As we have said before, we cannot find in the rabbinical writings or Josephus an account of the ceremonies for Rosh ha Shannah. However, we know there had to be ceremonies because Num 29 has told us that. There were korbanot offered during the Mussaf service (additional korbanot to the Daily Tamid) and we know the Levitical choir sang a daily psalm for each day of the week. We are told about the singing of the Hallel (Psa 113-118) in the rabbinical writings. But, there are 150 psalms, so where and when were these psalms used?
Many people never think about that. The Psalms were to be used in the Temple services at a specific time. Knowing that will give us a starting point for what was sung at the festivals. In the Temple, you had the morning service the morning Tamid lamb) called Shacharit and then the Mussaf service on festivals, followed by the Minchah services (the afternoon Tamid lamb). The Shacharit and the Minchah services were done everyday. The Psalms for the festivals will be sung during the Mussaf service when additional offerings prescribed for that festival were offered.
Public korbanot were brought between these services, plus private korbanot. What a time to have a certain psalm sung with its particular tune sung. That is part of the “reconstruction” of these psalms in the Temple. Mowinckel went in and identified the “Royal” or “Enthronement” psalms. A theme for Rosh ha Shannah is implied in Psa 81.4 and it concerns judgment and enthronement. Now, you can’t see the Lord so these psalms allude to the enthronement of the Messiah. Get any creditable book on Rosh ha Shannah, the Jewish Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Judaica and you will find that a major aspect of Rosh ha Shannah is the enthronement of the Messiah and the coronation. The Artscroll Machzor (prayer book for a festival) for Rosh ha Shannah has a page called “The Day of Judgment” or “Yom ha Din” (p 135). The heavenly court sits and every individual is judged (Babylonian Talmud Rosh ha Shannah 16b). In the Artscroll Machzor for Yom Kippur, p 233, says the “Day of Judgment” or “Yom ha Din” also. Rosh ha Shannah and Yom Kippur are both called the Day of Judgment.
King Solomon gathered all of Israel for a festival in Ethanim (Tishri), but which one; Rosh ha Shannah, Yom Kippur or Sukkot. This is important because 1 Kings 8 deals with the dedication of the Temple. The ceremony that took place lasted for 14 days (I Kings 8.65). On the eighth day it was over, so how could it last (the dedication) for 14 days, but be over by the eighth day when he sent the people away (1 Kings 8.66).
Well, let’s reconstruct this time period. The month of Ethanim (Tishri) began on Tishri 1 and Rosh ha Shannah. Then eight days later the Temple dedication began (Tishri 8). The 14 days of dedication went from Tishri 8 to Tishri 21. That means Yom Kippur and the festival of Sukkot were included in those days. After the 14 days were over, we come to the next day which was Tishri 22, which is called Shemini Atzeret, or the “Eighth Day.” So, the people were sent away on the Eight day or Shemini Atzeret of Sukkot. Shemini Atzeret is actually the conclusion to Rosh ha Shannah and the fall festival season (1 Thes 5.1). They are linked and when it says the “feast of Ethanim” in 1 Kings 8.2, it includes all of this. It also is the conclusion to all the festivals, going all the way back to the Passover.
In another example, the people have returned to the land after the Babylonian Captivity. Neh 7.73 it says that when the seventh month (Tishri) came, the sons of Israel were in their cities. Then in Neh 8.1-2 it says they were gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Sha’ar ha Mayim, or the Water Gate, which was in the Temple court. They came for the festivals in Tishri, beginning with Rosh ha Shannah. Neh 8.3 says that Ezra read from the Torah from “early morning (the Shacharit service) to mid-day (the Mussaf service for Rosh ha Shannah). Neh 8.4-12 then goes on to say that Ezra stood on a wooden podium that was very large and held 14 men who supported and approved of what was happening. He was standing above all the people (why the podium was so large) and he read, and all the people stood. As he read, others were translating to give the meaning to the people. Then Nehemiah, who was governor, stood and said to the people that this day was “holy to the Lord” and to encourage the people who were weeping and mourning after they heard the words of the Torah. He then told them to go and “eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then the Levites calmed all the people. So, all the people went and celebrated the festival because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
In Neh 8.13 -18 it says that on the “second day” (of Tishri) they gathered to gain more insight into the Torah. And they found written in the Torah that the Lord commanded that the sons of Israel were to dwell in booths (sukkot) during the feast of the seventh month (Sukkot). So, they said to go and tell to go out to the hills and bring in branches of various trees and make sukkah’s. So, they did it and he read from the Torah all during the festival of Sukkot, to the “last day” which was the seventh day called Hoshanah Rabbah, the “great salvation.” On the eighth day (Shemini Atzeret) there was a solemn assembly according to the Torah. Ezra 3.1-13 describes the same time period and it says that they gathered on Rosh ha Shannah and there was a high priest named Yeshua. They set up the Altar on its foundation and began to offer korbanot (Ezra 3.6), even though the foundation of the Temple had not been laid yet. This has eschatological implications in our view because when the Naztal (Rappture, the Gathering) occurs on Rosh ha Shannah, year 6001 from creation, the korbanot will begin to offered on the Altar on that day, even though the Temple won’t be built yet. That means people today who know the Scriptures will see the preparation for this before the “rapture”, with the Temple Mount going back into Jewish hands so that this can happen. On the day of the Natzal, the services will begin.
We went into all this to show that the emphasis on Rosh ha Shannah was the reading of the Scriptures and we already know that shofarot were blown on Rosh ha Shannah, based on Psalm 81.3. In a current Rosh ha Shannah service today, a shofar is blown 100 times, with various notes. They were singing enthronement psalms and judgment psalms because it not only is the day of coronation, but it is a Yom ha Din. Enthronement and judgment are seen together in other cultures as well. It is often the day that pardons are granted. We see this in the United States when a new President takes office. The outgoing President grants pardons and the new President engages in judgment. So far, we are seeing that Rosh ha Shannah is a day of reciting the Scriptures and the shofarot.
In Part 24, we will pick up here and begin to discuss how the Rosh ha Shannah Scriptures are divided into three categories involving the “Malchiot” or “kingly passages; the “Zikkranot” or “remembrance” passages and the “Shofarot” or “shofar” passages. We will give these passages and then discus what notes are blown on the shofar.