Day of Shout & Trumpet
Yom Tru`ah, not Rosh ha-Shanah (New Year)
In the Rabbinic Jewish community, the 1st day of the Seventh Month is observed as New Year. Not so in the Talmidi community. In Ex 12:2, referring to the First Month, it says quite unequivocally, “This month shall be the first of all the months for you, the first month of your year.”
In contrast, we observe Yom Tru`ah exactly as it is described in The Torah & The Prophets. The day is ordained for us in Lev 23:24-25 & Num 29:1-6; we are told that it is a day of rest and a day for shouting and blowing trumpets, but we are not told how else to observe the day. That is instead given and described in Neh 8:1-12. It is a day of rejoicing in YHVH’s Torah (Rabbanites do this on Yom Shmini ha-Atseret, but our Simchat Torah – ‘Rejoicing in Torah’ – takes place on this day).
Reading of the Torah
A good practice whenever festivals or holydays come around, is to reread the specific biblical passages where they are mentioned. This helps us to remember why we do what we do. In time, over the process of years, our treasured laws and customs become second nature. For newcomers and converts to the Israelite religion, it is part of the process of transforming the inner Gentile self into being an Israelite self.
As part of Yom Tru`ah (the Day of Shout & Trumpet), it is the custom to read the whole of the Book of Deuteronomy (the ancient name for this book was ha-Seifer ha-Torat Mosheh – ‘The Book of the Teaching of Moses – see Nehemiah 8:1). Out of all the 5 books of Torah, this one alone stands as a unified work – that is, it had a single author and a single editor. Its themes are consistent throughout, and one can see this particularly when one reads it from start to finish in one go.
Some people claim that the whole of Torah must be read – that the ‘Book of the Teaching of Moses’ refers to all 5 books, but this cannot be the case. The passage in Nehemiah 8 describes the book in question being read from daybreak to noon, and it would take far, far longer to read all 5 books. However, Deuteronomy can comfortably be read in 3 hours or less; in ancient times, the people had the book read to them by the priests, passage by passage, first in Hebrew, then in Aramaic with explanations, which accounts for the full 6 hrs from dawn to noon.
In a sense, Deuteronomy is a condensed version of the other books that make up Torah. It sums up most of the laws and customs of the Israelite religion. A major concern of the Israelite religion of history was the Covenant between YHVH and Israel, something that modern Judaism often forgets. Our heritage, our traditions, our religion, are dear to us, but one reason why we continue to follow it and adhere to the covenant, is because it was something that our ancestors promised on our behalf to do – we fulfil their promise.
Reason for reading Deuteronomy each year
It was the job of prophets to remind Israel of the covenant they had abandoned; whenever prophets reproved Israelites, they were basically telling them what parts of the covenant they had turned against. It is not possible for us in modern times to understand their tirades, without understanding what the covenant was – the standard they were reminding their fellow Israelites of.
Have you ever started a job, and been given a rule book? Have you ever bothered to read it? Maybe once you did, but that was at the start of the job, when little of it made any sense. Now it sits gathering dust in your bottom drawer. Let me tell you, that little rule book is a mine of information, and if you read it at regular intervals, your eyes will be opened!
Now, part of the stipulation of a Covenant, is that its terms be revisited and reread at regular intervals. This is why the Shabbat home service contains biblical passages that remind us of the nature of the Sabbath, and what we are supposed to do; that is why at festival times, our prayers and services remind us of what these days are for, and why we observe them.
On Yom Tru`ah, we revel and rejoice in God’s Torah. In reading Deuteronomy, we are reminded of the Covenant which God cut with all of Israel on the plains of Moab, just as they were about to enter the land of Israel 3,400 years ago. It’s important to realise that covenants add to and expand on what went before, and (despite what Christians say), a covenant can never be annulled or replaced.
Previously, God had cut the covenant only with those present. What was different about the renewed covenant sworn on the plains of Moab, was that it was to be both with those present, and with future generations to come (Deut 29:14-15)
One thing that reading the entire book of Deuteronomy does, is help prepare us for Yom ha-Kippurim (Day of the Atonements). It does this by helping us to examine our omissions. However, we are not meant to berate ourselves on this day (see Nehemiah 8:9-11), rather we are meant to rejoice and praise God for the law and the heritage we have been blessed with.
And why is it called Yom Tru`ah – the Day of Shout & Trumpet? Because at the end of six hours of reading and studying Torah, the Levites blew trumpets continuously, and ordinary Israelites shouted out, “YHVH is our God! Praised be to YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH!” and so on, continuously calling out and praising and blessing the Holy Name.
By culture, we Jews on the whole are not renowned for being drinkers, but on Yom Tru`ah, we become intoxicated with Torah. Torah makes and moulds the Israelite, so on Yom Tru`ah, allow God to put a few more touches to the work God has already started in your soul.
How we observe Yom Tru`ah
For the benefit of people new to an acquaintance with the Talmidi form of Judaism, I should begin by saying that is important to note that we follow the biblical calendar, as do the Karaites. This means that our New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah, or more correctly, Rosh ha-Chadashim), is in Spring and not Autumn like the Rabbanites.
So what do we do instead for the first day of the seventh month? Well, the simple answer is, exactly what the bible instructs us to do.
What Are The Themes Of The Day?
Yom Tru`ah translates in various ways, I prefer ‘Day of Shout and Trumpet’. The theme for the day is rejoicing in the Torah (which the Rabbanites do on the last day of Sukkot, the Festival of Booths), and also in YHVH our God. This is where the “tru`ah” bit comes in. It implies a tumult, making noise with voices and trumpeting – that is, in rejoicing.
How Talmidis Observe Yom Tru`Ah
Yom Tru`ah is also a New Moon Festival. New Moon Day is a day of rest anyway, on which no regular work is done. Yom Tru`ah is also a day of rest – a joyful day, when we celebrate YHVH’s Torah.
1. At the beginning of Yom Tru`ah, we say the prayers for the New Moon
2. Then we read the references to Yom Tru`ah, Lev 23:23-25, and Num 29:1-6
3. In the morning at daybreak, around 6 am, we begin by opening the Miqra (Hebrew bible) to the first page of the Book of Deuteronomy. The Miqra is then put to one side. For what follows compare Neh 8:5-6
4. Then we sing a psalm of praise to YHVH, and then lift up our hands and say, ‘Amein! Amein! Amein!’ We make a deep bow, in praise of God.
5. We read Nehemiah 8:1-12
6. Then we read the WHOLE of the Book of Deuteronomy. It usually takes about 6 hours in all.
7. Once the reading has finished, everyone gives shouts of praise to YHVH, and shofars are blown continuously.
8. It is the custom afterwards to eat the best food that one has, and drink fruit juice laced with honey. It is also the custom to share one’s food with those who have little or none, so that everyone might enjoy this day. The text uses the Hebrew word for ‘fatnessess’, and merely means ‘the finest food one has’. The bounty and plenty of our food this day reflects the spiritual bounty and plenty that we gain through God’s Torah.