I periodically receive emails from Hannah Weiss at Restorers of Zion. I probably haven’t personally emailed Hannah is years, but I’m still on the Restorers’ mailing list. I think my friend Tom keeps in touch with her, and I believe his perspectives on Judaism, the Bible, and Messiah more mirror Hannah’s than my own viewpoint.
As I understand it, many modern expressions of Messianic Judaism seek to identify and emulate modern religious and cultural Judaism. I hope I’m not being too presumptuous in saying that Restorers seeks to discover Judaism in the ancient Biblical texts as they were interpreted in the days of Yeshua’s earthly “ministry” and before, rather than as they are understood by modern Rabbinic Judaism in our day.
The beginning of Hannah’s most current email stated:
Rosh Ha-Hodashim is arguably the most neglected of the LORD’s “appointed times” for Israel… receiving less attention from the Torah-observant community than even marginal holidays like “Tu B’Shvat” and “Lag B’Omer”.
In 2012, RZ set out to investigate what happened to the New Year originally commanded by the LORD.
We discovered unexpected treasures: scriptural truth, spiritual wealth, and even buried wisdom from ancient Jewish sages – all connected to this very first commandment given to Israel as a nation.
A great deal of the Forgotten Milestone points to Yeshua, which hints that the rabbinic decision in 90 CE to move away from earlier rabbinic custom was conscious and calculated.
So what exactly is “Rosh Ha-Hodashim?” Well, you can find it’s source here:
Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.”
–Exodus 12:1-2 (NASB)
There are four “new years” spoken of in the Torah, but Rosh Hashanah or the “head of the year” that occurs on Tishrei 1 is the most well-known today. Hannah and Restorers argue that there is a mystery as to why Rosh Ha-Hodashim has been “hidden” since 90 CE.
Now I was really curious and followed the link in the email to Restoring the Real “Rosh Hashana”.
On that webpage, you can find seven articles in Microsoft Office Word format. They are freely available for download. I downloaded all seven plus their “sources” paper and started reading and taking notes.
Is there a mystery behind Rosh Ha-Hodashim, one that points to the resurrected Yeshua as Messiah? Hannah Weiss and the people at Restorers seem to think so. However, from a plain reading of the text of Exodus 12:2, at least in English (Hannah renders the verse in Hebrew and explains problems with how it’s been historically translated), this “new year” is only mentioned in a single verse, and only then to instruct the Children of Israel, being held as slaves in Egypt, in how to prepare the Passover lamb and the related rituals that would allow them to live while all of the firstborn of Egypt would die.
What if Rosh Ha-Hodashim is nothing more than to commemorate the escape of the Children of Israel from slavery as well as physical and spiritual death, and their eventual coming together as a nation and receiving the Torah at Sinai? Is there really a “Messianic connection” that’s been hidden for over two-thousand years?
Here’s a summary of what I discovered in reviewing the Restorers’ Rosh Ha-Hodashim papers. The seven papers are not only study guides but “meditations” to be pondered over, beginning on Nissan 1 and concluding on Nissan 7 in preparation of Pesach and celebration of the resurrected King.
I can only briefly quote from each paper and hopefully, I’ve selected representative portions that make the Restorers’ point, as well as my own, clear.
Unlike the Tamid, it is not written anywhere that the Passover lamb brought atonement. Nevertheless, it was understood to provoke the compassion aroused within G-d for His people: “Of all of God’s creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice.” (Sefer HaYetzirah, a Hasidic work commenting on the month of Nisan)
This idea becomes quite profound when we remember that G-d brought Israel redemption before they called on His name. They were simply groaning because of their troubles, and yet this was enough for G-d to remember His covenant:
And the sons of Israel sighed from the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help rose up to G-d from the bondage. And G-d heard their groaning; and G-d remembered His covenant, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And G-d saw the sons of Israel, and G-d knew. (Exod.2:23-25, from the Hebrew)
-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
2: Jewish Tradition with Messianic Potential, page 3
This begs the question, was Yeshua’s symbolic sacrifice meant to bring redemption to Israel before they call on the Lamb of God?
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
–Matthew 23:37-39 (NASB)
Other significance (meditations, page 4)
What are we to learn from these widely different events occurring on Rosh Ha-Hodashim? What do they all have in common, besides the date itself? We see here new beginnings, historical turning points… but mostly a theme of “cleansing and closure”. The earth emerged freed from an irreversible corruption, a Jewish leader left behind his life of exile, disobedient Jews were made accountable to the Covenant, G-d rewarded a king who had carried out His judgment, and three different sanctuaries were (or will be) made ready for pure worship.
While born-again Christians often relate to Redemption as an individual experience that unfolds in private communion with G-d, in Jewish understanding it is a communal experience with world-changing impact. These different views are emphasized by Jewish antagonists to Messianic faith, claiming that an experience of personal Redemption is not a Jewish concept.
How closely is that opinion connected to the following, which reflects a more modern Orthodox Jewish interpretation?
The special attitude to Tishre and Nissan as two very significant points in the annual cycle, both connected to new beginnings, is voiced in the dispute between R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua on the date of the Creation. While R. Eliezer’s opinion is that the world was created in Tishre (Bavli, Rosh ha-Shana, 10b), R. Yehoshua claims that Nissan is the first of months (ibid. 11a). For the Maharal, this dispute represents different approaches to the basics of life. He writes that Nissan and Tishre are the main months of the year, but while Nissan expresses the life force and vitality of the year at the emotional level, Tishre expresses the holiness and spirituality of the year at the intellectual level (Sifre ha-Maharal, Hiddushe Aggadot I, 94-97).
-Dr. Miriam Faust
Bar-Ilan University’s Parashat Hashavua Study Center
The Days of Awe – Renewal and Reassessment
The main point of contention between this Messianic point of view on Rosh Ha-Hodashim and the more normative Orthodox Jewish approach is this:
In the orthodox community, the honoring of Rosh Hodesh Nisan consists of reading the Torah passage where the relevant command appears (Exod.12:1-20, called Parashat HaHodesh). A few additions to the daily prayers appear (a partial Hallel, Yaaleh V’yavo, the Musaf for Rosh Hodesh), while petitional prayers and public mourning customs are omitted, as mentioned in Meditation 2. Otherwise the day is treated like every other Rosh Hodesh (new moon), the observance of which is optional: “Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh.” (Observances for Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Chabad.org)
This neglect leaves the field open for Yeshua’s disciples to construct Messianic traditions and customs, as the Holy Spirit teaches us about Rosh Ha-Hodashim. The potential is greater than we have explored so far, but here we offer a suggested observance as a starting point.
-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
3: Celebrating Rosh Ha-Hodashim, page 1
You will have to read the first three papers/meditations to get the entire context up to this point, but my question is, how much of Messiah is being read into this holiday by the Restorers of Zion author?
Granted, many groups, from the various expressions of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots, to some denominations of normative Christianity see “Jesus in the Passover,” so the symbolism of the Passover seder elements is very familiar to Yeshua-believers, but is there a wider context related to Rosh Ha-Hodashim that we’ve all been missing?
The Mishnah describes the first of Nisan as “the new year for kings and festivals” (Rosh Hashana 1:1).
The “new year for kings” meant that counting the reign of Israel’s king was always dependent on Nisan.
Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
4: Receiving the King, page 1
I’m sure you can see where this writer is going in connecting Nissan 1 with King Messiah. In this paper, the coronation of King Solomon (I Kings 1:39-40) is compared not only with Zechariah’s prophesy of the coming of Messiah (Zechariah 14:4) but with Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem depicted in John 12:12-14 and Mark 11:10.
Only John’s gospel pinpoints the day when Jerusalem celebrated the arrival of her King. It was five days before the Passover (see John 12:1,12). Since the Pesach was slaughtered on the second half of the 14th day, this would have been the 10th of Nisan (in Jewish reckoning, partial days are counted as days). We now have a clue to the strange, unexplained command from G-d to choose the Pesach lamb on Nisan 10, even though it wouldn’t be sacrificed until Nisan 14:
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household…. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. (Exod.12:3-6)
-ibid, page 3
In the next paper, a further connection is made, this time between the Akedah or Binding of Isaac, and Nissan:
It’s universally accepted today that Akedat Yitzhak, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), is associated with Tishrei 2 (the second day of Rosh Hashanah). This appeared fairly early in rabbinic history, and is supported by its mention in the Talmud (B. Megillah 31a). By the 3rd century, it was being explicitly connected with Yom Ha-Truah, the Feast of Trumpets (B. Rosh Hashanah 16a).
However, the original place of the Akedah in the Jewish calendar was Nisan 14, later to be designated by G-d as the day for sacrificing the Pesach. Following is some of the evidence (from “Torah Reading as a Weapon: Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah,” Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Executive Director, Mechon Hadar).
-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
5: The Messiah, Our Passover, page 1
I don’t know how accurate this is as I lack the necessary education and references to verify it, but if true, it is a compelling parallel between the Akedah and the crucifixion of Rav Yeshua.
However, this connection isn’t recognized today. In fact, this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. Why?
According to Rabbi Kaunfer, the connection of the Akedah and Pesach was deliberately broken after the destruction of the Temple, in an effort to erase its powerful association with Yeshua’s sacrifice.
-ibid, page 2
However, according to this paper’s author, that dissociation was not universal, at least as early as the fourth century CE:
In that context, the 4th-century Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael further strengthens the association between Passover and the Akedah, and the similarity between Isaac and Yeshua. Commenting on Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood [of the Pesach lamb] I will pass over you…” the Mekhilta states: “I see the blood of the binding of Isaac.” This was apparently relying on another tradition, handed down in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd c. CE), which said that although not actually sacrificed, Isaac gave a quarter of his blood as an atonement for Israel. (from “Vayera: What Happened to Isaac?” Israel National News, 21/oct/10 – http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9768 )
-ibid, page 3
Further, early minority Rabbinic opinion suggests that Abraham actually did successfully sacrifice Isaac (although this contradicts the Biblical account) and that Hashem subsequently resurrected Isaac.
Of course, even if this occurred, the resurrection of Isaac wouldn’t be the same as Rav Yeshua’s since Isaac died in old age while Yeshua, once resurrected, will never die again. If he could, then our own promised resurrection would be questionable and even in vain, since our lives would not be eternal.
But Isaac, in this interpretation, is meant to “point” to Rav Yeshua, not be identical to him. He’s a signpost along the way and the goal is Messiah.
But Messiah did escape death and the tomb and, according to Gospel accounts, was seen by many witnesses. Now here’s something curious:
So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
These verses are quoted in “6: The Resurrection,” and in reading them, I’ve always wondered exactly what Yeshua said to these men from the scriptures that convinced them Moses and the Prophets really spoke of him being resurrected? Certainly Judaism of today doesn’t interpret Moses or the Prophets in this manner, and I’ve never been convinced that Christianity has been very successful in this area either. I’ve never found a “smoking gun” pointing directly from the Prophets to Yeshua.
This sixth paper quotes from Psalm 16:9-11, Hosea 6:1-3, and other scriptures (see the paper for details) as compelling evidence for the resurrection of Yeshua, and I don’t necessarily doubt that, but again, does that make Rosh Ha-Hodashim more relevant somehow?
According to the Restorers author, the answer to my question is this:
It is appropriate for Yeshua’s disciples to celebrate His Resurrection either on Nisan 17, in memory of that singular event; or on Nisan 16, the day designated for the Barley First-Fruits offering.
The offering itself was suspended after the Temple’s destruction, with no substitute customs ordained by the rabbinic community. All halachic discussion over the generations has focused on who should avoid eating newly sprouted grain before Nisan 16 every year.
Therefore, Yeshua’s followers have an open area on which to build a distinctly Messianic custom to celebrate the connection of His Resurrection with the Barley First-Fruits offering.
-Resurrection, page 5
I’ve skipped from quoting portions of the paper providing more details about the festival of first fruits and the Omer for the sake of length, but again, these papers are freely available online for you to read and download.
Am I convinced? I don’t know. As a non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua, I’ve chosen to back away from celebrating most of the moadim or “appointed times,” since the vast majority of them have exclusive significance to Israel and the Jewish people. The most notable exceptions are Passover and Sukkot (Festival of Booths). I have a Passover seder in my home every year, largely because I have a Jewish wife and children.
I build a sukkah in my backyard every year, both because I have a Jewish wife and children, and because Sukkot seems to be that one moadim on the Jewish calendar that has applications to the people of the nations:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
Passover is a little more questionable, even though many “Messianic Gentiles” and Hebrew Roots Christians, as well as more normative Christian churches hold some variation of a seder seeing “Jesus in the Passover”.
It’s possible that there has been an overlooked significance in Rosh Ha-Hodashim, and that in the Messianic future, we will all be rejoicing the “new year for the King” on Nissan 1. By the way, the first of Nissan or Rosh Chodesh Nissan occurs this year on April 9th, which is also Shabbat. Erev Pesach or the first evening of the Passover is on Nissan 14, which is Friday, April 22nd this year.
If any of this is interesting or even compelling to you, use the link I provided above, download the seven (eight, actually) papers and decide of some sort of observance or commemoration is appropriate for you. If nothing else, like me, you’ll learn something new.