Happy New Year! The Jewish New Year, that is. It’s September, the end of summer, the beginning of school, and— according to the Jewish calendar—the 5769th year since God created the heavens and the earth. On the Gregorian calendar, Rosh Hashanah (literally head of the year”) spans 24 hours, commencing at sunset on September 29. It is the first of the “High Holy days” with Yom Kippur following ten days later.

It is customary to eat apples or a special, round challah (egg bread) dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah, wishing others “L’shana tovah tikatevu,” (May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life). The challah symbolizes the cycle of life.

As with Messianic prophecy, Jesus fulfills each Jewish festival. Leviticus 23:23-25 refers to Rosh Hashanah as “the day of the sounding of the shofar.” God commanded the people to sound a ram’s horn and to gather for a great convocation. This foreshadows 1 Corinthians 15:52. When Messiah returns, “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible.” Jesus will fulfill Rosh Hashanah upon His second coming.

Yom Kippur—a day of intensive fasting and prayer—begins at sundown on October 8 this year. It is the holiest day of the Jewish year. For most secular Jews, Yom Kippur is one of the few days a year they attend Temple. The ten-day period between Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah is known as “the Ten Days of Awe.” During this time of reflection, Jewish people think about sin and hope for forgiveness, praying to have their names written in God’s Book of Life. Yet, there is no assurance.

The word “kippur” means “atonement”; it stems from the Jewish word for “covering.” In Bible times, the High Priest would thoroughly cleanse himself, go once a year into the holy of holies and offer God a burnt offering. The priest sprinkled animal blood on and before the Ark of the Covenant. Additionally, the priest laid hands on a “scapegoat” and recited the sins of the people, symbolizing a transference of sins. The goat was sent into the desert, never to return (Leviticus 16:2-24). Jesus filled the role of both those sacrifices; His shed blood atones for our sin and He has carried our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

Please pray for our branches around the world as we hold Messiah-centered High Holiday services, that many will attend and turn to Jesus to receive the assurance of forgiveness that comes only through Him.