The Significance of Yom Teruah - Calendar Arrangement


III. Calendar Arrangement:

The following excerpt is from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

"Originally, the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations, but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent of the moon. On the 30th of each month, the members of the High Court (Bet Din Gadol – The Sanhedrin) assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem, named Beit Ya'azek, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable witnesses; they then sanctified the New Moon. If the moon's crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the next day."

According to the Talmud the witnesses were entertained lavishly to induce witnesses to come forward. They were then tested to ascertain that they were true witnesses[2]:

Rosh HaShana 23b: MISHNAH. THERE WAS A LARGE COURT IN JERUSALEM CALLED BETH YA'AZEK. THERE ALL THE WITNESSES USED TO ASSEMBLE AND THE BETH DIN USED TO EXAMINE THEM. THEY USED TO ENTERTAIN THEM LAVISHLY THERE[3] SO THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE AN INDUCEMENT[4] TO COME. ORIGINALLY THEY USED NOT TO LEAVE THE PLACE THE WHOLE DAY,[5] BUT RABBAN GAMALIEL THE ELDER INTRODUCED A RULE THAT THEY COULD GO TWO THOUSAND CUBITS FROM IT IN ANY DIRECTION. THESE WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES [TO WHOM THIS CONCESSION WAS MADE]. A MIDWIFE WHO HAS COME [FROM A DISTANCE] TO HELP IN CHILDBIRTH OR ONE WHO COMES TO RESCUE FROM A FIRE OR FROM BANDITS OR FROM A RIVER IN FLOOD OR FROM A BUILDING THAT HAS FALLEN IN — ALL THESE ARE ON THE SAME FOOTING AS THE RESIDENTS OF THE TOWN, AND MAY GO TWO THOUSAND CUBITS [ON SHABBAT] IN ANY DIRECTION.

GEMARA. The question was raised: Do we read here Beth Ya'azek or Beth Ya'zek? Do we read Beth Ya'azek, regarding the name as an elegantia[6] based on the Scriptural expressions, And he ringed it round and cleared it of stones?[7] Or do we read Beth Ya'zek, taking the name to connote constraint,[8] as it is written, being bound in chains?[9] — Abaye said: Come and hear [a proof that it is the former]: THEY USED TO ENTERTAIN THEM LAVISHLY THERE SO THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE AN INDUCEMENT TO COME. [This is not conclusive], as perhaps they treated them in both ways.[10]

MISHNAH. HOW DO THEY TEST THE WITNESSES? THE PAIR WHO ARRIVE FIRST ARE TESTED FIRST. THE SENIOR OF THEM IS BROUGHT IN AND THEY SAY TO HIM, TELL US HOW YOU SAW THE MOON — IN FRONT OF THE SUN OR BEHIND THE SUN?[11] TO THE NORTH OF IT OR THE SOUTH? HOW BIG WAS IT, AND IN WHICH DIRECTION WAS IT INCLINED?[12] AND HOW BROAD WAS IT? IF HE SAYS [HE SAW IT] IN FRONT OF THE SUN, HIS EVIDENCE IS REJECTED.[13] AFTER THAT THEY WOULD BRING IN THE SECOND AND TEST HIM. IF THEIR ACCOUNTS TALLIED, THEIR EVIDENCE WAS ACCEPTED, AND THE OTHER PAIRS WERE ONLY QUESTIONED BRIEFLY,[14] NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE REQUIRED AT ALL, BUT SO THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE DISAPPOINTED, [AND] SO THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE DISSUADED FROM COMING.[15]

GEMARA. ‘IN FRONT OF THE SUN’ is surely the same as ‘TO THE NORTH OF IT’, and ‘BEHIND THE SUN’ is surely the same as TO THE SOUTH OF IT’?[16] — Abaye said: [It means], whether the concavity of the moon is in front of the sun or behind the sun.[17] If he says, in front of the sun, his evidence is rejected, since R. Johanan has said: What is meant by the verse, Dominion and fear are with him, He maketh peace in his high places?[18] Never did the sun behold the concavity of the new moon nor the concavity of the rainbow. It never sees the concavity of the moon, so that she should not feel humiliated.[19] It never sees the concavity of the rainbow so that the worshippers of the sun should not say, He is shooting arrows [at those who do not worship him].[20]
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Yom Teruah is always celebrated for two days, even in Israel. These two days are celebrated as though it is just one long day of forty-nine hours. (from candle lighting time, eighteen minutes before sundown; to havdalah time, forty-two minutes after sundown.)
These days of Yom Teruah are called “yoma arichta” (one long day) to indicate that the sanctity of both is not a doubtful sanctity, but a definite one. See also KNOWDAY

The reason that we celebrate for two days is because if we waited to start our celebration until after the new moon had been sanctified, we would have missed half the celebration because the new moon can only be sanctified during daylight hours. The new moon is also very difficult to see on the first day because it can be seen only about sunset, close to the sun, when the sun is traveling north. So, looking for a very slim faint crescent moon, which is very close to the sun, is a very difficult thing to do.

This two day celebration makes me think of:

Matityahu (Matthew) 24:29-39 "Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud shofar call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Matityahu (Matthew) 25:13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Marqos (Mark) 13:28-37 "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

Revelation 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

I Thessalonians 5:1-11 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

The command seems to be that we know the season, but not the day or the hour. Yom Teruah is the ONLY moed (appointment) that we do not know the day or the hour in which to keep it. Therefore, we have to be on the alert and watch for it. The Rabbinic suggestion that we not sleep on Yom Teruah seems to be justified from these verses. According to the Mishna, Rosh Chodesh must be announced during daylight hours (Rosh HaShanah 3:1)

Abraham, in the Book of Jubilees, also stayed awake and watched:

Jubilees, Chapter 12:15... And Terah went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, he and his sons, to go into the land of Lebanon and into the land of Canaan, and he dwelt in the land of Haran, and Abram dwelt with 16 Terah his father in Haran two weeks of years. And in the sixth week, in the fifth year thereof, [1951 A.M.] Abram sat up throughout the night on the new moon of the seventh month to observe the stars from the evening to the morning, in order to see what would be the character of the year with regard 17 to the rains, and he was alone as he sat and observed. And a word came into his heart and he said: All the signs of the stars, and the signs of the moon and of the sun are all in the hand of the Lord. Why do I search (them) out?

Statistics:

Rosh HaShana cannot, in our fixed calendar, fall on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. That leaves four days of the week that Rosh HaShana can fall. They are (with their frequency of occurence): Monday (27.4%), Tuesday (11.5%), Thursday (32.1%), and Shabbat (28.9%). Notice that The frequencies of Monday, Thursday,and Shabbat are roughly similar. Tuesday's frequency, on the other hand, is less than half that of any of the other days.

Announcing the New Moon

Normally an announcement is made on the Shabbat preceding the new moon. This announcement tells us the precise time of the new moon and the name of the new month.

However, we do not make this announcement on the last Shabbat of Elul, to announce the new moon of Tishri. The Baal Shem Tov gave the following reason as to why we do not make this announcement for the new month on the Shabbat preceding the beginning of the month of Tishri, as we do on the Shabbatot that precede all other new months:

"The seventh month [of the festival calendar], which is the first month of the months of the year [of the creation calendar, i.e., the month of Tishri], is blessed by HaShem Himself on Shabbat Mevarchim, which is the last Shabbat of the month of Elul. Thus empowered, the Jewish people bless the [other] months, eleven times in the year."[21]

The Baal Shem Tov then went on to explain what HaShem's blessing entails:

"Scripture states [in the beginning of the Torah portion of Nitzavim[22], 'You are all standing today....' 'Today' refers to Rosh HaShanah, which is the day of judgment.... You (the Jewish people) stand fast and upright on this day; i.e., you are judged favorably. On the Shabbat preceding Rosh HaShanah which is the last Shabbat of the month of Elul, we read the portion of 'You are all standing today....' This is G-d's blessing on the Shabbat when we bless the 'seventh month,' [a month] that is satiated and satiates all Jews with abundant goodness the year round."

We understand from the above that although the month of Tishri is blessed by HaShem Himself, nevertheless even this blessing is drawn down by the Jewish people through their reading of the Torah on the preceding Shabbat.

The only difference between this and other months is that in the case of the other months the blessing itself comes from the Jewish people, while the blessing for Tishri is recited by HaShem Himself, though in order for it to be drawn down below, the

Jewish people must read the portion of Nitzavim.
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 Rosh Chodesh literally means "beginning renewal" and idiomatically means the "beginning of the month" or "new moon". Strong’s definition is:

7218 ro'sh, roshe; from an unused root appar. mean. to shake; the head (as most easily shaken), whether lit. or fig. (in many applications, of place, time, rank, etc.):-band, beginning, captain, chapiter, chief (-est place, man, things), company, end, X every [man], excellent, first, forefront, ([be-]) head, height, (on) high (-est part, [priest]), X lead, X poor, principal, ruler, sum, top.bands beginning beginnings beheaded captain captains chapiters chief chiefest companies company ends every excellent first forefront head heads height high highest lead principal rulers sum top tops

2320 chodesh, kho'-desh; from 2318; the new moon; by impl. a month:-month (-ly), new moon.

---------------- Dictionary Trace --------------

2318 chadash, khaw-dash'; a prim. root; to be new; caus. to rebuild:-renew, repair.

In the school of Rabbi Ishmael it was taught: Had Israel merited no other privilege than greeting the presence of their heavenly Father once a month [by reciting the benediction over the new moon], they would be contented! Abbaye said: Therefore [since it is a greeting of HaShem's presence], we must recite it standing. Talmud Sanhedrin 42a.
Since the end of the Sanhedrin, the Beit Din Gadole, we no longer sanctify the new moon as we used to. When the Beit Din Gadole is restored, we will return to the old way of sanctifying the new moon. Now, we say the following blessing on the third through the seventh day of the month, preferably on the Shabbat:

Kiddush Lavanah (The Blessing Over the New Moon):

Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the universe whose word created the heavens, whose breath created all that they contain. Statutes and seasons He set for them, that they should not deviate from their assigned task. Happily, gladly they do the will of their Creator, whose work is dependable. To the moon He spoke: renew yourself, crown of glory for those who were borne in the womb, who also are destined to be renewed and to extol their Creator for His glorious sovereignty. Blessed are You, HaShem who renews the months.

David, King of Israel, lives and endures.

For more insight into the Torah calendar, see the author’s study on CALENDAR.