The Jewish calendar is a lunar one; therefore, when we discuss the Jewish feasts it is necessary to understand the celebration of the New Moon. The New Moon is also called Rosh Chodesh. Recognizing it is a command as well as a celebration.
Originally the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent moon. On the 30th of each month, the members of the Sanhedrin assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable witnesses. Based on the testimony of the two witnesses and their calculations the new moon was sanctified. If the New Moon was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day (which was the first day of the next month).
Rosh Chodesh literally means “the head of the month.” Rosh means: beginning, chief, head, and Chodesh means: month, but it is derived from the word chadash meaning: renew, rebuild, repair, to be new. The New Moon celebration was one of the most significant celebrations of the Jewish people. It was so important that during the period of Syrian-Greek persecution that culminated in the miracle of Hanukkah, Rosh Chodesh was one of only three commandments whose observance the oppressors prohibited. The other two forbidden commandments were the Sabbath and circumcision. Sabbath and circumcision were observances that separated the Jews and others were able to identify them as Jews because of these observances. Thus, the fact that Rosh Chodesh was identified on the same level as Sabbath and circumcision proves the significance of its observance in Jewish culture. It is part of what made them Jewish.
On the other hand, only the court (the Sanhedrin) can proclaim Rosh Chodesh based on the testimony of witnesses who observed the re-appearance of the moon, and upon this proclamation, the Jewish calendar is based. Unless the new months can be proclaimed, there is no calendar, and without a calendar, there can be no festivals. Thus, if the Syrian-Greeks had succeeded in eradicating the observance of Rosh Chodesh, they would have succeeded in eliminating large numbers of other commandments, as well.
Not only was Rosh Chodesh a command but it was also the fulfillment of prophecy. Before Israel entered the Promised Land God told them to keep his commandments (of which the Festival of the New Moon was one.)
“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'” The celebration of the New Moon represented great wisdom as did all of the commands of God. Rosh Chodesh is a time that emphasizes Israel’s separation from other nations. In fact, the celebration is also called “sanctifying the New Moon” which corresponds with the idea of separation from the world. Jews believe that our lives are always being renewed in God’s service and are constantly filled with strength. REBUILT, REPAIRED.
Rosh Chodesh is a monthly festival that celebrates renewal. Renewal can be seen as starting over after a series of failings. Renewal can also be seen as a beginning at a new stage after the completion of a prior stage. In the Psalm of Rosh Chodesh, Psalm 104, we find a description of the functioning of the world. Every piece of creation has been set in its place. The water, land, and trees have all been set firmly. Animal life has been set into motion. Man again functions in his created role. This can be viewed as a renewal of creation as it was meant to be when the first Shabbat settled upon the earth. Hence, it is renewal: we find that it refers not merely to the original creation, but to a future creation when sins will be wiped off the earth, and evil doers will be no more. It is a rehearsal for the Kingdom of God in its fullness like the world we see in Genesis 1 before sin. This is the goal of Rosh Chodesh. This is a renewed world, a messianic view of the already existing world.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.
The celebration of the New Moon is for the future as well: Isaiah 66:22-24
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.
24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
There is also a relationship between Rosh Chodesh and the Messiah. The dynasty of David was likened to the moon because it underwent various stages of waxing and waning. The Talmudic sages of Israel would use the phrase, “David King of Israel lives and exists” when they wished to inform Jews in other countries that the New Moon had appeared and been sanctified.
Do you see all the beautiful allusions to Jesus coming again and bringing this renewal and rebuilding the world? The New Moon is a proclamation that Messiah will come or that Messiah is here. In fact one ancient Rabbi stated, “Whoever blesses the new moon at the proper time is considered as having welcomed the presence of Shekinah.” Blessing the New Moon is welcoming the GLORY OF GOD!!!! How beautiful is that?
It was celebrated only 11 times a year. In Tishri, Yom Teruah [The Feast of Trumpets] coincides with Rosh Chodesh; to this day, the new moon of Tishri is not proclaimed in advance. No one knows the day or the hour of Tishri’s new moon. All of Israel waits for it to be sanctified.
Often when people talk of Jesus coming back they quote, “no man can know the day or the hour.” It is almost as if it is a relief because even though the signs are pointing to it many still don’t want to acknowledge where we are at in terms of Christ’s return. While we may not know the day or the hour or even the year, I believe we can know the season.
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.4
Remember the first thing we need to understand is that; by God’s command, the Great Court (The Sanhedrin) was commanded to sanctify the New Moon and to set the year by them. The Sanhedrin was responsible for setting the date for each of the festivals (moed – appointed times). For example, God commanded that Passover occur on the 15th day of the first month (Nissan); however, the Sanhedrin determined when the first month began. Thus they set the date for the first festival.
Normally, they knew several days in advance the date of the next festival; however, the one Festival, the only festival that actually falls on the new moon is Yom Teruah [Rosh Hashanah].
Yom Teruah, is the festival that “no one knows the day of the hour” of its beginning, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Until the Sanhedrin sanctifies the New Moon of the 7th month, no one knows when Yom Teruah will begin.
Now lets look at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 5
Those who believe are not supposed to be surprised at that day. We are to be awake and alert. We may not know the exact day or hour, but we will know the season. Scripture admonishes us again and again to stay awake and be alert.
Understanding the New Moon is an important aspect of understanding Yom Teruah. Till next time.