High Holiday Prayers and Meditations
While we Jewish believers in Y’shua trust only in Messiah’s atonement for salvation, we value our roots and traditions. At High Holiday time (the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement), we find it helpful to conduct special services that combine our expression of saving faith in Christ with our Jewish culture and traditions.
These special services have a threefold purpose. They strengthen us spiritually. They provide an opportunity for us to pray corporately for our Jewish friends and relatives who may be seriously considering spiritual matters at this time of year. Best of all, they present an occasion for us to invite interested Jewish people to come and hear why we believe in Y’shua and see how we express our faith in Him in a Jewish way.
Our branches plan their services individually. The format may vary a bit, but each service always honors the Lord Jesus as the only way of salvation. To the right are some excerpts from one Jewish High Holiday shofar service that was held for Jewish believers and interested guests at our Chicago branch. They are written in the format of a traditional Jewish prayer book.
Why do we blow the shofar on the Feast of Trumpets? Because by it we say, “Awake, awake, O sleepers from your sleep; O slumberers, arouse ye from your slumbers; and examine your deeds, return in repentance, and remember your creator.” (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 3:4) The shofar was sounded at the beginning of the Jubilee year, proclaiming liberty to captives. It will precede the return of the people of Israel from our exile to our land. Isaiah wrote, “In that day, you will say, ‘Behold, God is my salvation. . . .’ ” (Isaiah 12:2)
The shofar, being made of a ram’s horn, reminds us of the ram caught in the thicket, which was offered instead of Isaac on Mount Moriah. It reminds us that in every age God will provide Himself a lamb for the sacrifice. (Genesis 22)
The trumpet reminds us of the trumpet blasts which preceded the coronation of a king. Today, according to [Jewish] tradition, God takes His seat as King on the throne of judgment. Great and terrible is He, and we can only come before Him pleading for mercy. (Sa’adiah Gaon, Abudraham HaShalem º 296)
The shofar was sounded when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. At that time we promised, “All that the Lord hath said, we will do, and be obedient.” Yet year after year, we are reminded that we have not been able to fulfill even the smallest part of that promise. We are reminded that unless God had provided a Day of Atonement for us, we could never live before Him. Indeed, God has provided a Day of Atonement for all ages, when all people can find forgiveness: the day that Y’shua the Messiah died for our sins. Hallelujah.
We are now preparing to fulfill the command of our creator, as it is written: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a sacred assembly, a cessation of work, a day of commemoration proclaimed by the sound of the shofar.”
We are gathered together and today we remember:
We remember Your holiness and the awe that is due You, and we sound the shofar as a reminder of Your majesty.
We remember Your justice and the law that You gave us. We remember our own sins and how far we fall short. We are alarmed and we sound the shofar to arouse ourselves to repentance.
We seek Your mercy and we remember how You have always provided for our atonement through a substitute. In ages past You allowed us to offer a ram or a lamb, which were symbols of the atonement You would provide through the Messiah Y’shua. In remembrance of Him we sound the shofar.
We hope for the promise of our Messiah’s return. Every day we seek to purify our lives, so that when He returns, we may be found ready and our joy may be made full. We look forward to the day when the final trumpet will sound and we will forever be with You, our Lord. With our hearts full of that sacred hope, we now sound the shofar.
Baruch ata adonai eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitsvotav v’tsivanu lishmo’a kol shofar.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has set us apart by Your commandments and commanded us to attend to the sound of the shofar.
In 1994, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year 5755 ) begins on September 6. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) follows on September 15 and Sukkot is celebrated from September 19 to 26. Now is the time to send New Year’s greetings to your Jewish friends and neighbors. And for those who would like to try the New Year’s greeting in Hebrew, it is pronounced with the “a” as in father and accented syllables as follows: L’shanAH TovAH TikahTEYvu.