Rosh HaShanah and the Bible

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Rosh HaShana and the Bible
by Yair Davidiy on behalf of Brit-Am.
Adapted from the Commentaries of Rabbi Yaakov Tzevi Mecklenburg and Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch.

To be read in conjunction with our article:
Brit-Am and Rosh HaShana (Every Year).

1.Two New Year Days Found in the Torah???
2. Haketav Vehakabbalah now in English translation!
3. From the Amazon blurb: The Product Description; About the Author.
4. A Little About Rabbi Mecklenburg: Short extracts from an article.
5. Rosh HaShana in the Bible.
Very brief Notes Based on the Commentary
of Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg
6. A few notes from Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch.
7. The Etymological System of Rabbi Hirsch.


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1. Two New Year Days Found in the Torah???
It will have been noticed from discussions concerning the Hebrew New year Day that in Biblical practice there were several different days that served as New Year's day for their particular purpose.
# Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals, Shevat 15 (in February) is the new year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years (when we increase the year number. Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin at this time).

We know that there is a commandment to count the first of Nissan (in Aviv i.e. Spring) as the First Month of the Year.
This is the month of Passover (Pesach) which begins on the 14th day of the month.
Exodus 12:
1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.
We are therefore commanded to count this month (Nissan) as thge first month of the year!
We find however that another beginning of the year is also mentioned:

Ezekiel 40:
1 In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year [Hebrew:  "Rosh HaShanah"], on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the LORD was upon me; and He took me there.

We have here in the Hebrew text a day termed "Rosh HaShanah" (New Year Day) that fell on the 10th of the month. The Sages (Arakin 12:a) said that this was Yom Kippur which falls on the 10th of Tishrei and every fifty years begins a new Jubilee cycle.  As far as the Jubilee Cycle is concerned the New Year begins on Yom Kippur every fifty years.  For the sake of the Jubilee the year is counted from one Yom Kippur to another.
In the jubilee year (Hebrew "Yovel") fields return to their ancestral owners and Hebrew slaves are freed and return to their homes.
This was also associated with the return of the Ten Tribes.
Brit-Am Now no. 1240
#1. The Brit-Am Message for Yom Kippur (5769). An Outline

Leviticus 23
23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.

Leviticus 25:
8 And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.

In addition we also find that an end of the year is also mentioned:
Exodus 23:
14 Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); 16 and the Feast of Harvest, the first fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.
17 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

Notice above the "Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year":
Exodus 34:
22 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end.
Here we have the translator rendering the Hebrew "tekufat ha-Shanah" as "at the year's end".
"Tekufah" however does not mean end of the year. It means Seasonal Cycle and is marked by a "solstice" or "equinox".
# An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator. #
# A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes.#
Seasons of the Year

The Sages (Talmud Yerushlami) said: Which month has aspects of the end of the year, of a Festival of Ingathering, and of a tekufah?
From the above verses we see that the Feast of Ingathering takes place at the end of the year (Exodus 23:14); and at the Tekufah i.e. seasonal change (Exodus 34:22); and also that it is a Festival. Only the month of Tishrei, i.e. the seventh month, fits all of these criteria.
The answer is Tishrei. Tishrei is the end of one year and the beginning of another, Tishrei usually encompasses the autumnal equinox (Sept. 23) or at least follows close after it.
Tishrei has the Feast of Succoth i.e. of Ingathering.
The Feast of Succoth is also known as the Feast of Ingathering (Hag Ha-Asif).
Succoth is final harvest (Ingathering) time, Nissan (Passover) is the sowing period.
Succoth falls in the month of Tishrei which is the seventh month. The First of Tishrei is Rosh HaShana (New Years Day), the 10th of Tishrei is Yom Kippur, Succoth goes from the 14th to the 21 of Tishrei with the 22th being Shemini Atseret.

The first of Tishrei happened to be a Holy Day, a sabbath-rest, a day of blowing shofars, and of remembrance.
This is Rosh HaShana.

Leviticus 23:
24 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial [Hebrew: Shabaton-Zicaron] of blowing of trumpets [Hebrew: Truah], a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

It will be shown below that the blowing of the shofar (Truah) was associated with judgment. It is the day on which the Almighty judges the world.
[The Judgment Book however remains open in a sense until after Yom Kippur.]
There is no contradiction between observing the first of Tishrei as New Years Day even though it is the seventh month and also counting the fist of Nissan as the first day of the first month.
We do both.
This is the Bible.
It is what Scripture requires.
We saw above that the Bible itself indicates that Tishrei is associated with the end of one year and the beginning of another. Tishrei is also the month of Yom Kippur which for a specific matter was referred to by the Prophet Ezekiel as a New Year's Day.
No matter what you wish to call it Scripture does say that the first of Tishrei was a Holy Day, on which work was forbidden, a time of Holy Assembly, of blowing the Shofar, a day of Rememberance and (as we shall show below) also of Judgement. It was a time of new beginning.

2. Haketav Vehakabbalah now in English translation!
 "Haketav Vehakabbalah" literally "The Written Script and the Tradition".
Haketav Vehakabbalah: Torah Commentary by Rabbi Yaakov Tzevi Mecklenburg, Demonstrating the Indivisibility of the Written & Oral Torah (Classic Torah Commentaries) now available in English Translation:

This commentary was written by Rabbi Yaakov Tzevi Mecklenburg (1785-1865).

3. From the Amazon blurb about Haketav Vehakabbalah.
The Product Description
The commentary in this set covers the work of the prominent 19th Century German-Jewish scholar, Rabbi Mecklenburg, who served as Rabbi of Koenigberg, East Prussia, from 1831 through 1865. His commentary aims to display the unity and indivisibility of the written and oral Torah.

About the Author
The author, Rabbi Yaakov Tzevi Mecklenburg was a German Jewish scholar of the 19th century, serving as Rabbi of Koenigsburg, East Prussia for 35 years (1831 65) until the day of his death. Haketav Vehakabbalah was first published in 1839, its intent being to strengthen the faith of Jews in the authenticity of our traditional Jewish sources, the Mishna, the Talmud, the Midrash, and to prove the superior linguistic standard of all these sources. Rabbi Mecklenburg was at pains to demonstrate the indivisibility of the written Torah and its counterpart, the oral Torah.

4. A Little About Rabbi Mecklenburg: Short extracts from an article.

Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg  - The Author of Haketav Vehakabbalah.


Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi was born in 5545 (1785) in Lissa, in the province of Posen, Germany [now part of Poland]. This city was renowned as a center of Torah scholarship, as well as for its great rabbanim.

The father of Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, Rabbi Gamliel, was a nurse.

In his commentary, Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi followed the steps of the Vilna Gaon. One day, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, a disciple of the Gra, was asked wherein lay his teacher's power. In response, he took a Bible out of the library and said, 'This is the power of my teacher and Rav the Gra. He was in full possession of this book to a degree that is unimaginable, knowing its every letter.' Rabbi Israel continued and said, 'My teacher the Gra believed that : There is nothing which is not alluded to in the Torah,  and he knew how to discover and show how all the Oral Law was hidden within the written Torah.'

Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg walked in the paths of the Gra, and he strived with all his might to meld the written text with oral tradition. His commentary is a tremendous work in which we can see his eminence in Torah. It also demonstrates his tremendous scholarship, knowledge of the Hebrew language, and his sharp, clear, and irrefutable logic.

5. Rosh HaShana in the Bible.
Very brief Notes Based on the Commentary Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg.
In the article below we have summarized and slightly adapted an explanation of Rosh HaShana, the principles behind it, and the Hebrew text.

Leviticus 23:23-24
23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.'

The expression  "a memorial of blowing of trumpets" is from the Hebrew "zicaron-truah".
Literally a day of remembrance and of shofar trumpet blowing.
The Hebrew word we understand to mean shofar trumpet blowing is "truah".
Haketav Vehakabbalah  points out that this word "truah" is from the root "RAH" connoting "breaking". Not only do the shofar sounds have to have a breaking pattern but we also need to break our pride before the Almighty.

The Torah spoke of this day as Remembrance and Breaking (Truah) to subdue our badness and cause us to think about the evil of our actions.

cf.  Psalms 89:
15 Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.

joyful sound. In Hebrew "truah".
Truah implies submission to the Almighty and a broken heart full of repentance.

Psalm 47:
5 God has gone up with a shout [Hebrew: truah],
The LORD with the sound of a trumpet [Hebrew: shofar].

Consider this whole Psalm:
Psalm 47
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
1 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
2 For the LORD Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
3 He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
4 He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

5 God has gone up with a shout,
The LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
9 The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.

This Psalm 47 speaks of God ruling over all the earth, subduing peoples under Israel, giving Jacob his inheritance, choosing us anew, of truah, of sounding a shofar, of God sitting on his holy throne, etc.
This is all pertinent to the Day of Judgement, the shabaton (day of rest), the day of sounding a shofar, of remembrance and repentance, of holy assembly.

Rabbi Mecklenberg continues to quite relevant verses.
He shows how the sounding of a truah was associated with the announcement of judgement.
The act of breaking was also linked with a new judgement and renewing a covenant.
He shows that not only are the people urged to remember but God Himself, as if to say, is also asked to remember.
Why should we want the Almighty to remember us on this day more than on other days?
Because this day is a day of judgment.
Rabbi Mecklenberg shows grammatically that the expression "zicaron-truah" entails the duty to remember the truah.
This means breaking our pride, breaking the yoke of evil habits from off us, sounding the shofar to symbolize judgment, and remembering that there is judgment.

6. A few notes from Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch (1808 - 1888).
Leviticus 23:24
Truah. We recognize this concept from the Book of Numbers 10:5-6. The Truah sound signified the returning of property to its rightful owners in the Jubilee; a return to the original freedom and rightful God-given station we were born to enjoy. The truah meant a deepening of the relationship between God and man and between a man and his fellow.
The truah of Rosh HaShanah and the truah at the end of Yom Kippur to begin the Jubilee were both made by a shofar. Both had the same significance.

The Zicaron (Remembrance ) of this day implies an overlooking of our past deeds.
This is a Day of Judgment and new beginning.
It is a new chance to begin again.

7. The Etymological System of Rabbi Hirsch

From Wikipedia, an Extract.
A final area of his work, which has only recently been rediscovered, was his etymological analysis of the Hebrew language. Most of this work is contained in his Torah commentary, where he analyses and compares the shorashim (three-letter root forms) of a large number of Hebrew words and develops an etymological system of the Hebrew language. This approach is based on the idea that letters that share a phonetic similarity, have similar meaning. For example the words Zohar (light), Tzohar (translucent window), and Tahor (purity) are related words because the letters Zayin, Tzadie, and Tet are phonetically similar. This is an approach used in many places by the renewed biblical commentator Rashi as well. Although this effort was, in his own words, "totally unscientific", it has led to the recent publication of an "etymological dictionary of the Hebrew language".[3]

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