Rosh Hashana 2

Day is Hallowed


"The day is hallowed!"

When the Sanhedrin was satisfied with the veracity of the testimony that they had received, they would rise and walk to the door facing the inner court of the Holy Temple. Standing on the steps of the Chamber of Hewn Stone, the head of the Sanhedrin would proclaim to the expectant crowd, "The day is hallowed!" The people would respond: "The day is hallowed! The day is hallowed!" The kohanim would immediately begin tending to the Rosh Hashana offerings, and the Levites would begin performing the musical accompaniment.


Messenger by Horse


Messengers on Horseback

Immediately upon proclaiming, "The day is hallowed!," messengers on horseback were dispatched to bring the news of the sanctification of the new moon to all the villages of Israel and beyond. The swift broadcast of the news was essential in order to enable all to observe Rosh Hashana on the proper day.


Torch Bearers


Torches on Hilltops

Simultaneously, the proclamation of the new moon would go out from Jerusalem by way of torches lit by specially appointed "relay teams" who were located on strategically places hill tops. Using this method, the news could be transmitted quickly all the way to the Jewish communities of Babylon and Persia. Speed was of the essence in order to enable all to observe Rosh Hashana and the following holidays in their proper times.


Rosh HaShana Torch Map


The Torch Route

This map depicts the precise route along which the torches were lit signifying the appearance of the new moon. The first station along the route was Har HaMishcha, (the Mount of Anointing, known today as the Mount of Olives). The route proceeded north east in order to reach the Babylonian city of Pumbedita, which was a major center of Jewish life.



Rosh Chodesh Offerings

Rosh Hashana marked not only the new year, but also the new month. On Rosh Hashana, the rosh chodesh, (new moon), offerings were performed in the Holy Temple first, followed by the Rosh Hashana offerings. Presenting the offerings began the moment the new moon was proclaimed by the Great Sanhedrin. Rosh chodesh offerings consisted of eleven animals: two young bulls, one ram, seven yearling sheep, and one goat. The bringing of the goat for a sin offering was the focal point of the day.



Rosh Hashana Offerings

Following the daily, (Tamid), offerings, and the bringing of the Rosh Chodesh offerings, the Rosh Hashana offerings were then brought. These included ten animals: one young bull, a ram, seven yearling sheep, and a goat.


the Day of Sounding

"With trumpets and shofar blasts sound off before the King, G-d." (Psalms 98:6)

Rosh Hashana is known as the "Day of Sounding." In the Holy Temple this was marked by the blowing of a gold plated shofar and silver trumpets. The picture above shows a priest standing on the steps leading up to the Kodesh - the Sanctuary - of the Holy Temple, and blasting the shofar. Flanking him on either side are two priests, each one blowing on a silver trumpet. The blast of the shofar will outlast that of the trumpets, as the chief commandment of the day is to hear the shofar.


"G-d has ascended with a blast, the L-rd with the voice of the shofar."
(Psalms 47:6)

"Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the time appointed for our festive day."
(Psalms 81:4-5)

"Praise Him with the blast of the shofar" (Psalms 150:3)

"Praise Him with the blast of the shofar" (Psalms 150:3)

"And on the third day, while morning, that there were voices and lightning, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the shofar was very loud; and all the people in the camp trembled." (Exodus 19:16)

"And when the voice of the shofar grew very strong, Moses spake, and G-d answered him by a voice." (Exodus 19:19)

"And all the people saw the voices and the flames, and the voice of the shofar, and the mountain was smoking, and the people saw, and trembled, and stood from afar." (Exodus 20:15)

As previously noted, the shofar, which lies still until the breath is projected through it, brings us back to our own origin - the breathing of life by G-d into Adam - the first man. The shofar would later be sounded on joyous occasions at the Holy Temple, as seen by the citations above from the book of Psalms. It was at the very onset of the Divine revelation at Mount Sinai, when G-d presented His people with the Torah, that the sound of the shofar was heard, marking the covenant between G-d and His people. So too is the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana reminiscent of the binding of Isaac, where G-d provided a ram, who was caught in the thicket by his horn - the shofar - as a sign of G-d's promise to Abraham that "I will establish My covenant with him (Isaac) for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him." (Genesis 17:19)



Special Status for Jerusalem

Special status was granted by the sages to Jerusalem on Rosh HaShana: When Rosh Hashana fell on Shabbat, the blowing of the shofar was still permitted within the Holy City. This ruling applied not only to the Temple and the Temple Mount, but included the entire city of Jerusalem. Even inhabitants living within villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem, within walking distance from, and from which the Holy Temple could be seen, were allowed to blow the shofar on Shabbat.



Ezra and Nechemiah

"When the seventh month came... all of the people gathered together as one man into the open place that was before the Water Gate." (Neh. 7:72-81)

Following the return from Babylonian exile, a month-long campaign for repentance was commenced by Ezra and Nechemiah, on Rosh Hashana. The returnees convened in the rebuilt Temple Courtyard, and there Ezra read aloud from a Torah scroll. When the people heard the words of the Torah, they were overcome with remorse, and began to lament. Ezra and the Levites stayed the outcry, saying, "This day is sacred to the L-rd! Stop your mourning and stop your crying!"



"All inhabitants of the world, and dwellers of the earth, As a banner raised high in the mountains you shall see; and as the blasting of the shofar you shall hear" (Isaiah 18:3)"... Our G-d and G-d of our fathers, sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles, draw near our scattered ones from among the nations, and gather us in our dispersions from the ends of the earth. Bring us to Zion, Your city, with gladness, and to Jerusalem, Your Holy Temple, with everlasting joy. There we will perform before You our obligatory offerings, as commanded us in Your Torah, through Moshe Your servant, from the source of Your glory, as it is said: And on the day of your joy, and on your festivals and new moons, you will sound the trumpets upon your offerings, and they will be for you a remembrance before your G-d; I am HaShem your G-d." (from the Rosh Hashana Musaf prayer)