Rosh Hashanah History
Strange but true. Though "Rosh
Hashanah" heralds the
beginning of the pious 10-day period of 'High Holy Days' it is not found in the Torah's discussion. Torah is a compilation of moral and practical code of living the Hebrews had developed over the centuries and
its development continued even after Moses. The basis of the Torah is laid in the first five books of the Old
Testament (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).
If Torah refers to Rosh Hashanah as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (a day of Shofar
blowing), it appears twice in the Torah.
One time it is mentioned in Vayikra 23:24 - "...In the seventh month, on the first day of the
month, shall you have a sabbath, a remembrance of blowing of horns ("zikhron
teru'ah"), a holy
Again it is found in Bamidbar 29:1 - "...It is a day of blowing the horn
("yom teru'ah") to you".
Now, the Torah gives no specific reason why the shofar is blown on Rosh
Rosh Hodesh in biblical times was celebrated in a far more festive fashion than it is today and the blowing on Rosh Hodesh is defined as "a statute for
Israel, an ordinance of the God of Yaakov".
Thus, blowing horns is not particular to Rosh Hashana, but rather is a characteristic
to every Rosh Hodesh (new month) - in the form of the blowing of the trumpets.
It is blown as an act of remembrance. Why then Rosh is exclusively called
a festival of Shofar? It is also possible that blowing the Shofar on Rosh
Hashana has special significance beyond that of every Rosh Hodesh.
The meaning of remembrance here is special attention. Zikaron implies that
special attention is paid to the object of remembrance as the attention of
God is sought for Noah [Bereishit 8:1] as well as Avraham [ibid. 19:28] and Rachel [ibid. 30:22].
The Torah is teaching us that from that moment onwards special providence and close
guidance ('hashgaha') was provided for those individuals.
Following the period of Bnei Yisrael's servitude in Egypt, the time comes for their salvation - "And God remembered his covenant... and
God knew" [Shmot 2:24-25]. From that moment, Bnei Yisrael were under Hashem's special
'hashgaha'. See the History of Hebrews :
According to the great Jewish scholar, Rambam (Maimondies), the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashana to say, "Wake up! Wake up, everyone who is asleep! Remember your Creator! Instead of going around doing things that are not important or worthwhile, take some time to think about what you can do to make yourself into a better person. Give up doing bad things!"
Rav Saadia Gaon gave many reasons for blowing the Shofar, here are some:
"...Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world. The Shofar reminds us of Akeidas Yitzchak, (the Binding of Isaac) where Abraham sacrificed a ram in the place of his son. The shofar reminds us that Hashem will redeem the Jewish people.
The shofar is the call of redemption.
The shofar is not blown if Rosh Hashana falls on a Shabbat..."
As a result, "all the practical individuality - of keeping Torah and mitzvot in their individual detail and conceptual individuality the beliefs concerning the individual's personal connection with eternal life and the individual striving towards it - which had formerly revealed itself and existed as the manifestation of the Divine Idea...
now, with the disappearance of the great light of the nation during the time of the Second Temple, was confined and manifest in its special individual character." Israel lost its nationhood, and now each individual stood on his own merit.
From then on, G_d did not "remember" Am Israel as a whole, but rather "remembered" each individual separately.
And when each person is judged individually, the Day of Remembrance obviously takes on a much more profound aspect of
judgement, and fear replaces joy. The individual is no longer able to hide himself among the many - he stands alone before
the King of Judgment.