When I was introduced to Yom Teruah it was as Rosh HaShanah coming 3/4 of the way through the season of Teshuvah that began with the month of Elul. God has shown me some new things since then. Firstly, Rosh HaShanah is the “head of the year” and that is in Aviv in the spring. The change may have been to coincide with Babylonian festivities.
The season of Teshuvah (repentance) is a traditional understanding that begins in Elul (the month of “seeking”). Now I think that is probably appropriate, but when I heard repentance I misunderstood it as a heavy, brow beating thing. But what is repentance? I think it is tied to joy.
Joy has been the theme God has been sharing with me in the last years. Yom Teruah means literally the day of the blast. It is usually remembered among observers with ram’s horns, but for this and other purposes the priests were to blow a pair of silver trumpets. The new moon (Numbers 10), which Yom Teruah is, was such an occasion, but they were also used for calling leaders and the whole assembly and getting the whole camp organized for travel. So you have this idea of either you are coming together to hear from God, or you’re headed out on a journey that God has directed. It a marking of something God is doing. The part other than the meaning “teruah” (blast or acclamaition of joy) which points to the joyousness is the case of war. Odd, I know, but bear with me. Obviously this would be in the case of a just war because God is not going to show up on your behalf if you’re just looking to take something that’s not yours. It says “when you go out to war”. It’s not when the enemy comes upon you, it’s when you go out to meet them. You are on the offensive so when you are calling YHVH to remember you, it is because victory and not defeat are in mind, and you are praising him for it. These are all actions in accordance with God’s will, thus when the trumpet is blown it’s never “Oh man, we’re gonna get killed”, it always has to do with God’s leading and with people following together.
So that leads me to Nehemiah 8:9-12. God’s people have begun to return from exile and godly leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah set out to teach the people again His instruction. The people start to weep because of all they have not done. I think that’s our idea of repentance too. Repentance has come to mean “feeling bad”, but what is repentance? It is turning around and going back to where you came from. If you leave something good and turn around to go back should it be drudgery or joy? When the prodigal son returned to his father was it a time for moping or feasting? Feasting because he was dead now he is alive again! In fact in the prodical story, the word for making “merry” is the septaugint word for the root of simcha which is in verse 12 “great mirth.”
Nehemiah and Ezra say do not weep. Why? Because the joy of YHVH is your strength so go eat good stuff. Now in 8:10, joy is Chedvah, chet-dalet-vav-hey. Verse 12 then says they made “great mirth” because they understood. Simcha literally means to “brighten up,” But I’d rather focus on the joy of YHVH.
This may seem over focused, but one of the meanings of chedvah is rejoicing, which comes from chadah which means “make glad” or “be joined“. Now in all those things with the trumpets, what did they have in common? The leaders came together. The assembly assembled. The parts of the camp moved together so the camp could move together. Is war one guy going out to conquer? No, it’s corporate. Is it possible God is saying joy is only possible in community?
Lately, I’ve been studying or starting to study the meanings of the letters. We don’t think of our symbols having meanings, but the language God chose to give most of his word through was either ancient Hebrew or evolved from ancient Hebrew which was a pictographic language. The old letters had a picture meaning. In fact the modern ones still have the echoes in them. And some would argue that even as far removed as roman (our letters) there are still proto-Hebraic echoes. Perhaps that is why we have “A”, Greek has “Alpha”, and Hebrew has “Aleph”.
Chet is the first letter in chadah, the old version or the “most original” looks like a fence, and yet the sages glean that “chet” is all about union. How does a fence picture that? What is a fence? Does it fall off of a fence tree? Do they naturally occur? No. A fence is made up of? Bricks? Planks? So what is a fence? Many members bound together that constitute a whole item which sets a boundary between things. A fence or wall protects.
Now what kind of union is this word for joy? More about chet: it has a numerical value of 8. 8 is the number of new beginnings. Yeshua rose from the grave on the “eighth day” from a weekly view. The token of the covenant of circumcision was given on the eighth day. Sukkut which celebrates the day YHVH will live with his people is eight days long. So this letter of union, this letter beginning joy of YHVH is also of new beginning.
The sages see many of the letters pieces of others. For example the aleph contains the yud. The dalet is a yud and a vav I think or large vav broken in half. The chet is made up of the two preceeding letters vav and zayin. Vav represents “others” and zayin represents “time”, so chet represents time with others. But what gets really interesting is that while we are thinking of community, where does community come from? We didn’t make it up. Our community is a picture of community with God. In fact if every good gift comes from the father, isn’t community only possible through God, rather than being “just” an imperfect picture of something greater it is a piece of something greater. You cannot have fellowship with anyone except God is working it.
Vav also represents light that comes down from God, whereas Zayin represents light reflected back to God. So chet is a picture of community with man and also with God.
Since Chet is eight, vav is six and zayin is seven. This is most awesome because six is the number of man (ironically it looks like a hook or “nail”). Seven represents the crowned man (it’s a letter that is actually given a crown). So this sense of unity in Chet is a picture of man joined by a line or a “yoke” with the crowned man. Hmmm . . . is joy possible without community?
That’s just the first letter. The second letter of chadah is dalet. Which symbolized brokenness, it’s like a man bowing and also a door. First you have a fence, then you have a door symbolizing choice, a door can be open or closed.
The final letter is a “hey”. Hey represents creative power, and breath or . . . Spirit. In fact “hey” is the difference between Abram who did not have a son of the promise, and AbraHam who did. So you have a man joined to the crowned man that forms a wall, then you have a doorway made of broken humility, then you have the Spirit that can come through the door?
So what is Joy? The same as repentance. Repentance is joy because it is returning to fellowship with God. It is coming home. It is coming together. All joy is a result of re-uniting with God. When you see your wife and family after a long trip and there is joy, it is because God is creating relationship there, God is in the relationship. By loving your wife, by finding joy there, you are loving and being loved by God and finding the joy of YHVH.
And why this day? If you study you can’t help but believe that Yeshua will return (make teshuva) on the day of Yom Teruah (the day of the shout for joy). The day the Crowned Man will Re-joi-n the man. Unbelievers look at the events of Revelation as the “end of the world”, which could be true if the world’s “system” is understood, but for the man who is joined, the end of the world is the beginning of Messiah’s kingdom. They look with dread because its all they know and they “love it” like a druggie loves heroin. But for us, it should be “finally, he’s here!”
Repentance is Reuniting. Reuniting is Rejoicing.