Understanding the Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah

By Jessica Wolstenholm

Have you ever wondered about the Holy days (holidays) that are written about in Scripture? For many of us who call ourselves Christians, we seldom think about Biblical Holidays as anything more than a Judaic tradition. But these specific days were actually ordained by God. They focus on His loving kindness, mercy and grace. Each of these Holy days point to God’s desire for all of mankind regarding salvation, redemption, repentance, righteousness and relationship with Him.

While the mantra heard from many Christians, “We are no longer under the law but under grace”, is true, shouldn’t we take every opportunity to celebrate that love? In reality, each of these Holy days celebrates the coming of the Messiah… for us, His second coming!

Like a lot of my Christian brothers and sisters, I know few specifics about these Biblical Holy days. My friends at What’s in the Bible? have connected me to a wonderful brother in Christ, Ed Griffioen, who is of Jewish heritage. He has willingly offered to help us better understand some of the Holy days ordained by God, written about in Scripture, and still widely celebrated.

The first Holy day that will soon be celebrated is Rosh Hashanah. It’s considered the beginning of the year– or New Year’s, if you will. There’s so much significance found in the traditions of Rosh Hashanah. But what does it mean to us? I’ve interviewed Mr. Griffioen, and would like to share with you his responses.

Hi Ed, thanks so much for helping us better understand the significance of some Biblical (Judaic) Holy days. In your opinion, how are any of these Holidays relevant to Christians, today?

These days are relevant in our lives as more of a reminder. We, as believers, are not held to Levitical law. I will probably say this a couple of times but it is important to remember. The holiday comes from Lev 23:23-25. This is a time of the year where there is much looking in oneself and getting right with God. We, as believers in the Messiah (Jesus), can view this as a time of focus/ refocus on our lives and relationship with God.

How do the traditions of Rosh Hashanah relate to Christianity? What does it mean?

During the time of Rosh Hashanah it is typical to examine sin in your life and get right with people and God. We believers are to do this all the time. Christians do not need to practice this holiday as we are not bound by the Levitical Law, but the idea is still the same. We can look at this time, when the Shofar is being blown, as a time to exalt God.

Throughout scripture Jesus fulfills so much of the Levitical law. This being one of them. During the last supper found in the gospels Jesus does give us something we are to practice often as believers. During Communion we are to look at what Jesus did on the cross, remember, and deepen our relationship with God. That is exactly what the days of Rosh Hashanah are for to build up for the next Holiday of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).

Do you still practice these traditions?

No, I do not. I am always aware of this time of year and think on it but I do not practice the blowing of the shofar, the services or the different culinary treats that are surrounded with it.

What was it like to grow up with this holiday / tradition and how did that affect your faith today?

As a child, we would do several activities during this time. We would go to a Jewish Believer service at the beginning of the days of Rosh Hashanah. The service would normally include the blowing of the shofar and several calls of prayer of repentance.

My father would take the time to explain why we were there, and what this time meant. Our parents would encourage us to pray and remember.

Communion would be celebrated as our Messiah has forgiven us and we are in right standing before God.

My faith was impacted in two ways. First, I realized that many traditions and words we see in Leviticus and Deuteronomy actually are practiced and have deep meaning. Secondly, I realized that looking at {our personal} relationship with God is something that he wants us to do. He commanded the Jews to do it and we should do it too, and remember Him!

How do you think Christians can engage and embrace these traditions today?

I think Christians can engage in this time by:

    1. Being aware of it. Why God told the Jewish people to celebrate this time. Study the Old Testament and understand.
    2. Study and figure out how Jesus has fulfilled the Holiday. This is true for many Jewish Holidays commanded by God.
    3. Remember this time when they see Rosh Hashanah on a calendar or mention of it – it’s a time of remembering God and repenting.

Ed, thanks so much for giving us your perspective and helping us better understand Rosh Hashanah.

Ed Griffioen grew up in a believing household. His father became very interested in their Jewish heritage when Ed was small and they often celebrated that heritage, and still do today. His family comes from the Netherlands, and Ed is a first generation American. He recognized the need for a savior around 7th grade and became serious about his relationship with God during the 9th grade. He is married to his wonderful wife Emily, and they have 2 children.

Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.