About this time of year, there's always someone claiming that Judaism has gotten Rosh Hashanah wrong, and that it's really in the Spring, not the fall, not realizing how badly they're getting it themselves. But in reality, the Bible does use the term "Rosh HaShanah" in a way that helps us understand that the first day of Tishri is indeed correctly called "Rosh HaShanah". Let me show you this from the Scriptures.
Biblically, we're told to count our years from the 7th month to the next 7th month. Sabbatical years and Jubilee years are not counted from Aviv to Aviv, but from Ethanim / Tishri to Ethanim / Tishri. I know of no man-made system that counts its years from the 7th month to the 7th month, but Torah is very clear that Elohim's system counts its years that way for the purpose of Shmitta, Jubilee, property, etc (see Lev 25:9). And Sukkot is called the "Turn of the Year" in Exod 34:22. It's called that because we count our years from one 7th month to the next 7th month.The Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:1) states that there are 4 "heads of the year".
- Aviv (1st month) for the festivals
- Elul (6th month) for tithing
- Tishri / Ethanim (7th month) for Sabbatical and Jubilee years
- Shevat (11th month) for planting trees.Ezekiel uses the phrase "head of the year (rosh hashanah)" one time, but it does not refer to either Aviv / Nisan (the 1st month) or Ethanim / Tishri (the 7th month). It refers to the month of Av (5th month). Ezekiel 40:1 says,
"In the five and twentieth (25th) year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year [Rosh HaShanah], in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day...." (Ezek 40:1, KJV [with annotation])
When he uses the phrase "head of the year" or "ROSH HASHANAH" in Hebrew, this is referring to the head of the years of exile, measured as how long since Israel was in exile, not the year as Israel came out of Egypt (which is measured from the 1st month), or Jubilee years (measured from the 7th month), or the year for tithing cattle (measured from the 6th month), etc. This is not talking about the 7th month or the first , but the month of Av, for it says "in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day". There is no history of any attack on Israel starting or ending on the 10th day of either Aviv/Nisan or Ethanim / Tishri. But the temple was set afire on the 9th of Av and it took 2 days for it to burn, so the burning of the temple was completed on the 10th of Av. Ezek 40:1 was the exact 25th anniversary of that destruction of the temple. And when we read on in Ezekiel 40, what does G-d choose to reveal to Ezekiel on the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the temple? ..... He reveals what the NEW TEMPLE will look like!!!!! How poetic. The date Ezekiel is giving here is the 10th of Av, on the 25th anniversary of Israel's exile, measured from the day the temple finished burning to the ground. Now this "year" that Ezekiel is referring to, the years of exile, no longer existed when the Mishnah was written, so it was not worth mentioning at that point. But it was mentioned by Ezekiel.
In our modern society, we have a "Calendar year", and often people deal with a "fiscal year" that runs on a different cycle. Most governments run it from July to June or from October to the next September. Why is that? Because budgetary planning is often centerred around the "School year", which isn't really a year, but 9 months in most parts of America. In fact "4 years" of high school is really closer to 3.5 calendar years to 3.75 (Personally I graduated from high school after only 3.25 calendar years, but that's another story).
The "Festival Year" and "Sabbatical Year" and "Tithing Year" was very similar. The "Tithing Year" was their "fiscal year" - how they planned their budgetting from one year to the next. The calendar was set when the "festival Year" started, but it was counted (1,2,3,4,5,....5770,5771,etc) at the "turn of the Year" when the Sabbatical and Jubilee years are reckoned.
Since there is more than one "year", there is more than one "head" to that "year". In Ezekiel's day, he had a "Captivity Year" that not only didn't start on the first month of the year, but didn't start on the first day of that month either. The "Head of the Year [of Captivity]" ran from the 10th of Aviv to the 9th of the next Aviv. Now if it is OK to call the "Head" / "Rosh" of a "year" / "HaShannah" by the term "Rosh Hashanah" that is a year G-d never intended to have happen (since His original plan never included Israel going into captivity), then what is wrong with calling the "Head" / "Rosh" of the cycle for counting Sabbatical and Jubilee Years by the term "Rosh Hashanah" ? Obviously, nothing.
Now we would not call the 10th of Av "Rosh Hashanah" today, because our year doesn't center around Israel's captivity anymore. It's a yearly cycle we are glad to see GONE from our lives. OK....it is still remembered by most Jews ...but time keeping doesn't center around it. In fact the reason we remember it on the 9th of Av (the LAST DAY of the Exile Year) instead of the 10th of Av (the FIRST DAY of the Exile year) is a subtle symbolic way of celebrating the fact that those years of captivity have ENDED, thus we pick the LAST day of the Exile Year to remember it rather than the first, because we are remembering those years as having ENDED to us!!!
For us, time keeping in the form of counting years centers around the month of Ethanim / Tishri. There is more than one "Rosh Hashanah" because there is more than one type of "Shanah" (year), and as a result, nothing wrong with calling the first day of Ethanim / Tishri "Rosh Hashanah" because it is the head of one type of year within Judaism - that being how Sabbatical and Jubilee years are counted.
Now why does the Scirptures tell us to count the Sabbatical / Jubilee years from one seventh month to another? Keep in mind several things: A word for "year" really doesn't exist in Hebrew the same as in English - that is - a word used EXCLUSIVELY to refer to a measure of time. The Hebrew word for "year" (shanah) also can mean "change", "repeat", "study", and perhaps G-d wants us to see all these concepts in this time of year. And there are several instances in which the 7th measure of something creates or precedes a great change in Scripture.
- It was on the 7th day that G-d "rested" from creation. The Sabbath rest means we change things every day EXCEPT the 7th day of the week. We work and create assets on every other day, but on the 7th day we rest and make no changes to our wealth.
- In Lev 13 are regulations concerning a leprous man who is isolated, and on the 7th day is when the priest (kohen) investigates the man to determine is anything has changed about his status of leprousy.
- The 7th year is the YEAR OF RELEASE, and it is in this year that several changes happen; debts are released, slaves are set free, etc.
- In Egypt, there were 7 years of plenty followed by another change; 7 years of famine.
- In Joshua 6, Israel marched around Jericho for 7 days before a great change happened; the walls fell down.
Also, we know that Rosh HaShanah (The "Head of the Year" or the "Head of the Change") symbolically represents the second coming of the Messiah, which is when the biggest change the world will ever see will happen. And setting this in the 7th month could be a hint as to how this event will happen in the 7th Millenium of mankind. The Scriptures tell us that a day is like a thousand years, and many people believe that our Savior will return after the world has had 6,000 years of existance to start the 7th Millenium of mankind on earth as its earthly ruler. At http://mywebpages.comcast.net/jovial/learn/mc/timeline.htm is an interesting discussion on why the year 2000 was probably somewhere between 5,954 to 6,034 years since creation, though no one can pin the time frame exactly. But perhaps He wants us to see His return to earth as something that happens in the 7th of a measure of something as a hint towards what time frame He will return to those of us who do believe?
Now in many ways, the number 7 is symbolically linked to rest. But we see a change connected in two ways; things in motion are set to rest and other things changing immediately after a measure of 7.
Whatever the case, we can say this with all safe conclusions:
- G-d commanded us to number our months from Aviv to Aviv.
- He commanded us to number our years (changes) and count them from Tishri (Ethanim) to Tishri (Ethanim). The "turn of the year" is Biblically at the Feast of Ingathering, and it is from one 7th month to another that the Scriptures count the Sabbatical year and the Jubilees.
So whatever God's reasons where for having us see a "year" or a "change" in the 7th measure of something, this is the association He made and there must have been something symbolically important in the 7th measure of something in which he wanted us to see a change.
So Shanah Tovah to all of you later this week and may you have a great 5771.