In Israel, and Jerusalem especially, the piercing sound of the shofar (a large ram’s horn used for ceremonial purposes) regularly interrupts the tranquil atmosphere of the season. In fact, the term “New Year” is not even used in the Bible; this first holy day is referred to in the Scriptures as Yom Teruah – the Day of Trumpets. The shofar reminds Jewish people of the obedience of Abraham, who was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God. The Lord stopped Abraham before he went through with the act, providing a ram as a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac.
The sound of the shofar reminds the Jewish people that the Day of Atonement is approaching. According to the tradition, God opens up the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and closes it on Yom Kippur, making it the defining time period for Jewish people to make amends and seek forgiveness from God and man. To a fault, Israelis will reach out to family, friends, and acquaintances to apologize, restore broken relationships and “make things right” – all done in hopes of pleasing God.
The traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah is “May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life” and Israelis wish one another “a sweet new year.” This hope for sweet days ahead is expressed by symbolically dipping apples in honey and eating dessert. The traditional oblong braided Shabbat challah (bread) is replaced by a festive round challah, baked with raisins to symbolize the circle of life and the sweetness of the New Year. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk to our Jewish friends and family about the Book of Life and what ensures our inclusion on its pages. Jesus the Messiah not only is the single guarantee to have our names inscribed in it, but He also offers us access to forgiveness of sin on any day of the year and not just during the Days of Awe!