How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashanah

Tissot_The_Seven_Trumpets_of_JerichoOn the 1st day of the Seventh Month (Tishrei) the Torah commands us to observe the holy day of Yom Teruah which means “Day of Shouting” (Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6). Yom Teruah is a day of rest on which work is forbidden. One of the unique things about Yom Teruah is that the Torah does not say what the purpose of this holy day is. The Torah gives at least one reason for all the other holy days and two reasons for some. The Feast of Matzot (Unleavened Bread) commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, but it is also a celebration of the beginning of the barley harvest (Exodus 23:15; Leviticus 23:4–14). The Feast of Shavuot (Weeks) is a celebration of the wheat harvest (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). Yom Ha-Kippurim is a national day of atonement as described in great detail in Leviticus 16. Finally, the Feast of Sukkot (Booths) commemorates the wandering of the Israelites in the desert and is also a celebration of the ingathering of agricultural produce (Exodus 23:16). In contrast to all these Torah festivals, Yom Teruah has no clear purpose other than that we are commended to rest on this day.

Nevertheless, the name of Yom Teruah provides a clue as to its purpose. Teruah literally means to make a loud noise. This word can describe the noise made by a trumpet but it also describes the noise made by a large gathering of people shouting in unison (Numbers 10:5–6). For example,

And it shall come to pass when the ram’s horn makes a long blast, when you hear the sound of the shofar, the entire nation will shout a great shout, and the wall of the city shall fall in its place, and the people shall go up as one man against it.”

-Joshua 6:5

In this verse the word “shout” appears twice, once as the verb form of Teruah and a second time as the noun form of Teruah. Although this verse mentions the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn), the two instances of Teruah do not refer to the shofar. In fact, in this verse, Teruah refers to the shouting of the Israelites which was followed by the fall of the walls of Jericho.

While the Torah does not explicitly tell us the purpose of Yom Teruah, its name may indicate that it is intended as a day of public prayer. The verb form of Teruah often refers to the noise made by a gathering of the faithful calling out to the Almighty in unison. For example:

  • Clap hands, all nations, shout to God, with a singing voice!” (Psalms 47:2)

  • Shout to God, all the earth!” (Psalms 66:1)

  • Sing to God, our strength, shout to the God of Jacob!” (Psalms 81:2)

  • Shout to Yehovah, all the earth!” (Psalms 100:1)

In Leviticus 23:24, Yom Teruah is also referred to as Zichron Teruah. The word Zichron is sometimes translated as “memorial”, but this Hebrew word also means to “mention”, often in reference to speaking the name of Yehovah. For example, Exodus 3:15; Isaiah 12:4; Isaiah 26:13; Psalms 45:18. The day of Zichron Teruah, the “Mentioning Shout”, may refer to a day of gathering in public prayer in which the crowd of the faithful shouts the name of Yehovah in unison.

Today, few people remember the biblical name of Yom Teruah and instead it is widely known as “Rosh Hashanah” which literally means “head of the year” and hence also “New Years”. The transformation of Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting) into Rosh Hashanah (New Years) is the result of pagan Babylonian influence upon the Jewish nation. The first stage in the transformation was the adoption of the Babylonian month names. In the Torah, the months are numbered as First Month, Second Month, Third Month, etc (Leviticus 23; Numbers 28). During their sojourn in Babylonia our ancestors began to use the pagan Babylonian month names, a fact readily admitted in the Talmud:

The names of the months came up with them from Babylonia.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 1:2 56d)

The pagan nature of the Babylonian month names is epitomized by the fourth month known as Tammuz. In the Babylonian religion, Tammuz was the god of grain whose annual death and resurrection brought fertility to the world. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet described a journey to Jerusalem in which he saw the Jewish women sitting in the Temple “weeping over Tammuz” (Ezekiel 8:14). The reason they were weeping over Tammuz is that, according to Babylonian mythology, Tammuz had been slain but had not yet been resurrected. In ancient Babylonia, the time for weeping over Tammuz was the early summer, when the rains cease throughout the Middle East and green vegetation is burnt by the unrelenting sun. To this day the Fourth Month in the rabbinical calendar is known as the month of Tammuz and it is still a time for weeping and mourning.

Some of the Babylonian month names found their way into the later books of the Tanakh, but they always appear alongside the Torah month names. For example, Esther 3:7 says:

In the First Month, which is the month of Nissan, in the twelfth year of King Achashverosh.”

This verse starts off by giving the Torah name for the month (“First Month”) and then translates this month into its pagan equivalent (“which is the month of Nissan”). By the time of Esther, all the Jews lived within the boundaries of the Persian Empire and the Persians had adopted the Babylonian calendar for the civil administration of their realm. At first, the Jews used these Babylonian month names alongside the Torah month names, but over time the Torah month names fell into disuse.

As the Jewish People became more comfortable with the Babylonian month names, they became more susceptible to other Babylonian influences. This is similar to the way that American Jews observe  Hanukkah as a Jewish version of Christmas. This influence began with the seemingly harmless custom of giving gifts on Hanukkah. Until the Jews arrived in America this custom was unknown and it is still a rarity in Israel where Hanukkah does not need to compete with Christmas for the hearts and minds of the Jewish youth. Once Hanukkah took on this relatively trivial aspect of Christmas, it became ripe for more significant influences. Today, many American Jews have established the custom of setting up a “Hanukkah bush” as a Jewish alternative to the Christmas tree. These Jews did not want to adopt Christmas outright so they “Judaized” the Christmas tree and incorporated into Hanukkah. This example shows how easy it is to be influenced by the practices of a foreign religion, especially when there is some similarity to begin with. The fact that Hanukkah often falls out around the same time as Christmas made it natural for American Jews to incorporate elements of Christmas into their observance of Hanukkah.

Just as the Jews of America have been influenced by Christmas, the ancient Rabbis were influenced by the pagan Babylonian religion. Although many Jews returned to Judea when the Exile officially ended in 516 BCE, the forebears of the Rabbis remained behind in Babylonia where rabbinical Judaism gradually took shape. Many of the earliest known Rabbis such as Hillel I were born and educated in Babylonia. Indeed, Babylonia remained the heartland of Rabbinical Judaism until the fall of the Gaonate in the 11th Century CE. The Babylonian Talmud abounds with the influences of Babylonian paganism. Indeed, pagan deities even appear in the Talmud recycled as “Jewish” angels and demons.1

One field of Babylonian religious influence was in the observance of Yom Teruah as a New Years celebration. From very early times the Babylonians had a lunar-solar calendar very similar to the biblical calendar. The result was that Yom Teruah often fell out on the same day as the Babylonian New Years festival of “Akitu”. The Babylonian Akitu fell out on the 1st day of Tishrei which coincided with Yom Teruah on the 1st day of the Seventh Month. When Jews started calling the “Seventh Month” by the Babylonian name “Tishrei”, it paved the way for turning Yom Teruah into a Jewish Akitu. At the same time, the Rabbis did not want to adopt Akitu outright so they Judaized it by changing the name of Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting) to Rosh Hashanah (New Years). The fact that the Torah did not give a reason for Yom Teruah no doubt made it easier for the Rabbis to proclaim it the Jewish New Years.

It is outright bizarre to celebrate Yom Teruah as New Years. This biblical festival falls out on the first day of the Seventh Month. However, in the context of Babylonian culture this was perfectly natural. The Babylonians actually celebrated Akitu, New Years, twice every year, once on the first of Tishrei and again six months later on the first of Nissan. The first Babylonian Akitu celebration coincided with Yom Teruah and the second Akitu coincided with the actual New Years in the Torah on the first day of the First Month. While the Rabbis proclaimed Yom Teruah to be New Years, they still recognized that the 1st day of the “First Month” in the Torah was, as its name implied, also a New Years. They could hardly deny this based on Exodus 12:2 which says:

This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it is first of the months of the year.”

The context of this verse speaks about the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which falls out in the First Month. In light of this verse, the Rabbis could not deny that the first day of the First Month was a biblical New Years. But in the cultural context of Babylonia, where Akitu was celebrated as New Years twice a year, it made perfect sense that Yom Teruah could be a second New Years even though it was in the Seventh Month.

In contrast to Babylonian paganism, the Torah does not say or imply that Yom Teruah has anything to do with New Years. On the contrary, the Feast of Sukkot (Booths), which takes place exactly two weeks after Yom Teruah, is referred to in one verse as “the going out of the year” (Exodus 23:16). This would be like calling January 15 in the modern Western calendar “the going out of the year”. the Torah would not describe Sukkot in this manner if it intended Yom Teruah to be celebrated as a New Years.

Some modern Rabbis have argued that Yom Teruah is actually referred to as Rosh Hashanah in Ezekiel 40:1, which describes a vision that the prophet had, “At the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashanah) on the tenth of the month”. In fact, Ezekiel 40:1 proves that the phrase “Rosh Hashanah” does not mean “New Years”. Instead, it retains its literal sense of “the head of the year” referring to the First Month in the Torah calendar. The 10th day of Rosh Hashanah in Ezekiel 40:1 refers to the 10th day of the First Month.

Yom Teruah is mentioned in the following biblical passages:

  • “And Yehovah spoke unto Moses saying, Speak to the Children of Israel saying, In the Seventh month on the first of the month will be a day of rest (Shabbaton) for you, a Remembrance Shouting, a holy convocation. You shall do no work and you will bring a fire sacrifice to Yehovah.” Leviticus 23:23-25

  • “And in the Seventh month on the first of the month will be a holy convocation for you; you shall do no work, it will be a Day of Shouting for you…” Numbers 29:1-6

Q: What about Leviticus 25:9?

A: Some people have argued that Yom Teruah should be considered New Years because it is the beginning of the Sabbatical year. However, the Torah does not say that Yom Teruah is the beginning of the Sabbatical year and all indications are that the Sabbatical year begins on the 1st day of the First Month. The Torah does say the following:

And you shall pass a shofar of blasting in the Seventh Month on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement, you shall pass a shofar throughout all your land.” (Leviticus 25:9)

This verse is saying that a shofar should be used to announce the arrival of the Jubilee year, the 50th year in the Sabbatical system. It does not say that the Jubilee begins on the Day of Atonement, only that the impending arrival of the Jubilee year is announced on the Day of Atonement. The shofar is to be passed throughout the land on Yom Kippur of the 49th year, six months before the beginning of the coming Jubilee year. This interpretation is supported by the immediate context in Leviticus 25. Verse 8 says to count forty nine years, verse 9 says to pass the shofar throughout the land, and verse 10 says to proclaim the 50th year as the Jubilee. This shows that the shofar announcing the coming Jubilee in verse 9 is passed through the land before the Jubilee is actually proclaimed in verse 10.

Q: Isn’t the Seventh Month the beginning of the agricultural cycle?

A: In the Torah the middle of the Seventh Month is actually the end of the agriculture cycle, specifically of the grain cycle. In the Land of Israel, grains are planted in Autumn and harvested in Spring. The new agricultural cycle would not actually begin until the plowing of the fields. This would not take place until the first light rains which moisten the ground enough to be broken by iron and wooden plows. In the Land of Israel, this could be as early as the middle of the Seventh Month but is usually in the Eighth Month or later. By the above logic, the Eighth Month should be considered the beginning of the year, not the Seventh Month.

1 Zvi Cahn, The Rise of the Karaite Sect, New York 1937, pages 98–101. Cahn’s central thesis is that the refusal of rabbinical leaders to repudiate the deep-rooted Babylonian paganism that had infiltrated Babylonian Judaism led to the rise of the Karaite back-to-the-Bible movement in the early Middle Ages. In this context, Cahn gives a detailed list of various pagan influences in rabbinical Judaism.

21 thoughts on “How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashanah

    • Festival allowances (such as Exodus 12:16) do not override commanded Shabbat restrictions. While we usually are allowed to cook on the Festival days, when they fall on the Shabbat, we cannot cook because Shabbat commandments forbid cooking

  1. כתבה מאד מענינת ומכנכת. תודה רבה. אפשר להגיב “אקיטו שמח” למי שמאחל “שנה טובה.”? אך לבסוף יש לשאול מה המטרה בהבגביה קולות. לשם מה זה משרת? הלא אדוני יודע את שמו ואינו זקוק לתריעותינו? ועוד רושם של הקולות אינו נמשך הרבה זמן ואילו אם כותבים את שמותיו ומדברים עליהם יותר מהרגיל ביום מיוחד בשנה אולי זה מרשים יותר מסתם הימל געשרייען. יום תרועה שמח.

  2. Some years ago on The Day of Shouting Jewish men gathered at The Wall and did just this and they shouted out The Name of Jehovah. My prayer is that other Children of The Name will be so bold!! The other intresting point (one cry) was the passing around the shofar, since there where no telephones. I invision this shofar going from hand to hand (a year prior to the 50th year it would take that long for information to go though out the land) making the one (echad) the Children of God in their hearts. The shouting of The Fathers Name needs to return may the men of Israel do so again this coming Day of Shouting. In some way this might tie in with the statement “where ever your foot has stepped it will be your land” Our hearts and hands connecting to The Father in The Spirit …how beautiful…how humble should be our hearts What LOVE..The Father has for us(echad). May He show us even greater mercy and in Truth. Nehemia could you ask someone to start passing a shofar around Israel for this coming year leading up to the 50th yea. My belief is that Yeshua/Jesus is The Messiah let each man decide for themselves this point of the heart.

    • Hi HK, according to Michael Rood the Day Of Trumpets during the ministry of Yeshua is covered by Matt.15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23 where he is confronted by the Pharisees at Kfar Nahum but there is no direct ref. to the Feast.

      Nehemia has provided an excellent commentary here and makes me consider another alternative possibility which arises from Horowitz et al. Consider the purified crystal waters of Revelation 22:1/2 Enoch 67:8. Then consider the 144,000 (Rev. 14:1-3) with their music and sound. Horowitz considers this to be the ‘shout’ that will transform Earth back to Eden. This New Earth is also mentioned in the Qur’an in surah 14:48.

      Alternative references can be found in Mormon doctrine; Doctrine & Covenants 29:13, For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth-yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one, also 29:26 and 43:18. Chapter 29 appears to be a genuine Messianic revelation. It is met with a great deal of disinterest from contemporary LDS church members.

      The Qur’an holds multiple references to the fulfilment of Torah and the Day Of Trumpets. Surahs 20:102, 27:87,36:51,53, 39:68, 50:20,42, 69:13, 78:18, 80:33. Again, no one I have met in Islam wants to know the Torah which is reverenced in the Qur’an. Humanity is cursed with ignorance and a focus on the delusion of this life. God will judge between us on the Day Of Resurrection concerning that over which we used to differ (2:113).

  3. Nehemiah, you are a breath of fresh air…. I have been watching and reading your information for several years and I would so love to spend some time with questions that my husband and I have had for several years now from our own studies……. we nearly converted to Orthodox Judaism until we began to study for the conversion and compared what they wanted us to study to what the Torah had to say…… We were, before our intent to convert, what they call Ben Noah, our studies kept us moving forward, or so we thought…. till we learned better…… it is BIBLICAL Israel not rabbinical Israel that peaople need to seek. this is the first time I have heard a Jew explain what we found in our studies! Thank you!

    • Hi Pam, we are exactly on the same route, is it possible to share resources? I can be emailed and if not shared with you let me know? We also turned from rabbincal to Scriptural. Thank you Dolf

  4. Pingback: Yom Teruah | Trumpet of the Watchman

  5. for as long as I can remember….I have always believed that nothing should be added or taken away from scripture….so I have always been adamant about following any kind of tradition other than scriptural purity….rejecting all pagan tradition….from both sides of the fence….whether gentile or jewish….to me if it is not found in the torah….then it is not kosher…..including the talmud….and hanukkah…..I often find myself a lone wolf in my views….as the world seems to embrace all kinds of man made traditions and pagan practices…..after finding this site….yes it is like a breath of fresh air to find that there are those who think as myself…..however…there is one unfortunate exception..that is not found here…which I am greatly disappointed……I consider myself a messianic believer (messianic judaism)….in the messiah Yeshua….if there is such a thing as a karaite messianic believer……then that would describe me perfectly…I wish there was a karaite messianic congregation…to me that would be scriptural perfection…..

    .but I must also confess that I reject the book of esther….there are no verses referenced any where in the tanakh…neither was the book of esther found in the dead sea scrolls….all other books were found except esther……….which by the way sounds too close to the term easter….linked to the terms ishtar…..ashtarte……strangely this odd book never mentions god…or his laws..but only speaks of a queen ….again too close to the well known queen of heaven….I am highly suspicious of that book as far as I am concerned it does not belong as part of holy writings….even by the way it is written…….the way it is written sounds very pretentious ….it sounds like someone wrote it trying to make t sound holy….but it very clearly isnt…..it almost sounds comical….and I am surprised that nobody sees this….

    anyway I’m still glad that I found this site…I do appreciate it’s all out attempt for true scriptural accuracy….which I value very highly…..

    • The book of Esther seems to be a book of Jewish history. It may not be scripture or part of the tanakh but it records a part of the life of a God-fearing woman and how God used her to save lives in a time of persecution. It may not be scripture but it has value as a history book because it shows God saving people who refused to worship an earthly king.

    • I hate to burst your bubble genecorpusg ,
      but there could not be a Karaite Messianic. Karaite is Jewish and does not believe in Yeshua/Jesus. But I have been a Messianic before and it is REALLY a mix of Jewish and Xtian belief. The very fact that you still hold on to a pagan idol (Jesus) is the very definition of xtian belief.

  6. Shalom Brother Nehemia
    This is Charles from China.
    We got a boy and a girl , YHWH has granted our wishes.

    I get the same feeling as you do when jewish brothers and sisters wish me Shanah Tovah on Yom Teruah.
    I do not answer back with Shanah Tovah but instead happy Yom Teruah but they do not understand what I am talking about.
    I tell them the Shanah Tovah that YHWH has given us was seven months ago and that day should be one of the most important day in the jewish calendar, the creation of the world and the official opening of the tabernacle in the desert.

    My Elohim be with you Nehemiah and sorry to have missed you in China.

  7. i was investigating Johnathan Cahn’s Shmita claim that the stock market crashes 2001/2008 coincide with the Sabbath years, to force a resetting of the financial system. Jonathan says its always on Elul 29 the last day of the Shmita year. I had thought there were two systems, religious (Spring new year, Abib/Nissan) and civil (fall new year, Tishri). Now I am confused, If Johanthan’s reckoning (last year of the shmita stock market collapse) follows an end of the year calender at all.

    • I was thinking the same thing…

      Thanks to Nehemia, a lot has been cleared up.

      If the year was established in Exodus 12, and there is no other evidence to support 1 Tishri as a new year (of any kind), then the Shemitah year must begin on 1 Nisan.

      That means the Shemitah year begins in March 2015, not Sept. 2014 (as Cahn claims).

      If we go back 7 years each cycle, the tribulations line up in the middle of these Shemitah years instead of the ends.

      It also makes sense, if the Feast of Trumpets are a time of judgement/proclaimation, in the time before radio, TV, internet, etc, the time would have been weeks and even months, before the event actually happened.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. When I started leaving traditional Christianity behind 20 years ago and sought out the Hebrew Roots of my faith. I read about the True new year according to Exodus 12:2 was 14 days before passover in the month of Abib and questioned why the New Year was celebrated in the fall I was always told that it was the “Civil” new Year and they left it at that but I read nothing in the word to back this claim in the word of Yah. I am glad for this clarification of how this came about. Babylon as ususal!

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