by Rav Amnon Bazak

	Rosh Hashana appears twice in the Torah: first 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 gathering...", and later in 
Bamidbar 29:1 - "...It is a day of blowing the horn ("yom 
teru'ah") to you".  What is the significance of this "yom 
teru'ah"?  On what basis do the Sages identify this day as the 
Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin)?  Why do the Sages call this day 
'Rosh Hashana' while the Torah makes no mention of this term?

	Apparently we have only one source to guide us in 
understanding the biblical significance of the 'Yom teru'ah' - 
the 'Parshat HaHatzotzrot', the portion dealing with the 
trumpets.  For our purposes the last two pesukim of this 
parsha are of particular note:

"And if you go to war in your land against the 
enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an 
alarm with the trumpets ("veharei'otem 
b'hatzotzrot"); and you shall be remembered 
("veniz'kartem") before the Lord your God, and you 
shall be saved from your enemies.  Also in the day 
of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in 
the beginnings of your months, you shall blow with 
the trumpets ("ut'ka'tem b'hatzotzrot") over your 
burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your 
peace offerings; that they may be to you for a 
remembrance ("l'zikaron") before your God - I am 
the Lord your God."[Bamidbar 10:9-10].

	Once again the concepts of remembrance (zikaron) and 
blowing (teru'ah) are juxtaposed, and the connection between 
them begs explanation.

	Firstly, we see that blowing horns is not particular to 
Rosh Hashana, but rather is characteristic of every Rosh 
Hodesh (new month) - in the form of the blowing of the 
trumpets.  (As we know, in the Beit HaMikdash the trumpets 
were blown on Rosh Hashana as well - see Mishna Rosh Hashana 
3:3.) Rosh Hodesh in biblical times was celebrated in a far 
more festive fashion than it is today (see Shmuel I 20; 
Melakhim II 4:24; Yishayahu 1:13; Amos 8:5 - which emphasizes 
the prohibition of melakha on Rosh Hodesh; Hoshea 2:13, etc.) 
and the blowing on Rosh Hodesh is defined as "a statute for 
Israel, an ordinance of the God of Yaakov" (Tehillim 81:5 - 
according to 'peshat' the reference is not specifically to 
Rosh Hashana).  What, then, is the meaning of "zikaron" on 
Rosh Hodesh?  What is the significance of 'zikaron' 
specifically on festivals and days of rejoicing?

	It seems that there is more to remembrance than simply 
the opposite of forgetting.  Zikaron implies that there is 
special attention paid to the object of remembrance.  The 
Torah says of God that He "remembered Noah" [Bereishit 8:1] as 
well as Avraham [ibid. 19:28] and Rachel [ibid. 30:22].  
Surely this cannot mean that until that moment God had 
forgotten them, as it were.  Rather, the Torah is teaching us 
that from that moment onwards special providence and close 
guidance ('hashgaha') was provided for those individuals.  The 
meaning of remembrance is special attention.  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'.

	The opposite of this 'zikaron' is forgottenness - not the 
abyss of oblivion, but rather that of God "hiding His face" 
('hastarat panim') and obliterating us, as it were, from His 
heart.  "God has forsaken me, and God has forgotten me" - so 
laments Bat Tzion [Yishayahu 49:14]; and an even clearer 
example is provided by the psalmist [Tehillim 10:11] - "...God 
has forgotten, He hides His face...".  The forgottenness means 
the hiding of God's face, the removal of 'hashgaha', with its 
terrible consequences:  "I will hide My face from them, and 
they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall 
befall them..." [Devarim 31:17].

	Now we can understand why at times of trouble and war we 
pray to God in the hope that "you shall be remembered before 
the Lord your God and you shall be saved from your enemies."  
The Torah is teaching us that remembrance is achieved through 
the blowing of horns, as a symbol of the nation's cry to God.  
The purpose of the blowing is to renew God's special guidance 
over the nation of Israel, thereby bringing about their 

	Additionally, on the occasion of each festival and joyous 
occasion the Torah promises God's special guidance:  "And in 
the day of your gladness... you shall blow on the trumpets... 
that they may be to you for a remembrance before your God."  
The blowing of the trumpets is part of the festivity, part of 
the expression of the special hashgaha of God over the nation 
of Israel.

	The above applies to every Rosh Hodesh.  What, then, is 
the specific renewal of Rosh Hodesh of the seventh month, 
which is designated as an entire day of blowing horns:  "Yom 

	It seems that the special nature of the day is derived 
from the special nature of the month.  There are two cycles of 
festivals in the Torah - the Shalosh Regalim (three pilgrimage 
festivals), and the festivals of the seventh month.  The 
seventh month is endowed with special holiness, in the same 
way that the seventh day and the seventh year have special 
kedusha.  "Kol hashevi'in havivin" ("All [events which are] 
seventh [in the cycle] are beloved"), says the Midrash 
[Midrash Tehillim 9:11].  During this month Yom Kippur occurs 
- the day upon which God forgives Israel for all their sins - 
as well as Sukkot, which has significance beyond being one of 
the three Regalim.  (See Rav Breuer's article entitled "Hag 
HaSukkot" in his book Pirkei Mo'adot)  During this month God's 
hashgaha over Am Yisrael is particularly evident.  Therefore, 
Rosh Hodesh of this month has the same characteristic, and is 
referred to as "zikhron teru'ah" - an expression which 
reflects the entire essence of the day. 

	Ramban comments on the connection between "teru'ah" and 
"zikaron" in his commentary on Vayikra 23:24:  "But 'zikhron 
teru'ah', like 'yom teru'ah yihyeh lakhem', means that we 
should blow [the shofar] on that day, and it will be a 
remembrance for us before God, as it says further:  'And you 
shall blow on the trumpets and they shall be to you for a 
remembrance before your God...'."  (And with regard to Rosh 
Hashana as Rosh Hodesh of the seventh month, Ibn Ezra's 
comment is obscure but worthy of note; see the Mosad HaRav 
Kook edition, and Asher Weizer's commentary).

	Hence it seems that on this day the rejoicing should be 
greatly increased.  And so indeed it appears from the 
description in Sefer Nehemia of the Rosh Hashana that was 
celebrated after the Sefer Torah was found:  "And Nehemia... 
said, ... 'Go your way, eat well and drink sweet drinks, and 
send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this 
day is holy to our Lord, do not be grieved for the joy of the 
Lord is your strength... And all the people sent their way to 
eat and to drink and to send portions and to make great 
celebration..." [Nehemia 8: 9-12].

	It is also possible that blowing the shofar on Rosh 
Hashana has special significance beyond that of every Rosh 
Hodesh.  The Sages learned that the 'blowing' referred to in 
the Torah means blowing of the shofar, from a 'gezeirah 
shavah' regarding Yovel: "Then you shall have the shofar blown 
on the seventh month... and you shall sanctify the fiftieth 
year..." [Vayikra 25:9-10].  The blowing of the shofar serves 
as the symbolic commencement of the Yovel year (which occurs 
after a cycle of 7 x 7 years), and on an annual basis, it 
seemingly also serves as the symbolic commencement of the 
seventh month.

	From all of the above, the question arises - how did this 
day become Yom HaDin in the eyes of the Sages, the day on 
which "melakhim yehafezun ve-heil ur'adah yo'heizun" (angels 
are in trepidation - and all quaking with fear) - a day on 
which Hallel is not recited for fear of judgment?

	The root of the answer can be understood from Rav Kook's 
idea in his article "Le-Mahalakh HaIde'ot BeYisrael".  Rav 
Kook holds that with the disappearance of the Shekhinah 
(Divine Presence) after the destruction of the First Temple 
and the consequent exile, the glory of Israel was dashed to 
the ground.  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 

	From then on, God did not "remember" Am Yisrael 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.

	Now we can understand why the Sages refer to the day as 
Rosh Hashana, even though the Torah emphasizes the beginning 
of the seventh month rather than the beginning of the year.  
There is no doubt that the month of Tishrei did serve as the 
New Year for certain purposes - parallel to the month of Nisan 
(see Mishna Rosh Hashana 11:1).  Proof of this can be brought 
from the very necessity of defining the month of Nisan as 
"Rosh Hodashim" - this seems to indicate that until then a 
different month had served this purpose.  According to 
Josephus Flavius and other historians, Tishrei indeed served 
as the beginning of the year, based on the tradition that the 
world was created in that month.  So it seems, too, from the 
designation of Sukkot as 'tekufat hashanah" ("the year's end") 
[Shmot 34:22], the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur of the 
Yovel year which sanctifies the Yovel [Vayikra 25:9-10], and, 
most importantly, from Yehezkel who says, "on Rosh Hashana on 
the tenth of the month" [40:1] - by 'Rosh Hashana' he refers 
not to a specific day, but rather to the beginning of the 

	But the Torah determined that "This month [i.e. Nisan] is 
for you the beginning of the months, it shall be the first 
month of the year to you."  All counting is to be in 
accordance with the Exodus from Egypt, since by counting thus, 
Israel is distinguished from the other nations; counting from 
Nisan marks the date on which God's majesty was revealed to Am 
Yisrael.  And specifically on "yom teru'ah", the day on which 
Israel's special character is manifest, we understand the idea 
of counting the year starting from the month of Nisan making 
Tishrei seventh in that cycle.

	But as mentioned above, with the destruction of the First 
Temple, the national dimension of Israel was diminished and 
the day became one of judgement, the day on which "kol ba'ei 
olam ov'rim lefanekha kiv'nei maron".  There is no longer an 
outstanding special quality pertaining to the nation of 
Israel, and the universal Rosh Hashana - the day on which the 
world was created - takes on a more practical character: now 
we may emphasize that the same day on which the world was 
created, is also the day on which the world is judged.

	But ideally this day is special for Am Yisrael, and 
therefore we do not emphasize that it falls on the same day as 
the creation of the world, since the latter has a more 
universal significance.

	We can understand why the Sages emphasize the Kingdom of 
God over the whole world - since at this time God's majesty is 
manifest over the whole world - as opposed to Rosh Hashana as 
presented in the Bible, when this aspect pales next to the 
majesty of God over Israel specifically.  Hence the Sages laid 
down the formula for the blessing in the Rosh Hashana prayer:  
"Rule over THE WHOLE WORLD in Your honor... and EVERY CREATURE 
will understand that You created him, and EVERY LIVING BEING 
will say, 'The Lord God of Israel is King, and His majesty 
reigns over all.'"

(For more on this topic, see Dr. Nahum Vohrman's article 
entitled "Rosh Hashana Be-Hemshekh HaDorot" in his book Hagei 
Yisrael U-Mo'adav). 


To subscribe send e-mail to: subject:(leave 
blank or type word 'subscription'), on first line of text 
type: subscribe yhe-holiday  .

For a complete list of YHE Virtual Beit Midrash curriculum, 
send e-mail to:, on first line of text type: 
get yhe-about courses .

Copyright (c) 1995 Yeshivat Har Etzion.  All rights reserved.



                          YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
                     VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH
               ALON SHEVUT, GUSH ETZION 90433