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The New Middle of the Year

by Tim O'Hearn

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Lev 23:24-25)

And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. (Lev 25:8-9)

Why is the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar called Rosh HaShana, the new year? Why isn’t the new year two weeks before Pesach (Passover)?

Perhaps the second passage quoted above gives some insight into this matter. The day of atonement falls within this seventh month. In one sense, that is enough. The spiritual new year begins when the atonement is made for sin. This passage goes beyond that. The jubilee year, the year when all debts are cancelled and all land goes back to the family having original ownership, lasts from Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to Yom Kippur. Thus, the year of jubilee and the calendar year don’t match.

Those of us who have spent time in government service in the United States are familiar with this phenomenon. We have lived and paid taxes in a calendar year starting in January while spending the government’s money in a fiscal year starting in October. In like manner, Israel lives in a calendar year beginning 1 Nissan, but spends God’s grace in a spiritual year beginning in the month which begins 1 Tishri.

Beyond this coincidence of years, there is the common element of the blowing of the shofar. In Leviticus 23, God does not explain the significance of the blowing of the trumpets from year to year. In Leviticus 25, the year of jubilee is ushered in by blowing the shofar on Yom Kippur. The trumpet is to get the attention of the people. At jubilee it is to “proclaim liberty throughout the land.” The shofar of Rosh HaShana may also serve as an attention getter for a proclamation.

“Awake! Arise!” This is the message of the shofar. The day of atonement is at hand. Awake from sleepwalking in sin. Arise and repent. Prepare for the coming new year of liberty from sin throughout the land.

Rosh HaShana falls on September 30 this year. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.