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Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Messiah

Rosh HaShana (Lit. "Head of the Year") is celebrated as the Jewish New Year's Day. The holiday is observed on the first two days of...

Rosh HaShana (Lit. “Head of the year”) is celebrated as the Jewish New Year’s Day.  The holiday is observed on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which usually falls sometime in September. 

This day marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance, which culminates on the fast day of Yom Kippur.  These ten days are referred to as the “Days of Awe” or “High Holy Days.”

In the Bible, the feast is called ‘Yom Teruah’ and it means ‘Day of shouting / blasting’  (i.e. Trumpet/Shofar or loud noise).

“Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.”  (Leviticus 23:23-24)

One of the unique things about the Feast of Trumpets is that the Torah does not say what the purpose of this holy day is.  Just that God wanted Israel to stop work, gather and listen to loud trumpets.

Prepare yourself - for Yom Kippur is coming

Ten days after the Shofar is sounded on Rosh HaShana, we come to the most awesome day on the Jewish calendar.  Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.

It is a day of rest and fasting.  Leviticus 16 gives details about this day and the duties of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) on this day when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem.

When the Temple in Jerusalem stood, the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) entered into the very heart of the Temple on this day only.  It was the only time of the year that anyone was allowed to enter inside the Holy of Holies.

Doing so required special purification and preparation, including five immersions in a mikvah (ritual bath).  When inside, he would sprinkle the blood from a goat as a sin offering

A different goat was given the sins of all Israel upon its head and taken to a cliff outside the camp.  It was then pushed off the cliff lest it somehow find its way back to the camp, thus returning Israel’s sins.  That is where we get the term “scapegoat” from.

Today, since no goat blood is shed, many orthodox Jewish people will swing a live chicken above their head and then sacrifice it.  They do this in an effort to get back to the principle of Torah – that a blood sacrifice (a substitute) is really needed on this day.

You can read about it here:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11)

Today, there are no more blood sacrifices on Yom Kippur. 

You might say “We don’t need blood sacrifices anymore.”  But that is contrary to what Moses said in the Torah.  If modern faith teaches us that blood atonement is not necessary, then they are moving the goalposts set by God.

The principle is this: an innocent animal dies in the place of the guilty. 

Substitution – that was one of the central features of why the Temple in Jerusalem stood.  It was a place where animal sacrifices, according to Torah, were done.  The innocent animal paid for the sinner’s sins that year.

Hundreds of years later – the Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote about someone who would one day come and die as a substitute for the sins of Israel.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,”

(Isaiah 53:7)

And why was this “servant” led to the slaughter?

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.


All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.”  (Isaiah 53: 5-6)

And this is why Yom Kippur is so very important.

It teaches me that a substitute must die in my place.

Our sins are a very serious thing before God.

God gave us life, and on Judgment day He has the power to remove that life from us. 

If we were to stand before God, we would all be guilty.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6

That is why on Rosh Hashana we sound the shofar.  To prepare us and let us know that God is a Righteous Judge.

But He is also loving, merciful and would rather save us than judge us

That is why He sent the Messiah – to take away our sins.  To be our “atonement.”