The Significance of Yom Teruah - Names

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V. Names

Rosh Hashanah - Which means the beginning or "head" of the year. Most Jews use this name to refer to this feast (moed). This name is mentioned only once in the scriptures in:

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city--on that very day the hand of HaShem was upon me and he took me there.

Chazal recognize that this is not referring to Yom Teruah, but to Yom HaKippurim in a Jubilee year.

Yom Teruah: Which means a day of blowing (the shofar) or breathing. This name is found in:

Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:1 "'On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the shofarot.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:24 "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 shofar blasts.

Teruah in Hebrew means not only a certain unique sound. It also connotes "to break", as the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) says Roah Hisroah Haaretz (24:19), after the earth quaked, something broke to pieces. Teruah is associated with breakage and damage, for example we find the people of Sodom threatened to do damage to Lot for not turning over his guests to them.

Yom Ha-Zekaron: Which means a day of memorial or remembrance. This is derived from the above verse [Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:24].

Rosh HaShanah: This is the common name used by most Jews. This name appears twice in the Torah: first in Vayikra 23:24 - "...In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall you have a Shabbat, a remembrance of blowing of horns ("zikhron teruah"), a holy gathering...", and later in Bamidbar 29:1 - "...It is a day of blowing the horn ("Yom Teruah") to you". What is the significance of this "Yom Teruah"? On what basis do the Sages identify this day as the Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin)? Why do the Sages call this day 'Rosh HaShana' while the Torah makes no mention of this term?

Apparently we have only one source to guide us in understanding the biblical significance of the 'Yom teruah', the 'Parshat HaHatzotzrot', the portion dealing with the shofarot. For our purposes the last two pesukim of this parsha are of particular note: “And if you go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the shofarot ("veharei'otem b'hatzotzrot"); and you shall be remembered ("veniz'kartem") before HaShem your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, you shall blow with the shofarot ("ut'ka'tem b'hatzotzrot") over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a remembrance ("l'zikaron") before your God - I am HaShem.

Yom Hakeseh (The Day of Concealment) - The sages say that the verse:

Tehillim (Psalms) 81:3 Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast;

Should be translated:

Tehillim (Psalms) 81:3 Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the covered time for our feast day.

Which is the feast on which the moon is covered over? You must say that this is Yom Teruah[24]; and it is written in this connection:

Tehillim (Psalms) 81:4 This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.

Tehillim (Psalms) 81:1-16 {For the director of music. According to <gittith.> Of Asaph.} Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is covered, on the day of our Feast; This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard a language we did not understand. He says, "I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. <Selah> "Hear, O my people, and I will warn you--if you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am HaShem your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. "If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, How quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate HaShem would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

All that transpires on this day is characterized by concealment. All other festivals fall either when the moon is full or near full. Yom Teruah, however, falls on the first day of the month, when the new moon is just barely revealed. The House of Israel is symbolically compared to the moon and is radiant on its Shabbats and Festivals. On Yom Teruah, however, Israel diminishes herself and conceals its greatness in awe of the Day of Judgment. HaShem, too, places a cover of concealment over His people’s sins and accords them forgiveness.

The very character of Tishri one, as the Day of Judgment, is similarly concealed and is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, so that a person might not be apprehensive over his sins all year and not delay his teshuva (returning) till Yom Teruah.

Yom HaDin: Which means a Day of Judgment. In anticipation of this judgment, we begin teshuvah, to repent, at the beginning of Elul, thirty days earlier. We will have our final time for repentance at the end of this forty day period, on Yom HaKippurim. [Note that His Majesty King Yeshua, the Mashiach’s fast for forty days in the wilderness is very much related to this festival of Yom HaKippurim.] Repentance is also the important concept in the ritual of tashlich, where we symbolically cast our sins away, on this day.

On this day man is judged for all of his actions, and all that will transpire and occur during the coming year is recorded. The Talmud[25] derives this from the verse:

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:12 The eyes of God, your Lord, are upon it [the land] from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

Rosh Hashanah was ordained as a day of judgment for two reasons:

1. This is the day the world was created. The world was created by Elokim, the name used when the attribute of justice is exercised.

2. This is the day Adam was judged, he repented, and he was forgiven. Yom Teruah is “the sixth day” when Adam was created. This is also the day when Adam will be reborn into an indestructible body.

The teaching of the Sages that each person is judged on Rosh Hashanah does not refer to whether a person will merit Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden, if he is worthy, or Gehinom and eternal destruction if he is unworthy. Rather, man is judged on Rosh Hashanah concerning only this world: Whether he is worthy of life and peace, or death and affliction.