Understanding the Holy Days of the Bible: Rosh Hashanah

Sounding a shofar

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-StrnadLisa Strnad is a weekly contributing writer/blogger to What’s in the Bible? and JellyTelly. She has been a homeschooling mom of two, who works independently in Christian media in the areas of writing, promotions and marketing. She lives with her husband and children in Nashville,TN. Follow her personal blog posts on Talking Like A Girl.

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Thank you SO much for posting! I'm the children's minister at our small congregation. We just recently changed our church name from a denomination, to Biblical, if that makes sense. God completely provided for my husband and I to go to Israel for the first time 2 years ago, and He did it again this last year!! We went from feeling we knew everything we needed to know,  to- we don't know anything! Now, we practice all of the Biblical feasts and festivals, not traditional ones, but actual commanded ones. We had never been taught these things growing up in church, and was always taught that when Jesus came, He did away with everything, but in hours and hours of studying, and deciding to abandon traditions and teachings of men, we realized that He didn't come to get rid of the law, but to live it out, and if we are suppose to be like Him, then we should live like Him. (this was talked about in Ezekiel- God established the law, (part of this is keeping all of the commanded feasts and festivals), Jesus lived out the law, and when He returns, we will all be doing these things and celebrating His days! So why in the world would Jesus come to get rid of them, only for us to do them in the millennial reign? It doesn't make sense. We are to be practicing them so we know how to do them when He returns. 

This in NO WAY gets us to Heaven, that price was paid by Jesus, and there is NOTHING I can do to make myself right with God, other than accepting His free gift. But does that mean everything He told the Israelites (which we are now a part of-we have been grafted in once we make Him Lord of our life) that would be an everlasting covenant/commandment for all generations were done away with because of Jesus? Absolutely not. The Old Testament is still our rule book and guideline for life. There are all these Biblical Feasts and celebrations, New Moons and Sabbaths that we are still commanded to follow. (Even the Sabbath-Saturday, is in the ever more popular 10 commandments that are popular to hold to), but do we follow it? Is that day holy and set apart? God has just opened our eyes in SO many ways, and I'm so thankful. We do not celebrate Rosh Hashana, as this is not a commanded festival, but our congregation will be celebrating the upcoming commanded celebrations such as Yom Kippur and Sukkot! Cannot wait.  Thank you for taking time to read this post. I ask that you please prayerfully consider asking God to continue opening our eyes to what He has to say, not what man has to tell us. :) Kim

Ric Gielniak
Ric Gielniak

Love all the posts i have read .. prayed when asked upon.... My name is Ric im a single father who would nothing more to get back with my sons mom.. So we can live in Christ as a unit.... i ask of all of my brothers and sisters to pray for Michelle butler to change her heart towards me ... so I can change the life cycle in both Michelle's and my life and break the strong holds that are at play and to also break this generational curse ..