`ah, and though there are verses that mention cymbals (Tehillim 105.5), shofar (Wayyiqra 25.9), or trumpet (Bemidbar 10.5), the most popular and accepted instrument has been the shofar. A shofar is a trumpet made from the horn of a ram. (The shofar shown on this page comes from a mountain goat, the "deluxe master blaster model" of shofrot.)

While metal trumpets (like those depicted on the triumphal Arch of Titus as some of the spoil taken by the Romans) were instruments employed in the Miqdash and the Tabernacle ('Ohel), the common people used shofars often in daily communication over distances. In a pastoral economy, many shofars were at hand for use in battle, as those carried by Y'hoshua's and Gid`on's armies (Y'hoshua 6.4; Shofetim 7.16), or in announcing general or national proclamation. This included the announcement of the visible new moon which begins the biblical month---this is why some think of the seventh month symbolized with seven shofrot. The trumpet was a sacral instrument, but the shofar is the sound to reach the people.

It is the people, individually and together that must bind themselves to Yahweh. It was the sound of the shofar growing louder and louder that accompanied thunder and lightning and dense cloud at Har Sinay, when Bene Yisra'el received Yahweh's commandments (Shemot 19.16ff). And it is the shofar that is to be sounded throughout the land at the Yobel, the 50th year of release and restoration from all debts (Wayyiqra 25.9).  These important events have great significance to the people, and are associated with a sound the people heard and made themselves in active participation. Still, Yom Teru`ah is the day associated most with the shofar, and even today in most Rabbinic synagogues, the shofar is heard 100 times (notes) over the course of services.

 

A Remembrance, Not a Memory

The holy days of the seventh new moon lunation, can be summarized each in a few words: Yom Teru`ah-the call to Repentance in view of Impending Judgement; Yom Kippur -Judgement and Reconciliation (becoming at one with Yah again); and Sukkot -Provision, Reward, Restoration.

The Hebrew apocalyptic writing known to most of us as Revelation contains understandings of a symbolic relationship between the biblical holy days and the 'End Times.'

 

And the seventh mal'ak sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world become our Sovereign's, and his Messiah's; he shall reign for ever and ever. '

And the twenty-four elders, which sat before 'Elohim on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshipped 'Elohim, saying, 'We give thanks to you, O Yahweh 'El Shadday, who is, and was, and will be; because you have taken your great power, and reign. '

And the gentiles are angry that your wrath comes, this time that the dead are to be judged, and the giving of reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, indeed they that fear your Name, small and great; also to destroy them which destroy the earth. '

And the miqdash of 'Elohim was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his miqdash the aron of his testimony; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

-the Revelation, 11.15-19

 

Here are apocalyptic events that parallel the High Holy Days, in what many believe to be a Christian book (but is not). The sounding (of the trumpet or shofar indicated by the Greek, esalpisen <salpigx trumpet or shofar) and great voices parallels the meaning of teru`ah, and this "last trump" before the Judgement is featured even in Paulistic writings. Indeed, what we are reading about here is the Day of Yahweh found throughout the Prophets. Immediately following is the announcement of not only judgement, but also reward for His prophets, tsaddiqim, those who reverence the Name. The order is the same as the High Days: the teru`ah, the judgement, and reward, just as we have Yom Teru`ah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot which also relates to the Millenium Reign. What is all this judgement revolving around? The 'Aron Ha-`edut, the chest that Yahweh had Mosheh have constructed as a copy of the heavenly original to hold the tablets of the covenant law as a testimony (`edut). From where does the imagery for these passages of Revelation come?


And it was on the third day, at the arrival of morning, when there were thunderings and lightnings and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and the overpowering sound of the shofar; all the people of the encampment trembled. Mosheh brought the people out from the encampment to approach Ha-'Elohim, and they stood still at the foot of the mountain. And the mountain of Sinay was surrounded by smoke because Yahweh came down upon it in the fire and his smoke went up like smoke of the furnace, and the entire mountain trembled much. The sound of the shofar grew and was overpowering; Mosheh spoke and Ha-'Elohim answered with a voice.

-Shemot 19.16-19

Just verses later follow the giving of the "Ten Words" on tablets of stone. The Revelation cannot be understood at all without the context of the Tanak. Revelation is not a Paulist/Christian document.

In observing Yom Teru`ah, we see its significance in the past, present, and future. When you think of the shofar blast, think of it as a warning sound, think of it as the call to repentance to Yahweh's Perfect Torah, think of it as a beginning now or as an end later. May Yahweh bless you and receive you.




 

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