Lion of Judah

History is clear. Jesus was Jewish. He was the perfect, complete Jew who followed, not a legalistic Pharisaical list of rules, but the Father’s intentions for his sacred laws. Jesus went to the heart of matters. Yet, even while he infuriated Jewish leaders, he never ceased being a Jew.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Shema Yisrael Congregation of Messianic Jews to write about the Jewish High Holidays. I realized the more I understood Jesus’ religious background, the more I could understand his words and actions. We have much to learn from our Messianic Jewish family of Christ followers.

The Jewish New Year

Since Jews recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah, I thought it may be interesting to take a closer look at this holiday.  Although their biblical New Year actually starts in spring, the Rabbis at the time placed great significance on this holiday because it is the first of the fall holidays and they considered it a “spiritual” New Year.

Because on this day, the shofar is blown to call the faithful to repentance, they originally named the holiday “The Day of Sounding,” or “Festival of the Trumpets.” The Rabbis later changed the festival to “Rosh Hashanah”, meaning “The Head of the Year.” [1] It is a time to consider past sins and make changes to please God so each would be included in the Book of Life.

As part of Rosh Hashanah, the faithful also gather near a body of water to observe Tashlich, based on Micah 7:19’s command to hurl their iniquities into the sea.

With permission of The Good News Magazine, here is an excerpt of an article I wrote when I attended Rosh Hashanah at Shema Yisrael Congregation.

From The Good News Sept-Oct 2013 Issue

Sound the shofar!

 On Thursday, September 9th, Scott Cassity lifted the hollow ram’s horn and blew the four shofar calls.

  • The tekiah was one blare, a call to awaken.
  • The shevarim, with three short blasts, a petition for relief.
  • The teruah served as a battle cry.
  • Finally, the tekiah gedolah represented the last trumpet call and was held for an amazing length of time.

With the calls of the shofar, the Messianic congregation of Shema Yisrael began the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on the first day of Tishri, the 7th month in the Jewish calendar. For centuries, these blasts have served as God’s alarm clock, awakening his people from spiritual slumber to ask: am I right with God?  What do I need to change so my name will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year?  

The “ten days of awe,” between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, are a special time for people to search for those human iniquities that lie hidden because of ignorance of God’s word, denial, or deception by Satan.

Davidic Dancing

The Rosh Hashanah celebration continued with Davidic dancing; every step a prayer as the dancers floated in and out of their circle. The Torah was brought forth and carried joyfully around the congregation

Torah carried amid the congregation

Rabbi Jim Appel opened the Torah scroll, penned with vowel less script on lambskin parchment, and proclaimed the Word of God in Hebrew and English.

He reflected that education was imperative to ancient Jews because they had to memorize the entire scroll. Scripture in book form did not exist. This explains how the Apostles and disciples could preach scripture without written texts so profoundly throughout the known world. 

 Donita Painter shared the story of Hannah when “her desperation (for a child) caused her to commit herself and her family in such a deep way that it aligned with God’s purposes.” Referring to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have in mind for you…” Donita reflected that God is working in the background for His people, and His people need to trust him in faith, obedience, and patience. “Always be ready to give a reasoned answer to explain our hope in Christ and what He does in our individual lives,” she declared.  

A reception followed the service and preceded Tashlich, the ceremony of throwing bread, representing sins, into a stream to be carried away “as far as the east is from the west.”

One God, One Lord of All

Since Rosh HaShanah is a celebration of the Jewish new year, I find it not a coincidence that the Christian liturgical year begins around this time with the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of reflection for the Christian church, to prepare us spiritually for the celebration of Christ’s birth and our New Year

I believe more unites us to our Jewish family than separates us. Rabbi Rick Chaimberlin wrote a wonderful article “Learning About Biblical Holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot” in the Fall 2019 issue of The Good News (pp32-36)

[1] God’s Appointed Times by Barney Kasdan. Ledered Books/Division of Messianic Jewish Publishing, Clarksville, MD  p 63

Have you ever attended a Jewish service?

If so, what was your impression?