Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'
A new year begins this week.
And not just in the scholastic sense.
Not just with kids heading back to school and college football kicking off.
It is the beginning of the new year on the Jewish calendar.
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the a new year on the Jewish civil calendar and is heralded by the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet of sorts made out of the horn of a ram or a goat. In Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the universe, specifically the creation of man. It is called the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible.
With our Western traditions of the new year starting on January 1st, we usually take the opportunity to create 'resolutions' for the upcoming year. We make goals, set out new fitness routines and focus on improvement and growth.
But Rosh Hashanah begins the Jewish new year with a slightly different focus.
Because the new year is seen as kicking off with God surveying our deeds from the past year and calling us to repentance. It is seen as a day of judgement and an opportunity for repentance.
It's a chance to begin a new year cleansed, to cast off the sin of the yesteryear.
And it involves introspection, remorse and resolve to walk a more cleansed life, to take the blank pages of the unfolding year and to use them as step stones to walk closer with God.
Not a bad idea, I'd say.
One of my brothers and his wife pursued all kinds of graduate degrees, my brother earning a master's in environmental science and my sister-in-law earning her PhD in bimolecular chemistry. For many years of their adult lives, the fall season began for them as it had all through their childhoods; new school classes, fresh notebooks, new pencils and pens, the latest textbooks. My brother related to me how odd it was the first fall that rolled around after he and his wife had completed their degrees, how strange it seemed to not have blank notebooks to fill and pencils to sharpen. There was something renewing in the heading-back-to-school fall season for them.
We come to the season of Rosh Hashanah with our folders ratty from the previous year and our pencils down to the nub. And by His grace, the Lord offers us a fresh start, a chance to learn more of His ways. But to understand the value in that gift, we must first understand and admit and own where we have been. A new year chock full of new resolutions doesn't hold much promise if we can't repent for the mistakes that have led to those resolutions. It doesn't mean we wallow in the past. It does mean we need to look it head on, without trying to dust it off and pretty it up and excuse it away.
And the Lord can take that mess and He can take our sincere apology.
And He can hand us a fresh notebook of grace where we can chose to write words of life.
The trumpet blows.
Happy New Year.